This recipe is for the traditional spicy Hungarian dish, Magyar Gulyas, with plenty of meat and a garlic-onion brown sauce with a tinge of red, rather than American-style goulash with a tomato base also known as American chop suey and slumgullion. It's rich and satisfying. You can serve it with wine and candlelight, in a bread bowl, or to a bunch of hungry folks who just came in from the cold. A spoonful of sour cream melting in energizes it. It's simple to make, especially with the slow-cooker or instant pot making the meat melt-in-your-mouth tender and deepening the flavors.

What's Going in the Pot for Goulash

For traditional slow cooker goulash, you'll be separately preparing the vegetables, then browning the meat, then creating the sauce. All of these will be combined in the slow cooker and cooked for 7-9 hours. If you have an instant pot, you can do all of the prep cooking in it, taking each round out of the pot and then combining to cook in less than an hour.

hungarian goulash gulyas pot kajakiki / Getty Images


Use Fresh, Robust Stew Beef

Brown three pounds of fresh stew beef or bottom round roast which has been cut into one-inch cubes and seasoned with salt and pepper. Use a large frying pan with two tablespoons of olive oil. Do it in batches and turn the cubes for even browning. Move the meat to the slow cooker and save the skillet as is.

goulash stew beef cubes fresh Lebazele / Getty Images


Caramelized Onions for Signature Flavor

Chop three medium onions and brown them in the skillet. Add 1-1/2 cups beef brother and 1/4 cup flour, three tablespoons paprika, two tablespoons tomato paste, a teaspoon of caraway seeds, a minced garlic clove and a 1/4 teaspoon each of salt, pepper, and sugar. Boil this mixture in the skillet for a couple of minutes until it thickens. Pour it over the meat in the slow cooker.

goulash carmelized onions AdeFinlay / Getty Images


Add Colorful Veggies

Chop two medium carrots and two green bell peppers and put them in the slow cooker. You can add other colors of bell pepper if you like for the same quantity. For a crunchier variation with more diverse flavors, try cooking the dish without these veggies and mixing in roasted vegetables before serving.

goulash roasted fresh vegetables fortyforks / Getty Images


Traditional Hungarian Spices

The Hungarian heritage of this dish comes from the paprika which is ground dried peppers, available in a variety of types of grades of sweetness and spiciness. Typically you will use the standard variety available from the grocery store, but you can explore the gourmet selection to create a sauce which combines well with the vegetables you have selected and any sides or wine.

goulash spice hungarian paprika Drbouz / Getty Images


Slow Cooked Flavor, Tender Meat

With the browned meat, veggies and sauce in the slow cooker put the lid on and cook for 7-9 hours checking towards the end to make sure the meat is tender. Alternatively, an Instant Pot can be used for quick cooking, performing each step in the pot with the corresponding setting and setting each aside. Set for pressure cooking and cook for about 15 minutes, with a 20-minute cooldown before opening.

goulash slow cooker instant pot Devrim_PINAR / Getty Images


Egg Noodles Hold the Flavor Well

Extra-broad egg noodles hold a coating of the goulash sauce and provide a nice firm bite of this delicious dish. Cook them according to package directions. Rice can also be served with goulash, either as a bed beneath or in a separate bowl for diners to combine as they wish.

goulash egg noodles Magone / Getty Images


Sour Cream Completes the Dish

While some Hungarian dishes have sour cream mixed in for a lighter flavor, goulash typically has sour cream added as a topping at the diner's option at the table. Light sour cream works well, but regular has a richer taste which some people may prefer. A garnish of chives or rings of sliced scallion can go on top of the sour cream.

goulash sour cream robynmac / Getty Images


Serve in a Bread Bowl for Casual Convenience

Goulash goes very well with buttered bread or in a bread bowl for a unique presentation. If you cooked the dish in an Instant Pot, the sauce might not be as thick as is desirable for bread bowl use, in which case it can be thickened with a mixture of corn starch and water before serving.

goulash bread bowl serving Ian Murdoch / Getty Images


Pairings for a Special Meal

Reduce the vegetables in the goulash itself and serve the meat, onion and garlic mixture on noodles or rice with a separate vegetable such as steamed broccoli for a meal which goes well with Cabernet Sauvignon wines, Merlot or Shiraz. White wines go well also -- try a Hungarian wine such as those from Szepsy vineyards.

goulash pairing wine broccoli voloshin311 / Getty Images


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