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If you long for cozy dinners when the weather is raw and frigid, then do yourself a favor and make Pörkölt. It’s an incredible Hungarian stew made with tons of onions, small cubed beef, and the best Hungarian paprika. It simmers for a long time to achieve its amazing thick consistency and super marriage of flavors.
I recommend serving it with Hungarian Egg Noodles, called Nokedli, and enjoying by the fireplace (if you have one).
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What is Pörkölt
So, at this point, you already know that we are talking about beef stew here. But, it’s not any beef stew. This one is a rockstar and chock-full of flavor. If you’ve never had it, then you’re in for a real treat.
What’s so different about it? Well, there are a few reasons….
- First, it’s made with tiny cubes of meat. So, if you buy pre-cut stew meat at the supermarket, you’ll need to do some more work so your pieces are not bigger than a ½“.
- Second, it’s made with a ton of sliced onions that are sautéed until they’re soft and translucent – all before even the meat is added.
- You then add copious amounts of Hungarian sweet paprika. Mind you, you’ll need the real deal one; you can’t take any shortcuts here or you’ll be complaining about this recipe. So let’s just cut off that ‘I told you so’ moment right here and strictly adhere to this advice: GOOD QUALITY HUNGARIAN SWEET PAPRIKA IS A MUST!
- Finally, it’s simmered, or maybe I should say braised, in a little liquid for an extended period. This is a critical step for this recipe. The liquid shouldn’t even cover the entirety of the meat. Obviously, this is a little bit different then sauteeing technique that would be used for a goulash. Speaking of goulash….
What is the difference between Pörkölt and Goulash?
The basic difference between Pörkölt and Goulash is the texture of the sauce. Pörkölt is a very thick beef stew, while Goulash is a more saucy (almost soupy) type of dish with some extra veggies. In fact, you can actually eat a Goulash like soup. Personally, I like eating it with egg noodles, but many people eat it with just a spoon and slice of bread.
The other difference is the Pörkölt is that it’s made with a lot of onions, that gives the sauce a little natural sweetness. You’ll be amazed when cooking for a prolonged time they almost disappear into the sauce.
Also, for Goulash I almost always add a lot of fresh peppers, but for Pörkölt, one long green pepper is all that you’ll need.
And another difference is that you never thicken the sauce of a Pörkölt with a flour. Meanwhile, for a Goulash, it’s very common to make a roux with sour cream and flour (very popular in Eastern European cuisines), to help thicken the sauce.
Ingredients needed to make this dish:
Scroll down to printable recipe card for an exact list of ingredients and measurements.
If you’re prepping for some cold days and want to make this awesome beef stew, here’s what you’ll need to get at your grocery store:
- Beef (preferably beef chuck, cut in a little cube about ½”);
- Sweet Onions (like Vidalia, thinly sliced);
- Green, long banana pepper (thinly sliced);
- Butter and/or oil or lard;
- Hungarian Sweet Paprika (affiliate link): the best quality real Hungarian paprika – don’t go for a shortcut here. Also, if you want to add a little punch here, you could also add a pinch of Hot Hungarian Paprika;
- Water or Beef Broth: I prefer beef broth for more flavor, but the decision is yours;
- Salt, pepper, & bay leaf;
- Tomato and/or tomato paste. Some Hungarians would argue that there is no tomato or tomato paste in this dish; however, some do add for a bit of extra flavor. I decided to go the latter route.
- Caraway seeds. They are strong, so not everyone’s a fan. Add as little or as much as you’d like, or skip altogether.
- Sour cream. A dollop for serving.
Easy steps for the best Hungarian beef stew
- Sauté your onions. This classic Hungarian beef stew is basically made from onions and beef; so onions are a critical ingredient. Traditionally they would be sautéed in lard (which is a pork fat), however, lard’s not easy to come by in the US. Alternatively, you could use bacon fat instead; but butter, or butter with oil, are going to do the job just fine. You then sauté the onions for about 8-10 minutes, until nicely soft and almost caramelized. In fact, when they next cook with beef for an extended period, they then become almost unrecognizable in texture, but they do add an amazing flavor.
- Add chopped garlic and thinly sliced pepper, and cook for 2 – 3 minutes.
- Add beef. The very distinguishing characteristic of this dish is that the meat is cut into tiny cubes. If you happen to buy beef stew meat at your grocery store, you’ll have to dice the cubes into smaller chunks. Once you add the beef to the pot, cook it for about 5 minutes, until no longer pink.
- Add Hungarian Paprika and tomatoes. This is a very important step that can make or break your Pörkölt! Paprika can burn easily and if you let it cook for too long it will become bitter and your beef stew won’t taste as good. So, I suggest you just add the paprika and mix it well – so that it covers the meat and veggies. Then add tomato and/or tomato paste if using, mix it again and move on to your liquid base.
- Add broth or water. Add 1 to 1.5 cups of liquid to your pot; just enough that it hardly covers your meat. You could add salt and pepper now, or this could wait until the sauce is cooked, so you can better control the seasoning. The latter option is preferred though, especially considering that the sodium levels of your beef may vary. This stew is intended to be thick and therefore you shouldn’t add a lot of liquid. Cover it and cook on low for 90 minutes. Once cooked, adjust seasoning and serve. You can add a dollop of sour cream while serving. It works amazing.
How to serve it
Traditionally, Pörkölt would be served with Hungarian Egg Noodles (Nokedli), as I did here, but you can use it with any other starch you’d like. For example:
- Mashed potatoes
- Egg pasta noodles
If you’re looking for a veggie side dish, I’d suggest:
Other Hungarian recipes to try
Pörkölt – Hungarian Beef and Onion Stew
- 1 Sweet Onion e.g Vidalia, thinly sliced
- 1 Long Green Pepper thinly sliced
- 2 cloves Garlic chopped
- 1.5 lbs Beef preferably chuck or other stew cut
- 4 tablespoons Sweet Hungarian Paprika
- 1 Tomato chopped, optional
- 1 tablespoon Tomato paste optional
- 1 teaspoon Salt or more to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon Black pepper or more to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon Caraway seeds optional
- 1 Bay Leaf
- 1-1.5 cups Water or Beef Broth or more, but only enough to almost cover the meat
- Sauté your onions. Add either butter, oil or lard into a Duch Oven or a braising pot, sauté the onions for about 8-10 minutes, until nicely soft and almost caramelized.
- Add chopped garlic and thinly sliced pepper and cook for 2 – 3 minutes.
- Add beef. Cut your meat into tiny cubes of 1/2". Once you add the beef to the pot, cook it for about 5 minutes, until no longer pink.
- Add Hungarian Paprika and tomatoes. This is a very important step that can make or break your Pörkölt! Paprika can burn easily and if you let it cook for too long it will become bitter and your beef stew won’t taste as good. So, just add the paprika and mix it well. Then add tomato and/or tomato paste if using, mix it again and move on to your liquid base.
- Add broth or water. Add 1 to 1.5 cups of liquid to your pot; just enough that it hardly covers your meat. You could add salt and pepper now, or this could wait until the sauce is cooked, so you can better control the seasoning. The latter option is preferred though, especially considering that the sodium levels of your beef broth may vary. This stew is intended to be thick and therefore you shouldn’t add a lot of liquid. Cover it and cook on low for 90 minutes. Once cooked, adjust seasoning and serve. You can add a dollop of sour cream while serving. It works amazing.