Since the 9th century, beef goulash has warmed Hungarian appetites with its hearty, savory mixture of tender beef, vegetables and herbs and spices. It was first a staple among shepherds in the countryside and has now become one of the country’s national dishes, often the centerpiece of large gatherings of family and friends, frequently paired with bull’s blood red wine. Autumn and winter in Hungary are distinct seasons, the former bringing mild, crisp temperatures and colorful foliage and the latter bringing a wonderland of snow and chill, and traditional Hungarian goulash is the go-to dish for such seasonal feasts.
Hungarian paprika is a star of this recipe, as it is with many traditional specialties here. Stewed with roasted red peppers, potent caraway seeds, balsamic vinegar and onion, the spice is enhanced to produce a deep, powerful flavor for the palate. One bite can easily transport you to the shores of the Danube River and a charming eatery in the heart of Budapest, at a table for two, warming you inside out after a day exploring the city’s monuments and avenues, or perhaps the ice skating rink and sparkling Christmas market.
Insider fact: Hungarian paprika is distinguished from its Spanish counterpart in that it is dried naturally and gradually in the heat of the sunshine, while Spanish paprika is smoked over a wood fire. The resulting flavor for the Hungarian spice is bold red pepper, giving an intense kick to local dishes.
Paired with homemade spätzle – a dumpling-like pasta dish that originated in Germany, known as nokedli in Hungary – your beef goulash meal is complete.
Get the Recipe: Beef Goulash
- 1 1-4 lb boneless beef chuck-eye roast, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 12-ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained and rinsed
- 1/3 cup sweet paprika
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 large yellow onions, diced
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
- 4 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch-thick rounds
- 3 celery ribs, sliced into 1-inch pieces
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 cup beef stock
- Salt and white pepper
- Zest of one lemon
- 1/4 cup Italian parsley, finely chopped
- 1/3 cup sour cream
For the Homemade Spätzle:
- 2-1/2 cups All-Purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Pinch white pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 cup sour cream
- 4 large eggs
- 3 egg yolks
- 3 tablespoons light olive oil
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup Italian parsley, finely chopped
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
- Sprinkle beef with salt and let sit for 15 minutes.
- Place roasted peppers, paprika and tomato paste in food processor and blend until smooth, scraping down sides a few times to incorporate.
- Heat a large Dutch oven to medium-high and add the oil, onions and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook until the onions are golden, about 5 – 8 minutes. Add the blended pepper paste and cook for a couple of minutes.
- Add the balsamic vinegar, caraway seeds, beef, carrots, celery, bay leaf and stock. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the sides of the pot.
- Cover the pot with foil and the lid, and transfer to the oven.
- Cook until the meat is almost tender, about 2 to 2½ hours, stirring a couple of times during the cooking. Feel free to add a little more stock if it looks like the meat is drying out.
- When the meat is tender, remove the pan from the oven and skim off any excess oil and discard the bay leaf. Season with salt and white pepper to taste, stir and fold in the lemon zest, parsley and sour cream and serve with the spätzle, egg noodles or boiled potatoes.
For the Homemade Spätzle
- In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. In another mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, egg yolks and sour cream together. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the egg/sour cream mixture. Gradually draw in the flour from the sides and combine well; the dough should be smooth and thick. Let the dough rest for at least 1 hour or overnight.
- Bring 4 quarts of water and 1 tablespoon of salt to a boil in Dutch oven, then reduce to a simmer.
- Hold a Spätzle maker or large holed colander over the simmering water and push the dough through the holes. Try not to overcrowd the pan. Boil for 3 minutes, the spätzle should be floating on the surface, stirring gently to prevent sticking. Using a slotted spoon, transfer spätzle immediately with slotted spoon to bowl of ice water. Make 2 more batches in same manner. When spätzle is cool to touch, drain well and toss with 3 tablespoons olive oil.
- In a large frying pan over high heat, add the butter. When it starts to bubble, add the spätzle and cook, without moving pan, until the undersides are brown, about 2 minutes. Toss and cook for another minute or two. Season to taste with salt and white pepper. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.