The Best Gulyás Recipe

October 27, 2012
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Hungarian Goulash Recipe

gulyásleves

Gulyás (known as goulash to non-Hungarians), that iconic Hungarian paprika-spiked beef soup, is not a regular in my kitchen. Why make it at home when it is served at nearly every Hungarian restaurant in Budapest? I love a good bowl of gulyás, and even served it to a crowd of visitors on the night before my wedding. But truth be told, I’ve been goulashed out for awhile now. I’ve avoided ordering and eating it for so long now (which I can partially blame on the fact that there’s just so much new and good stuff to taste in Budapest these days) that it came as a pleasant surprise recently when my husband’s bowl of gulyás at a restaurant looked so good to me that I ended up eating half of it. And then, a few days later I made a big pot of it at home.

As Hungarian recipes go, gulyás is a simple dish to make and doesn’t require any special ingredients. Once you do all of the chopping, all you need to do is check it occasionally as it slowly simmers and perfumes the house. Since it’s so easy to make a good goulash you would think it would be hard to make a bad one. But it happens, and there is nothing worse than being served a watery, lifeless gulyás with little substance to it.

There are a few rules to making gulyás, but there are many different variations on the recipe. Essentially it is a soup made with beef (or less commonly veal or mutton), lots of paprika (good, sweet Hungarian paprika is essential), very slow-cooked onions, and vegetables (normally carrots, potatoes, and parsley root). Every cook has his or her own preferred ratio. I like mine hearty, the broth rich with lots of meat and vegetables. I add lots of finely chopped onions, since they thicken the broth and add lots more flavor.

The best kind of gulyás, in my opinion, uses several different cuts of beef (George Lang’s recipe calls for an optional piece of beef heart). It’s perfectly fine to use a lesser cut of beef, since if you cook it long enough, the soup will be just fine. In fact, you’d be wasting your money to use an expensive cut. One chef I know always uses beef cheeks, which are wonderful in the soup. As with many Hungarian recipes, you start by slowly sautéing chopped onions in fat (lard or oil). You don’t want the onions to brown, but rather to get clear and glassy, so cook them over the lowest heat possible (this is a good time to gather and prep all of your other ingredients). Next, you’ll stir in a few spoonfuls of sweet Hungarian paprika (being careful not to burn it, since it easily caramelizes in hot fat) and some caraway seeds, add the meat, and pour in the water. Then, you just wait (sometimes for several hours, depending on the cut of meat you used) until it is nearly ready, which is when you add your vegetables. If you have time you can make some csipetke (pinched pasta), but that is not necessary.

In Hungary, a bowl of gulyás is a simple meal, but one that anyone would be happy to eat, whether as the first course at a fancy restaurant, or a one-dish dinner on a Tuesday night. If you have a bottle of not-too-heavy red wine, it will go beautifully with the gulyás. I don’t know why it has taken me so long to get back to cooking gulyás at home. But now that the cooler weather is arriving, I am pretty sure that it will be cooked soon again in my kitchen. Even my husband, a guy who has eaten a lot of gulyás in his life (and is normally the family’s dedicated gulyás maker) loved it. “This might be the best bowl of gulyás I’ve ever had,” were his exact words. Just don’t tell his anya.

The Best Gulyás (Goulash)
 
 

By:

Ingredients
  • 3 tablespoons oil or lard
  • 5 medium onions, diced
  • 2½ teaspoons salt
  • 2½ liters (2½ quarts) water, plus a few extra spoonfuls
  • 3 tablespoons Hungarian paprika (sweet)
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon caraway seeds
  • 1½ kg (3¼ lbs) beef, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 5 medium carrots, sliced into bite-sized rounds
  • 2 medium parsnip, sliced into bite-sized rounds
  • 2 large potatoes, cubed
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • Csipetke (pinched pasta), optional

Instructions
  1. Heat the oil or lard in a large pot (preferably a Dutch oven). Add the onions along with a few spoonfuls of water (so they don’t brown) and a pinch of the salt. Cook slowly over very low heat for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the onions are clear and glassy.
  2. Remove from the heat and add the paprika, pepper, and caraway seeds. Stir quickly to combine and add a tiny bit of water (to prevent the paprika from burning).
  3. Add the meat and garlic and cook over high heat, stirring, until the meat is slightly browned (about ten minutes). Turn the heat down to low, add a few spoonfuls of water, and cook for about 15 more minutes, until the meat is nearly cooked through.
  4. Add the water and keep cooking, over low heat, for at least an hour, or until the meat is cooked and nearly tender enough to serve. This could take hours, depending on the cut of beef you used.
  5. When the meat is nearly done, add the tomatoes, carrots, parsnips, and potatoes and cook for about 15 more minutes, or until they are tender (being careful not to overcook them). Taste the soup and add more salt and pepper, if needed.
  6. If you are using csipetke or another kind of small pasta, add it to the soup before serving. You can serve this soup with hot pepper or hot pepper paste.

Notes
This makes a very large pot of soup! If you’d like to freeze some of it, do it before adding the vegetables.

 

 

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10 Responses to The Best Gulyás Recipe

  1. Csipetke Recipe | The Hungary Dish on October 29, 2012 at 2:50 pm

    [...] In Hungary soup is an important part of the meal, and most soups have some sort of pasta floating around in them. Though making homemade pasta for a soup might sound very time-consuming, it’s actually quite quick and simple. In fact, even a child can do it. And my two kids (ages 5 and 7) formed all of the pasta in this photo. They’ve seen their Hungarian grandmother make it countless times, and after practicing on playdough a few times on their own, they were happy to put their pasta-making skills to real-life use to add to a pot of gulyás. [...]

  2. Matthias on December 13, 2012 at 3:34 pm

    Yum, that sounds really delicious, especially in winter time there is nothing better than a hot soup.
    However, I have never heard of tomatoes being part of Gulyás… I have to try that.

  3. Foodcrafting in Romania – Soups | FoodCrafters on August 26, 2013 at 10:19 am

    [...] unique in taste are: ciorbă de perișoare (meatball soup), ciorbă de burtă (tripe soup), or gulyas (as you might know, goulash is actually Hungarian, but centuries of Austro-Hungarian influence left [...]

  4. Judith Horvath Watson on October 25, 2013 at 7:30 am

    Hi, I’ve been looking for a recipe my mother use to make. It was made with beef ,carrots, celery, ? And marinated for four days in the carrots etc. do you know of such a recipe? It was served with gombocs. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Est, Jdith

    • Nick Sziklai on January 4, 2014 at 9:34 pm

      Judith,

      I think your mother was making “vadas”, not gulyas. Vadas (exact meaning is from the wild) can be made using venison, wild boar or beef. It is extremely delicious when properly made. Yes, it takes several days to marinate. So if you want exactly what your mother made, look for hungarian vadas recepies, there are plenty.

  5. Meal 74: Hungary : United Noshes on December 1, 2013 at 9:16 pm

    [...] Gulyás | Beef and vegetable soup with paprika | Recipe [...]

  6. [...] Get a recipe [here]. [...]

  7. [...] Get a recipe [here]. [...]

  8. [...] to be eaten as a main course. It doesn’t require any special ingredients, you can find a recipe here. Yummy! Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:Like Loading… Image | This entry was posted in [...]

  9. steve on September 25, 2014 at 5:16 pm

    my mother came from pest with their extended family in the 1930s to western pa. I can truly say this works fine with venison..

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