Hey, that’s not goulash! is usually my reaction when I see goulash on the menu in England. Or anywhere else outside of Hungary to be honest. ūüôā First I was a bit offended. How dare strangers violate¬†our beloved goulash and turn it into something that is not? Now I got used to expect stew instead of soup because – that’s right – goulash is a soup. The dish foreigners call goulash is more like a different Hungarian dish called p√∂rk√∂lt, which is a very delicious stew. Goulash is a soup! No arguments about that. ūüôā

Goulash cooked in bogracs by herdsmen in the Puszta

Herdsmen cooking goulash in a bogr√°cs

Hungarian herdsman smoking his pipe while driving the Hungarian grey cattle to market

Hungarian herdsman with his grey cattle

The word goulash (=gulyás) means herdsman. From the Middle Ages until the 19th century herdsmen cooked gulyásleves (=goulash soup) under the sky in the open fields of the Puszta using a traditional Hungarian kettle, bogrács. As herdsmen were driving herds of cattle, gulyásleves was made of beef. You can use other meat like pork or lamb of course, but I still prefer it with beef. Most the ingredients could be found growing naturally in the Puszta, like wild onions and caraway.

It wasn’t until the 19th century that goulash was brought indoors and introduced at the dinner table. That time Hungary was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and it became vital¬†to nurse Hungarian culture and language to keep the Hungarian identity alive at times when the Habsburgs wanted to Germanise the country.

Goulash quickly became very popular outside of Hungary as well and that is when the transformation began. The Germans added brown sauce, the French red wine, the English flour to turn it into stew.

So here is the recipe as a Hungarian makes it. ūüėČ

Hungarian Goulash Soup

Hungarian goulash served in a bowl


  • 2 tbs oil or lard
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • little green pepper, chopped (optional)
  • 1 tomato, chopped¬†(optional)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped or crushed¬†(optional)
  • 2-3 tbs paprika
  • 500 g beef shank, diced
  • salt, pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1-2 pinch of caraway seeds (optional) or 1 tsp ground
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns (optional)
  • 4 root vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, sliced
  • 3-4 potatoes, diced


Serving: 4
Preparation: 5 minutes to chop the ingredients.
Cooking time: 10 minutes frying and about 2-3 hours cooking.

  1. Heat the oil in a saucepan and fry the onion until light gold (approx. 5 minutes).
  2. This step is optional but I like to add a little chopped green pepper, one chopped tomato and a couple of finely chopped garlic cloves as well and fry for another 5 minutes.
  3. Take the pan off the fire and add the paprika. Stir well. It’s important no to add the paprika while the pan is still on the fire because it would burn and turn the paprika bitter.
  4. Add the meat and stir well before returning the pot to the fire.
  5. When the meat has browned all around add water to just cover the ingredients.
  6. Season with salt, pepper and drop in the bay leaves. At this point you can add caraway seed and whole black peppercorns as well. Cover and simmer until the meat is half cooked. (45-60 minutes)
  7. Top it up with water, add the vegetables and cook it for another 60-90 minutes. The longer you cook it the more tender the meat becomes.
  8. When the meat is tender add the potatoes and cook for 15-20 minutes until the potatoes are done. If too much water has evaporated feel free to add more water to the soup. Depending on the¬†water intake your goulash will look more like soup or stew. ūüôā

I love making goulas soup because it makes a filling dinner and it cooks itself. ūüôā You just need to shop and slice up the ingredients and the rest is done by the cooker.

You can serve it with bread or cook csipetke in it. Csipetke is pinched noodles made of egg, flour, water and salt.

Oh, and this is perfect for slow cooker. ūüėČ

Enjoy! ūüôā

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Hungarian Goulash
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