Classic Beef Goulash

A lot of us grew up thinking goulash was something like Beefaroni. And while there are many recipes like that, all perfectly fine, that’s not what I was cooking for our wedding anniversary dinner!

No, rather, I wanted a slow-braised and more traditional Eastern European beef goulash. A peasant dish. An incredibly rich and deeply-spiced stew to serve over noodles.

You know my rule: Always use the best ingredients you can reasonably afford.

So I start with about two-and-one-half pounds of locally-raised chuck roast from the butcher shop. You don’t need expensive cuts to have good quality! I cut this into bite-sized cubes and sear those, in batches, in a hot pan with a few drops of oil and toss them into a dutch oven.


Cubes of beef being seared in a fry pan.

Then, I rough-chop a couple of onions, add a bit more oil to the pan, and cook them with a bit of salt (to help draw out the water) for 5-10 minutes until they are browning and tender. Toss those into the dutch oven with the meat when done.


A classic goulash is the tenderest meats, cooked low and slow in an incredibly rich and deeply spiced broth, until it's silky smooth. Visit to learn more.

Then, I add the spices to the pan and toast them for a few minutes, stirring constantly to keep from burning.

The kitchen smells amazing by now and people are peeking around the door to see why. And I love that.


A classic goulash is the tenderest meat, cooked low and slow in an incredibly rich and deeply spiced broth, until it's silky smooth. Visit to learn more.

Deglaze the pan using a bit of chicken stock, maybe a cup or so, and scrape free the beautiful bits of brown from the bottom of the pan (a.k.a. fond, French for “base”) with a wooden spoon before pouring it over the meat and onions.

I’m using my 6 quart go-to Lodge dutch oven with ceramic coating so food sticking is minimal. If your dutch oven is stainless or aluminum, make sure you scrape the bottom and sides well while it cooks.

We’re on our way now.

The rest of the ingredients go into the pot. Stir well, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and let it cook low-and-slow for a couple of hours. Stir occasionally, uncovered, until the meat is tender but not falling apart. Don’t let it overcook to mush!


Beef goulash cooking in a pot on the stove.

I like my goulash thick like a ragu or bolognese. But, if you want yours a bit thinner, maybe you’re serving it over rice instead of noodles, then add another cup of stock to the pan.

Wait until near the end when the liquid is mostly finished reducing to adjust your salt and pepper.

Serve over noodles (or rice or spaetzle, I used gemelli pasta this time) with a simple green salad or some roasted vegetables and maybe a little rustic bread. Garnish with a dollop of sour cream if you like. I add a bit of green onion too.

A classic goulash is the tenderest meats, cooked low and slow in an incredibly rich and deeply spiced broth, until it's silky smooth. Visit to learn more.

Classic Beef Goulash

Course: Main Course
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
Servings: 4 people
Author: Bill

A classic goulash yields the tenderest meat, cooked low and slow in an incredibly rich and deeply spiced broth, until it's silky smooth.



  • 4 tablespoons oil I use an organic canola.
  • 2 1/2 pounds chuck roast, cut into cubes
  • 2 onions, medium, chopped about 2 cups
  • 2 garlic cloves, large, chopped about 2 tablespoons


  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons ground caraway
  • 1 teaspoon marjoram
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar


  1. Cut the meat into bite-sized cubes, about 1 inch square.

  2. Coat a pan over medium-high heat with two tablespoons of oil and sear the meat working in batches. (Don't overcrowd the pan!) We're just browning the meat here, not trying to cook it through. Put the browned meat aside in a dutch oven as you go. Leave the juices in the pan.

  3. Coat the same pan, still over medium-high heat and still with the leftover meat juices, with another two tablespoons of oil. Toss and cook the onions until they are browning and a bit tender, 5-10 minutes. With a minute or two left to cook, add the garlic. Keep stirring. Then add all of this to the dutch oven.

  4. Pour the spices (except the bay leaf) into the pan, stirring slowly and constantly, for a few minutes to toast them. Don't let them burn. When you really start to smell them, they're done.

  5. Deglaze the pan with a cup of chicken stock and scrape the good stuff off the bottom of the pan. Pour it all into the dutch oven over the beef, onions, and garlic.

  6. Add the rest of the chicken stock, the bay leaf, tomato paste, balsamic vinegar, and sugar to the dutch oven. Gently mix well.

  7. Bring the goulash to a boil then reduce the heat to a simmer. Let cook for about two hours, stirring occasionally. Start checking the tenderness of the meat at about the hour-and-a-half mark to make sure it's super tender but not quite falling apart when you pick it up with a fork. 

  8. Taste it! Adjust salt and pepper to taste as needed.

  9. Serve over noodles with a dollop of sour cream and some green onions.

This is one of those dishes that is just so good you wish you could wrap it up and give it as a gift.

So invite people over for a table of friends and family when you make it. Sure, it’s too rich for every day. But every once in a while you can be a hero too. Especially when it’s this easy!


“I’m ready for my close up, Mr. DeMille.”

Closeup of classic beef goulash served on a plate with a dollop of sour cream and some green onions.


11 thoughts on “Classic Beef Goulash

  1. Oh dear Bill – you have come very close to my heart – my second husband was a Hungarian, a foodie, a mean cook and an avid entertainer . . . . a quiet evening simply did not exist 🙂 ! He cooked, I had to clear the dishes next morning as our ‘feasts’ never ended before 4am 🙂 ! So I am a ‘stoveside’ expert 🙂 ! I’ll agree and disagree . . . OK: me – lots more garlic, no marjoram, cayenne or thyme and a combo of at least three of the Hungarian paprikas . . . we used to have kilo containers of at least six-seven differing ones on the shelf 🙂 !!! The usual accompaniments are nokedli (close enough to your spaetzle)_ and csipetke . .

    • That sounds like so much fun, feasting with loves until 4am. Some of my fondest memories sound similar. There is something about that smell burbling away on the back of the stove for hours that will power any day.

  2. Thought you would get a laugh! Thinking of bygone days, after today’s lunch friends departed, actually did a little research: there are supposedly eight, not six-seven flavour profiles as far as paprika re goulash etc is concerned: the officials say they are a different as ‘The Little Engine that could’ to ‘The Iliad’ . . . . what a gorgeous comparison which I did not have enough time to study ere . . .

    • I did laugh. When I try to reconcile cooking on the Kansas prairie with, for example, our visits to Europe and Asia markets, it can be quite the challenge. I have two readily available paprikas and a couple more with a bit of work. The very thought of choosing between so many makes my heart zing. And that’s a fantastic contrast!

  3. OK Bill, I have been close to friends in Illinois and Michigan for a said number of years – so can more than understand the ‘Kansas prairies’ reference . . . . BUT, is that not why we spend our precious time to exchange ideas . . . and ask questions . . . and learn to look up and perchance try and copy . . . and argue in the most amicable of manners . . . . 🙂 Hey, beautiful guy – at the moment I have a mild, strong and smoked paprika in my pantry: OK 🙂 ?

    • Absolutely, Eha, I would never imply otherwise. Today’s food distribution systems allow me greater access to ingredients from all over the world than ever before. And I cherish the opportunity to learn from all. I’m not making excuses, but I do want to make dishes such as this accessible to as many as I can and still stay as true to the dish as possible. My mouth waters at the thought of all those different paprikas!

  4. Goulash or gulasch as we call it, is very popular in Sweden. Sweden has a large Hungarian population and over the years Goulash has ended up on most Swede’s table. However, it differs a bit from yours in it’s likely spicier as it uses 4 tablespoons of paprika mix (hot and some mild). Also, it would have loads of fresh red and yellow sweet peppers as well as potatoes cooked in it. Served as a soup, with crusty bread and garnished with a dollop of crème fraiche along with thin slices fresh Paprika.

    • That’s very interesting. In the research I’ve done, I can identify nearly ten very different variations on the dish, many claiming slightly different geographical origins or homes. The fact that it spreads to all corners just verifies to me that it’s one of the foundation dishes. Thanks for the comments and info, Ron.

    • Ron – so agree with you (shucks, only 26,000 Estonian refugees reached Sweden 🙂 !) paprika strength-wise . . . . actually goulash and goulash-soup are regarded as two separate dishes in Hungary . . . . the first being the more ‘formal’ of the two and the second something the family eats as a whole meal on a regular basis. And then there is paprikash also . . . . all I know is that after four years of a well-meant ‘rebound marriage’ I was kind’of relieved to push all those paprikas to the back of the cupboard!! No disrespect meant 🙂 !

  5. That really looks good. I don’t think I’ve ever made it, but my husband would love it. I’d love it too, but my meals typically revolve around an avocado, unless I’ve made something for the blog!

    • Thanks, Mimi. It’s one of those dishes where I’ve seen people close their eyes and smile immediately when tasting it. I live for those :).

Leave a Comment