A traditional Hungarian Goulash recipe of meat stewed in onions, tomatoes, peppers and potatoes. Finished off with a little vermouth and traditional Hungarian dumplings. This national Hungarian dish started out as a modest dish invented by cow herders.
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Goulash started out as a humble dish developed by cow herders called Gulyas in the 9th century. They made this stew from previously cooked beef that they then dried out. A type of beef jerky you can take with you for several days.
When it was time to cook the stew, they boiled it in water with onions. That is the original Hungarian goulash. It has changed over time, more ingredients were added, especially Hungary’s national culinary treasure, paprika.
The first stew was made with beef. Each home cook has their own recipe. You will find some homes that make it with pork, a more common meat in some parts of Hungary. It is occasionally also made with lamb.
Goulash is a great example of culinary diaspora. With the marriage of a Hungarian prince and and Italian princess, tomatoes and wine made their way to Hungary. With the discovery of the new World, potatoes and peppers did too in the 16th century. These all eventually made their way into the stew.
This dish is easy to make but does take a long time. If you have busy weekdays, better save this recipe for the weekend. Feel free to double this recipe, if you have two large pots, and freeze half without the dumplings. Then on busy weeknights, you can just re-heat and make dumplings or serve with crusty bread instead.
The Goulash I Grew Up With
The traditional Hungarian stew in this post resembles very little to the Goulash that I grew up with.
As a young girl in a big city, I distinctly remember Dad rubbing the palms of his hands together as he often did when he was excited about something. The question posed to him was, ‘What’s for dinner Dad?’. The inquisitive and selfish being was yours truly. My appetite often drove my motives.
‘Goulash!’ he replied. I was excited because he was excited. Any dinner that garnered such enthusiasm from my dad was surely going to be good.
It was in fact, VERY good. It was a savory dish of elbow macaroni, tomatoes, spices and the rare treat of ground beef. Dad was the main cook in the family. He took his duty seriously, something of which my appetite appreciated. Thanks Dad!
Ten years later I would enjoy this same dish in Army basic training. They called it Chili Mac. I appreciated this dish, I was homesick at the time. Chili Mac, American Goulash or whatever you call it, was a warm hug in a bowl, despite the drill sergeant that barked at us to eat faster. I hope this is a warm hug for you too!
How To Make This Dish
Gather your ingredients. Trim extra fat off of the meat. Cut meat into bite-sized pieces. Peel and chop potatoes.
Brown meat in batches in large pot over medium heat with a little oil. Turn until all sides are browned, set aside in a bowl.
The brown bits left behind is known as ‘the fond’ and is where a lot of flavor is hiding.
Add onions and bell pepper, stir frequently until soft, scraping the bottom of the pot to release the fond.
Continue cooking until the vegetables are soft.
When the vegetables are soft, add caraway seeds, garlic and paprika, stir to combine. Cook for one more minute to release the flavors.
Add canned tomatoes, crushing the tomatoes with spoon into smaller pieces. Stir well and cook for two more minutes.
Add meat, potatoes, broth to pot.
Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to medium low. Simmer with lid on for 1.5 hours.
Add flour, salt and eggs to bowl, stir to combine. Add more flour if necessary.
Form six balls from dough.
Increase heat to medium. Add dumplings to simmering pot. Cook for five minutes.
The dumplings will swell as they cook.
Serve stew with dumplings, garnish with parsley.
A note About Dumplings
Drop dumplings can be made with homemade dough such as in this recipe or with store-bought biscuits cut in half. They are designed to help sop up that beautiful broth.
If dumplings aren’t your thing, serve with crusty bread or mashed potatoes instead.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What is the difference between American goulash and Hungarian? – Hungarian goulash is a stew with meat, onions, peppers and tomatoes. The American version is a pasta dish made with ground beef, tomatoes and elbow macaroni. The American version is also known as American Chop Suey or Chili Mac.
- Which cut of meat is best for goulash? – Shin, shank, shoulder and country-style ribs are best for this type of stew. The collagen in these types of cuts will help thicken the stew. The starch from the potatoes will also thicken the stew. Other thickeners such as flour or cornstarch are not added to traditional Hungarian goulash.
- What is the difference between goulash and paprikash? – Goulash is a stew, seasoned with paprika and made with meat and vegetables including potatoes. Paprikash looks similar but is made without potatoes.
This recipe was adapted from the cookbook East European Kitchen by Catherine Atkinson and Trish Davies.
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