Traditional Hungarian Goulash in a white bowl with sides of sour cream and bread

Traditional Slow Cooker Hungarian Goulash

This traditional Hungarian Goulash is probably not like the goulash you have tried before, unless you have been or lived in Hungary. This is a traditional goulash recipe from my travels through Hungary and time spent living and cooking in central Europe.

This Hungarian goulash recipe uses traditional ingredients that are slowed cooked in the slower cooker until the meat becomes tender and the stock has developed flavour. It takes a long time to breakdown collagen in tough cuts of beef that are used in goulash, which is why the slow cooker is so ideal for this recipe.

So Why Not Use Lean Cuts of Beef instead?

The collagen in tougher meats plays a crucial role in developing a rich stock. When slow cooking, collagen in meat is broken down into gelatine which thickens and adds richness to your stock. Therefore there is no need for additional thickeners like flour or cornstarch.

So What Does this Slow Cooker Hungarian Goulash Taste Like?

This slow cooked Hungarian goulash has a rich spiced taste with a depth of different flavours. It has a mild sweetness from the pork fat, paprika and red pepper and a richness from the browned onions, beef shin and stock. This richness and sweetness is then balanced out with fresh herbs and tender vegetables.

When is a Good Time to Cook This?

Anytime! This recipe is delicious and eaten all year around. I personally like to cook this on a weekend when I can spare 20 minutes of prep time in the morning. Then its great, I just let it cook away with no worries about needing to make lunch or dinner later that day.

Do I Have To Use a Slow Cooker?

No you don’t. You can swap the slow cooker with a large pot with a lid and apply just a few small tweaks.

  1. Use a large pot with a lid instead of the slow cooker
  2. Cook the goulash on a low to very low heat until it’s barely simmering.
  3. Stir every 30 to 60 minutes.
  4. Cook until the meat is tender, approximately 4-6 hours.

Why Did I Use a Slow Cooker?

I used a slow cooker because it makes the recipe easier and more full proof. The heat is well rounded and never catches on the bottom, and because of this you don’t have to stir the goulash.

There are no worries about catching or overcooking, simply set it and forget it. Once the timer has finished it will stop cooking and place the goulash on hot hold mode.

What Type of Slow Cooker Should I Use?

Make sure to use a good quality slow cooker. I am currently using a 3.5L slow cooker which works perfectly for this batch size. The slow cooker was about half full which left me a little room if I wanted to increase the batch size for next time.

For most recipes it’s a good guideline to have the slow cooker around 50% to 75% full to avoid under or overcooking. Use these ingredient ratios as a guideline when cooking in different slow cooker sizes.

Traditional Ingredients and Replacements

Since I’m currently 45 minutes from the Hungarian border whilst making this recipe, the traditional ingredients are really easy to pick up. There may be a few tweaks you may need to make, but don’t worry I will give you the best replacement possible for each harder to get ingredient.


Pork Fat is very popular in Hungary, it adds richness and sweetness to the goulash. – The best alternative would be Neutral Cooking Oil like Canola or Vegetable Oil.

Beef Shin is a great choice of meat, its reasonably cheap and has a lot of collagen, that breakdown into gelatine whilst cooking which adds richness. – The alternative is Beef Chuck, this is also a great choice and has a similar cooking time.

Hungarian Red Pepper – Hungarian Peppers are a flavourful & slightly spicy peppers. – The best alternative are the less hot red peppers, the red banana peppers or red bell pepper are a good choice.

Hungarian Paprika has a great depth of flavour, you can either use ‘sweet’ or ‘spicy’ Hungarian paprika. Both are fitting. – The best replacement would be regular paprika for the ‘sweet’ version and regular paprika with a 1/2 tbsp cayenne pepper for the ‘spicy’ Hungarian paprika.

What Makes Goulash Traditional?

With all traditional recipes it’s all about the combination of ingredients, the ingredient quantities and the method. Goulash originated in Hungary and has been around since the 9th century with the recipes being tweaked and refined into the modern day. Paprika, which is a huge part of modern day flavour in a goulash wasn’t added into the 16th century.

16th Century Goulash

  • Paprika
  • Hungarian Red Pepper
  • Potatoes

20th Century Goulash

  • Tomatoes
  • Csipetke (optional)
  • Caraway Seeds (optional)

Ingredients not in Goulash

  • Flour or Cornflour
  • Ground Beef
  • Macaroni
  • Cheese

In the 3 years I spent travelling & living around Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic and Austria I have never seen a recipe with macaroni, ground beef, cheese or flour. I have also worked inside prestigious 5 star hotels over there with Hungarian chefs and they can confirm, its not a thing.

This type of goulash is more of a ‘Spag Bol’ with the addition of a pinch of paprika, and by swapping the spaghetti for macaroni. To me this is more of an American Italian pasta dish. Which is something completely different to this recipe.

Step by Step Instructions

1) Gather, measure and prepare all the ingredients. Melt the Pork Fat in a large deep sauté pan over medium high heat. Add the Onions and brown them for 5 to 7 minutes.

2) Turn up the heat, add the Beef and season with Salt and Pepper. Sear the Beef on each side, this will take 3 to 4 minutes. Add the Garlic, mix and sauté for 30 to 45 seconds.

3) Add the Red Pepper and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes, until slightly softened. Turn off the heat, add the Paprika and mix thoroughly. Let the residual heat toast the Paprika.

4) Add all the Ingredients into the Slow Cooker. Place on high for 4 to 6 hours, or low for 8 to 10 hours.

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Traditional Hungarian Goulash in a white bowl with sides of sour cream and bread

Traditional Slow Cooker Hungarian Goulash

Jack Slobodian
This traditional Hungarian Goulash is probably not like the goulash you have tried before, unless you have been or lived in Hungary. This is a traditional goulash recipe from my travels through Hungary and time spent living and cooking in central Europe.
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 5 hrs
Course Main Course, Soup
Cuisine Hungarian
Servings 5 people
Calories 438 kcal

Ingredients
 
 

  • 2 tbsp Pork Fat or oil
  • 2 Onion diced
  • 4 cloves Garlic minced
  • 2 Hungarian Red Pepper deseeded and cut into chunks
  • 800 g Beef Shin or beef chuck sliced
  • 2 Tomatoes deseed and diced
  • 2 Carrots cubed
  • 2 Potatoes cubed
  • 4 tbsp Hungarian Paprika sweet or spicy
  • 800 ml Beef Stock
  • 1 bunch Flat Parsley Leafs and Stalks finely sliced
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • Sea Salt & Pepper

Instructions
 

  • Melt the Pork Fat in a large deep sauté pan over medium high heat. Add the Onions and brown them for 5 to 7 minutes.
  • Turn up the heat, add the Beef and season with Salt and Pepper. Sear the Beef on each side, this will take 3 to 4 minutes. Add the Garlic, mix and sauté for 30 to 45 seconds.
  • Add the Red Pepper and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes, until slightly softened. Turn off the heat, add the Paprika and mix thoroughly. Let the residual heat toast the Paprika.
  • Add all the Ingredients into the Slow Cooker. Place on high for 4 to 6 hours, or low for 8 to 10 hours.

Notes

Sides & Toppings
Try this recipe with a side of good quality bread and topped with a heap of sour cream.

Nutrition

Calories: 438kcalCarbohydrates: 32gProtein: 40gFat: 18gSaturated Fat: 6gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 104mgSodium: 413mgPotassium: 1511mgFiber: 7gSugar: 8gVitamin A: 8739IUVitamin C: 90mgCalcium: 75mgIron: 5mg
Keyword Slow Cooker Goulash, Traditional Hungarian Goulash
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

A British Professional Chef & Food Blogger. I have worked throughout Europe for 7 years, working in 4 different countries, and in award winning restaurants.

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