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Table of contents

General notes

Hungarian peppers are yellow or pale green, and are neither sweet nor spicy. They are hard but not impossible to come by in the U.S. For example, Ralphs sells them in San Diego. There is no really good substitute for them, but Anaheims are still better than anything else.

In all of the recipes below, parsnip is a reasonable substitute for parsley roots. Use parsley roots if available.

Every Hungarian meat dish that starts by browning onions on oil benefits from browning a small amount of finely chopped bacon in the oil before the onions. Hungarian bacon has a characteristic smoky taste. If you can get a hold of it, frying a small amount with the onions will impart a lot of Hungarian flavor to your dish. The same goes for Hungarian sausage: substituting other kinds of sausage will significantly impair your Hungarian food experience.

Cottage cheese is an ingredient of many Hungarian desserts. Cottage cheese in the U.S. carries little resemblance to cottage cheese in Hungary. For one, it's salted, which doesn't taste too good in dessert. I make my own, but you could try to buy it at a European, especially Eastern-European deli. In a pinch, you could try to substitute ricotta.

Soups and fozelekek


1.5 large chopped onion
400 g cubed beef
400 g cubed pork
200 g pinto beans (optional)
1 chopped Hungarian yellow pepper (or any other chili)
1 chopped tomato
3-4 carrots
1 big parsley root
4-5 potatoes
2 tsp red paprika
2 dried hot chilies
1/2 tsp caraway seeds
garlic (optional), caraway seeds (optional), peppercorns (optional), salt, oil

If using beans, soak them in water the night before.

Fry the onions in oil at medium-low heat. In the meantime, in a separate pot, heat some oil at high heat and quickly brown the meat. The faster you can do this the better. When the meat is brown on the outside but certainly not cooked on the inside, turn off heat and set aside. When the onions are golden in color and transparent, turn heat to medium-high, and add crushed garlic (optional), paprika, dried chilies, 10-12 peppercorns (optional), and caraway seeds (optional), yellow pepper, and tomato and fry until fragrant. Add the meat, 1.5 tsp salt, and just barely enough water to cover the meat. Braise on low heat until the meat is almost done.

Add beans, sliced carrots and parsley root, followed by the peeled diced potatoes. Cook until done, and adjust the seasoning. Serve with fresh bread.

An alternate way of making gulyas is to cook the carrots and the parsley root whole in the soup, remove, puree, and return them just before serving.

Majgaluska leves (liverball soup)

200 g chicken liver
1 egg
1/4 onion
beef bullion, parsley, bread crumbs, pepper, paprika, vegetable oil, salt

Clean the chicken liver and blend it with the egg, 1/3 tsp black pepper, and some salt. Wilt the chopped onion on some vegetable oil and add 1 tsp chopped parsley. Add to the liver with 1/3 tsp paprika. Add enough bread crumbs to achieve the normal consistency (be warned that bread crumbs take time to swell, so wait to adjust the consistency after adding them). Make 1 liter of beef bullion (adding a green pepper and a tomato chopped makes the soup taste better). When the soup is boiling, make the liver balls by carefully dropping small pieces of the paste in the soup. Cook for ten minutes.

Szoljanka (tangy beef soup)

All right, so this is Ukranian by origin, but this recipe is certainly Hungarianized.
500-600 g beef (preferably leg)
2 onions
2 carrots
1 parsley root
1/2 tomato
1/2 yellow pepper
2 pickled (preferably kovaszos, see later) cucumbers
2 slices of ham
1/2 l of tomato juice
2 dl sour cream
peppercorn, saffron, vegetable oil, bay leaves, lemon, dill, parsley,cellery
leaves, paprika, salt

Boil the meat with enough water to cover it. Remove the foam that forms. Add 1 whole onion, the tomato, the yellow pepper, the carrot, the parsley root, 6-7 peppercorns, a little saffron, and salt. Cook for 1-1.5 hours. Discard the onion. Fish out the meat and cut it up into small pieces. Fry 1 diced onion on oil. Add a little red paprika, 2 bay leaves, the meat, the diced cucumber, 2 slices of lemon, the diced ham, a little dill, parsley, and cellery leaves. Fry a little and add the tomato juice. Cook for 3 min, and add to the soup. Boil and add the sour cream. Let it boil for a while.

Toltott paprika (stuffed peppers)

400 g ground pork
1.5-2 kg tomato
4+ Hungarian peppers
3 spoons of rice
1 egg
1 small red onion
flour, vegetable oil, pepper, paprika, salt, sugar

Cook the rice with some salt. Add the pork, the egg, the diced onion, pepper, paprika, salt. Dice the tomatoes, cook for 30 min, and filter the juice. Cook the peppers for 5 min. Remove them from the water and let the water cool. When both this water and the tomato juice are lukewarm or cold, make a roux with 2 tbsp flour and 1 tbsp oil. Add some red paprika, the tomato juice and the water that the peppers had been cooked in. Stir and add salt and sugar. Stuff the meat paste into the peppers and form dumplings out of the rest. Add them to the sauce when it boils. Cook for an hour.

Krumplifozelek (potato fozelek)

500 g potatoes
2 dl sour cream
4-6 eggs
vegetable oil, flour, milk, garlic, bay leaves, vinegar, paprika, salt

Cook the diced potatoes with 1/2 tsp. salt and two bay leaves with just enough water to cover them until almost done. In the meantime, mix 1 tbsp flour with a little milk and the sour cream. Make a light brown roux with the oil, 1.5 tbsp flour, 2 cloves of crushed garlic, 1/2 tsp paprika and 1 dl milk. It's best to remove the garlic before adding the milk, I put it in the oil in a small metallic colander, so I can just lift it out and throw it away. Otherwise, the garlic flavor may be too strong. Add to the potatoes and stir smooth. Stir in the sour cream + flour mixture. Put the eggs in it and don't stir until the eggs are cooked. Correct the taste with salt and vinegar.

Babfozelek, lencsefozelek (bean or lentil fozelek)

300 g dry beans or dry lentils
2 dl sour cream
vegetable oil, flour, milk, garlic, bay leaves, vinegar, paprika, salt, mustard (optional), sugar (optional)

If you are using dry beans, soak them in water overnight. Cook the lentils with a few bay leaves with just enough water to cover them until done. In the meantime, mix 1 tbsp flour with a little milk and the sour cream. Make a light brown roux with the oil, 1.5 tbsp flour, 2 cloves of crushed garlic, 1/2 tsp paprika and 1 dl milk. Instead of milk, you can also use some of the water the lentils are cooking in, both here and in the previous mixture. Stir it smooth with the lentils. Stir in the sour cream + flour mixture. Correct the taste with salt and vinegar. Add some mustard if you like, it really brings out the flavor of the lentils. Some people like to sweeten it a little with sugar.

To make soup, dilute and cook 1/2 tomato, 1/2 yellow pepper, and a small onion with the beans or lentils. Remove the onion before adding the flour.

Borsofozelek (pea fozelek):

500 g peas
vegetable oil, flour, milk, paprika, parsley, salt

Cook the peas with 1/2 tsp. salt with just enough water to cover them until almost done. Make a light brown roux with 2 tbsp flour and oil until and add 1/2 tsp paprika, and chopped parsley. Fry a little more, add 1 dl milk, then add to the peas.

(Mostly) vegetable dishes:

Rakott krumpli (potato casserole)

600 g potatoes
5-6 eggs
100-150 g sausage
2.5 dl sour cream
vegetable oil, salt

Cook the potatoes in water. When about half done cook the eggs in the same water for about 10 min. Put the eggs in cold water, peel them, and slice them up. Peel the potatoes and slice them up too. Briefly fry the sliced sausage in some oil. Put some oil in pan and layer the potatoes, the eggs, the sausage, about 1.5 dl sour cream, and the oil that the sausage was fried in. Put it in the oven and bake on high heat for about 20-25 min. Serve with the remaining sour cream.

Paprikas krumpli (potato stew)

600 g potatoes
2 sausages
1/2 yellow pepper
1 small tomato
1 big onion
vegetable oil, red paprika, salt

Wilt the onion on the oil. Add 1 tsp red paprika and the diced potatoes, the tomato and the yellow pepper. Fry the potatoes a little, and add the sliced sausage. Fry a little more, then add just enough water to cover the potatoes and salt. Cook on low heat for about 30 min.

Meat dishes

Porkolt (meat stew)

400-500 g meat (beef or pork)
1 onion
1 Hungarian pepper
1/2 tomato
salt, paprika, caraway seeds, peppercorn, garlic

You want tender meat (beat it if necessary) that is at least slightly fatty. Chop the onion, and brown it on some oil. Add 3-4 cloves of chopped garlic, the chopped pepper, and 2 tsp paprika. Fry on medium heat until fragrant. Add the cubed meat and brown it. Add 1/2 tsp salt, 1/8 tsp caraway seeds, 1/4 tsp peppercorns, and just enough water to cover the meat. Braise on low heat for two hours, or until tender. Add the chopped tomato. Correct the seasoning.

Vadas (beef in carrot sauce)

600 g beef
1 big red onion
250-300 g carrot
2 parsley roots
2 dl sour cream
4 rolls
2 eggs
flour, milk, mustard, bay leaves, pepper, vegetable oil, paprika, sugar, salt

Beat the beef soft and marinate with a little salt, pepper, and oil for a day. Wilt the diced onion on some oil. Add a little paprika, the meat and 2-3 bay leaves. Fry mildly. When the meat turns brown, cover it with water and braise until it's half-cooked (40-50 min). In the meantime, dice the carrot and the parsley roots and add to the meat. Cook completely (30-40 min). When everything is tender, remove the meat and the bay leaves and blend the rest in a blender. Add 1 tbsp mustard. Stir 2 tbsp flour smooth with some milk. Add the sour cream. Stir this into the sauce. Add sugar to the sauce if necessary. Boil the sauce and stir in the sour cream. Add milk if needed to achieve right consistency. Add the beef.To make the dumplings, dice the rolls and toast the pieces. Put it in a bowl and add 1 dl of milk and let is soak in. Add the eggs and 3-4 tbsp flour. Mix and form dumplings from the paste with floured hands. Cook them in salted water for about 10 min.

Eszterhazy rostelyos (steaks with pasta and carrot sauce)

600 g beef
1 big onion
150-200 g carrot
1 big parsley root
2 dl sour cream
milk, mustard, bay leaves, pepper, vegetable oil, paprika, sugar, salt

Very similar to vadas. Differences:

Hortobagyi husos palacsinta (meaty pancakes from Hortobagy)

500 g ground meat (Pork, beef, or chicken or any mix of these. Beef by itself
is not as tasty.)
1 big onion
1 tomato
1 Hungarian pepper (or whatever chili you have handy)
2 dl sour cream
4 dl flour
2.5 dl milk
100 ml carbonated water (seltzer is good, club soda is bad)
2 eggs
vegetable oil, salt, black pepper, paprika, parsley

Make pancakes from the eggs, flour, milk, carbonated water with 1/2 tsp salt (Adjust the consistency if necessary. It should look like heavy cream. Let the batter rest for 1/2 hour if you have time.) Brown the diced onion on some oil. Add the meat, 2 tsp red paprika, salt, the tomato, and the yellow pepper. Braise in little water until done. Filter through a colander. Add 100 ml of sour cream to the gravy. Add enough gravy to the meat to make a paste, and keep the rest for serving. Roll the paste in the pancakes. Pour some gravy on the pancakes and put them in the oven at 200 C for 20-25 min or until slightly crisp. When serving, pour more gravy and sour cream on them. Garnish with chopped parsley.

Gombas tokany (mushroom beef stew)

400 g pork or beef
200 g mushroom
200 g tarhonya (This looks like couscous, but it's not as rubbery. Italians call it acini di pepe.)
2 dl sour cream
1 big onion
1 tomato
1 yellow pepper
vegetable oil, black pepper, marjoram, salt

Brown the diced onion on some oil. Add the meat cut in strips and 1/2 tsp of black pepper, 1 tsp of marjoram, the tomato, the yellow pepper, and salt. Roast with little water. When half done, add the chopped mushroom. When done add the sour cream. Roast the tarhonya on a little oil. Cook it with 1.5 times as much water. Mix and serve.

Steak tartar

Ok, so this is originally French. But this version is far from the original French recipe. Most Hungarians would be convinced that steak tartar is as Hungarian as gulyas. What do the French have to do with Tartars anyway?
400 g tenderloin
1 egg
1 small onion
butter, black pepper, piros arany (chili sauce), mustard, salt

Grind the meat twice. Mix in the egg, some butter, the ground onion, 1/2 tsp black pepper, salt, piros arany, mustard. Correct the seasoning. Serve with toast bread.

Staples and pickles

Galuska (homemade pasta)

1.5-2 cups flour
1 egg

Fill a big pot with water add some salt and boil. In the meantime, put the flour in a big bowl add the egg, 1/2 tsp salt, and a tbsp of oil. Add some water and mix the ingredients with a wisk or hand blender. Add more water if needed until the consistency of the batter is that of thick sour cream.

Make little dumplings--using a proper utensil designed for this purpose makes this much easier--and cook them in the boiling water until they float to the top and are cooked. Filter through a colander and add some oil to keep the dumplings from sticking.

Kovaszos uborka (dill pickles)

1-1.5 kg cucumber
1 package of dill
1 piece of bread

Cut in the cucumbers. Mix 2-3 l hot water with 2 tsp salt. Put half the dill in a jar, then the cucumbers, then the remaining dill. Fill up with the water. Put the bread on top. Let it ferment on strong sunshine for 3 days.

Savanyu kaposzta (sauerkraut)

1.5 kg cabbage
3 tbsp salt
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp peppercorns

Slice the cabbage as thinly as possible. Mix with the salt, bay leaves, and peppercorns. Wait until it releases some juice. Then tap it down so that it's covered with its own juice. Cover with plastic foil, and weigh it down with a plate and some weight on it (at least 1.5 kg).


Turo (cottage cheese)

1/2 gal milk
4 oz buttermilk

Mix ingredients in a bowl, cover loosely, and set aside in a warm place for 24 hours. A gas oven with the pilot flame on makes an excellent warm place. If you don't have a warm place wait longer than a day. The result should taste like buttermilk and have the consistency of yogurt. It's actually just sour milk, and is perfectly suitable for drinking, or makes a nice light meal with a piece of bread.

If you plan to make it again soon, you may want to set a little of the culture aside in a container in the fridge. You can use it instead of the buttermilk next time to start the fermentation.

Pour the sour milk in a heat resistant container, and put it in the oven at 200 F for about 4 hours. This will make the curd separate from the whey. Strain it through a kitchen cloth. This is a slow process. You'll probably need to let the cloth hang for 24 hours. This makes about 12 oz of cottage cheese.

Rakoczi turos (cottage cheese cake)

For the dough:
200 g flour
125 g margarine
1 egg yolk
5 g baking powder
50 g sugar
1/2 dl sour cream

For the filling:
2 egg yolks
100 g sugar
10 g vanilla sugar
300 g cottage cheese (or just use all the cottage cheese from the
previous recipe)
1 Tsp. meal or cookie crumbs or farina
grated lemon peel

For the merangue:
3 egg whites
1 Tsp. sugar

Mix the dough and let it rest for a while. Spread jam on top and sprinkle with the cookie crumbs. Mix the rest of the ingredients for the filling. Spread the filling over the dough. Bake it in the oven at 375 for about 25 min. Beat the egg whites until stiff, then add sugar and beat a little more until shiny. Spread the foam over the filling and turn off the oven. Leave in the oven until the merangue on top sets.

Kokuszos szelet (coconut cubes)

For the dough:
250 g farina
200 g sugar
2 Tsp. honey
30 g margarine
1 egg
1 dl milk
tiny bit of baking soda

For the cream:
300 g sugar
150 g margarine
3 tbsp cocoa
1 dl milk
5 tbsp rum
coconut shaving

Mix the ingredients for the dough and spread it in the pan over some margarine and flour. Bake it on high heat for 10-15 min. Cut up the dough. Mix the ingredients for the cream without the rum and the coconut shavings. Cook until thick. Add the rum. Soak the pieces of dough in it, and roll them in the coconut shavings.

Somloi galuska

For the dough:
6 eggs
6 tbsp of sugar
6 tbsp of flour
vanilla extract
2 tbsp cocoa powder
baking soda

For the walnut cream:
100 g butter
100 g ground walnuts
2 dl milk
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp rum
1 tbsp flour

For the chocolate cream:
200 ml milk
1 egg
1 tbsp sugar
100 g butter
1 tsp flour
2 tbsp cocoa

For the topping:
300 ml whipping cream
100 ml milk
1 tbsp rum
100 g sugar
2 tbsp cocoa powder
a handful of raisins soaked in rum

Butter and flour two pie pans. Preheat the oven to 180 C. Beat the egg whites until stiff. Beat in the sugar, then the yolks. Carefully fold in the flour and a pinch of baking soda. Split the batter in two. Fold the cocoa powder in one half and add vanilla to the other. Bake for about 15 min, or until a fork comes out clean. Turn out onto plates while hot.

To make the nut cream, mix the walnuts, butter, milk, flour, sugar, and rum. Bring to a boil, while stirring constantly, then let it cool. While still fluid then spread over one of the cakes and put the other cake on top. Once the walnuts cream has solidified, cut the cake into small cubes. Pile them in a bowl, and sprinkle with the raisins. Mix the milk with 50 g sugar and the rum and sprinkle over the cake.

For the chocolate cream, mix the milk, the beaten egg, butter, flour, sugar, and cocoa. Cook at low heat, stirring constantly, until thick. Don't let it boil. Let it cool a little, then pour it over the cake cubes.

Before serving, mix the remaining cocoa with sugar and a little water to make a thick sauce. Serve the cake with whipped cream and pour this sauce over the the whipped cream.

Egyszeru vajasteszta (simple puff paste)

280 g flour
220 g margarine
200 ml sour cream
juice of 1/2 lemon
pinch of salt

Knead the ingredients together. Let them rest in the fridge overnight. Roll out the dough, and fold several times.

Kepviselofank (Ecklers)

Makes about 20.

200 g flour
100 ml oil
5 eggs
200 ml water
pinch of salt

5 eggs
600 ml milk
100 g flour
150 g sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

50 g butter
1 tsp sugar
1.5 tbsp cocoa powder

250 ml whipping cream.

Heat the water with the oil and the salt in a pot. When it starts to boil, add the flour and stir smooth. Remove from the heat. Stir in the eggs one by one. Make plum-size droplets from the dough, and place them on a cookie sheet. Bake at 400 F for 15-20 min. Don't open the oven during this time. Turn off the oven but leave the cakes in there for another 5 min. Cut each in half and carve out the middle.

Boil 2/3 of the milk with the vanilla. Mix the egg yolks with the rest of the sugar, milk, and flour. Add to the milk and cook on low heat while stirring until it separates from the pot. Beat the egg whites until stiff. Beat in 2/3 of the sugar. Fold in the vanilla mixture. Fill the bottoms of the shells fill with this cream. Cool in the fridge for an hour.

Soften the butter, and stir in the sugar and cocoa powder. Dip the tops of the shells in this.

When ready to serve put some whipped cream on the bottom half and cover with the top.

Kremes (vanilla cream pie)

Ingredients of puff paste plus
6 eggs
240 g sugar
120 g flour
1.5 tsp vanilla extract
600 ml milk

Make puff paste (see recipe) and split it in two. Roll the two sheets out and bake them.

Boil 2/3 of the milk with the vanilla. Mix the egg yolks with the rest of the sugar, milk, and flour. Add to the milk and cook on low heat while stirring until it separates from the pot. Beat the egg whites until stiff. Beat in 2/3 of the sugar. Fold in the vanilla mixture. Layer on one of the sheets while still hot, then cover with the other sheet. Cool in the fridge for a few hours.

Franciakremes (vanilla cream pie with whipped cream)

Ingredients of puff paste plus
3 eggs
120 g sugar
60 g flour
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
300 ml milk
400 ml whipping cream

Follow the recipe for kremes, but put a layer of whipped cream on the vanilla cream after it has cooled down. Cover the top sheet with fondant (see recipe).


200 g sugar
splash of lemon juice and rum

Boil the sugar with 100 ml of water and a splash of lemon juice, until it no longer bubbles. Test it by dropping a little in cold water. When the droplet no longer mixes with the water, turn off the heat. Transfer to a cold pot and add a splash of rum. Stir until the fondant starts to solidify. Use it before it sets. This is tricky.

Piskotateszta (sponge dough)

3 eggs
3 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp flour
pinch of baking soda

Beat the egg whites until stiff. Beat in the sugar, followed by the yolks. Now carefully fold in the flour and the baking soda. Bake at 350 F for 15-20 min.

Oroszkrem-torta (Russian cream cake)

For the dough:
sponge dough from 5 eggs.

For the cream:
5 eggs
150 g sugar
100 g raisins soaked in rum
100 g candied fruit or sour cherry preserve
300 ml milk
30 g gelatin
600 ml whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla extract

Separate the sponge dough into three layers.

Beat the eggs with milk, sugar, and vanilla over low heat until thick. Dissolve the gelatin in hot water, and add to this mixture. Remove from the stove and keep stirring while it cools. Just before it sets, fold in half the whipped cream. Spread the cream between the layers of the cake, reserving enough to cover the cake outside. Sprinkle with the raisins and the fruit. Cover the outside with the same cream. Garnish with the rest of the whipped cream and the left over fruit.

Turos taska (cottage cheese bags)

Ingredients of puff paste plus:
300 g cottage cheese
1 tbsp sour cream
1 egg
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp bread crumbs
50 g raisins
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
grated peel of 1/2 lemon

Reserve a little bit of the egg yolk to brush on the cakes. Mix the egg yolk with the rest of the ingredients. Beat and fold in the egg white. Roll the dough 2-3 mm thick, and cut it into 25 cm x 25 cm squares. Put the filling in the middle of the squares. Mix the left over egg yolk with a little water. Brush the four corners of the cakes with this mixture and fold them up so that the look like stuffed envelopes. Brush the top of the cakes with the egg yolk, and bake at 375 F for 20-30 min. Makes about 4 cakes.

Makos kocka (poppy seed squares)

For the dough:
300 g flour
150 g margarine
2 tbsp sour cream
pinch of salt

For the filling:
250 g poppy seeds
200 g sugar
300 ml milk
50 g farina
2 egg whites
a handful of raisins

Mix the ingredients for the dough. Roll out the dough 3-4 mm thick. Make two sheets.

Heat the milk. Grind the poppy seeds with the sugar. When the milk starts to boil, add the poppy seeds, sugar, and farina. Cook on low heat until the farina swells. Add the raisins and the lemon peel and fold in the beaten egg whites. Layer the filling on one of the sheets and cover with the other sheet. Score a square pattern on the top sheet with a sharp knife. Brush the top with the left over yolks. Bake at 425 F until golden brown, about 25 min.


Some of these recipes are from cook books. In particular, many of the dessert recipes come from a cook book by Ilona Horvath. It's probably ok to use them, as long as you don't win any major culinary contests with them and then claim they were your invention.