Hungarian Beef Stew

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Compliments of:  The Western Reserve School of Cooking


Serve the stew over boiled potatoes or buttered egg noodles


  • 1 (3 ½ to 4-pound) boneless beef chuck-eye roast, pulled apart at seams, trimmed, and cut into 1 ½ inch pieces
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/3 cup paprika
  • 1 cup jarred roasted red peppers, rinsed and patted dry
  • 2 Tbs tomato paste
  • 1 Tbs distilled white vinegar
  • 2 Tbs vegetable oil
  • 4 large onions, chopped fine
  • 4 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch rounds
  • 1 bay leave
  • 1 cup beef broth, warmed
  • ¼ cup sour cream (optional)


Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Season meat evenly with 1 tsp salt and let stand for 15 minutes. Process paprika, roasted peppers, tomato paste, and 2 tsp. Vinegar in food processor until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes, scrapping down sides as needed.

Combine oil, onions, and 1 tsp salt in Dutch oven; cover and set over medium heat. Cook, Stirring occasionally, until onions soften but have not yet begun to brown, 8 to 10 minutes. (If onions begin to brown, reduce heat to medium-low and stir in 1 Tbs water.)

Stir in paprika mixture; cook, stirring occasionally, until onions stick to bottom of pot, about 2 minutes. Add beef, carrots, and bay leaf, stir until beef is well coated. Using rubber spatula, scrape down sides of pot. Cover pot and transfer to oven. Cook until meat is almost tender and surface of liquid is 1/2-inch below top of meat, 2 to 2 ½ hours, stirring every 30 minutes. Remove pot from oven and add enough beef broth so that surface of liquid is ¼ inch from top of meat (beef should not be fully submerged). Return covered pot to oven and continue to cook until fork slips easily in and out of beef, about 30 minutes longer.

Using large spoon, skim fat off surface; stir in remaining teaspoon vinegar. If using sour cream, stir a few tablespoons of hot sauce into sour cream to temper it, and then stir mixture back into pot. Remove bay leaf, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve. (Stew, minus optional sour cream, can be refrigerated for up 2 days. Stir sour cream into reheated stew just before serving.)

Why This Recipe Works: The Americanized versions of Hugarian goulash served in the United States bear little resemblance to the traditional dish. Mushrooms, green peppers, and most herbs have no place in the pot and sour cream is not authentic to the dish. We wanted the real deal – a simple dish of tender braised beef packed with paprika flavor. Though we don’t add liquid to the stew itself (for more on covered pot cooking see concept 9), a bit of broth added near the end thins out the stewing liquid to just the right consistency.

Make Paprika Cream: To achieve the desired level of spicy intensity, we create our own version of paprika cream, a condiment in Hungarian cooking but hard to find in the United States. Pureeing the paprika with roasted red peppers, tomato paste, and vinegar imparts vibrant paprika flavor without any grittiness. Do not substitute hot, half-sharp, or smoked Spanish paprika for the sweet paprika; they will compromise the flavor of the dish.

Skip The Sear, Not The Flavor: Most stews begin by browning meat in the stove top to boost flavor. They also call for lots of added liquid. Like our Easy Pot Roast recipe (page 77), this recipe skips the sear and goes into a moderate 325-degree oven. Over time, the dry top layer of meat will begin to brown, forming new flavor compounds. (See “Low-Temperature Browning” page 77.) We stir the meat every 30 minute to expose new surfaces and promote as much if the slow browning to take place as possible.