An Easy Hungarian Goulash recipe with Paprika Souvenirs from Budapest

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Souvenir Shop for Hungarian Paprika in Budapest, then use your paprika to make an Easy Hungarian Goulash recipe

red chili peppers hungary budapest

Paprika is a spice made from ground chili peppers.

Paprika is an ideal Hungarian souvenir— it’s cheap, available everywhere and weighs next to nothing, making it a cinch to toss in your suitcase. Think you can get paprika back home? (If you’re here just looking for the goulash recipe, scroll down!)

sweet paprika hungary souvenirReal Hungarian paprika sold in Hungary is nothing like the stuff you’ll find in the spice aisle of your grocery store– the freshness and potency of true Hungarian paprika blows away any supermarket brand. And this includes any imported brand that’s labelled “Hungarian”– it’s just not the same quality.

paprika from hungary souvenir central marketWhen visiting Budapest, authentic local paprika is not hard to find– you can even get it at the supermarket. But for the best prices and selection, head straight to Budapest’s Great Market Hall.

The Great Market Hall has stalls upon stalls of paprika– there is so much paprika that it can quickly get overwhelming. To navigate the market like a pro, just follow our paprika souvenir shopping tips.

Hungarian smoked paprika from Budapest

Although smoked paprika is traditionally Spanish, Hungarian producers have been coming out with their own versions in recent years. I love mixing a little smoked paprika in with hot and sweet versions for a deeper, rounder flavor.

1. First, narrow down your options by deciding what kind of paprika you want to buy. This could be a daunting task in and of itself– if you read the Wikipedia article on Hungarian paprika you’ll learn there are at least eight grades of Hungarian paprika alone. Or, you could skip the specifics (and difficult-to-pronounce Hungarian names) and just remember these three words– Sweet, Hot and Smoked.

2.  Next, figure out much paprika you really need. Paprika powder goes stale in about a year, so there’s no point in stocking up if your use will be limited to sprinkling on finished dishes. Because I planned to make several large batches of goulash this winter, I came home with three bags of hot and a one bag each of sweet and smoked.

souvenir paprika budapest hungary ceramic containers gift packaged

The quality of the ceramics vary, so check carefully for cracks and chips.

3.  Decide how you want your Paprika packaged. Simple, utilitarian bags of paprika are the cheapest souvenir option, but you can also buy your paprika packed in pretty ceramic jars.

souvenir paprika chili pepper ceramic containers from budapest hungary

My friend Amy’s souvenir pepper jars from Budapest look pretty on a shelf in her kitchen but are ornamental only– her paprika has been languishing in these jars, untouched, for several years.

These pepper jars were tempting– and a great buy if you have a place to display them. But if you’re going to put your paprika away in a cabinet, stick with a more basic shape or you might regret it when you try to fit these peppers onto your spice rack.

best souvenirs budapest4. If a plain bag of paprika is too boring to bring back as a gift, Budapest’s Great Market Hall has plenty of paprika gift pack sets. You can buy your paprika pre-bundled with a wooden spoon with a painted handle (perfect for stirring that goulash).

budapest souvenirs hungary

You’ll also find random souvenirs thrown into some of these gift sets. Can anyone explain to me what a wine stopper has to do with paprika?

Many of the paprika gift sets come with tiny wooden scoops. Cute, but I’m not sure how useful these little scoops are– I prefer to use measuring spoons (and can see the scoop ending up lost in my kitchen drawer).

5. If you’re planning to use your paprika for goulash, consider buying goulash paste as an alternative.

Goulash pastes are quickly gaining popularity because they keep longer than fresh, powdered paprika.

goulash paste hungarianThere are two different kinds of goulash paste, so make sure you know which one you’re buying (the vendors were all very helpful). One goulash paste is pretty much only used to make goulash, while a second goulash paste is used more like a condiment on sandwiches. I bought one of each. While I haven’t experimented with using the paste to make goulash yet, I can confirm the condiment version is excellent as a sandwich spread.

The final step– use your souvenir paprika back home to make this easy Hungarian goulash recipe.

There is nothing worse than bringing souvenir foods back home, putting them in a cupboard, then finding them years later, unused and stale (or expired). Fortunately, I can help you use up that souvenir paprika by sharing a super easy Hungarian goulash recipe that I’ve been making for years.

Purists take note: true Hungarian goulash is soup-like in consistency with lots of vegetables (and a lot more chopping). The version I make (from an Austrian chef) is more like a rich stew and the only vegetables are onions, making prep a snap.

Easy Hungarian Goulash (adapted from Kurt Gutenbrunner’s recipe)

Serves 4

2.5 pounds Beef Shin meat (trimmed and cut into 1 inch cubes)
3 Spanish onions, finely diced
1.5 Tbsp Hungarian Paprika (or more if you love paprika)
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp Marjoram
1 pinch ground Caraway seeds
1 Bay leaf
1 clove garlic, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

sautee onions goulash

(Ed. note: do not try to save time by dicing the onions in food processor (as I once did)– they’ll get too wet and will never caramelize).

First, sauté the diced onions until caramelized, then add the garlic.

how to make goulashNext, add the ground caraway,

hot paprika goulash

Ed. Note: although the original recipe calls for only 1.5 Tbsp paprika, I add 3-4 total tablespoons. I use mostly hot paprika, but mix in some sweet and a little smoked.

the tomato paste, marjoram and the paprika and cook for 2 minutes longer, stirring constantly. Take care not to scorch the paprika.

cubed beef for goulashAdd the beef. Then add just enough water to cover the beef.

bay leaf for cooking goulashAdd the bay leaf and salt and pepper. Bring everything to a boil.

goulash cookingReduce the heat to a low simmer. Cook for about an hour, uncovered, stirring occasionally.

easy goulash hungary soup The goulash is done when the meat is tender.

best hungarian goulashServe the goulash in bowls, with spaetzle on the side (wide egg noodles also work).

Unfortunately I haven’t tested out a vegetarian goulash version yet (do my vegetarian readers have any favorites?). For a meatless alternative, Hungarian paprika is also delicious sprinkled over deviled eggs.

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Do you have any favorite recipes using Hungarian paprika? Share in the comments below!

Want to read more posts about Budapest?

Shop the Festive Budapest Christmas market
The best Hungarian Treats and Snacks at the Budapest Christmas Market

All photos copyright 2014 by Souvenir Finder and may not be used without express permission.

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44 Responses to An Easy Hungarian Goulash recipe with Paprika Souvenirs from Budapest

  1. lmjapan 02/21/2014 at 6:46 pm #

    Your goulash looks delicious! I haven’t had goulash since I was a child and my mom made it a couple of times. Unfortunately, no one in my family cared for it much and my mother stopped making it. I think she needed the real Hungarian paprika!

    • Kristin Francis 02/22/2014 at 1:43 pm #

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing! Yeah my mom didn’t do much with spices when we were growing up either. The kind of paprika definitely makes a difference– but I also added 3-4 times the recommended amount so the flavor was more robust. I also only use grass fed, organic and very lean beef.

  2. sueslaght 02/22/2014 at 1:41 am #

    Kristin I think I would need to be a better cook for this souvenir adventure. There are different kinds of paprika? Who knew. Gulp and apologies to all Hungarians. Your dinner looks delicious. Do I see a cooking blog in your future?

    • Kristin Francis 02/22/2014 at 1:40 pm #

      Haha my cooking repertoire is pretty limited! I loved this recipe because there was no tedious browning of the meat first, all the ingredients are pretty much dumped in!

      • sueslaght 02/22/2014 at 2:46 pm #

        My kind of cooking!

  3. lovefromtheland 02/22/2014 at 4:00 pm #

    I really love the concept of your blog! My grandpa was a proud Hungarian and he would definitely approve of this recipe, it looks delicious 🙂

    • Kristin Francis 02/22/2014 at 5:00 pm #

      Thanks so much! I loved Hungary, the people were wonderful and the goulash I had there was out of this world.

  4. Amy 02/24/2014 at 1:41 pm #

    I love being a part of your blog! I still have never tried goulash–will have to change that soon. 🙂

    • Kristin Francis 02/24/2014 at 1:48 pm #

      Amy, with all you ninja shopping skills you could run your own blog! : ) Would love to try a veggie version of goulash– maybe we can crush your stale paprika and try to invigorate it!

  5. Amy 02/25/2014 at 1:51 pm #

    Yes, we should try and do something with it! I also have another set of old paprika in my cupboard–oops. 🙂

  6. A_Boleyn 03/08/2014 at 4:59 pm #

    I’ve made a pork porkolt but a traditional beef goulash is on my list of to do Hungarian recipes. As well as more tortes/desserts than I want to confess to. 🙂

    Then I turned the leftover pork porkolt into hortobagyi palascsinta.

    • Kristin Francis 03/09/2014 at 8:21 pm #

      Thanks for stopping by! I promise this is a surefire recipe. : ) Yum never tried a pork porkolt before but I am intrigued!

  7. Touch Of Cinnamon 03/13/2014 at 4:25 pm #

    This looks soooo good, I came back for a second look. I’m dieting and could eat the entire pan to myself right now. stomach grumbles

    • Kristin Francis 03/13/2014 at 4:27 pm #

      Haha thanks for the comment! I am supposedly on my health kick too but I just stopped off and bought the ingredients to make this again tonight! It’s this freezing cold weather, that’s my excuse. : )

      • Touch Of Cinnamon 03/13/2014 at 4:30 pm #

        Make enough for me and I’ll sneak out. 😀

        I wonder how many calories are in the goulash alone, if you don’t eat it with the spaetzle or noodles?

      • Kristin Francis 03/13/2014 at 5:22 pm #

        I don’t see how it could be that many– I’m sure you’re supposed to use a fattier cut, but I always use lean, grass-fed beef. Then it’s really just a little olive oil to cook the onions, everything else is seasoning. It’s the spaetzle or noodles slathered in butter that are the death of me! If you can restrain yourself to no side dish or something like steamed cauliflower I’m sure it wouldn’t be much.

      • Touch Of Cinnamon 03/13/2014 at 5:47 pm #

        Yeah, it doesn’t sound too bad at all. I could perhaps have it with my healthy veg cous cous recipe. Fill up on veg mixed with the cous cous, spice it up and use that as the base.

        Oh gowd, I’m soooo wanting this tonight. Right now I could eat my own fist. 😀

        Good luck with your health kick.


  8. Escape Hunter 04/08/2014 at 7:49 am #

    Spicy foods are everywhere in Hungary 😀
    It’s actually written “gulyás” (gulyas) and pronounced “goo-yash”, but the entire World calls it “goulash”… weird. Actually, it’s not supposed to be a soup, but nowadays everyone is making it into one.
    Love it!

    • Kristin Francis 04/09/2014 at 8:48 am #

      I didn’t realize it wasn’t supposed to be a soup since the stew version is called something else entirely. I loved it in all its forms but went for the recipe that involved the least amount of chopping!

    • Gabi 09/18/2018 at 3:49 pm #

      Authentic Hungarian gulyás is a soup! The recipe given in this article is Hungarian beef stew! It’s also delicious over boiled potatoes! I found the best version of Hungarian paprika comes from Szeged (a city in southern Hungary) you can also find good quality Hungarian paprika sold in international markets throughout the US! Look for the brand “Bende” a Hungarian company out of Chicago!

  9. Carolyn Gilbert 10/17/2014 at 10:20 pm #

    How can I buy the little pouches 50g to give as gifts.

  10. Nina S 08/28/2015 at 9:29 pm #

    I really liked this article on Paprika. I always buy Budapest Best hot and regular paprika. Paprika does not last long in our house. I’d love to try the paste but have not seen it anywhere, even in specialty stores. Thanks for the article and recipes!

  11. Charmaine 12/08/2015 at 5:50 pm #

    Thanks so much for the recipe. I have just come back from my first visit to Budapest armed with paprika and paprika paste. I had Goulash soup whilst I was there. Simply amazing. Those goulashes they serve in the UK tasted nothing like what we had in Pest.

    I also came back armed with paprika paste and spice gift sets for my close friends. I will send them.this link for your recipe.

    Can you tell me, based on your recipe above, how much paprika paste would I use. Also would I still use the tomato paste as well?



    • Kristin Francis 12/11/2015 at 12:17 pm #

      Charmaine– I haven’t tried the paprika paste yet so I’m not sure.

  12. Anonymous 12/27/2015 at 3:10 pm #

    Does Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s have the paste.? I use vanilla bean paste in my baking and it is amazing. Thanks,
    Sherry L. R.

    • Kristin Francis 01/03/2016 at 5:27 pm #

      I haven’t tried to look for it, still using up my supply!

  13. Judit Wolf 08/04/2017 at 7:17 pm #

    This is not Guylas. It’s porkolt. Hungarian meat stew. Guylas is a soup not a stew. Most Americans think any thing with paprika is Guylas. But it does look good.

    • Kristin Francis 10/24/2017 at 6:49 pm #

      haha good point! The recipe is sooo good in any case.

  14. Cecilia 03/22/2018 at 8:29 pm #

    You can buy the paprika & paste on Amazon.

    • Kristin Francis 03/26/2018 at 11:17 am #

      No doubt, Amazon sells everything! But you won’t find smaller vendors and family owned stalls that make their own variety.

  15. Alenka 07/13/2018 at 11:46 pm #

    The Market in Budapest is definitely a great place to pick up Hungarian Paprika! I picked up a big bag of the hot on our family vacation last year and regretted not getting the sweet. Anyone visiting Budapest…buy all 3 types! Their paprika’s the best! I grew up eating this version of goulash as my parents are Slovenian from a town about 30 minutes from Austria. This goulash is also very good on warm rich polenta…that’s my favourite!

    • Kristin Francis 10/25/2018 at 11:54 pm #

      Oh great idea on the polenta– I still have a big sack from Lombardy! Agree I love mixing up the different types of paprika.

  16. Edith 08/08/2018 at 2:04 am #

    For a vegetarian version, my mom used to make mushroom paprikas. Also, you can order REAL paprika from old ladies who make it the tradtional way online. That mass produced, touristy stuff is okay, but nothing like peasant paprika.

    • Kristin Francis 10/25/2018 at 11:47 pm #

      Hi Edith! Oh I love the idea of mushrooms for a veggie version. In Central Hall there were definitely vendors who made small batches from their own farms, along with the more touristy ones (which are still better than what I get in the spice aisle in a US supermarket).

  17. Anonymous 09/05/2018 at 6:32 pm #

    I just received lots of paprika from visitors from Hungary and googled to find this page. I received the paprika in forms of powder, paste, and in jars. Some is hot, some is smoked, etc. It’s overwhelming, but I will try your recipe and try to find other recipes to use these wonderful Hungarian gifts.

    • Kristin Francis 10/25/2018 at 11:33 pm #

      Thanks for taking the time to comment! I find myself tossing paprika on lots of things– deviled eggs, chicken breasts, etc.

  18. Anonymous 09/18/2018 at 3:53 pm #

    Look for gulyas paste and paprika paste in international markets in your city! Use no more than 1tbls of the paprika paste in your dish or else it will overwhelm the taste!

    • Kristin Francis 10/25/2018 at 11:28 pm #

      Thanks for the tip! I haven’t experimented with the paste yet so good to know!

  19. Anonymous 10/14/2020 at 6:29 pm #

    I put all ingredients in slow cooker, works great! Our favourite is to use moose meat, unbelievable taste! Very yummy, and tender!

    • Kristin Francis 04/15/2021 at 9:09 pm #

      Never cooked with moose, but thanks for the tip! I’ve recently converted to the instant pot so I may update the recipes with another version.

  20. Anonymous 08/26/2021 at 10:21 pm #

    Just stumbled across your recipe for Goulash. This is pretty much identical to how I make mine (which I got my recipe from an authentic German restaurant here in my home town years ago)! The 2 subtle differences are that I use 2 lbs. of beef and 1 lb. of pork and then I add 2-3 of the smaller size cans of sliced mushrooms along with the juices they come in. That’s the only other vegetable I use other than the onion. Both of those items just add that awesome extra flavor and dimension to it while still keeping it a very simple yet amazing dish! Thanks for sharing!

    • Kristin Francis 07/03/2022 at 1:18 pm #

      Yum I can see how that would be extra good, thanks for sharing!

  21. Marcia farkas 01/03/2022 at 8:18 am #

    Married to a hungarian who cant speak the language or have any living relies in budapest. Travelled there 3 years ago and I brought a cute little standing ceramic paprika jar. Sadly tonight I dropped it and it smashed 😢. Can’t speak hungarian so their websites are out, just wondering if you know of where I can purchase another one.

    • Kristin Francis 07/03/2022 at 1:11 pm #

      Looks like you just have to make a return visit! I also bought those cute little jars 🙂

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