Pörkölt – aka Goulash in the USA

Magyar Pörkölt

Hungarian Pörkölt

Pörkölt (purr-kilt) originates from Hungary and is often mistaken for and called goulash.    Though very similar,  pörkölt is more of a stew while gulyas (or goulash) is a soup.  Pörkölt is most often served over small dumplings called nokedli or Späetzle but can also be served over rice, egg barley (tarhanya), pasta or even couscous.  A fresh cucumber salad as a garnish completes the meal.

Pörkölt is one of the basic recipes of the Hungarian kitchen and is often used as a starter for more advanced meals. There are many variations of pörkölt depending on the region of Hungary or of other countries that have adopted this delicious meal.  Beef, chicken, pork and even lamb may be used and even mushroom and other vegetarian recipes exist.  There are very few ingredients in the recipe but the most important is the paprika.  To make traditional Hungarian  pörkölt it is essential to use only the finest paprika from Hungary.  The paprika you buy in small bottles to sprinkle for decoration will simply not do. Hungary produces many varieties of paprika from the mild to the sweet to the very hot.  The most popular, and available here in better supermarkets is paprika from Szeged, the city where paprika was first invented.  Look for it in a bright red can with the word Szeged on the front.  Another great source is Bende Brothers.  https://www.bende.com/

The following recipe will feed four to six.


  • 2 pounds meat chopped into 1” cubes
  • 1 large or two small onions
  • 1 tomato
  • 1 yellow or green pepper
  • Paprika
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • Water

Chop the onions and, in a large pan fry until golden in a tablespoon of oil. A dutch oven works perfectly.  Turn heat to high and add the meat and turn constantly until it is seared or all sides are white. Remove from heat and add one tablespoon of paprika. (This is important, you mustn’t add the paprika while on the burner as to prevent the paprika from scorching.)

Add just enough water to cover the meat and reduce to heat low. You may now add a peeled and quartered tomato, and slices of pepper. Simmer until meat is tender. 1 to 2 hours depending on the cut or type of meat. Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

Nokedli ( Späetzle)

  • Ingredients
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 egg
  • Water
  • Salt

Mix the flour, egg and a little salt and enough water to make a thick but soft dough that can be spooned.  Beat until smooth and air bubbles appear.  A strong wooden spoon works best.  From a wet cutting board chop small pieces into boiling salt water.  For better results use a  Späetzle maker.  Occasionally mix the dumplings so they will not stick together.  When the dumplings float to the surface they are done.  Drain and serve hot.

Cucumber Garnish


  • Two or three large cucumbers
  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • ¼ cup vinegar
  • ½ cup water
  • Paprika
  • Sour cream

Peel and cut cucumbers into thin slices.   Place in bowl and sprinkle generously with salt.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes or more.    Next, take cucumbers by the handful and squeeze all the moisture from them.  Rinse well in cold water.  Place in serving dish.

Mix vinegar and water a little salt and sugar to make a mild dressing. Pour just enough dressing on cucumbers and let stand in refrigerator, Drain excess liquid and mix in two or three tablespoons of sour cream just before serving, sprinkle with paprika and serve.

I would love to hear your results with these recipes.  Email your comments to: jgitta@jgitta.com

Joe Gitta