Sitting in a central location, Hungary is a popular tourist destination among those traveling around Europe. The wonderful reviews of Budapest and the comparatively low cost are definitely some of the reasons why many are attracted to this country. However, food in Hungary is not to be overlooked, particularly for foodies. Hungarian cuisine can be very filling and also spicy for those who are not used to eating hot stuff.
What’s Special About Food In Hungary?
Hungary is known for having some hearty and comforting dishes that are great for all seasons, so you will definitely not go hungry here.
Hungarian food typically consists of meats and cheeses, but there are a lot of stews and soups as well! It is a cuisine that varies across the country, but you can certainly find the more well-known traditional food of Hungary in major cities like Budapest.
You will find many of these hungarian dishes are smothered in spicy—but refined—paprika, either as a rub or in a sauce.
Most Popular Hungarian Foods
When we talk about food in hungary, the national dish must be mentioned first. Hungarian goulash is a stew made with beef and vegetables sprinkled with paprika. A very hearty dish, this will warm you right up. You cannot go to Hungary and forget to try this quintessential piece of Hungarian cuisine.
Historically, goulash comes from medieval Hungary, but you can find this dish around central Europe. Unlike the Americanized version, you won’t find noodles or shredded cheese in the traditional version of the meal. In America, this became a common meal for cowboys and herdsmen.
It is really easy to make goulash, since everything cooks in one pot. All you have to do is put all of the ingredients in and simmer in the beef broth until the beef and vegetables are cooked to your liking.
This a chicken dish with a rich and creamy paprika sauce that can be found anywhere you go in Hungary, even as a street food! You will also most likely have a side of sour cream to dip into as well. You will typically have this dish served with dumplings or pasta.
This is a fairly simple dish to make, since there aren’t many ingredients and they all come together in one pot that is boiled until ready to be served. The dish has a distinct golden-red coloring—the best way to get this color in your dish is by using imported Hungarian paprika from the Kalocsa region. Using this authentic paprika makes all of the different in your meal.
Langos is a Hungarian food that you may have never heard of, but once you are visiting the county you will notice it on the menu everywhere you go. It is a deep-fried bread that comes topped with really anything you want. Typically, though, it will come with sour cream and a shredded cheese.
Langos goes back centuries, when villagers in Hungary would save bread dough to make a little treat for themselves. The name “langos” comes from the Hungarian word for flame, “lang,” since it is traditionally cooked over a flame in the oven.
Overtime, langos began to resemble a deep-fried pizza snack. Whether you add sweet or savory toppings, and have this in the morning for breakfast or sometime during the day, you will certainly be satisfied with your treat.
Hungarian Food: Soups and Stews
If you are looking for another soup option to warm you up, try the fisherman’s soup. The broth is spiced with paprika and simmers with thick cuts of fresh white fish that has been caught from the Danube or Tisza rivers. Traditionally, this soup is made outside on an open fire over several hours and the broth is usually made from scratch.
This is a really common dish in Hungary to be served on Christmas Eve.
You would typically eat the dish with a slice of warmed bread and a glass of Hungarian white wine, both because they are delicious and to counter the spices in the soup!
While there is no English translation for this Hungarian dish, you don’t need to be able to pronounce it to enjoy! This is a thick vegetable stew and is considered to be rather healthy. You will find variations of this cozy comfort meal that include peas, potato, lentils, beans, and carrots, which can all be simmered in a flour roux mixed with sour cream.
There is no one way to prepare fozelek, so you can find different variations as you travel around Hungary and depending on the time of year you are in the country. All vegetables can be found in this stew, so you can make it uniquely your own.
Don’t be confused by its pink coloring and whipped cream on top, this sour cherry soup is less dessert and more stand-alone meal. It is made of sour cherries mixed with sour cream and sugar and then chilled, giving you a tart, creamy, and fresh tasting meal if you don’t want to always have a meat and cheese dish.
This is a seasonal dish, since you need cherries in order to make it. And since it is served chilled, it tends to be more enjoyable in the warmer months anyways!
This is a dish that is wildly loved by the kids in Hungary since it is a sweet treat when they take breaks from playing outside in the summer months. It also is fairly sweet, so maybe kids are the only ones that have the taste pallet to enjoy this cool soup!
FLAVORS AROUND THE WORLD
Other Traditional Food In Hungary
You may not think of stuffed peppers when you think of food in Hungary, but this is a traditional meal that can be enjoyed by meat-lovers and vegetarians. The peppers can come stuffed with a variety of filling and yummy things, like meat, vegetables, and rice. It is then cooked in a simmering paprika sauce, which you can drizzle on top as well.
Stuffed peppers in Hungary exist thanks to influence from the Turks and the Ottoman Empire. The Hungarian version, toltott paprika, uses Hungarian peppers instead of bell peppers, which are thinly skinned and cook quicker.
These are cheese noodles, made with a flat and wine noodle mixed with turo cheese. Turo cheese has a consistency sort of like cottage or ricotta cheeses. The dish is also topped typically with a fatty bacon, which can be removed if you want the dish to be vegetarian.
Pasta entered Hungarian diets at some point in the 19th century. By mixing pasta with a common Hungarian staple like cottage cheese and pieces of bacon, you have a whole meal made quickly. For a savory version, people may add cabbage pieces as well, or they will add walnuts and jams for a sweeter version.
This is Hungarian ratatouille, a thick vegetable stew with yellow peppers, onion, garlic, tomato, and of course, paprika, cooked with a sunflower oil. You can either have this as a side dish or as a main meal.
You can find a variation of lecho around central and eastern Europe, but it is prepared differently depending on where you are. For example, it is a side dish in Germany and can be denser and sweeter than you would find in Hungary. And in Russia, it is a cold main dish. Hungarian lecho tends to be more liquidy than other recipes.
While more of a dessert than a meal or side dish, palacsinta is the Hungarian version of crepes. Unlike crepes though, the dough a filling it rolled up rather than folded like in France. The fillings typically include what you would normally find in food in Hungary—meats, onions, and topped with paprika sauces and sour cream. For a sweet option, you can typically find them with walnuts and chocolate sauce.
Palacsinta originated during the Roman empire in modern Czech, where Hungarians than adapted the recipe. Hungarian versions are much thinner than their counterparts and the batter does not have to be chilled before preparing.
The most common version of palacsinta ia the gundel pancake, which is a sweet version made from ground walnuts, candid orange peels, raisins, cinnamon, and rum. It is served flambeed with a dark chocolate sauce.
This is stuffed cabbage and is a well-known comfort Hungarian food. Cabbage leaves are typically pickled and then stuffed with meats and rice and then smothered in a sour cream. This is a very savory and richly flavorful dish.
This is a dish that comes from medieval Hungary, which was then adapted during the Ottoman Empire when the Turks would stuff cabbage with meats.
The Hungarian cabbage roll is made with either sweet or sauerkraut cabbage rolls. It is typically eaten during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, but is also common to be eaten year round. If eaten during the Christmas holdiays, it is said that you will have wealth and health for the new year.
With all of these soups, you need a carb that pairs well with foods in Hungary. Kifli is a crescent bread that can be eaten as a side smeared with butter or can be a small stand-alone snack if cut in half and paired with meats and cheeses as a sandwich. Unlike typical crescent rolls, these are made with a yeast dough, which makes them more dense.
The history of Kifli isn’t well known but many think that the dish comes from when the Christians defended Buda from the Ottoman Empire and that this dish was created by bakers as a celebration.
This is another dish that you can expect to see on your plate during Christmastime.
Roasted Goose Liver and Hungarian Fois Gras
While you may expect to only see fois gras in France, Hungarians have also been making this delicious meal for many centuries. Roasted goose liver is also a must try dish, and one that is not shrouded in as much controversy as fois gras can be.
Wine In Hungary
Thinking about what to drink with these meals? Knowing what wine in Hungary to pair with your meal will help round it all out.
There are four wine regions in Hungary—Tokaj, Villany, Eger, and Nagy Somlo. For a long time, the Tokaj wine was considered to be the best wine in Europe and was common in royal palaces throughout the continent. Hungarian wine production has been stalled following phylloxera disease in grapes, the two World Wars, and the USSR, but thankfully the production is bouncing back.
Here are the types of wines in Hungary you can find, based off the region it was grown in.
These are the country’s golden wines, with the most famous types being a sweet white wine and a dry white wine. Tokaj is also the world’s oldest classified wine region. The notes of the sweet white wine are tangerines and apricots, with cloves and cinnamon. The sweetness comes from honey or nectar.
This region is in Southern Hungary and is famous for its red wine. Thanks to the sub-Mediterranean climate, the wines that come out of this region have good tannins and a fruity-earthen taste that is unique and world-class.
Eger is in Northern Hungary and this region is best known for its red and white blend. The red blend is the flagship wine of the area and is a full-bodied flavor with hints of forest fruits and a good acidity.
The smallest of the wine regions in Hungary, the volcanic bedrock in Nagy Somlo make a very smokey white wine that really unique to this region of the world.
Discovering Hungarian Food In Hungary
No matter where you are in Hungary, you will no doubt find a delectable traditional meal of Hungary cuisine that you will want to recreate when you get home. Paired with a famous white wine or a full bodied red blend, you will be thinking about the meals you’ve had on this trip for a long time.