ExperiencePlus! Blog

Hungarian Goulash

Enjoy these comforting flavors this winter as you sidle up next to the fire and tell stories, cherish the company of family and friends, and perhaps dream of riding your bike on our newly revised bicycle tour through Central Europe next year.

Goulash is the Hungarian cowboy’s thick soup, which has undergone centuries of variation, but we’ve opted to stick to tradition as close as we can and share this recipe with you. Since it is a hearty (and spicy) meat dish, allow time for the meat to tenderize when you’re preparing this meal. This was a perfect dish for the herdsmen (called ‘gulyás, the origin of the name goulash) tending to their livestock, as they could put their ingredients on hand in a pot over low heat and not have to stir it constantly to have a satisfying dinner later in the evening.

A couple of notes about the paprika used here; in German, ‘paprika’ means bell pepper, and it is a spice that is heavily used in several central European dishes from goulash, cheese spreads, and hot sauces or pastes to accompany meats or breads. Until heated up, paprika is void of flavor, and just provides a color to a meal or serves as a garnish, but if added to a little oil and heated up; its flavor ignites. The Ottomans brought the pepper to Turkey, neighbor to Hungary, and realized they grow well in the hot and dry plains of the country, therefore becoming a common element of the region’s cuisine after the mid-1500s. We welcome you to find a local spice shop and decide on a couple of ounces of Hungarian sweet paprika as a culinary field trip so that your dish is a hybrid of a local artisan’s product used in an international dish.


Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 1 hour 15 minutes



  • For traditional goulash: 1 1/3 cups of cubed beef shank (10 1/2 oz)
  • For traditional goulash: 3 slices of bacon, chopped
  • For traditional goulash: 2 cups (1 lb) peeled potatoes
  • For vegetarian goulash: add an extra 1 ½ cups peeled potatoes in addition to the 2 cups (replaces the meat)
  • 2 Tbl vegetable oil
  • 2 large onions, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 Tbl powdered sweet (Hungarian) paprika (more if you want a stronger flavor); add a dash of cayenne pepper if you prefer a kick
  • Salt to taste
  • 3/4 tsp caraway seeds
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/8 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/8 cup tomato paste
  • 1 med. carrot, roughly diced
  • 1 med. parsnip, roughly diced
  • 1 or 2 whole sweet bell (yellow or red) peppers, diced


  1. Cube the meat and potatoes into 3/4 inch pieces. Chop other ingredients as instructed.
  2. Cook bacon in a cast iron or heavy-duty pot until crisp over medium heat, remove bacon, but leave fat in pot.
  3. Add meat, brown it in small batches over high heat, when browned, move to a bowl.
  4. Using the same pot, cook the onion and garlic in oil over medium-low heat until translucent.
  5. Stir in paprika & take care not to burn it, as it will make the goulash bitter. Add caraway seeds and flour; stir. Whisk in vinegar and tomato paste for a minute.
  6. Incorporate meat and salt with onions. Add 4 cups of water, or equivalent in beef broth. If you use beef broth, augment with 1 cup of water.
  7. Bring mixture to a boil and stir, cover, and reduce to a simmer for 35 minutes.
  8. Add the carrots, parsnips, and bell peppers, cook for another 20 minutes, when the meat is nearly tender.
  9. Add potatoes, cook all ingredients together until the potatoes can be easily pierced with a fork.  The goulash’s consistency should be thick and meaty. Season as needed with pepper.
  10. Serve immediately or reheat later.

Feel free to eat this over egg noodles (not so traditional), or on its own. For those of you who want a little rustic bread on the side, and still in the mood to make something from scratch, try this potato bread recipe.