Traditional Hungarian Goulash Soup
Goulash soup (originally “gulyás”) is one of the best-known Hungarian dishes in the world but a lot of people do not know it originates from Hungary. It is also often mistaken for a beef stew but it’s a soup. The word ‘gulya’ means herd of cattle and ‘gulyás’ means herdsman or cowboy.
All Hungarian families have their own version, but the one ingredient that is always certain is beef, which could be either shank, shin or shoulder. I propose shank, which I think is the best. If someone uses another meat than beef, it no longer qualifies as goulash, even if the other ingredients are the same. On social media people get into heated debates whose goulash soup actually qualifies as authentic and it becomes a national matter. To me it’s funny that people get so intense about it, as long as you don’t confuse it with a stew I’m good.
My version’s main ingredients are beef shank, onion, carrot, potato and gluten free pasta. Main spices and herbs are paprika powder, marjoram and ground caraway seeds. In my family my mom does not add carrot and marjoram into it, but my grandmother did, and because I used to spend a lot of time in the kitchen with my grandmother I took over her version of the recipe. As you can see even within one family we have different versions of the same recipe.
One important note, never thicken the soup with flour, because the beef shank is rich in collagen, which is converted to gelatin during the cooking process and it already thickens the soup.
Another important element is the paprika powder. We get 1 kg homemade paprika powder from our best Hungarian friends every year. Thank you very much Adri and Peter, we hope you will not break this tradition, because without your gift, my soup would not be so good. Homemade is much better, does not lose color during the cooking process, gives very nice taste to the foods. Its quality is excellent and more expensive of course than the factory-made mass products. For the best result try to get your hands on some Hungarian paprika powder, a quick search online should be able to give you more information on how to get Hungarian paprika powder in your region. In case it’s really difficult, Spanish paprika powder is a great substitute.
Paprika from Szeged and Kalocsa is not only the basis of traditional Hungarian food, but for many decades it has been the most well-known Hungarian product abroad, called hungaricum. The quality of paprika is determined by the variety of the plant, the professionalism of the cultivation, the weather and the processing. The mass produced factory made paprika is not the best quality, because they are quick-dried in very large dryers. Quality paprika should be dried for at least 3-4 week. I took this picture of Kyara some years ago in Hungary during the summer time. You can also see the traditional method that is used to dry the paprika, by hanging them in a covered but airy place.
Traditional Hungarian Goulash Soup
- 1,2 kilogram beef shank, shin or shoulder cut into 3 cm cubes
- 1 big onion finely cut
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1½ tbsp paprika powder Hungarian if possible
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp caraway seed ground
- 1 tsp marjoram dried
- 400 gram carrot peel and cut into 4-5 mm slices
- 600 gram potato peel and cut into 2 cm cubes
- 100 gram cube shaped gluten free pasta 2 – 2,5 cm cubes
- some slices hot paprika for decoration.
- Heat the oil in a soup pan then add onion into it, sauté for 3-4 minutes until the onion is translucent.
- Add paprika powder, stir it fast and add the beef into it, sauté for 4 minutes until the meat is a bit brown.
- Add ground caraway seed, marjoram and salt, stir it well.
- Add 1,2 l water and cook on medium high heat until the first bubbling.
- Reduce the heat to medium low and cook the beef for minimum 1,5 hour, until is almost soft.
- Add carrot and potato to the meat and cover with more water if need. Increase the heat to medium high and after the first bubbling reduce the heat and cook for 10 minutes.
- Add pasta into the soup, cook for 10 minutes, until soft. Be careful, do not overcook!
- Serve into soup plates and decorate with some slices of hot paprika.