Hungarian Goulash

When two pounds of onions melt into two pounds of beef, lovingly spiced with paprika, it’s a beautiful thing. This Hungarian Goulash is one of the easiest stews to make. And I’m really glad I made it for dinner this evening.

It’s funny how some recipes cycle in and out of rotation over the years. I first made this Hungarian Goulash in the mid-eighties. Then it was on repeat for a time in the late nineties. It made another reappearance in 2011 when I first blogged about it. And just this week, when I realized I had an extra bag of onions, my mind turned to this recipe. It’s been a long time.

I enjoyed it so much that I’ve updated this post from 2011, just a few months after I started blogging. It feels good to breathe new life into an old recipe that’s been lost in the archives.

A pot of beef and onions in a parka-hued broth simmers on the stove.

Hungarian Goulash: What I Wrote in 2011

Extra Onions? Make Goulash!

I picked up a 2-pound bag of yellow cooking onions at the market last weekend, got home and what did I find in my pantry but another bag of the very same that I had bought the week before. They say when life hands you lemons, make lemonade. I say when life hands you extra onions, make goulash.

I scribbled down the recipe for this Hungarian Goulash in the mid-eighties while watching some long-defunct cooking show, and dug the scrap of paper out of my ever-so-famous little yellow recipe box on Sunday. I just did some quick research on the internet to see how authentic it is. I’m still not sure about that, but it certainly is much less complicated than most of the recipes I saw. Perhaps they’re souped up versions of  this simple classic?

Regardless of authenticity, this stew is incredibly easy  and quickly assembled. It only calls for a few principal ingredients, and the flavour is definitely swoonworthy.  Not only that, but it will perfume your kitchen with an alluring aroma that will elicit repeated cries of, “Is it ready yet?”

Let’s Make Hungarian Goulash in 2020

Two pounds of onions may sound daunting, but it doesn’t take long to peel and slice them. And, although you might wonder if that mountain of onion will overwhelm the beef, they melt down and caramelize, ultimately adding a sweet oniony essence to the dish.

My oh my … seconds, please.

A dish of Hungarian Goulash with a side of crusty bread.
Hungarian Goulash

Two pounds of beef and two pounds of onions, married together with paprika, create a beautifully seasoned stew. Once everything has been prepped and combined, you can cook this Hungarian Goulash in the oven or on the stove top. Adapted somewhat from the recipe I wrote down while watching Cooking with Ruth by Ruth Fremes, back in the mid-eighties. This is one of those dishes that makes for leftovers that you can hardly wait to eat. It's great to make on the weekend and enjoy the following week. That's smart cooking!

Category: Main Course
Keyword: Beef & onion stew, Hungarian Goulash
Author: © Marlene Cornelis/Urban Cottage Life 2011–2020
  • 2 lbs yellow cooking onions
  • 2–2.5 lbs 2 lbs stewing beef, round roast or thick roundsteak
  • 2–3 tbsp flour
  • 2–3 tbsp neutral oil, such as grapeseed or canola
  • 2 cups beef stock (I use a bouillon base)
  • 2.5 tbsp sweet paprika, or an equivalent combination of sweet and hot paprika to your taste
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
How To Make This Recipe
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350°F if using it.

  2. Peel, halve and slice the onions thinly.

  3. If not using stewing beef, cut the roast or thick steak into cubes.

  4. Put the beef in a paper or plastic bag with the flour, and toss until coated. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large pot like a Dutch oven. Add the beef, leaving behind as much of the loose flour as possible. Sprinkle with a teaspoon of salt and pepper to taste, then brown it on medium high heat in two batches. The trick is to let it caramelize and release from the pan before turning it over. If you try to stir it around too soon you'll break it up. Set aside the prepared beef and turn the heat down to medium low.

  5. Add another tablespoon of oil if the pot seems dry, then strew the onions atop all the caramelized and sticky bits left behind from browning the meat. Sprinkle the rest of the salt over the oinions, and cover the pot, but stir frequently for about 15 minutes. Prepare to be fascinated by the magic of the onions cooking down, softening, caramelizing and integrating with all the lovely beef bits that have loosened from the bottom of the pot. Mmmm, looks good already. (This photo below was taken about halfway through the onion cooking time.)

    Hungarian Goulash | © Life Through the Kitchen
  6. Stir in the paprika, then add the meat and stock, and more black pepper if you like. Cover and finish in the oven for 1-1/2 to 2 hours. You can also simmer it on very low heat on top of the stove, but you may need to stir it a couple of times.)

  7. The beef becomes ever so tender during the cooking process, and the onions practically melt into the broth, creating a savoury sauce highlighted by the sweet piquancy of the paprika. Serve with egg noodles, simple cooked or mashed potatoes, or just a slice of crusty bread and some side vegetables.

First published 2011 12 09
Republished 2020 04 19

Other Stews to Savour

Here are some other stews to savour: Ginger Orange Beef Stew with Chinese Five Spice, Italian Pork Stew, and Beef Stew with Red Wine.


  1. Mmmm…mmm…mmm! We can hardly wait to try it. You are our kind of cook. The more onions the better I say. Learned something new too…didn’t know there was hot AND sweet paprika. Got to check which we have and then get some of the other too.


    • Last weekend I used only the sweet paprika to make this because that’s all I had in the house, but a little more heat is nice too. In the past I’ve made it with different levels of hot paprika. A couple of times it was so spicy we could barely eat it, but of course it was so good that we soldiered on. I remember my poor kids trying to cope with the spicy heat. I like to think I’ve gotten a little more skilled at judging spice levels over the years. By the way, if you can find Hungarian paprika that’s supposed to be best for this.

      Hope you enjoy this in whatever way you choose to make the recipe your own! Mar

  2. I adore a good goulash. I made one on my blog a while ago. You should try getting yourself some smoked paprika. It’s what they traditionally use in Hungary and it gives the dish an edge.

    • Thanks for the tip about smoked paprika – I’ll look for it! Not to mention check out your goulash recipe. The paprika I used was Hungarian, but it didn’t say anything about being smoked. Always good to try something new! Mar

  3. “Is it ready yet?” I don’t know how many times I asked that but the aroma was overwhelmingly tempting…never have I craved food like this before…the Goulash was amazing and I still crave it!!!!

    A truely favourite meal…thanks Marlene!


  4. Hi Marlene
    I love your recipes. I am going to make your goulash – will smoked paprika work ok? Approximately how many onions equals 2 lb? Thank you. Joy

    • Hi Joy, thanks so much Smoked paprika would work just fine. I actually came across some in my spice box, but decided to go with the “plain” … As for the onions, they sell them in two-pound bags, and I happened to have an extra one on hand. You’ll need 8 to ten cups of sliced onions, or so. I used to have this information in the post so I’m going to add it back in. Thanks for asking! This helps me make my recipes clearer for people.

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