FoodHungarian goulash soup: A culinary journey down memory lane

Hungarian goulash soup: A culinary journey down memory lane

Goulash soup is a national Hungarian dish.
Goulash soup is a national Hungarian dish.
Images source: © Adobe Stock | Ildi Papp

4:08 PM EDT, May 23, 2024

Lately, I've been reminiscing about Hungarian delicacies, including goulash soup. I ate it in Budapest, but my grandmother also used to cook it. I decided to recreate her recipe, and the taste took me back to a small diner by the Danube in Hungary's capital. Where my grandmother got such a good recipe will remain her secret.

You can't miss paprika in goulash soup, true to Hungarian national cuisine. But its most crucial ingredient is meat; it largely defines the flavor. Such a soup is filling, thick, and can even replace a second course.

A distinctive character

Goulash soup, in traditional Hungarian recipes, is made with beef. However, many chefs believe mixing meat, beef, and pork is best. My grandmother also followed this option. The meat should be cut into small pieces and fried. And here again, you can choose the option that suits you. Hungarians use controversial lard because they believe it best enhances the soup's distinctive character. However, nothing stops you from also using oil or butter.

Must have paprika

In goulash soup, meat is essential, but you can't miss vegetables. The primary role here is played by paprika in red, yellow, and green varieties. You'll also need onions, potatoes, and carrots. Sometimes, goulash soup includes mushrooms, but my grandmother never added them. It’s also important to season the soup quite nicely. It goes well with herbs such as marjoram, rosemary, thyme and spices like sweet and hot paprika, allspice, and bay leaf.

The soup should be thick and aromatic. Some serve it with small noodles. My grandmother considered fresh bread the best addition to goulash. At the diner in Budapest, it was served with garlic croutons.

My grandmother's goulash soup


  • 11 oz mixed meat - beef (shoulder, round, chuck) and pork (shoulder, ham, neck)
  • 3 potatoes
  • 1 onion
  • Red and yellow bell peppers
  • 1 carrot
  • 5 cups of broth
  • 17 oz tomato passata
  • Salt, pepper, sweet and hot paprika, and favorite spices to taste
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Allspice berries
  • 3 tablespoons of butter, oil, or lard
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Parsley for serving


  1. Cut the meat into medium-sized pieces, coat them in flour, and fry in well-heated fat. Sear the meat on all sides until browned.
  2. Peel and dice the peppers and carrots. Chop the onion, and press the garlic through a press.
  3. Sauté the vegetables in a pan until softened.
  4. Boil the broth, add the meat, and sautéed vegetables. Add the allspice berries and bay leaves. Cook for about 30 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, peel and dice the potatoes.
  6. Add the potatoes to the soup and continue cooking for another 20 minutes.
  7. Add the tomato passata and spices—salt, pepper, and ground paprika—and cook for another 15 minutes.
  8. Serve the goulash soup with finely chopped parsley.
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