What is Beef Goulash? A Guide to This Hearty Hungarian Stew

With its tender chunks of beef bathed in a paprika-infused sauce, beef goulash is the ultimate comforting stew. This dish originated in Hungary but has become popular worldwide. Keep reading to learn exactly what goulash is and how to make this delicious meal.

Overview of Beef Goulash

Beef goulash is a type of stew made by braising beef in a sauce flavored with paprika and other spices. Some key features:

  • Originated in Hungary
  • Uses cubed beef chuck or other well-marbled cuts
  • Flavored with paprika, caraway, garlic, onions, and bell peppers
  • Simmered for 2-3 hours until beef is very tender
  • Saucy but not as thick as traditional stews
  • Served with bread, noodles, potato, or rice

Goulash can be considered somewhere between a soup and thick stew. It’s rustic, hearty, and packed with beefy flavor.

Traditional Ingredients in Goulash

These are the ingredients that give goulash its distinctive flavor profile:

  • Beef: Usually chuck roast or other cuts like brisket with good marbling. This ensures tender, juicy beef.

  • Onion: Provides flavor and texture. Use yellow, white, or red onions.

  • Paprika: The star seasoning! Use sweet Hungarian paprika to give the stew its characteristic red hue.

  • Garlic: For aromatic flavor. Crush or mince the cloves.

  • Caraway seeds: Add unique flavor. Use whole or ground seeds.

  • Bell peppers: Contribute sweetness. Red, yellow, or green peppers work.

  • Tomatoes: Add texture and color. Use canned or fresh tomatoes.

  • Stock or broth: Builds the savory sauce. Beef or chicken stock both work well.

Step-by-Step Guide to Making Goulash

Follow these basic steps:

  1. Sear the beef in batches to brown on all sides. Remove from pot and set aside.

  2. Sauté the onions and bell peppers until softened and fragrant.

  3. Add garlic and spices. Cook briefly to release flavors.

  4. Return beef to pot. Add broth and tomatoes.

  5. Simmer for 2-3 hours until beef is fall-apart tender.

  6. Season and adjust sauce. Add salt, pepper, or more paprika to taste.

  7. Serve goulash topped with parsley and with a side of noodles, potato, rice, or bread.

Tips for the Best Beef Goulash

  • Choose beef with good marbling for tender results. Go for chuck roast, brisket, or osso bucco.

  • Cut beef into 1-inch cubes. Uniform pieces will cook evenly.

  • Use Hungarian sweet paprika for the smoothest, sweetest flavor.

  • Add caraway seeds. They provide an authentic touch.

  • Simmer on low heat. High heat can toughen meat and cause scorching.

  • Cook for 2-3 hours until beef is fork-tender. Don’t rush it!

  • Adjust seasonings just before serving.

  • Garnish with parsley. Ladle goulash into bowls over egg noodles or mashed potatoes.

Common Additions and Substitutions

  • Potatoes or turnips: Add root vegetables in the last 30 minutes of cooking.

  • Mushrooms: Sauté with the onions and peppers.

  • Pork: Substitute pork shoulder or sausage for a totally different flavor.

  • Lamb: Use lamb shoulder or leg meat for a unique taste.

  • Chicken: Make it with chicken thighs or drumsticks.

  • Vegetable stock: Use as the braising liquid for a meatless version.

What Makes Goulash Different From Beef Stew?

While beef goulash and beef stew share similarities, there are a few differences:

  • Goulash uses paprika while stew uses herbs like thyme.

  • The sauce for goulash tends to be thinner and brothier compared to stew’s thick gravy.

  • Stews have larger chunks of carrots, potatoes, and other vegetables while goulash focuses on the beef.

  • Goulash is served more like a soup in bowls with bread while stew is plated with mashed potatoes or noodles.

  • Stew meat is dredged in flour to thicken the sauce whereas goulash doesn’t use flour.

Tips for Leftover Goulash

Like many stews, goulash tastes even better the next day once the flavors have had time to develop fully. Follow these storage tips:

  • Let goulash cool completely before storing.

  • Refrigerate leftovers for 3-4 days.

  • Reheat gently on the stovetop or in the microwave.

  • Add broth or water if the stew is too thick.

  • Freeze leftovers in an airtight container for 2-3 months.

With its simple ingredients and long cooking time, goulash is budget-friendly and easy to make ahead. This saucy Hungarian specialty offers a winning beefy comfort food option.

Beef Goulash – Hungarian Beef Goulash Recipe – Paprika Beef Stew


What is goulash made of?

Hungarian Goulash is a thick meat and vegetable stew with a broth that’s heavily seasoned with paprika, while American Goulash is a quick dish made from ground beef, tomato sauce, herbs, and elbow macaroni noodles. It also goes by the name of American Chop Suey.

What is the difference between beef stew and beef goulash?

Hungarian goulash is very similar to beef stew, but there are some differences. While a typical stew consists of slow braising chunks of meat with root vegetables in a seasoned broth, goulash uses spices such as caraway, cumin, paprika, and peppers which really enhance and alter the flavor from a classic beef stew.

What is the meaning of beef goulash?

gou·​lash ˈgü-ˌläsh. -ˌlash. : a stew made with meat (as beef), vegetables, and paprika. Etymology. from Hungarian gulyás, short for gulyáshús, literally, “herdsman’s meat”

What is the difference between beef stroganoff and beef goulash?

Traditional goulash is a stew/soup, usually using a cheaper cut of meat suited to slow cooking. It usually contains potatoes and other vegetables, as well as noodles. A true stroganoff consists of paprika-dusted fillet steak quickly pan fried with mushrooms and onions in a sour cream and brandy sauce.

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