Best Traditional Hungarian Goulash

Looking for some comfort food? Try this amazing goulash! The Best Traditional Hungarian Goulash is when the meat is so tender, it’s like butter, and the gravy is savory and exquisite.  This is a delicious beef stew that’s cooked in paprika gravy with lots of onions.  And, it’s by far the BEST goulash we have ever had! This goulash can be made with 3 methods: on a Stovetop, in a slow cooker, and with the Instant Pot. 


Hungarian Goulash vs. Beef Stew

Hungarian Goulash is traditionally made with either beef or pork.  It is cooked with a lot of onions, beef broth, and one traditional spice, sweet Hungarian paprika. The sweet Hungarian paprika gives this stew its distinctive reddish-orange color and a delicious flavor to the goulash. 

I’m always looking for a new recipe for beef stew because it’s my family’s favorite comfort food. While searching, I found a few recipes from, and Allrecipes, and came across this traditional Hungarian goulash. And I just had to try it.  It is different from our family’s recipe for our Beef Stew in Half Time Served with Rice, which is loaded with vegetables.

A plate filled with noodles and beef stew.


This Beef Goulash Recipe…

There’s absolutely nothing cozier this time of year. And, this Hungarian goulash turned out to be by far the BEST we have ever had! It was soooooo good, we even enjoyed the leftovers all week long!

Like other beef stews, this one can be prepped, simmered, and slowly cooked on either: Stove-top, in a slow cooker, or with an Instant Pot. 

Originally, goulash was a staple dish made with pork because it was and still is inexpensive meat.  It’s usually made with the shoulder part, the most tender part.

Best of all …this recipe is budget-friendly. And, it will feed a family of “six” for about 20.00 dollars.

What You’ll Need…

Staple ingredients are what make this goulash so darn easy! For this recipe, you will need the following ingredients:

  • Beef Stew Meat – Choose beef stew meat, and about 2 pounds (up to 2.5 pounds), cut into 1-inch pieces.
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil – Always use good quality olive oil for the best flavor.
  • Seasonings –  Some of the seasonings you will only need are salt,  some black pepper, and cayenne pepper.
  • Vegetables – You will need some yellow onions, and at least 3 large ones, some garlic cloves ( about 5 large cloves), 1 red bell pepper, and 2 small tomatoes.
  • Wine Any leftover good-drinking red wine is fine.
  • Broth – Choose either beef broth or vegetable broth with this recipe.
  • Spice There is one traditional, recommended spice to use with this recipe, it is Hungarian paprika powder.
  • Herbs – And only 1 herb to give an aromatic flavor, we prefer to use bay leaves.

How to Make it…

*QUICK NOTE:  No matter what method is chosen to make this traditional Hungarian goulash, this is NOT a recipe you can dump everything into the pot, and let it go for a few hours. (*Our full printable recipe card is at the bottom).

Here are Easy-To-Follow Steps to Make this Goulash…

1.  First,  if the pieces or chunks of beef are too large, take the time to cut them into smaller chunks.  Then allow them to sit on the counter to warm up to room temperature, for at least 20 minutes. Meanwhile, prep and chop all the vegetables.

2. & 3.  Next, saute the meat first, and brown the meat until the pieces are no longer pink. 

4. & 5. Add in the onions and chopped bell pepper and sauté for at least 10 minutes, until the vegetables softened.

steps to prepping meat and vegetables in pot on stove.

6.  Then add in the remaining ingredients, and seasonings, including both liquids, cover with a lid, and simmer for the time needed (about 2 hours total).

7. Final Step: Uncover the pot for the last 30 minutes to allow the gravy to reduce and thicken. 

A large pot of beef stew stirred with a wooden spoon.

A few years ago, my husband had the opportunity to work in Prague for a few months and while we enjoyed the many sites of this gorgeous city of Prague we also enjoyed the local traditional goulash at many restaurants. 

We even experienced many variations of serving goulash, with a side of dumplings, spaetzle (noodles), or roasted baby potatoes. It’s a hearty dish that works best during the winter season and it’s served all winter long.  

I served it the other night with a side of noodles and my family went nuts over it.  I loved it too!  And, it’s the BEST goulash we have ever had! 

A forkful of of beef stew with wide noodles over a plate full of it.

Questions & Answers…

  1. How many servings will this recipe give you? This recipe for goulash will feed about 6 people and will leave enough for lunch the day after, or another dinner during the week. 
  2. How to store leftovers? Best to store leftovers in a sealed container and keep it chilled in the refrigerator. It will stay fresh for up to 3 days.
  3. Can we freeze goulash? Yes you can. It freezes beautifully, and for up to 1 month. Be sure to transfer the goulash to a sealed container and freeze.

Cook’s Notes and Tips for Success…

  • For the most tender meat for stew, always buy good quality beef.  The leaner cut of meat, the more tender it will be and the faster it will cook. 
  • I recommend purchasing the beef stew at your local butcher shop, or you can purchase it (as I did) at Whole Foods, the meat market.
  • It’s imperative to allow the meat to sit on the counter to warm up to room temperature, for at least 20 minutes.  
  • For my family, I prefer to trim off excess fat left from some of the pieces, simply because my family will not eat it if the pieces are too fatty.  But that’s your choice.
  • If cooking this stew on the stovetop, keep in mind, that it is slowly cooked, and covered for most of its cooking time.  If the gravy is still too watery, I recommend allowing the stew to simmer “uncovered” during the last “30 minutes” of cooking.  This will help thicken the gravy.

A great dinner…

This goulash is perfect for a weekend dinner. Serve it with some crusty bread to dip into the sauce, or serve with noodles, zoodles, rice, or quinoa on the side.  A hearty dish and delicious comfort food for the whole family. 


More Recipes for Comfort Food! 


Yield: 6 servings

Best Traditional Hungarian Goulash

A plate filled with noodles and beef stew.

Best Traditional Hungarian Goulash is when the meat is tender like butter and the gravy is savory and totally delicious. This beef stew is slowly cooked in a paprika gravy sauce with lots of onions.  Most flavorful and comforting beef stew ever!

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 20 minutes


  • 2 pounds (up to 2.5 pounds) beef stew meat - cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 6 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
  • 3 large onions - diced
  • 5 garlic cloves - minced
  • 1 red bell pepper - seeds and ribs removed, then diced
  • 1/3 cup of red wine
  • 3/4 cup beef broth (or vegetable broth)
  • 2 small ripe tomatoes - diced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 + 1/2 Tbsp. sweet Hungarian paprika powder
  • dash of cayenne pepper
  • cooked egg noodles, for serving



    1. Examine the chunks of beef, if you find some are too large, cut them in half to make them smaller, bite-size pieces.
    2. Next, allow the meat to sit on the counter to warm up to room temperature, for at least 20 minutes.
    3. Meanwhile, prep and chop all the vegetables.

Recipe for Traditional Hungarian Goulash on STOVE-TOP:

  1. In a large (6-quart size) Dutch oven pot, (or any large saucepan) and on moderate heat, heat olive oil. Toss in the meat and scatter the salt and freshly cracked black pepper over the meat. Brown the meat over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until the beef is no longer pink.
  2. Next, add in the onions, garlic, and red pepper. Cover and saute for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently until the onions are translucent.
  3. Pour in the red wine and beef broth. And add in the chopped tomatoes, bay leaves, Hungarian paprika powder, and cayenne pepper. Stir with a large wooden spoon until the mixture is well combined.
  4. COVER with a lid and simmer on low heat for 1.5 hours, then remove the cover and simmer the remaining 30 minutes uncovered. Stirring occasionally. This will help thicken the stew and its gravy.
  5. Turn off heat. Taste and adjust with salt to your taste. Fish out and discard the bay leaves, then serve in individual plates. Serve with a side (or over) rice, noodles, or fettuccine pasta.

Recipe for Traditional Hungarian Goulash in a CROCKPOT or SLOW-COOKER:

  1. Follow the same recipe, but brown the meat in a large skillet or pan, and saute the onions, garlic, and red pepper as well. Then transfer everything into the crockpot or slow-cooker and add the rest of the ingredients.
  2. Cover and cook for 4 hours on "High" or "low" for 6 hours.
  3. Then serve into individual plates and serve with a side of noodles, zoodles, roasted potatoes, or quinoa.

Recipe for the INSTANT POT:

  1. First, pour the olive oil into the Instant Pot and press the " SAUTE" button.
  2. Next, brown the meat, add in the salt and black pepper, and stir frequently.
  3. Add the onions, garlic, and red pepper and continue to cook until the onions are translucent, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes.
  4. Add the rest of the ingredients and Cancel the "Saute" button.
  5. Close the pot and set it on "STEW."
  6. NOTE: for tender meat, it's best to cook the stew, about 20 minutes per pound, of high pressure ( the manual setting), plus 15 minutes of natural release.
  7. Serve this stew with some crusty bread for dipping, or serve with any of the sides we suggested.
  8. Yields: 4 to 5 servings


If you feel the gravy is too watery, I recommend uncovering the pot while simmering for the last 30 minutes.

Also, if the gravy is reduced too much and you feel you need more liquid while it's still simmering, then pour in additional beef broth ( about 1/4 cup).

Nutrition Information:


4 to 6 servings

Serving Size:

1 serving (about 1.5 cup)

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 398Total Fat: 17.8gCarbohydrates: 6.5gFiber: 1.5gSugar: 3.1gProtein: 35.7g

Did you make this recipe?

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promo graphic for Hungarian Goulash featuring a meat sauce on noodles on a white plate

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  1. Whats the major reason for the hungarian paprika vs regular paprika from walmart? Do i need to buy the sweet one? Thx

    1. Hi Kimberly! That’s a good question, thanks for asking. Paprika is the Hungarian word for pepper, and Hungarian-style paprika is not smoked, but rather fairly sweet. Our regular paprika is smoked. I think you can use either one with our recipe, and still enjoy this fabulous meal. I hope this helps! 🙂

    1. HI Donna, thanks so much for making our recipe. With our recipes, we don’t like to salt our food too much, and tend to use sodium minimally. Which is the reason I mention for everyone to taste the food, and adjust the seasonings to their taste. I hope this helps. Have a great week! 🙂

  2. Very close to what I grew up eating German/Austrian. I use 3 T tomato paste instead of fresh tomatoes, and we add mushrooms. No measurements for anything though.

    1. Hi Mamazita! That is awesome! So glad you hear you enjoyed our recipe for the goulash amd the addition of mushrooms sounds delicious. Have a great day! 🙂

    1. Hi Christine,
      This recipe only requires 2 small ripe tomatoes and chopped. Can you add in sauce or purée instead? I guess you can and I would take a guess about 1/2 cup. If you want you can omit the tomatoes, and it will make this goulash a little different, but you can adjust the seasonings, if you need to. I hope this helps. Enjoy! And tell us how it turns out! Thanks again xo

  3. It is almost the same recipe as we use in Denmark, but here we eat mashed potatoes for this dish

    1. Hi Susanne! Welcome to our recipe blog, it’s so nice to meet you! There are so many variations of this dish from every European country, and it has to be even better with mashed potatoes next to it. YUM! Thanks for stopping by and leaving a sweet comment! 🙂

    1. Hi Susan! You can use white wine, if you don’t have red. And yes, you can leave it out. Wines are used to deglaze the pans and give flavor to the sauce. I hope this helps! Enjoy!

  4. This sounds like the perfect comfort food for this time of year (especially in my chilly area!). I like that you can use either beef or pork in this recipe!

    1. Thanks, Susan! I will be making this goulash again and testing it with the pork. It’s a simple recipe and the flavors turn out so tasty, we didn’t mind eating leftovers during the week – especially, my husband who is so fussy, he never eats leftovers…. but he did with this goulash. 🙂
      It’s a winner,enjoy!

  5. This is wonderful. I don’t think I’ve ever made traditional goulash, and my best friend is Hungarian! It sounds wonderful. I love sweet paprika.

    1. Thank you Mimi! Give this recipe a try, and let me know how you like it. Thanks again. 🙂

  6. we had goulash a few times in Hungary, including in someone’s (probably) illegal backyard restaurant. or maybe we just gatecrashed someone’s party? i remember all the gristle … 🙂

    1. Lol, we love your stories, Sherry. Give this recipe a try and let me know how you like it. Thanks so much again! 🙂