Goulash has so many variations that the lines that distinguish one kind from another are often blurred. American goulash is heavy on tomatoes and often uses ground beef. German goulash, on the other hand, is predominantly all about big chunks of meat, cut about 1 ½ inches big, and uses just a little bit of tomatoes in the form of tomato paste.
A typical German goulash uses roughly a one to one ratio of beef and chopped onions. Worried that the stew will be too onion-y? Don’t be! By the time cooking is done most of the onions will disintegrate and dissolve, leaving behind only liquid and loads of aromatic flavor. The beef is not seared prior to braising. Instead, it’s cooked in beef broth together with caramelized onions, a touch of tomato paste and spices: paprika, bay leaves, marjoram, caraway seeds and pepper. Dry German wine is often added for additional flavor and acidity, but a few tablespoons of red wine vinegar are just as common.
Beef broth plays an important role in making of German goulash. Not only does it add liquid to beef goulash but also brings a lot of flavor. That’s why you will find many German goulash recipes calling for what can be translated as ‘strong beef broth’ – thick, intensely flavored and insanely delicious. But don’t worry, any beef stock will do. I like to use good quality beef bouillon cubes to make beef broth, with a few extra cubes thrown in for stronger flavor. If you can make your own beef broth, do it. There is nothing like homemade broth made with beef bones slowly simmered in water with veggies and spices for several hours, similar to the one used to make pho soup.
Many modern goulash recipes in Germany tend to use a ‘Saucenbinder’, or a sauce thickener. In the classic recipe this is unnecessary as the goulash will thicken plenty on its own if you let it cook uncovered, or partially covered, for a certain amount of time. This will allow the dish to taste rich, flavorful and tasty but without the added calories and the heaviness after you devour a bowl of this goodness. This dish is a great example of soul food that does not leave you feeling guilty. Not unless you pair it with a big bowl of noodles or pasta. It would be a shame though if you don’t as the two go so well together.
- 2 lbs yellow onions (about 6-8 medium onions)
- 4 Tbsp clarified butter (regular butter will work as well)
- 2 lbs lean beef (veal or trimmed chuck is best)
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 tsp caraway seeds
- 2 tsp dried marjoram
- 2 Tbsp sweet paprika
- 2 Tbsp tomato paste
- 3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1 3/4 cup beef broth
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp kosher salt (plus more to taste)
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper (plus more to taste)
- Preheat the oven to 350F if cooking in the oven as opposed to on the stove top.
- Peel and chop the onions very finely. Set aside.
- Heat the butter in a roasting pan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, until golden brown, about 30 minutes.
- In the meantime, trim the beef of any fat and sinew, then cut the beef into about 1" - 1 1/2" pieces. Set aside.
- Peel the garlic, chop, add caraway seeds and mince together with a knife.
- Once the onions are ready, add the beef broth, red wine vinegar, paprika and the meat together with the bay leaves, garlic, caraway seeds, marjoram, and tomato paste. Mix and bring to gentle simmer. Turn the heat down to low, cover and let simmer on the stove top (or in the oven at 350F) until the onions have mostly disintegrated and the beef is tender, about 90 minutes to 2 hours. For a thicker consistency, cook uncovered or partially covered after 1 hour while frequently checking on the progress. Once the goulash is thick enough for your taste, cover and continue cooking until done.
- Season the goulash with salt and pepper, remove the bay leaves and serve while hot.
I would like to make this recipe but someone in my party cannot have butter, what would be a suitable substitute?
Jess, you can substitute it for vegetable oil.
Love this recipe! Added Better than Bouillon 2 Tbsp to make it richer and more beef broth to taste.
Did you add the “Better Than” in addition to the beef broth in re cipe?
Hello…I was wondering if there is a way to make this into soup. I assume just add more broth??
Oh, that’s a tough one. I’ve never tried anything like that with these ingredients so I can’t comment. Adding more broth makes sense but I don’t know if the texture will be preserved when you boil as opposed to stew. You could try adding broth after most of the cooking is done though. Good luck.
I made this for a weekend dinner for the family and in-laws who were visiting. I wish I had taken a picture because it looked delicious. I served it with mashed potatoes, broccoli and a bun. The in-laws loved it and asked for the recipe! It was a bit spicy for them but they loved it. My husband asked me to save the recipe and cook this for his birthday. Thank you for the recipe!
You are welcome. Glad you liked it. Happy cooking!
Can I use ground venison?
I’ve never tried venison in this recipe but it should work fine. The onions will bring a lot of moisture, that’s why I use lean beef. When making venison sausages, I like to add some pork fat (about 15-20%) but I think you should be fine without it in this recipe.
My Sudeten German mother made the best German Goulash during my childhood but failed to share the exact recipe with me before she passed away. So, my son and I used this recipe and incorporated a few ingredients I knew she used in her goulash. We added red wine, used 1/2 Hungarian/1/2 sweet paprika vs all sweet paprika, and added several dashes of Maggi seasoning sauce and the end result was a perfect German Goulash that tasted just like my Mutti’s! We served it over spätzle that had been tossed in Irish butter and a hint of Parmesan cheese and left crumbled goat cheese on the table for an added “garnish.” It was delicious. Thank you for the recipe!
You are very welcome, Melissa. Enjoy!
I thought Hungarian paprika was sweet paprika?
OMG, we love this recipe. I made it on Thursday, then again on Sunday! Thanks for sharing it.
You are very welcome. Enjoy!
This dish is as good as we have it in Germany, we have it with spaetzle and it does not disappoint, a great dish.
Thank you for a wonderful new recipe. Only thing I did not use, was the red wine vinegar. My friend from Karlsruhe, a strong traditional German cook, said it was good, slightly different from her regions style. We had german potato dumplings and noodles to choose from and i served fresh steamed vegetables with it. Different regions in Germany have varying styles and flavors in all foods. Everyone enjoyed it. Now I have 2 types of goulash to make! Made in 12 inch cast iron skillet.
Thank you for a wonderful new recipe. Only thing I did not use, was the red wine vinegar. My friend from Karlsruhe, a strong traditional German cook, said it was good, slightly different from her regions style. We had german potato dumplings and noodles to choose from and i served fresh steamed vegetables with it. Different regions in Germany have varying styles and flavors in all foods. Everyone enjoyed it. Now I have 2 types of goulash to make!
You are very welcome. Enjoy!
Used pressure cooker. Put onions in microwave for 10 minutes and should be 15 or almost full cooked. Put all ingredients with very tender to chuck for 45 minutes. Meat too well and onions too hard still.
So 15-20 micro onions and then all ingredients to 30 pressure cooker.
I tried some beef goulash on a recent trip to Cologne, Germany, and went hunting for a recipe to attempt to replicate it; thus I came across yours! The one I had in Germany was served with lovely big scoops of mashed potato. I notice you recommend noodles/pasta – would you think your recipe would pair well with potatoes as it was so comforting the last time! Thank you!
Hi Jenna, it will pair well with mashed potatoes, you said it yourself. I like mine with pasta and potatoes, depends on the mood. Goulash is typically served with a variety of sides like mashed potatoes, potato dumplings, and pasta a la Tagliatelle, Spaetzle, Mafaldine, Farfalle, Rotini, etc. The beauty of home cooking is that you can create your dishes to 100% suit your taste and mood.
I need to make a meal for 12 people? Can I double this recipe.
Yes, you can double it no problem but expect it to take a bit longer to cook.
The wife and I loved it.
Glad to hear it, Wayne. Enjoy!
I’ve made this several times. Love it!
Similar recipe to our Oma’s Austrian goulash and was loved by all.
This is not German goulash. And I say this having a natural German grandmother who brought her goulash recipe to America and wrote a German cookbook with traditional German recipes.
There isn’t a single goulash recipe both inside or outside of Germany. Different regions in Germany have their own favorite styles, ingredients, and flavors. While your German grandma’s recipe may be different from mine, it doesn’t mean that it’s more German, it’s just different. By the way, I lived in Germany and experienced good old German goulash there.
All German grandmas have their own recipe. My East German great-grandma had to make goulash without meat, often. She added hearty lentils, potatoes or mushrooms because they couldn’t find or afford any meat at times. Get off your uninformed high horse.
Both my parents came from Germany, West and East sides and my father was a highly respected chef. This is the way both my parents made goulash. So thank you Victor for this recipe because I was missing the amounts of seasonings.
You are very welcome, Doris. Enjoy!
This goulash is immaculate! I made it for my family on a rainy day and it warmed our souls. I served it with pasta and it was delicious. My daughter even declared this goulash her favourite dish ever. Thank you so much for this wonderful recipe, I will be making it again soon.
You are so very welcome, Cindy. Happy cooking!
Made recipe as written but found it to taste to much like vinegar.
This is a classic German goulash recipe, that’s how it’s been made for ages. It’s possible that a mistake was made or it’s because of the particular vinegar that was used… If still too vinegary for your taste, just reduce the amount of vinegar next time.
Joseph F. Weber
I made it as listed and it was excellent. 5 stars!
One question however: If I doubled the broth, would you recommend doubling the red wine vinegar?
Good to hear that, Joseph. What’s the reason for doubling the broth, do you want to make it thinner? I’ve never done what you want to do so I can’t be 100% sure about the end result but yes, doubling the vinegar makes sense to maintain the same taste profile. Maybe even double the tomato paste.
If I want to use red wine instead of red wine vinegar how much wine should I use? Also, can the beef cubes be seared or browned first? Does that change the flavor?
Different flavor profiles, I wouldn’t use them as substitutes. Red wine has more flavor, if that’s what you are after, then yes, you can add it or, perhaps, substitute some broth for the wine. I’d do 1/4 to 1/2 cup to start off with. Never tried this recipe with red wine so can’t be 100% certain. Browning beef will definitely add more flavor but I find this dish quite flavorful as it is.
Got this in my slow cooker now, but I added seeded mustard, and mushrooms (only as I had a few to use up) i didn’t have all the separate herbs so used mixed herbs. Fingers crossed!!
Hope it turned out great. Mushrooms and mustard sound like a good addition. I will try that.
I adjusted this to finish off cooking in my slow cooker. I browned the beef first, added to slow cooker. Then cooked the onions in butter until soft then added that to slow cooker. Then cooked off the tomato paste with the spices and garlic until fragrant, added to slow cooker. Deglazed then pan I had been using with a bit off the beef stock then added that alongside the rest of the broth, vinegar and Bay leaves. Cook low and slow for 6-8 hours. It’s perfect! My German partner loves it and says the best he has ever had.
Thanks from New Zealand!
I rarely comment on these blogs but I have to say that this is a terrific recipe. I used my instapot and the result was great. It lasted two days in my home and I live alone. You could drink the sauce!
I’ve made this goulash a few times, mostly for my brother who lived in Frankfurt in the 80s. He says it’s pretty authentic and loves it! He eats every last morsel and keeps requesting for it at every family gathering. Thanks for a great recipe.
You are very welcome. Happy cooking!
Is there cooking instructions for this recipe geared toward instapot/crockpot? I’m new to this whole craze (and cooking haha)
I have no idea how well this recipe will fare in a pressure cooker. In a slow cooker, 6 hours on low or 3-4 hours on high should produce good results. But I’d need to test to be sure.
Just fed my son & DIL and they loved it. I added 1/2 tablespoon paprika more, and a heaping teaspoon of cayenne, but evened that out with another 2 tbsp of tomato paste. Delicious!
Glad to hear that. Thank you for the feedback.
Victor, thank you so much for the perfect cold weather comfort food. I love the onion to meat ratio and will definitely put this in my rotation. Served with kluski noodles and onions with peppers. Your pictures are beautiful, and dead on!
Thank you for the kind words, Krissi. Glad to hear that you liked my recipe.
This a very good recipe. I used to make goulash with my German mother. She added whole peeled carrots the last 45 minutes of cooking. You’re right about tje any different variations of the recipe. It has almost as many as real German potato salad; depending on your region. We’re from Hessen. Thanks for sharing, so many recipes are not even close to classic German goulash.
You are very welcome. Thank you for your feedback. I spent a year in Duesseldorf back in the day and like to make dishes that I tried there.
The instructions do not mention when to add the paprika or red wine vinegar. I assumed it was with everything else after browning the onions. Results are in the oven. Looking forward to enjoying!
Thanks for pointing that out. Fixed. Enjoy the goulash!
Viktor, this recipe has become a staple in my household. Often requested when the weather turns colder on a weekend for tasty leftovers all week. Thanks for sharing!
You are very welcome, Scott. Glad you enjoyed it.
I could eat goulash every day. In Germany every other small local restaurant you can get goulash soup for lunch. Some nice French Bread, or garlic bread for dipping, completes the high.
I add, lots of red peppers, fried like the onions, and coriander, Dijon,
red wine and balsamic.
perfect for a high protein or keto diet.
Thanks for the input, Michael. I will try your idea with lots of peppers.
Goulash is one of my favorite winter time meals. Your recipe is similar to the one I got from my Aunt who lives in Germany. Beautiful pictures.
Thank you for the compliment. I agree, if you want warm, comforting food on a cold day, goulash is a great choice.
This goulash turned out great! Thanks for the recipe. I was a little concerned about the amount of onions but the goulash tasted great in the end. I am going to make it again for sure.