Like its cousins chili con carne and gumbo, goulash is a hearty, flavor-packed stew made with meat and vegetables and seasoned with distinct spices. It originated in Hungary, but you can spot it all over Central and Eastern Europe.
When I was growing up in the Czech Republic, my mom and grandma made goulash (or goulash soup—a faster, simpler, thinner interpretation) every two months or so—and it was served for lunch in our school canteen and at summer camp. I have yet to visit Budapest, but I had delicious goulash in both Warsaw and Vienna.
The key ingredient in goulash is paprika, a pepper-turned-brick-red-powder of which Hungary is a big grower and exporter. You might have seen it sprinkled on top of deviled eggs and hummus, or rubbed into roasted meats. There are several grades of Hungarian paprika, ranging in taste and hotness, but for goulash, you’ll need the mild, sweet kind, simply labeled “paprika” and available in pretty much every American supermarket. However, I would perhaps get it somewhere else—like a good spice shop with high turnover—because there is nothing worse than tasteless, depth-less, third-rate paprika.
This recipe is my favorite version of goulash. Besides paprika, the star ingredients are pork shoulder, onion, heavy cream, and a truckload of sauerkraut, which shine in a comforting, sweet-sour dish with a pretty marigold color. It is alternatively called Szegedi gulyás (named after a Hungarian city) or Szekely gulyás (named after a Romanian territory inhabited by Hungarians). The cooking method is fast and simple, but make it one day ahead, giving it time to set and allowing the flavors to blend and develop; it will taste so much better.
- Serves 6
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 cups peeled, diced white onion (about 1 large onion)
- 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
- 2 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled, minced
- 4 tablespoons sweet Hungarian paprika
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
- 4 cups chicken or beef stock
- 1½ pounds fresh sauerkraut (not canned), rinsed and drained
- ¾ cup heavy whipping cream
- Sour cream for garnish (optional)
- Heat the oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, about 6–8 minutes. Stir in the caraway seeds.
- Add the pork, and increase the heat to high. Brown on all sides, stirring frequently, about 4 minutes. Lower the heat back to medium, add the garlic and paprika, and stir for about a minute, until the meat is fully coated. Add the salt and flour, and stir to coat. Pour in the stock, cover with a lid, and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat again to low, and cook for 30 minutes.
- Add the sauerkraut, cover and continue cooking, stirring once or twice, for another 30 minutes. Mix in the heavy cream and cook until smooth, about 3–4 minutes. Season with salt to taste. Serve with egg noodles or crusty bread, garnished with a dollop of the sour cream. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.