Beef Goulash

Chef's notes:

Goulash was invented by the Hungarians and comes from the word “guylas,” meaning cattleman or herdsman. Much like all things good, goulash is now made the world over, and just like pizza, spaghetti, schnitzel, and hamburgers, there are both good and bad versions of goulash. My recipe is one of the good ones, and it is very similar to Hungarian goulash. Someday I will take a trip to Hungary and will follow up with the article on how to cook Hungarian guylas (goulash). For now, this “American” goulash recipe will have to suffice.


  • 2 pounds beef shin, cubed
  • 2 pounds onions, chopped
  • 1 head garlic, minced
  • 4 cups beef stock
  • 6–7 Tbsp Hungarian paprika
  • Sea salt
  • Black pepper
  • Lard, butter, or oil for frying

Beef Shank Goulash with Onions, Garlic, and Paprika in Beef Stock

  1. Pick up the ingredients for goulash. The best meat to use for this dish is a beef shank/shin or other tough meat. The collagen in tough meat will, after a few hours of cooking, release from the meat and thicken the soup/stew. The collagen enriches and thickens the soup and once it’s out of the meat, the meat becomes tender because the collagen was one of the things making it chewy.
  2. Cut up the beef shin, onions, and garlic. Cut the meat off the bone and into 1-inch cubes. Save the bones, as you will be adding them to the soup later. Slice the onions into half moons or julienne. The garlic can be chopped roughly into smaller chunks. Check to the right for the full beef goulash recipe.
  3. Brown the beef shin in large kettle. Melt 2–3 tablespoons of lard, bacon fat, or butter in the bottom of a frying pan over medium-high heat. Season the beef with salt and pepper before adding it to the frying pan once the fat is hot. You may wish to fry the beef in smaller groups as it will be easier to get all sides of the meat browned.
  4. Cook the onions and garlic separately. In the soup kettle, melt another 2–3 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Once the butter is melted, toss the onions and garlic to the pan. Season them with just a pinch or two of salt. Fry the onions carefully until they are golden brown but not brown brown. Once the onions are there, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the Hungarian paprika.
  5. Combine everything to together in a large kettle and cook. Add the meat to the pan with the onions and paprika, and stir to coat. Then, add to the bones to the pan, if you have them, the 4 cups of beef stock, and enough water to cover everything in the pot. Cover and simmer over medium heat for the next 3–4 hours. Check every 30 minutes, and stir to check the consistency. Add more water if needed.
  6. After cooking for 4 hours, it should be very stew-like. Adjust the seasoning levels and add more paprika if needed. There are a couple things you can do to smooth out the flavor if you want: add 2 tablespoons of tomato paste, or 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, or 1 tablespoon of sugar. Also, you can refrigerate it overnight to let some of the fat float to the top. Then, you will be able to remove it before you reheat it. If you do this, make sure to cool the goulash before refrigerating by submerging the pot in an ice-water bath, like the photo here. Serve your goulash with cooked pasta or potatoes, and a little dollop of sour cream or crème fraiche.

Tips & Tricks

  • As I stated above, the best kind of meat for this dish is a shin, shank, or other chewy meat.
  • You may find shank hard to find. Use a cut of brisket or chuck instead.
  • Another option is to try lamb or veal shank; both of those meats also make fine goulash.
  • The basic recipe for goulash is quite simple to remember: Equal portions meat and onions, simmered for hours, with a lot of paprika. Everything else is a variation of this original, odd recipe.
  • Some people add pasta directly to the goulash while cooking. This will work fine, as long as you don’t plan on having any leftovers. The pasta will end up as mush.
  • If you want to add potatoes or any other root vegetables, do so at about hour 3. I like my goulash pretty plain, but that’s me I guess.