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Authentic Hungarian Goulash recipe

Hungarian Goulash Recipe | Michele Bogle
Hungarian Goulash Recipe | Michele Bogle

Ramadan is one of the most sacred times of the year for Muslims. It's a time for spiritual growth through fasting, an act of worship that shows one's devotion to Allah. Using a calendar based on the lunar cycle, Ramadan began this year on March 23 and is expected to end on April 21. During the four weeks that Ramadan is observed, fasting is required from dawn to dusk. 

Soups are commonly prepared for Ramadan, from clear liquids to heavy stews, consumed in the hours outside of those for fasting. Having soup introduces lighter fare to the body, moderating digestion while providing enough sustenance to stave off hunger. 

Hungarian goulash is one of several soups enjoyed during the month. The traditional version of the goulash is soup-like. Variations influenced by Germany have thicker stock, called Porkolt, often served with dumplings or over a bed of egg noodles called Csipetke. The recipe attached has a thicker, stew-like consistency. It presents like a meal rather than a first course.

The distinction between authentic goulash and beef stew is paprika. Hungarian paprika has a sweet pepper flavour rather than spicy hot. It gives the dish a unique taste.

It was once a dish commonly prepared by herders and peasants, dating back centuries.

After their long days on the pastures tending cattle on the plains of Hungary, herders would gather grains, onions, lard, and seasonings in a kettle pot over their fire. If an animal died, it was added to the pot, providing a rare treat of beef stew.

The Habsburg Empire, which ruled Austria, Spain, Bohemia and Hungary from the thirteenth century, modified the dish until its popularity transcended Hungary in the twentieth century, taking its place in world cuisine as delicious comfort food.

During the Napoleonic Wars, from 1799 to 1815, imports like black pepper were prohibited, so the Turks crushed hot peppers, otherwise known as paprika, became the alternative. The Turks had earlier introduced paprika to Hungary in the 1500s as a spice when the colourful plant had formerly been only decorative.

In the 1830s, under the rule of the Habsburg Empire, writers of newsprint, books, fairy tales, poems, cookbooks and more decided to aid Hungary in reclaiming its identity by publishing stories of the people, their life and culture. It was then that the beloved Hungarian Goulash became the national dish.

George Auguste Escoffier was a famed chef who cooked for kings. When he included the recipe, calling for the addition of bell peppers, tomato paste, fresh cremini mushrooms and dried mushrooms in his cookbook Escoffier, le Guide Culinaire, he ensured the dish's place in the fine dining traditions of Europe.

Authentic Hungarian Goulash Recipe



Large stockpot, mixing spoon, heat-resistant spatula, measuring cup, paring knife, peeler, cutting board


2 Tbsp cooking oil

2 large onions, chopped

½ cup Hungarian paprika

4 cups or 1.5 kg stewing beef, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

6 large cloves garlic, minced

3 orange or yellow bell peppers, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

3 cups tomato purée

4 Tbsp tomato paste

2 carrots, sliced

4 medium potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

6 cups beef bouillon 

1 bay leaf

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper


Step 1

Heat oil in a stockpot over medium-high heat and sauté the onions until golden brown, for approximately 2 to 3 minutes. Add the beef with the garlic and sauté the mixture, moving the pieces frequently to avoid clumping, for 5 to 7 minutes. 

Step 2

Add the tomato purée and tomato paste, lower the heat and allow the mixture to simmer for another 5 minutes.  

Step 3

Remove the pot from the heat and incorporate the paprika thoroughly. This helps to avoid burning the paprika. It becomes bitter when seared.

Step 4

Add the beef bouillon, pepper and bay leaf and return the pot to the stove. Bring the mixture to a boil and reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and allow to simmer for 30 minutes.

Step 5

Stir in the carrots, potatoes and bell peppers. Bring the contents of the pot to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 40 minutes. Remove the bay leaf before serving. It's that easy. Enjoy!