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Goulash Soup: A Comforting Beef Stew With Paprika and Herbs

Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes one ingredient at a time.

Goulash soup

Goulash soup

A Hungarian Comfort Food

This is the first day of spring, but the weather outside is anything but spring-like. We've had rain, wind gusts up to 40 mph, and pea-sized hail. It's time to make another pot of soup.

Today, I'm remembering a recipe I've had for years and years (and years). It's called "goulash soup." Goulash (for the uninitiated) is a Hungarian stew of meat (take your pick), vegetables (whatever you have), and a healthy dose of paprika. Comfort food at its finest.

Goulash Soup Recipe


  • 3 pounds beef for stew, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onions
  • 4 cups beef broth
  • 1/2 pound potatoes, grated (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon paprika (sweet Hungarian or smoked)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 3/4 pound potatoes, peeled and diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup dry noodles (or spaetzle, see recipe below)
  • Sour cream, for garnish (optional)


  1. Heat olive oil in a 4-quart Dutch oven over medium heat. Add about 1/3 of the beef to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally until browned on all sides. Remove from pan and repeat with remaining beef. It is important to not crowd the pan. If the pieces of beef are too close together they will not brown properly; instead, they will simply steam. Add more oil to the pan as needed.
  2. To the same pan, stir in the onions and cook until the onions begin to brown. Return browned beef chunks to the pan. Stir in the remaining ingredients except for diced potatoes and noodles. Heat to boiling; reduce heat and cover. Simmer for 1 1/2 hours or until meat is tender. Note that the grated potatoes will fall apart; they are intended to thicken the soup.
  3. Stir in diced potatoes and noodles (or cooked spaetzle, see below) and continue to cook until potatoes and noodles are cooked through.
Take your goulash to next level by adding spaetzle

Take your goulash to next level by adding spaetzle

How to Make Spaetzle

If you want to take this recipe to the next level, in place of the noodles you could use cooked spaetzle (a German noodle dumpling):


  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons milk


  1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. In another mixing bowl, whisk the egg and milk together. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the egg-milk mixture. Gradually draw in the flour from the sides and combine well; the dough should be smooth and thick. Let the dough rest for 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. Bring 3 quarts of salted water to a boil in a large pot, then reduce to a simmer. To form the spaetzle, hold a large-holed colander or slotted spoon over the simmering water and push the dough through the holes with a spatula or spoon. Do this in batches so you don't overcrowd the pot. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until the spaetzle floats to the surface, stirring gently to prevent sticking. Dump the spaetzle into a colander and give it a quick rinse with cool water.

What Makes This Recipe Work?

  • A lower-priced cut of beef can be transformed into tender, melt-in-the-mouth morsels with slow, patient simmering.
  • A generous mound of caramelized onions provides a sweet counterpoint to the heat of the paprika.
  • Grated raw potatoes thicken the stew naturally.

© 2013 Linda Lum