Hungarian Beef Pörkölt is one of the most special stews I cook. Guaranteed to warm the coldest of hearts! A rich, colourful and intensely satisfying Central European classic. It’s a winner winner, winter dinner. Learn how…
Hungarian Pörkölt is a warming, hearty beef stew - a rich, flavourful sauce packed with smoky aroma from Hungary's most prized ingredient, paprika - and LOTS of it! It's a national treasure, and easy to see why.
Why is Pörkölt so special?
Beef Pörkölt has a delicious, rich, decadent sauce - it clings to the meltingly tender chunks of beef, making it an indulgent treat any time of the year, but especially during the colder months.
I had my first taste of Pörkölt in Budapest during the coldest day I've ever experienced. It was beyond freezing and I spent most of the day hopping from cafe to restaurant to stay warm. This stew was a stand-out and I knew It would become a staple at home too. I made sure while at the Central Market Hall to stock up on a little Authentic Hungarian Paprika before returning.
A good Pörkölt is not hard to make at home. The magic happens over time - low and slow cooking created the perfect creamy sauce and meltingly tender pieces of beef. Three hours is a great time to ensure flavour and texture is perfect.
Buying souvenir paprika in Budapest
How to serve Pörkölt
What makes it even more special are the lovely noodles called Spaetzle - simple noodle dough, pushed through a something with large holes directly into boiling water to create pasta pieces. The perfect partner. I also love this pörkölt recipe with creamy mashed potato!
I ate this a couple of times in Hungary, served differently. The first time, the meat was stewed with lots of soft green peppers, the second time the green peppers were raw and scattered over the finished stew. I must say that the latter was my favourite, and has become my go-to method of serving pörkölt. I also must drizzle copious amounts of sour cream over the finished stew - there's something so wonderful about sour cream and this rich, paprika spiced sauce.
What meat should I use for Pörkölt?
A cheaper cut of beef will serve you very well for Hungarian Pörkölt. Chuck steak is perfect for slow cooking and over time, breaks down into the most tender, juicy morsels. I like to buy chuck/stewing steak that has a little marbling of fat throughout. Fat is your friend for slow cooking - lean cuts of chuck steak can actually dry out and and will never get to the right texture, so be sure to find some meat with fat on it. You don't have to eat it, but it makes a world of difference to the overall texture.
How to make Hungarian Pörkölt
There are only a few simple stages to cooking the perfect pörkölt:
Sear the meat - this will help lock in the juices and create a little char in the pan - which helps with colour and flavour.
Add the paprika - the paprika is the star of the show - the rich, smoky flavour permeates the dish in both flavour and colour - especially Hungarian paprika. The caraway seeds also bring an authentic Hungarian note to the dish.
Leave and simmer for 3 hours. Giving the dish time will create the most magnificent beef stew!
Scatter with raw green peppers for a hint of freshness and crunch.
Drizzle over a little sour cream for a richer, creamier finish.
Serve with spaetzle or mashed potatoes.
What is paprika?
Dried peppers, ground into a powder.
Is Hungarian paprika the same as Spanish paprika?
Hungarian paprika tends to be more pungent than Spanish. It has a sweeter flavour due to the cooler growing climate. Most Spanish paprika is smoked, giving it a distinct flavour.
I don't have Hungarian paprika, can I use another kind?
You can substitute with regular paprika or Spanish smoked. It'll effect the flavour slightly, but will still be delicious!
Is Hungarian paprika spicy?
There are actually nine varieties of Hungarian paprika ranging in spice and pungency:
1. Különleges (mildest)
2. Csípősmentes Csemege
4. Csípős Csemege
5. Édesnemes (this is the variety I use in this recipe!)
8. Erős (hottest/most pungent)
In a large casserole pan, heat the butter over a moderate/high heat. Fry the beef pieces until brown on all sides (around 5 minutes). Remove from the pan.
Add the onion and garlic, caraway and bay leaves to the pan and stir. Let these fry, stirring regularly for about 5 minutes until softening and golden.
Add the tomatoes and return the beef to the pan. Stir in the paprika and salt and grind over a generous amount of black pepper. Let the sauce come to a simmer, before pouring in around 700ml water (just enough to cover the beef).
Let this come to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer very gently with the lid on for 3 hours, until the beef is meltingly tender and the sauce glossy and rich. Stirring occasionally to avoid sticking.
Scatter over the green pepper slices and serve.
I serve mine with lashings of mashed potato, like I had in Budapest and added some sautéed cabbage of steamed broccoli which I never saw once in Budapest :)
If you want to cook the green peppers in the sauce, simply add 1-2 sliced peppers at the same time as the onion.
Hungarian Beef Pörkölt
Amount Per Serving
Calories 363Calories from Fat 144
% Daily Value*
Saturated Fat 7g44%
Vitamin A 2559IU51%
Vitamin C 37mg45%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.