How to Make Goulash

by Ellen Douglas

A hearty dish originating in Hungary, goulash is a meat-and-potatoes stew that gets its unique taste from its spicy red broth. Whether you serve it in a bowl with dark bread or over noodles, goulash makes a substantial meal. The meat is typically cubed from beef chuck or veal shoulder, although pork has been known to sneak into some goulash recipes. To keep its Eastern European flair, don't skimp on such Hungarian seasoning classics as paprika and caraway seed.

Chop the beef or veal into 1-inch cubes. This is also a good time to prepare the vegetables that will be added to the pot. Slice 1 or 2 peeled onions roughly, and mince a couple cloves of garlic. Peel and chop a few carrots and parsnips, too, if you will be using them.

Put a few teaspoons of vegetable oil into the stock pot and turn the burner to medium-low. Once the oil heats, toss in the chopped onions and stir until they soften and turn clear.

Turn the heat to medium-high, add the cubed meat to the onion. Flip the meat occasionally until it browns on all sides, about 5 minutes.

Sprinkle a couple spoonfuls of Hungarian spices onto the browned beef and onions. Make sure the majority of this seasoning is paprika, the spice most closely associated with the stew. Add the garlic and stir these aromatics until they cover the beef and onions.

Add your carrots and parsnips, if using, and enough water to come about halfway up the sides of the pot. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and cook the stew for at least 30 minutes.

Peel and chop potatoes into chunks while the stew is simmering. In addition, slice a tomato and 1 or 2 sweet peppers into 1-inch pieces.

Check the texture of the cubed meat. When it is almost fork-tender, put in the potato chunks and simmer the stew for another 30 minutes or so. Once the meat reaches the tender stage, toss in the sliced tomato and peppers. Cook the stew a few more minutes. Serve.


  • Noodles tossed with butter are a traditional accompaniment to goulash, as is sour cream.

    Among the many variations possible with Hungarian goulash are the addition of fresh or reconstituted mushrooms, which work especially well if you'll be serving the stew over wide noodles.

    When fresh tomatoes and sweet peppers aren't available, opt for canned tomato paste and roasted red peppers.

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