I have traveled twice to Hungary, both times as a youngster to play water polo.  It is their national sport and outside Southern California, Hungary is one of the few places you can find formidable opponents.  They have more Olympic medals in water polo than any other country; and there, everyone plays.  In some of the towns we visited the pool was akin to their community center. 

Ever since my first visit, Goulash has forever been forged in my head as one of the most delicious things you can do with a cow.  I remember going to a "hunting lodge" about an hour's drive outside Eger where a big cauldron of Goulash was literally suspended outside over a wood fire.  One of the hosts was telling me that you can't call it Goulash unless it cooks for 24 hours.  Otherwise, it is simply beef soup.

This may have been my first cooking lesson, I was 13.

It was amazing.  The meat dissolved in your mouth and the paprika warmed you up from the inside.  They served it over spätzle.  At the hunting lodge it was also customary for everyone to drink palinka, the local fruit brandy, even the kids (us).  We played kickball [I think] and someone threw up on the way home.  It was awesome.

Amy recently made a big batch of Goulash and based the recipe on the one from Cook's Illustrated.  She used a little less meat, a little less paprika, wine instead of vinegar, and a little less onion.  She has made it now with both the Hungarian sweet paprika and with Spanish smoked paprika and she highly recommends not to use the smoked stuff; it is just too overbearing.

We don't expect anyone to have a spätzlemaker so you can serve it over boiled potatoes or egg noodles.  We used egg noodles.


  • 3 lbs. boneless chuck roast (or any stewing meat), trimmed and cut into 1-2 inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup Hungarian (sweet) paprika
  • 1-12 ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 3 teaspoons white wine
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, diced small
  • 4 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch long rounds
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup beef broth, warmed
  • 1/4 cup sour cream, plus additional for a garnish
  • salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 325.  Sprinkle the meat with a teaspoon of salt and allow to sit while you blend the sauce.  In a food processor or blender, add the paprika, roasted peppers, tomato paste, 3 teaspoons of the white wine, and 1/2 cup of the beef broth and blend well.  Stop and scrape down the sides as needed.

In a large pot (that has a lid and is oven proof) or Dutch oven, add the onion, vegetable oil, and 1 teaspoon of salt, stir briefly and cover over medium heat.  Cook stirring occasionally, 8-10 minutes, but don't let the onions brown.

Once the onions are softened, add the paprika and red pepper mixture and cook until the onions start to stick to the bottom of the pan, about 2 minutes.  Add the beef, carrots, and bay leaf and stir so that everything gets coated well. 

Scrape down the sides of the pot, cover, and place in oven until meat is tender, about 2 to 2 1/2 hours.  Be sure to stir about every 30 minutes.  If the Goulash becomes too thick, use the remaining 1/2 cup of beef broth to thin it to your desired consistency. 

Keep the level of the sauce about 1/4 inch from the top of the meat.  The key here to developing deep flavors is that the top of the meat is browning in the oven while the bottom half of the meat braises.  Then you stir it and incorporate that top layer back into the sauce. 

The Goulash done when the meat if fork-tender.  When you are getting close, boil your potatoes or egg noodles so that they are ready when the Goulash is also. 

If there is any fat or oil on the surface, skim it off.  Add the remaining white wine and sour cream and fish out the bay leaf.  Add salt and pepper as needed, garnish with more sour cream if you like and serve hot.

Authordavid koch