Tuesday, 22 October 2013 22:18

My personal best goulash recipe

Now is there such a thing as a best goulash recipe you will ask… it’s doubtful I’ll say. Especially with the Austrians claiming they make the best, the Hungarians saying of course they make the best, the Germans taking their claim… Actually, most Central and Eastern European countries with weather suitable for stews have their preferred version of goulash.

A bit of goulash history

The name goulash originates from the Hungarian ”gulyás” – the word “gulya” means “herd of cattle” in Hungarian, and “gulyás” means “herdsman”.  Cattle were driven from Hungary to cattle markets in neighboring countries from the Middle Ages well into the 19th century and with the herdsmen came the recipe which was named after them. So theoretically we should be eating the herdsmen not the cattle.

So what IS the best goulash recipe?

I’d clearly say my mother’s Austrian goulash is the best, but that entails actually sitting at home at her table, eating it from her old-fashioned plates with ‘not so fancy’ cutlery.

I don’t think I’ll ever be able to create the best goulash my mom’s way, but I must say, my very own best goulash recipe is pretty much my favorite these days and I have served it several times to some very happy guests at Mary’s Dinner Club.  I am less of a purist than my mother when it comes to cooking, but still, when a Hungarian chef recently insisted that goulash needs bell peppers and tomatoes,  I was in total shock at first. But then curiosity got the better of me (as always) and I tried it. And yes, it does give it something exciting, makes it a bit lighter and more cheerful than the Austrian version. Austrian goulash is strictly made with not much more than meat, onions, paprika, salt, pepper and broth. Maybe, but just maybe some garlic and a sprinkle of marjoram but don’t let anyone see that.

best goulash recipe

My personal goulash history

Being Austrian I had it regularly while growing up and I still remember how we’d put on goggles while my mother was chopping all those onions, crying her eyes out. Sometimes I actually consider wearing those goggles as I still make goulash regularly.

Apart from trying my goulash with bell peppers and tomatoes I have since committed many more culinary sins – at least to some Austrian’s minds – such as adding a dash of ketchup, a portion of coffee creamer and quite frequently whatever spicy hot sauce I have at home.

But you will see for yourself, even without changing your ingredients too much, your goulash will come out tasting a bit different each time anyway – it’s just one of those things. Like many stews, goulash actually becomes better when reheated as the flavors get a chance to develop more.

Here my very personal and basic best goulash recipe

(which you may then alter any way  you wish as long as you don’t tell my mom)

Ingredients: (for 4-6 servings; the flavors develop best when cooked in a large quantity)

  • 1 kilogram beef, cubed
  • 1 kilogram onions, finely chopped
  • Oil for frying the onions
  • 4 tablespoon paprika (Hungarian if available), hot if desired
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste, or ketchup added in the end, or 2 fresh, diced tomatoes
  • 1 chopped bell pepper (optional if you want that Hungarian touch)
  • 3 cups beef broth
  • 1 tablespoon caraway seed
  • 1 tablespoon dried marjoram
  • 1 teaspoon salt (to taste)
  • 2 teaspoons flour to thicken the sauce (you may not need this if the onions make the sauce thick enough)


  • Fry onions and garlic until dark golden
  • Add the meat in batches to allow browning
  • Add bell pepper and sauté all for another 2-3 minutes
  • Add paprika and salt under continuous stirring so it won’t burn
  • Add the broth, caraway seeds, marjoram and tomato paste and simmer until the meat is tender (up to 2 hours – you may have to add broth).
  • To thicken the sauce, stir 2 tablespoons of flour with some water (or sauce) and pour into the goulash through a sift to avoid lumps
  • Simmer until the flour taste is gone and the sauce has the perfect consistency.

Goulash is traditionally served with bread dumplings, but that’s a different story. It also goes beautifully with pasta or potatoes. Some people like it with rice. Serve a green salad or cucumber salad with a yogurt-dill dressing. Goulash keep in the fridge for several days and freezes well.

I am sure with these basic steps you too will soon discover your very own best goulash recipe and surprise your friends and family. You can even say it’s an authentic Austrian recipe – just don’t tell them about those bell peppers and fresh tomatoes!

best goulash recipe

Mary Anglberger

I’ve been travelling the world for over 20 years teaching English and am now taking time to follow my passion for photography and writing. I want to share all the things, events and people that have inspired and inspire me and spread those positive vibes all around.

Email Me · Linked In · Twitter · Facebook