Cooking Traditional Hungarian Goulash in Budapest

When I’m home I rarely cook. It’s not that I can’t cook, but rather don’t see the value in spending all that time making a meal when a sandwich will satisfy my hunger. This mentality must seem odd coming from someone who writes so much about food, but frankly, I’m not a picky eater despite all the world-class meals I get to eat.

What also might seem strange is the fact that I really love taking cooking classes when I travel. I’ve learned how to make pizza in Rome, sushi in Maui, and a host of Italian dishes in my daylong class in Umbria. I’ve attempted strudel making in Budapest, which is very difficult, as it involves stretching dough so thin that one must be able to read the newspaper through it. Cooking classes provide insight into the culture and history of a place, and also allow me to interact with locals. Thus, this summer when I spent 48 hours in Budapest with Kensington Tours, I requested an itinerary focused on culinary, wine, and sightseeing. That’s exactly what my private guide, Sándor, delivered.

Great Hall Budapest Hungary

The first order of my action-packed day was a goulash making class at Fakanál {Wooden Spoon} Restaurant located in the Great Market Hall {aka Central Market Hall}. Found at the Pest end of Liberty Bridge, the market is a beautiful three-story building built in the late 1890s and a must-visit while in Budapest. During World War II, the market was seriously damaged and closed. Extensively restored in the mid 1990s, it’s still an important place for locals to shop. Historical photos can be seen on the walls of the second floor.

Hungarian Goulash Cooking Class Budapest Hungary

At only 9 am, the Great Market Hall was a bit quiet. The ground floor had a smattering of Hungarians buying fresh fruit, vegetables, and meat for the meals ahead, while the second floor was all but deserted. Vendors selling Hungarian souvenirs were straightening their booths, and a few locals sat around drinking coffee and eating lango—deep-fried dough similar to a funnel cake that’s topped with sour cream and cheese. Food stall workers were bustling getting ready for the lunch rush, but other than that, I had the place to myself.

Hungarian Goulash Cooking Class Budapest Hungary

My goulash guru, Erik Baumann, was waiting for me inside of Fakanál Restaurant. This giant of a man with a shaved head and goatee looked more like an action movie hero than a cooking instructor. Located in the dining room of the large restaurant was a stovetop and next to it was a long table filled with all of the necessary goulash ingredients, knives, and cutting boards. All business, Erik was ready to get started.

I was given a brief history of Hungarian goulash. Meaning “herdsman” in Hungarian, goulash gets its red color from the spicy Hungarian paprika, which was brought to the country by the invading Turks.

Hungarian Goulash Cooking Class Budapest Hungary

It was made VERY clear that the dish is NOT the same as in the Czech Republic, which is thicker, uses less vegetables, not as spicy, and served with houskové knedlíky {Czech dumplings}. I quickly figured out that Hungarian goulash also is nothing like my father’s goulash, which is basically all the leftovers in the refrigerator made into a soup. No, I was going to make the Hungarian version—a somewhat spicy stew served with bread on the side.

Hungarian Goulash Cooking Class Budapest Hungary

Once the history lesson was complete, we moved on to the actual cooking. I attempted to cut the vegetables as swiftly and effortlessly as Erik, but losing a finger was not on the itinerary, so I deferred to him. We browned meat, poured in the already measured spices, threw in the chopped vegetables, and voilà—the one-pot dish was on its way to becoming traditional Hungarian goulash.

Hungarian Goulash Budapest Hungary

Not having the two hours to tend to the pot while it simmered, Erik just happened to have a bowl prepared for me. I took my seat at the table covered with a red-checkered tablecloth and had my first taste of real goulash. It was good. Actually, I should say it was really good. It had a real kick of spice, which is something I love and don’t get much of when visiting Europe. I soaked up the liquid with bread and savored the flavors before washing it down with a Hungarian red wine. So what if it was only 10 am. When in Hungary, right?

Hungarian Goulash Budapest Hungary

Temperatures have finally dropped below 90 in Texas, and I think it’s about high time I whip up a pot of Erik’s traditional goulash. If you’d like to do the same, I’ve included his recipe below. Let me know how it turns out, or better yet, send me some.

Hungarian Goulash Budapest Hungary

Traditional Hungarian Goulash

Serves four people

400 g shin of beef

2 Spanish onions

10 cl oil

pinch of salt, pepper, caraway seeds

1 teaspoon paprika {Hungarian spicy, not sweet}

5 cloves of garlic

1 carrot

1 parsnip

¼ celerac

1 bunch of celeriac leaves

500 g of potatoes

1 sweet pepper

1 tomato

Preparation:

Cut the meat into small cubes.

Finely chop the onion and garlic.

Cube the vegetables.

Fry the onion in hot oil until it becomes transparent.

Sprinkle with paprika and add a little water.

Add the meat, and flavor with salt, pepper, garlic, and caraway seed.

Place the sweet pepper and tomato on top.

Simmer for an hour, and then add the vegetables and potatoes.

As soon as the potatoes are tender the dish is ready to serve.

Serve the goulash with thick, rustic bread and a full-bodied red wine.

Hungarian Goulash Budapest Hungary

I was a guest of Kensington Tours. In no way was I swayed to write a positive review by the personalized and exclusive itinerary, Erik’s giant muscles, or the spicy goulash. As always, opinions are mine.

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39 Comments
  • @mrsoaroundworld
    October 17, 2013

    How interesting… I have actually never tried Goulash in my life, although we have something quite similar in Portugal ;0

    • Leah Walker
      October 19, 2013

      There’s so many European cultures that have their own version of goulash. The fact that you haven’t tried it really surprises me.

  • Adelina
    October 17, 2013

    The first time I had goulash in Hungary I was so surprised at how thin it was. Everyone describes it as a stew, but I would say it’s more of a soup. Either way, it’s delicious and no matter how much I try, I can never make it the same way as all my Hungarian friends.

    • Leah Walker
      October 19, 2013

      I’m with you, I don’t care what you call it. Goulash is delicious!

  • Abby
    October 17, 2013

    Yum! Will you please teach me how to shoot foot? Your photos are gorgeous!!

    • Leah Walker
      October 19, 2013

      Thank you, Abby. I think food and drink are the easiest to photograph for me. If you can teach me landscapes, I’ll return the favor with food.

  • Laura @Travelocafe
    October 17, 2013

    Love goulash! So yummy! It’s been a while since I had it though…

    • Leah Walker
      October 19, 2013

      It’s been far too long since I’ve had it too. I guess I’ll make this recipe or surely, there’s a Hungarian restaurant in Houston. We have ever other kind of restaurant here.

  • Tom @ Waegook Tom
    October 17, 2013

    I have two things that I’ve taken away from this post.

    1. I want to bend over for that chef. Holy Daddy. Check out those arms.

    2. That goulash looks soooo goooood! Seriously, any food in any culture that can be described as a spicy meat stew is good in my book, so this looks divine. I tried some when I was in Budapest, but the memory is a bit of a blur as I ended up doing shots in a ruin bar that night. Pretty sure it was delicious though.

    • Leah Walker
      October 19, 2013

      I’m absolutely dying at so many things in your comment. Let me leave it at this: Yes, the goulash is very good.

  • karl
    October 17, 2013

    I shouldn’t have read this while I was hungry! Nice read and Ill have to make an attempt at that recipe, thanks.

    • Leah Walker
      October 19, 2013

      I suppose I should have put a word of caution at the beginning. I’ll remember that for next time.

  • Pola (Jetting Around)
    October 18, 2013

    Leah, you look like a pro chef in the pic! What a fun experience and great photos. I have a Hungarian connection in the family, so I guess it’s no wonder that I use A LOT of paprika. Can’t go wrong with that.

    • Leah Walker
      October 19, 2013

      Yeah, Pola, looking the part was just about the extent of my chef experience. I figure there’s a lot of intermingling with Polish and Hungarian. Y’all are so close in proximity.

  • Joy (My Traveling Joys)
    October 18, 2013

    We’ve been to Budapest twice this year and absolutely loved this city as well as the Great Market Hall! Now, I now how to use all that Hungarian paprika I brought back with me! 🙂

    • Leah Walker
      October 19, 2013

      I’m absolutely kicking myself for not buying more paprika. I just can’t find the good stuff here in Houston. Let me know how this recipe works for you.

  • samantha
    October 18, 2013

    Wow looks yummy! Never had goulash but would sure love to try it. Great food photos too!

    • Leah Walker
      October 19, 2013

      Thanks so much! I guess I didn’t realize so many people hadn’t tried goulash. I just figured it was a pretty common thing.

  • Francesca (@WorkMomTravels)
    October 18, 2013

    I’m not sure that I’ve ever had goulash… I’ll have to share the recipe with the hubs so he can make it. Because, as you know, he’s the cook around here. I’m with you: if I can eat a sandwich and not be hungry anymore, then a sandwich it is!

    • Leah Walker
      October 19, 2013

      Well, I suppose coming from an Italian family, you might not have ever been exposed to goulash. I bet there is something similar from Italy, however. It reminds me of something that might be found in Tuscany. It’s rustic and uses lots of root vegetables and great meat. If your husband makes it, let me know how you like it.

  • Mary Anne
    October 19, 2013

    Cooking lessons while on a trip are a fantastic way to bring home a souvenir without over filling your suitcase!

    • Leah Walker
      October 19, 2013

      I agree, although it’s also a great way to get tighter pants!

  • Charu
    October 19, 2013

    Nice photos! Of course there’s that beef element. I need to get a recipe that’s vegetarian.

    • Leah Walker
      October 19, 2013

      I do have one they gave me that uses beans. There’s still the beef in there, but you could take it out. Everything else is the same.

  • Raul (@ilivetotravel)
    October 19, 2013

    Well, I think you need to make this delicious looking dish for me some day – I mean, just to make sure you really learned how to make it 🙂 I have had goulash before but in Bavaria so likely a little different from this one. Now I am hungry…

    • Leah Walker
      October 19, 2013

      It’s really easy, Raul. If you’ll be my sous chef then I’ll make it.

  • Nicole | The Wondernuts
    October 20, 2013

    That is such a cool experience. I would love to learn how to make a traditional gift from a pro. =)

    • Leah Walker
      October 20, 2013

      Cooking classes are a unique and sometimes inexpensive way to get to know a culture and location. I’ve recently really gotten doing them. Although I’ve yet to replicate the dishes, it sure is fun to try.

  • Erin at The World Wanderer
    October 20, 2013

    Looks delicious!! I could use some right now to help me finish fighting this cold! Thanks for the recipe. 🙂

    • Leah Walker
      October 20, 2013

      Ahhh…I’m sorry you’re sick. Surely all the spice would make you feel better.

  • Traveling Ted
    October 21, 2013

    I am glad to know goulash is more than mixing leftovers in the fridge into soup. Mine would be a hot dog, pizza, bread, beer goulash. I think I would much rather just go to Hungary and eat there than improvise from my fridge.

    • Leah Walker
      October 24, 2013

      Beer goulash might not be so bad. Hold the dog food though.

  • lola
    October 22, 2013

    mmmm I loved trying lots of different varieties of goulash on my first visit to Budapest. making it sounds fun.

    • Leah Walker
      October 24, 2013

      I think everyone has their own recipe, but I’m willing to test them all.

  • Taylor Hearts Travel
    February 11, 2014

    I agree, a cookery class is a great way to learn about a particular culture. I love your disclaimer at the end – he does have big muscles!

    • Leah Walker
      February 15, 2014

      I agree, both about learning about a culture and the muscles. He was huge!

  • margaret godfrey
    September 15, 2014

    I have been to this cafe/restaurant in the market hall and in the four day in the lovely city of Budapest, myself, husband and two friends said this was the best goulash – and we had it at least once more here. Elsewhere it was good, but this was just the best. I want to replicate it at home.

  • Natalie @ In Natalie's Shoes
    October 15, 2015

    Yum! I can attest that Czech gulas is MUCH different than Hungarian goulash, but both are delicious! I’m so glad you provided a recipe from your (amazing sounding) cooking demo. Thanks for sharing!

  • Nora (Food Tour Budapest)
    March 11, 2016

    It is a great recipe! I am very glad you made this dish in Hungary, as it is originated from Hungary, and cooked different. I cook it similar, but with more paprika (actually 1 teaspoon mild and half teaspoon spicy), and less garlic. It is also nice with small noodles (csipetke:)

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