Goulash Soup

  • Servings : 8
  • Prep Time : 60m
  • Cook Time : 4:000 h
  • Ready In : 5:000 h

I made a kickass gulaÅ¡ (Czechs would probably call it gulaÅ¡ova polevka – gulaÅ¡ soup) over the weekend. It’s surprisingly easy and amazingly good and could probably be done in a crock pot with a bit of alteration. I’ll try to recreate the recipe here, but keep in mind I generally do this stuff by eye instead of strictly measuring so precision will be somewhat low.

Important note: Spanish paprika is an inferior product and gulaÅ¡ made from it will therefore be inferior. Get some Hungarian paprika before attempting this recipe. The difference in final quality is significant. This is where I get mine. – Bartolimo


  • Broth Foundation
  • 2-4 medium celeriacs (celery root - available in far more places than I expected, including many chain grocery stores)
  • 4-5 onions, approximately equal weight to the celeriac
  • 2-3 medium parsnips
  • 1 medium/large rutabaga
  • 4 ounces salt pork (can be hard to find, oddly enough I got my last package at Walmart but no other stores here carry it)
  • 4 tablespoons butter (1/2 stick)
  • 2 bottles Czech beer (dark preferred, but Pilsner Urquell is acceptable) OR 1 bottle Czech beer and 6-8 ounces red wine
  • Optional: 1-2 medium tomatoes (I believe using these makes it "gypsy gulaÅ¡.")
  • ...
  • Meat
  • 2-3 pounds pork, preferably bone-in
  • 2-3 pounds beef, preferably bone-in
  • ...
  • Spices
  • Hungarian Paprika (hot or sweet, I usually use a combination for best flavor)
  • caraway seeds
  • salt
  • pepper
  • marjoram
  • Spices work in three "doses" for best flavor. Each dose is added at a key point in the cooking cycle.
  • Dose 1: 2-3 tablespoons paprika 1-2 teaspoons caraway seeds 1/2 teaspoon (or more) salt Grind the caraway seeds thoroughly. I use a burr grinder or put the salt in the mortar and pestle with the caraway, because they're quite tough and harder to grind than most spices.
  • Dose 2: 2-3 tablespoons paprika ~10 whole black peppercorns salt Peppercorns should probably be broken up to at least a coarse grind. Some folks don't like a chunk of gummy pepper in their spoonful of stew. I kind of do.
  • Dose 3: 2-3 tablespoons paprika 1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds up to 2 teaspoons dried marjoram (I have never seen Czechs use fresh) Here's one of the secrets to highly complex flavor from only two main spices. Put the caraway seeds and paprika in a dry pan and toast them. Swirl frequently to prevent burning. The powder might stick to the pan, so be ready to scrape with a dry spoon. To me, properly toasted paprika takes on a somewhat mushroomy smell and a slightly more brownish color. Once this color has been attained and you can smell the toasty goodness, put this mix and the marjoram into a grinder and reduce to powder
  • Dose 4: salt to taste. Do this right before serving, as the broth reduces quite a lot and you wouldn't want to oversalt at the beginning.


Step 1

Roughly chop the salt pork. Drop it into your soup pot and crank the heat to medium-high. Once it's started to fry add the butter. Sautee until the salt pork is mostly fried out and the bottom of the pot is covered with lovely brown stuff. Deglaze with beer or beer/wine combo. Be sure to scrape well. Allow the mixture to come to boil for a minute or two, then add the broth and Dose 1 of the spices.

Step 2

Dice the celeriac, onions, parsnips, and rutabaga (and optional tomatoes if you like). The longer your cooking time, the larger the pieces can be, though I don't recommend larger than 1cm or so in any case. Put the diced veg into the broth and cover. Boil for at least 2 hours, preferably more like 6.

Step 3

I like to cook the meat for this in a pressure cooker, though there's nothing to stop you from cooking it in the broth. Just put the meat in and add water to cover, along with a reasonable amount of salt. Using a pressure cooker lets me de-fat the resulting broth before adding it to the base, as well as taking a few hours off the cooking time for this portion of the dish.

Step 4

Meat is done when it's ready to fall off the bone. Remove from cooking vessel and allow to cool enough to work with, then deflesh and shred the meat. Add the meat broth to the veggie mixture if you didn't boil the meat in that mixture. Add the meat and Dose 2 of the spices at least 3 hours before serving. If you want an especially smooth stew, hit the veggies with a stick blender or potato masher before you drop in the meat.

Step 5

At least 2 hours before serving, remove the lid and crank up the heat. You're looking to reduce the broth by at least 1/3 (traditional gulaš sometimes simmers for 24+ hours and gets exceptionally thick, which is why this is more of a gulaš soup), possibly more. Be sure to stir frequently, as the meat has a tendency to settle even during a heavy boil and scorching sucks.

Step 6

Around 1 hour before serving, add Dose 3 of the spices.

Step 7

I usually thicken this with a roux - equal weights flour and butter cooked together until tan/light brown (4 ounces of each results in slight thickening in most of my batches). This is somewhat nontraditional and another reason this is considered gulaš soup instead of a true gulaš.

Serve this over a starch. Most traditional is boiled potatoes. Pasta is probably my favorite, followed closely by Czech style dumplings (which I haven’t quite perfected yet). Go for an elbow macaroni or other curvy product with lots of sauce-holding potential. Rice is also an acceptable, somewhat more modern base.

Optional: Top with a dollop of yogurt or sour cream. This can be especially helpful if you used only hot paprika, as the final dish can have enough heat to make wimpier diners complain. The yogurt cuts the spice and adds a pleasant tanginess.

Second-day option: add a couple of cans of black beans and re-heat. Beans do amazing things with the other flavors in this dish. Adding beans to gulaš-like dishes is unusual but not unheard-of in the Czech Republic. And yes, this stuff really is better the second, third, etc. day.

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