Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Beef Goulash! Thick Hungarian Soup, Thin Austrian Stew, or None of the Above?

I’m not sure how authentic this goulash recipe is, since the recipe I use is adapted from one by Austrian chef Wolfgang Puck. Austria is Hungary-adjacent, and I’m pretty sure they were the same country once, but still, the Puckmeister’s version, further modified by me, is closer to a stew called "Pörkölt." Apparently true goulash, or Gulyás, is much more like a soup, and is served with dumplings.

Okay, two things. First, when it comes to a main course, I like stew more than soup. If you want to stay truer to the original, add more liquid. That’s not going to bother me, or Wolfgang. Also, since I operate in a universe ruled by Google, I went with “goulash” since it’s a thousand times more recognizable than pörkölt. When’s the last time you heard someone say they were craving a big bowl of pörkölt?

Of course, none of this helps my American viewers who, thanks to the cafeteria ladies from our childhoods, think “goulash” is a tomato, hamburger, and elbow macaroni casserole. I’m assuming that variation was born when some Hungarian (or Austrian?) immigrant tried to stretch the last few ladles of soup/stew into another full meal.

Anyway, now that we’ve cleared up absolutely nothing, I can talk about this gorgeous dish of food. I adore everything about this dish. The color is stunning, the beef is sticky and succulent, and paprika-based sauce is incredible.

By the way, I’ve heard from my people on YouTube that this is never served on noodles. How do you say, “whatever” in Hungarian? Despite our questionable naming, ingredients, and side dish, this made for a fantastic winter dinner, and I hope you give it a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4 large portions of beef goulash:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 1/2 pounds boneless beef chuck, cut into 2-inch cubes, seasoned generously with salt and pepper
2 onions, chopped
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
2 teaspoons caraway seeds, toasted and ground
2 tablespoons Hungarian paprika
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 tsp dried marjoram leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
4 cups chicken broth (1 to deglaze pan, 3 more added to stew)
*Note: real goulash is more like a soup, so if you want yours thinner, just add 2 or 3 extra cups of broth.
1/4 cup tomato paste
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
1 bay leaf
1 tsp sugar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
*Simmer for about 2 hours, or until tender
Garnish with sour cream and fresh marjoram if desired.

View the complete recipe


Kristi in the Western Reserve said...

I'm sure this is delicious and I prefer to think of it as "goulash" which has nothing much to do with Hungarian gulyás which is pretty different. You could add as little or as much water to this goulash and still be nowhere near gulyás leves (pronounced goo' yash le'vesh).

However, there is not a lot of consistency in the Hungarian recipes either. Well, there is some, but there is also a lot of variation. When I first married my Hungarian husband more than 40 years ago I went to many good cooks in the family and beyond. No one gave me the exact same recipe.

Kristi in the Western Reserve said...

You probably know this already, but a gulyas is a cow herder or a cowboy on the plains of Hungary and this is cowboy soup which they cooked (and still do) over an open fire in a kettle suspended from a tripod.

Kristi in the Western Reserve said...

Sorry for one last comment! Your version is pretty authentic for the Austrian versions that I've eaten in restaurants in Austria and Germany since the early 70s.

edvige said...

All that you explain is correct but no tomatoes in hungarian recipe my grandmother was fm Hungarien the color red is only from paprika mild not hot and without cayenne.
The recipe of hungaria not hot but ig you want so you can adjusted in yr plate direkt.

WolfyDaddy said...

Chef John, thank you for this fantastic looking (and surely fantastic tasting) version of goulash.

I grew up in Austria, and pretty much every family has their own favorite version (as with so many other basic dishes). My mother used the same weight of onions and meat (with very little water/broth), and the juices from the onions would become the liquid in the stew.

Now, I prefer pork over beef. I start with a pork loin, and use the lean center part for Wienerschnitzel, and the other a bit fattier parts for goulash.

Thank you for all your inspiring video recipe ideas. - Wolfgang

truthspew said...

My favorite is the Dominican version. There's a place in Providence, RI called Pito's II. They make this beef stew with carrot and tomato that's served over rice. Delicious!

MJ said...

I am German and the goulash we make in our family is completely different. Like Christmas traditions, it differs form region to region. We eat kassler (best ham like pork ever), mettenden (fantastic sausage) and a kale/potato mash (that is to die for). Others I know eat beef, fish, rabbit, lamb, other pork dishes, Ive heard it all now. Goulash is just another thing that everyone does differently. We actually make ours in a pressure cooker with a much bigger focus on the beef flavour. It is delicious, but very far removed from what I would consider a more traditional goulash (going into this direction, but soupy). -Matt

cerise said...

Chef John, it's a very nice recipe. Not the Hungarian style for sure, but very nice anyway.
So 'whatever' is 'mindegy'or'tök mindegy' in Hungarian. The second one is a bit of a slang with 'tök', which actually means squash, the vegetable. :) Don't ask, no reason.
One thing that strikes me is adding sugar to pörkölt or gulyás. It just seems a little bit odd to me (even with the tomato). But mindegy. :)
Greetings from Hungary!

Ligeia said...

Well, I'm as Hungarian as they come, but I sure love my pörkölt served on noodles, and your version looks absolutely stunning, Chef John! Also, thumbs up for writing the Hungarian words correctly, and using sour cream. Thank you for another great recipe! :)

Rita said...

yet, another tasty recipe.

just like the other posters say, every family have their own traditional goulash recipe... and we have tried many different variations from different countries and families since we've been living here in germany - and they're all good! that goulasch would be good with some kind of knödel. now, i'm hungry again :)

Ákos Kaló said...

Chef John!

I liked the video, I think this dish is awesome, but it is not the authentic hungarian goulash, but I love this recipe.

The world gulash is used to refer a stew in a lot of langeuges, but in Hungary the word gulyás means soup.

I think you would love the authentic version too. It is made in a cauldron. First we melt some rich bacon(in hungarian szalonna). In that bacon fat we cook the onion, after that we add the mild paprika, black pepper and some water. After that we put the meat into the cauldron. We usualy use two meat type at the same time. We put some beef shank and pork.After that we add the potato. Sometimes we add some beans and carrots too. It is not so healthy, but delicious.

I'm happy because when I read the commments I saw how many types of gulash made around Europe. Taesting of the other nations cuisine is a good way of getting know the other cultures

Hungarian Fan of yours

Ed Adams said...


The great thing about food are there are sooooo many different and delicious varieties to try. I've tasted many goulashes from various places around the world and will be making this one for dinner tonight.

Marco Barisione said...

Just a suggestion, you should not toast the paprika. Paprika tends to burn and get bitter (due to the high sugar content) if left in a pan without liquids. The traditional way of adding paprika is to first remove the pot from the heat, add the paprika and then add some liquid. When using paprika it's important that there is some fat as the aromatic components are fat soluble, so you are not going to extract them with just water or using dry paprika.

esztiklock said...

The real gulyás is cooked way different than what you made but this was also delicious looking.
You have to visit our country ones! Hungarian cuisine is the best in the world.
You know what? Right now I officially invite you to visit us here in Hungary , Székesfehérvár! :)

Ed Adams said...

Made this tonight and it turned out great. Thanks

Roberto said...

I made this last night with a couple of minor changes. I toasted the other spices, but not the paprika because it burns so easily. I simply added it seconds before deglazing the pan. I also omitted the sugar. It seemed WAY too spicy just after it was assembled, but the flavors mellowed a lot after 2 hours, so my worries were unfounded. The result was very close to Goulash I've eaten in restaurants in Austria. This recipe is a keeper.

Rebecca Mary said...

I made this last night. I have a question, I bought a cut of beef chuck top blade roast boneless and the meat came out a little hard. The stew is very good but the meat did not come out tender enough. I simmered it for 2 hours. At the store there were a lot of different cuts of beef chuck, I did not know which one to choose. Any recommendations?

Chef John said...

You can never go strictly by time with a stew. There are many variables. It's about 2 hours OR until tender. So just keep cooking! That's it. :)

Heidi Miller said...

Just wondering.......why use CHICKEN broth in a BEEF dish? Why not use BEEF broth?

Chef John said...

You could but most chefs like the more nuetral flavor of the chicken. They don't want beef flavor from broth to complete with meat's flavor.

willowe said...

I have prepared many of Chef John's recipes and most all of them have made it into the regular rotation of dinner ideas. Yummy! But...just made this and got a giant thumbs down. Maybe we just don't care for caraway seeds but if you aren't positive you like them, I would cut back by half the amount the first time through the recipe. Thank you Chef John, for inspiring me to cook new things!

Petar Mitrevski said...

My wife (she's Hungarian) keeps pointing out American gulyas recipes with tomato, macaroni and ground beef. She finds it hilarious that none of the ingredients actually match anything they put in gulyas in Hungary. As a consequence, I really enjoyed the fun intro to your recipe :)

Sheila said...

Thank you for this recipe, it was perfect. Many moons ago I work as a front desk clerk in a hotel, one of the Chefs was Hungarian and would make goulash and spaetzle for me on occasion and I loved it. I have never tried to make it myself, for fear it would not meet my expectations, I am happy to say your recipe exceeded them.
Thank you!

Richárd Mercz said...

Whatever translates into hungarian as "mindegy", and i have to agree with you on this one. However it is traditional to do this kind of dish with dumplings, but it's only natural that in urban areas, recipes tend to change, for time conserving etc. These kind of dish is good with almost any kind of side dish. There are people who eat it with a type of pasta called "tarhonya" these are little cylinders about 2-4 mm in diameter and 2mm in height, it's prepared somewhat like rice, only with a slight tosting in oil beforehand.
One personal remark for our hungarian related friends out there, there is no point in arguing how the traditional "goulash" or "gulyás" is made. Throughout history our country was segmented way too many times to keep one original recipe of a dish, just look at the "traditional" fish soup recipe (which i'm quite fond of), it's made differently in every region or county of our country, that is why there are events like the fish soup festival in "Baja" county. Just an impression i thought worth sharing with you. :)
Have a nice day!
Richard from Hungary

Ruiizu said...

I'm going to be trying this out next week - getting the ingredients with my weekly shopping.
I'm 18 and just moved into a place with my boyfriend, he can be quite a picky eater and I'm trying to get a solid list of meals that he really does enjoy!
I'd tried a couple of your recipes on my sisters beforehand and needless to say the plates were always clear at the end of dinner time!
I may not be the best cook (In actuality I'm more of a baker, I have a massive sweet tooth which doesn't help) and it might be my first time actually cooking with beef (eep!) but I have no worries at all!
Thank you Chef John for making your recipes so clear to follow and so god damn tasty, I don't know what I'd do without you!

Deborah Warner said...

I had Hungarian Goulash from an Eastern European co-worker at an office potluck years ago. I have been trying to find a recipe that was close ever since. This hits the mark! I almost ate the whole pot in one sitting.

Azalea said...

Thanks I just made this tonight. The sour cream really complemented the spices.

It turned out really good.

However, the meat was a little tough. Is this because I didn't cook it enough or too much?

lisa0116 said...

Chef John, This dish is wonderful too! I forgot to comment on it when I made it the week you posted it. I think you read my mind and then put up recipes of what I have thawed out. Had thawed the chuck roast the night before! LOL! It was very good and who cares what it is called. We call it YUMMY here at the OK Corral!

For those with tough meat, you did not cook it long enough the way Chef John told us to cook it. If it is not the tender he tells us in the video in the time period it took him, then cook it some more until it is to that tender point. All stoves and ovens cook differently. Chuck roast has to simmer for a long time to get tender and then it is really tender and great!

lisa0116 said...

One more thing Chef John, I just want you to know that my husband after every meal I cook from your recipes says thank you Jesus, Chef John, and Lisa! Just thought you should know that.

Yellow Reggae said...

I made this using smoked paprika and it was overwhelming. Maybe it got burnt or using so much paprika I should use a sweeter variety?

Chef John said...

Yes, smoked paprika would be way to strong for this!

Georgia Dabinett said...

Wow. Such a good meal to make while watching the snow fall in NC. Ran out to get caraway seeds and let it simmer thru the morning.

Thanks, Chef John.

janncam said...

I made this for our annual Academy Award Show dinner and it was AMAZING! and so easy. I also whipped up your Clafoutis for dessert. It was a Chef John night...you got the award for best dinner ever..Thanks for making such great and easy recipes.

Chef John said...


Sheepdog_770 said...

Thank you such great recipes. I made this the other night and stopped by the store the next day to make sure I had the necessary ingredients on hand to make it again. The creme frache really accents this dish well.

MrsGruner said...

Hello Chef John

I don't own an oven at the moment so could you please tell me how I would make this in a slow cooker.

I do love a lot of your recipes and would really appreciate any you can convert to a slow cooker.

Many thanks,


Chef John said...

Would have to test, but just simmer in the SL until fork tender!

Rebecca G said...

I have made this a few times and it is delicious. It takes too long to cut the beef into small pieces, I think bc I dont have a good knife...so I buy it precut. Any brand knifes you would recommend to cut the beef?

philogaia said...

I made this last night and it turned out excellent. I just went with what I had on hand which did not include caraway unfortunately, and I had hot smoked paprika. So I'm sure the recipe tasted different but I was pleased. It came out very spicy due to my heavy hand with the cayenne. I don't eat grains so I just had a bowl plain with cole slaw and a marinated cucumber salad on the side. Not very East European...closer to Indian style. I'll make this again. Simple and comforting.

The Lily Queen said...

My husband is Hungarian so I have tried "authentic" gulyás but after trying this, I have to say I like this recipe better personally.

topfengolatsche said...

Short history of Goulash - as far as I know it. This is based on the work of German culinary historian Petra Foede.

Goulash goes back to the middle ages, when it was the customary food of the sheperds on the Hungarian plains (it was originally called gulyas-hus, gulyas means sheperd and hus means meat in Hungarian). Back then it consisted mainly of meat and onions. Paprika was added only later, during the 17th century, long after the plant came to Europe from the Americas and became popular in the Ottoman Empire and Central Europe as "poor man's pepper".

The dish was a soup back then, like the Hungarian Gulyas still is. In the end of the 18th century Gulyas was declared the Hungarian national dish in an effort to assert Hungarian identity within the Habsburg Empire. Only a little later, in the early 19th century, it already started popping up in cookbooks in Vienna ad Prague. It was probably introduced there by Hungarian regiments in the Austrian Army. In Vienna and Prague it developed into a thick stew, much like this recipe here. It was then re-imported into Hungary as Pörkölt since it couldn't be called Gulyas anymore as that was the hallowed national dish.

So, basically, you'll find a version of this dish under the name Goulash (in various national spellings) in the national cuisines of all the countries that used to be part of the Habsburg Empire, except for Hungary where it's called Pörkölt.

So, while the dish certainly has it's origins in Hungary, as it is today it's very much a collaborative effort and it's definitely not wrong to call it Goulash. It's still an abomination to serve it with noodles, though. ;)

lisao said...

I disagree about smoked paprika. I use it in several dishes a chicken paprika dish, my chili and a different chicken paprika one. Maybe it tasted burnt cause u tosted it. I like smoked paprika better in every dish calling for paprika that I've tried so I can't imagine this one being any different. It really isn't that much paprika for the amount of stew either. I will see if it is enough for my taste. I often add extra seasonings cause I like bold flavors.

Michele said...

A great recipe I can't wait to try out. I love Goulash and those adventurous enough to try it! I wish more would.

I came up with my own version of a Hungarian Goulash. While different from your own, I think mine is a unique take on the dish. I'm new to the Food Blog scene and would love some feedback from a pro like you. Check out my recipe if have time.


CologneCarter said...

WOW, I am surprised about the sophisticated way of commenting here and how many people are ready to accept that there are different ways to do the same dish depending on country and culture.

Anyway, as alredy commented on YT this the way I am familiar with making goulash at home... apart from the fact that we use beef stock.

And remember rule number one... equal parts beef and onion.

John Young said...

Hi Chef John,

How long would this recipe take in a pressure cooker like one in your chili recipe?

Chef John said...

Sorry, not sure! Only use a PC like once every 3 years, if that. :)

ItsJustMeMyselfandI said...

Oh so good!! Wonderful rich flavor and so tender - I can see this becoming a staple in my menu planner.

mac2martin said...

Superb recipe - I have cooked it several times and it's always perfect.
Buttered noodles (I used egg papardelle) work tremendously with the taste.
Try and stick to the exact recipe - believe me it's worth it - the balance is excellent.

Lukáš Maršálek said...

Hi, I just finished goulash according to your recipe. I must say it was perfect. I am used to cook goulash a bit different - onions first, then add meat, then spices, then stock, boil until done. Your way of seperate frying of ingredients, then mixing them together produced much more flavourful and colorful food and I like it very much. Thanks.

mark bramblett said...


I have a sweet balsamic vinegar that I really like. FINI.

Is this the right taste. Seems like it would be too sweet.


I do have Spectrum Red Wine Vinegar and Pommery Sherry Vinegar.

Is this a better match?

Many Thanks!

Christine SugarMagic said...

Hi chef John, would this be good served with your rice pilaf. I wanted to try both, thanks ;-)

Blue Arc said...

First let me say I like that American macaroni goulash. I ate it as a kid and mom made it real tasty.

Second...I'm not Hungarian. I never married a Hungarian or ever had a Hungarian in law. I don't think I ever met a Hungarian but...this was some serious good eats Chef! I put on the egg noddles too.

Dean said...

Forget all the talk. Just make it. It was delicious. I made it for a football team and they loved it. Thanks Chef John. I've made it numerous times since. Never any leftovers.

Daniel Brandenburg said...

It was amazing! I used beef shoulder, added a little red wine and simmered it for about 3hrs...chapeau!

idamannisto said...

Thank you Chef John! Here is my version, I think I did quite well. Forgot to simmer without a lid, so I made a quick thickener with potato starch in the end. Super tasty.


The Rocket N00b said...

This is one of my favorite dishes to make (in fact, I'm making it right now).

I like to substitute pork shoulder for the beef. I push the bones down into the stew as it's cooking. It adds flavor and gelatin.

Dr. Neutrino said...

First I'm sure this is pretty close but there is variety out there too. I has a delicious Goulash in the restaurant beneath Starobrno Brewery, in Brno Czech Republic. I'd like to recreate it.

The gravy was brown and thick, and very savory. Then there were potato dumplings/pancakes on the side, ham/bacon on top and a fried egg on top of that.

However, I did find a menu on the internet - seems they use their 13% beer to stew the meat. So perhaps I can combine some recipes.

Thanks for the great video - great tips.

Mary said...

Just made this on a cold March night, and it was absolutely delicious. Had my family here for dinner and they raved about it, thanks Chef John for another delicious recipe. I followed directions up until the stove top cooking directions, I cooked it in the oven for a few hours in my stock pot. Yum!!

Mary said...

Just made this on a cold March night, and it was absolutely delicious. Had my family here for dinner and they raved about it, thanks Chef John for another delicious recipe. I followed directions up until the stove top cooking directions, I cooked it in the oven for a few hours in my stock pot. Yum!!

Sophia Tran said...

I just made this last night and it was so flavorful and delicious! This will definitely be on a rotation in my house. Go get the Hungarian Paprika as it does have a different flavor from Spanish Paprika! I found it at my local grocery store. My spice mortar & pestle must not be a good one cause I wasn't able to grind up the caraway seeds so I used a spice grinder. I totally made this for me, but there were two guys that I shared this with last night and they were still talking about this today.

Unknown said...

Someone above asked about a Czech goulash with beer and bacon - the truth is that there are several variants used around central and eastern europe. What you had was a so-called brewery goulash ("Pivovarský guláš"), which is often using sausages or bacon, along with beer. I am sure you will find some recipes under this name.


I made this and served it over Yorkshire pudding. My family went wild. "Off the chain good!" they all shouted. Then, they lifted me up on their shoulders and carried me around the front yard in a victory celebration.

LunaRendezvous said...

Wow, another delicious recipe, I might have just ever so slightly burnt my spice blend, and then thought I over salted, but when the sauce thickened the taste was sensational. I did put two tsp of sugar instead of one, and instead of sour cream I used the rest of my home made creme fraiche, over a bed of basmati rice. Believe it or not It's hard to find whole chuck here in Australia, so I used sirloin roast, it was a little lean, but still tender.

Mary Zimnik said...

Could not, surprisingly, find marjoram (dry or fresh), so substituted oregano. Thought I had balsamic vinegar (oops), but did not, so, used red wine vinegar and added one more teaspoon sugar. This was a sensational, rich, intense stew, and the sour cream was just enough to temper it. The roasted/ground caraway was the MVP in some ways, and it was a delight to use caraway in this new way. And including the buttered egg noodles was a hit. This is one of my favorite of your savory dishes yet! Thanks, Mary

Adrienne Boswell said...

When I make this, I use red pepper paste instead of tomato paste. It thickens it nicely, and has that deep red pepper flavor. There are several kinds of red pepper paste, and I prefer the non-spicy version for this. I use the spicy version for my meatloaf. You can buy red pepper paste at Mediterranean or Armenian stores. It's also great on scrambled eggs. Tukas is a good brand.

TempuraFriedJoystick said...

I've made this twice now, and by all that is good in this world it's the most divine soup/stew I've ever put in my mouth. I couldn't find Carroway at any of the local grocery stores, which was disappointing, but other than that I followed everything to a T. Simply phenomenal. It's rich and deep and intense, with a flavor that just melts and coats your tongue. You get just the lightest hint of spice and heat in the back of your throat, which I love (major spicy food fan). I think the tastiest part, though, really surprised me - it was the onions! When you get a bite with one of those onions, they add such a delicious sweetness that cuts through the thick, savory sauce. I can't think of anything better to soak into a thick slice of bread.