Traditional Hungarian Goulash Soup Recipe

4.74 from 19 votes
2 hours
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Buttery tender pieces of beef, earthy root vegetables and a rich paprika-seasoned broth come together in this traditional Hungarian goulash recipe for the ultimate warm and comforting meal! Perfect with crusty bread, noodles or these easy pumpkin muffins!

“This tastes like my favourite goulash soup from Budapest Restaurant in Toronto!”

Finished Traditional Hungarian Goulash Soup Recipe in white Dutch oven with bread and sour cream.

What is Goulash?

Hungarian Goulash is a soup or stew made with meat and vegetables seasoned with paprika. Its origins date back to 9th Century Hungary. Although it is considered one of the national dishes of Hungary, it’s served in other Central and Eastern European countries including the Balkans.

Some versions are simply pieces of beef in a rich, savory broth or gravy, some have potatoes, some have carrots and other root vegetables and others have bell peppers or green vegetables such as green beans. The one ingredient every version of goulash shares is the enticing pungency of Hungarian paprika.

Traditional Hungarian Goulash Soup Recipe in gray bowl with a piece of carrot and beef soup spoon.

Why This Recipe is a Keeper!

I had versions of traditional Hungarian Goulash in Germany and the Czech Republic before becoming obsessed with it on a recent trip to Budapest, Hungary.

That obsession led me to purchase two Hungarian cookbooks so that I could replicate goulash at home. However, the goulash recipes in each cookbook were quite different from each other because Hungarian home cooks and chefs all have their own versions.

My version of Traditional Hungarian Goulash Soup is a combination of the two authentic versions from the Hungarian cookbooks I purchased in Budapest, along with a familiar online version with ingredients that are easy to get in any grocery store.

This traditional Hungarian goulash soup recipe is:

  • Absolutely delicious!
  • Make ahead and reheats beautifully. In fact, it will probably be even better the next day!
  • Freezer-friendly.

Let’s make it!

Bowl of Traditional Hungarian Goulash Soup Recipe.

How to Make a Traditional Hungarian Goulash Soup Recipe:

Recipe Ingredients:

Here’s everything you’ll need to make this traditional Hungarian goulash soup recipe, along with how to prep. See the recipe card below for the exact quantities.

Ingredients for Traditional Hungarian Goulash Soup Recipe in glass bowls.

Ingredient Notes and Substitutions:

  • Beef: Although you can use leaner cuts of beef for this goulash recipe, I used a 3-pound chuck roast that I hand-trimmed and cut into approximately 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch pieces. I had just under 2 1/2 pounds of chuck stew meat when I was finished. Chuck roast is great for stews and soups because of the connective tissue that runs through it. When cooked slowly and consistently, that connective tissue breaks down leaving behind a buttery tender piece of beef. Beef labeled “stew beef” could actually be various cuts of beef that the butcher or market is trying to sell the remnants of–some of which will be tough no matter how long it is cooked.
Pieces of beef on white plastic cutting board.
  • Canola Oil: I used it because it’s what I have in my pantry. If you have lard or bacon grease, by all means, use it as that is more traditional.
  • Parsnips: Parsnips are a creamy white color and are related to carrots and parsley. Although they resemble carrots, they don’t taste like them. They’re sweeter than carrots with a nutty, earthy flavor.
  • Tomatoes: I used fresh, diced tomatoes because that’s what I had on hand. Use petite diced canned tomatoes if you don’t have good fresh tomatoes.
  • Paprika: Here’s where you want to purchase good Hungarian paprika because it will make a difference in the depth and flavor of this goulash recipe. Hungarian paprika is made from peppers that are toasted and then blended to create different varieties. All Hungarian paprikas have a rich, sweet red pepper flavor however they all range in pungency and heat.
  • Bay Leaves: I used fresh bay leaves in this goulash recipe. If you can find fresh, definitely use it instead of dried; the flavor and aroma are amazing.
  • Water / Beef Broth / Beef Stock: This may or may not be true of all Hungarian cooks/chefs, but all the “authentic” Hungarian goulash recipes I looked at used water instead of beef broth or beef stock. I went with half water and half broth to get the flavor depth started but to stay somewhat true to the traditional way goulash is made.
  • Potatoes: I used Russets, but Yukon Gold or red potatoes also work fine. In fact, they’d be better to use if you plan to freeze this goulash recipe.

Step-By-Step Instructions:

  • Gather and prep all the ingredients.
  • Generously season the cubed chuck roast with salt and black pepper.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon of canola oil, lard or bacon drippings in a large Dutch oven or other heavy soup pot over medium-high heat. Working in batches, brown the beef well on all sides. Transfer the browned beef to a plate and repeat until all the beef is browned.
Browned pieces of beef in white Dutch oven.
  • Refresh the oil with another tablespoon or two. Add the onions and celery. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 7 to 8 minutes or until softened.
Cooked onions and celery in white Dutch oven.
  • Add the garlic, tomatoes, paprika and bay leaves. Give that a stir and cook briefly, 10 seconds or so, until the garlic is aromatic.
  • Add the beef back to the pot and stir to coat.
  • Add the beef broth and water. Bring just to a boil then reduce heat to low and simmer with the lid slightly ajar for 30 minutes.
Beef added to goulash in white Dutch oven.
  • Add the carrots and parsnips. Bring back to a simmer and cook for 10 to 12 minutes.
  • Add the potatoes, bring the pot back to a simmer and cook for 20 to 25 minutes or until the potatoes, carrots and parsnips are tender and the potatoes can be easily pierced with a knife.
  • Add the vinegar.
  • Let the goulash soup “rest” for 15 minutes or so. Add chopped parsley or celery leaves. Season with salt and black pepper to taste if needed.
  • MAKE AHEAD: Cool the goulash down completely, refrigerate and reheat on the stovetop when ready to serve.
Finished goulash process shot in white Dutch oven.
Traditional Hungarian Goulash Recipe in white Dutch oven garnished with fresh parsley.

Let’s eat!! Traditional Hungarian Goulash Soup!

Two bowls of Traditional Hungarian Goulash Soup Recipe

Chef Tips and Tricks:

  • Using too much oil to brown the beef or crowding the beef will cause it to steam rather than brown. You’ll end up with gray or tan beef instead of nicely browned beef. Start with a small amount of oil and only add more oil if the beef begins to stick.
  • I like to let soups and stews “rest” for 15 to 20 minutes before serving them. Soups and stews, after cooking for so long, are too hot to eat anyway and this gives the flavors a chance to meld.
  • Leftover goulash reheats beautifully but if you want to get creative with the leftovers, thicken the goulash with flour or cornstarch, place it in a baking dish then top it with homemade or purchased pastry for an amazing goulash pot pie!!
Bowl of Traditional Hungarian Goulash Soup Recipe garnished with fresh parsley.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Why is it called Hungarian goulash?

Goulash comes from the word gulya which means a herd of cattle in Hungarian and gulyás means ‘herdsman’ or ‘cowboy’ because the dish has humble origins from herdsmen on the plains tending their cattle. The word gulyás originally meant only ‘herdsman’ but over time the dish became gulyáshús (goulash meat), a meat dish that herdsmen prepared.

What is the difference between Hungarian goulash and American goulash?

Hungarian Goulash is a meat and vegetable stew heavily seasoned with paprika. American Goulash is a quick one-pot dish made from ground beef, tomato sauce, herbs and elbow macaroni. It is also called American Chop Suey.

Can a traditional goulash recipe be made ahead of time?

Absolutely! In fact, it will probably be even better the next day once all those flavors meld and get to know each other. Make it up to 2 to 3 days ahead. Simply cool it down completely, refrigerate and reheat on the stovetop when ready to serve.

Can goulash be frozen?

Hungarian goulash does very well frozen, thawed and reheated. The potatoes may end up being a bit softer. A waxy potato such as Yukon Gold or red potatoes will hold up better to being frozen, thawed and reheated. If you’re planning to freeze the goulash, cool it down completely then place it in airtight containers in the quantity desired and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator then reheat on the stovetop or gently in the microwave.

Three bowls of Traditional Hungarian Goulash Soup Recipe.

Serve with:

Get all my soup and stew recipes at: Soup and Stew Recipes – From A Chef’s Kitchen

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Finished Traditional Hungarian Goulash Soup Recipe in white Dutch oven with bread and sour cream.

Traditional Hungarian Goulash Soup Recipe

4.74 from 19 votes

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By: Carol | From A Chef’s Kitchen
Buttery tender pieces of beef, earthy root vegetables and a rich paprika-seasoned broth come together in this Hungarian Goulash recipe for the ultimate warm and comforting meal!
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Total Time 2 hours
Course Soups and Stews
Cuisine East European
Servings 8
Calories 476 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 2 to 2 1/2 pounds trimmed and cubed chuck roast - (1/2 to 3/4-inch cubes)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup canola oil, lard or bacon drippings - or as needed, divided
  • 2 large onions - (3/4 pound) chopped
  • 1 large rib celery - chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic - chopped
  • 4 plum tomatoes - or 2 round tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 3 tablespoons Hungarian paprika
  • 2 large bay leaves - preferably fresh
  • 4 cups beef broth
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 large carrots - or 3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 large parsnips - or 3 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 4 medium Russet potatoes - peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • Chopped fresh parsley or celery leaves
  • Sour cream - optional
  • Hot pepper sauce - optional

Instructions
 

  • Generously season the cubed chuck roast with salt and black pepper.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon of canola oil, lard or bacon drippings in a large Dutch oven or other heavy soup pot over medium-high heat. Working in batches, brown the beef well on all sides. Add oil as needed being careful not to use too much or crowd the beef because it will steam rather than brown. Transfer browned beef to a plate. Repeat until all the beef is browned.
  • Refresh oil as needed. Add the onions and celery. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 7-8 minutes or until softened.
  • Add the garlic, tomatoes, paprika and bay leaves. Give that a stir and cook briefly, 10 seconds or so, until the garlic is aromatic.
  • Add the beef back to the pot and stir to coat.
  • Add the beef broth and water. Bring just to a boil then reduce heat to low and simmer with the lid slightly ajar for 30 minutes.
  • Add the carrots and parsnips. Bring back to a simmer and cook 10-12 minutes.
  • Add the potatoes, bring back to a simmer and cook for 20-25 minutes or until the potatoes, carrots and parsnips are tender and the potatoes can be easily pierced with a knife.
  • Add the vinegar.
  • Let the goulash soup "rest" for 15 minutes or so. Add chopped parsley or celery leaves. Season with additional salt and black pepper to taste if needed.
  • Garnish with a dollop of sour cream, more chopped parsley and hot pepper sauce if desired.

Notes

MAKE AHEAD:  Can be made 2-3 days ahead of time.  Cool the goulash down completely, refrigerate and reheat on the stovetop when ready to serve.
FREEZER-FRIENDLY:  The potatoes may end up being a bit softer.  A waxy potato such as Yukon Gold or red potatoes will hold up better to being frozen, thawed and reheated. If you’re planning to freeze the goulash, cool it down completely then place in airtight containers in the quantity desired and freeze it for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator then reheat on the stovetop or gently in the microwave.
OPTIONS:
  • Reduce the amount of regular paprika and add hot paprika for some spice.
  • You can also stir in a dollop or two of sour cream at the end for another dimension of flavor.
  • Leftover goulash reheats beautifully but if you want to get creative with the leftovers, thicken the goulash with flour or cornstarch, place it in a baking dish then top it with homemade or purchased pastry for an amazing goulash pot pie!!

Nutrition

Serving: 1 | Calories: 476kcal | Carbohydrates: 35g | Protein: 33g | Fat: 24g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 13g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 98mg | Sodium: 598mg | Potassium: 1373mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 4172IU | Vitamin C: 22mg | Calcium: 91mg | Iron: 5mg

These are estimated values generated from a nutritional database using unbranded products. Please do your own research with the products you’re using if you have a serious health issue or are following a specific diet.

Did you make this recipe? Please leave a comment, star rating or post your photo on Instagram and tag @fromachefskitchen.
4.74 from 19 votes (14 ratings without comment)

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Recipe Rating




17 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I modified a bit for my Instant Pot:

    I browned the beef in batches on a cast iron frying pan so as not to steam the meat (thanks for this tip! I always just threw all the meat into the pan, but now understand about the steam). I used some bacon fat we had leftover from breakfast, and then canola oil as required. I threw the browned beef into my Instant Pot.

    I then browned the onion and celery in the same pan after I was done with the beef. I added garlic, tomato, and bay leaves to the pan and then scooped this mixture into my Instant Pot once combined and fragrant.

    I didn’t want to miss the toasted spices at the bottom of the pan, so I deglazed with the beef stock and water and added that to the Instant Pot after.

    I mixed and then set for a 15 min pressure cook. While this was happening I peeled and prepped the parsnips, carrots and potatoes. I did quick release and then added the veggies for an additional 15 min. I tasted the broth before covering it and added a bit of salt, fresh black pepper and the tbsp vinegar. I did quick release again at the end.

    I chose to add about 1/2 tbsp caraway.

    This tastes like my favourite goulash soup from Budapest Restaurant in Toronto, which I have been home sick for since leaving for a smaller town north.

    Thank you!!

    1. Hi, Juliette, Wow, thanks so much for all this information! I’m sure other readers are going to appreciate it and appreciate your taking the time to come back and comment and rate. Thanks again!

  2. Hi Carol.
    Hungarian Goulash recipes elude me. This is the second or third time and it just does not come out tasting anywhere near what I had experienced in Budapest.

    I make some extremely delicious beef stews, but this one just can’t get a hang of it. I cook Indian, Thai, Chinese, Greek, Italian, well just about anything from countries I have visited.

    I used top ingredients such as authentic Hungarian Paprika, fresh Bay Leaves, fresh ground pepper, kosher salt, etc.

    Any suggestions would be appreciated.

    Thanks
    Max

    1. Hi, Max, Thanks so much for your question. Sorry you’re having a problem replicating an authentic Hungarian goulash. When I posted this recipe (which has 15 4 and 5-star ratings now), I had just come back from an East European tour that included Hungary so the flavor was pretty fresh in my memory. One of our tour members posted a comment that he made this recipe and he also felt it came very close. I revisited the two recipes from the Hungarian cookbooks I used to come up with my version. Two things stood out: They both have cumin in them, they both use lard or pork fat, and one says goulash is traditionally cooked over an open fire. Cumin is not very traditional in Hungarian food and in my years of experience cooking for private clients, cumin can sometimes ruin the flavor for a lot of people so I left it out. The amount used wasn’t terribly much anyway. The only other thing you could try is caraway; I’ve seen online recipes that use it. Did you add any Hungarian hot sauce? I’ll send you screenshots of the two recipes I used and perhaps you can come up with your own version from the two. If you do, I’d love to know what you did because I’m always open to making something better and more authentic. Thanks again!

      1. Thank you Carol. Got the two recipes. And notice the use of Cumin which is a spice that I use in very traditional Cuban Beef and potatoes (Carne con Papas). I used the Sweet Paprika. And I just noticed that I thought I had bought Hungarian Paprika, but instead is Hungarian Style. I have to go back and purchase the right stuff. As you know, the wrong spice can throw things out of wack. For a little kick, I used Indian Extra Hot Chili powder. Not too much, just enough for taste.

        The low rating is not about your recipe, but rather my problems with this. Like I stated, this is the second time, so perhaps the third time will nock it out of the pack.

        Cheers

      2. Thanks, Max! Glad you got them. Yes, cumin is not traditional and I could just see the purists coming after me for using it. However, now I really want to try it along with possibly caraway. Hungarian paprika is more pungent than sweet so definitely seek that out.

  3. Sorry I left my previous comment before reading your entire post- so my question is unnecessary!
    Hope all is well with you and you have continued to enjoy traveling!

  4. Hello from your fellow Rick Steves Eastern Europe tour member and cooking enthusiast! I’m curious if this is Itelka’s recipe…? I didn’t follow up with her to get it.
    Anyway, I look forward to trying this one – wonderful memories of our trip!

    1. Hi, Dianne, SO great to hear from you and hope you’re both doing well! When I researched goulash, I noticed how different a lot of recipes are–even in the two cookbooks I purchased in Budapest! So, I came up with my own version using the two as reference and another “Americanized” version so the ingredients were easy to find. Kelly from our trip made it and said it came pretty close to what we had in Hungary! What a great trip! We’re planning a Rick Steve’s trip to Portugal next year. Thanks again!

  5. 5 stars
    Hi Carol, I had some of those bowls of goulash with you in the Czech Republic and Hungary and I enjoyed this recipe as much as those. Used the paprika we brought back from Budapest. I plan to do it again and will boost the heat a little bit. Thanks for putting this up.
    Kelly

    1. Hi, Kelly, Thanks so much and so great to hear from you! Was just thinking about you the other day and wondered if you had tried my recipe. So glad it gets your stamp of approval. Hope you are both doing well! Thanks again!

  6. 4 stars
    I am Hungarian by birth and this recipe is pretty close to mine and mine is delicious. The only thing is that if you put that much hot paprika it would blow your head off. My mom would put in a smidgeon of hot paprika and that was hot enough!

    1. Hi, Judith, Thanks so much for that information! Happy to know this recipe IS so very close to a truly authentic goulash. We brought some hot paprika back from Budapest and didn’t find it that hot but you’re right, no one wants to ruin an entire pot of soup/stew by making it too hot; it’s something that can always be added but not removed. I will make a modification to the recipe. Thanks again so very much!!

  7. 5 stars
    What a cozy bowl of comfort! I love how easy this is and paprika wins me over every time 😉 Thanks for sharing!