Welcome to one of the most underrated cuisines of Europe. It is true, only the people who have been to Hungary know how good their native gastronomy is. Even after being under the influence of the neighbouring countries, the Hungarians took the best of what they were offered and formed their uniquely rich gastronomy.
Hungary, most of the time, flies under the radar, but it has so much to oﬀer, not just in terms of the food in Hungary, but in all aspects, it is one of the best countries to visit in Europe. The culture, the architecture, the people, everything makes up for a grand experience.
Talking about Hungarian food, you will be surprised by how massive their gastronomy is. It is not just about specific dishes, it about the Hungarian use of dumplings, peppers, fermented foods and so on. Remember to be careful if you don’t like peppers because most of the dishes depend on the usage of red peppers in different forms. The following dishes are my personal favourites out of all the things I enjoyed while visiting Hungary.
- Hungarian Food
- Top Tours
- Food in Hungary to comfort your soul – Soups and Stews
- Food In Hungary To Tingle Your Taste Buds
- Desserts In Hungary To Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth
Food in Hungary to comfort your soul – Soups and Stews
This famed fish soup, loved by the locals, has become an integral part of the Hungarian cuisine.
Also called Fisherman’s soup, this dish is traditionally prepared in small kettles over open fire, as it used to be cooked in the past by fishermen along the river banks.
Most notably, carp is the fish used; the bones and trimmings to make the broth and the thick, juicy fillets served on top of the soup.
The use of hot paprika in this soup perfectly complements the bold fish broth.
This is comfort at its finest, specially for the seafood lovers.
In most traditional restaurants, the soup is served in the kettle, directly oﬀ the fire and enjoyed with some bread.
This is also something you would find in almost every Hungarian household on Christmas Eve.
Palóc people are a community of Hungarians living in the north of the country and in southern Slovakia.
While this dish have been popularised using their name, the Palócs have nothing to do with it directly.
But this soup is definitely one that represents all the Hungarian flavours in great fashion.
You will notice the use of sour cream in many dishes and this soup gets its iconic tangy flavour because of it.
Traditionally made with mutton and green beans, it has really complex flavours but it is surprisingly light and extremely soothing.
There are legends that state that this soup was actually made for a gastronomic competition and that it was so well received that the judges had to ask for more.
I don’t know about that but the story could be true because Palóc soup is as delicious as soups can get.
I am a massive fan of fermented foods and Hungarians really know how to ferment food extremely flavourfully.
Sauerkraut is easily one of my favourites and the use of Sauerkraut in this dish makes it extremely flavourful.
The soup also uses traditional Hungarian sausage, which is crisped up beautifully and the broth is thickened with sour cream making it creamy and satisfyingly tangy.
Most Hungarians believe Korhelyleves to be the perfect cure for intense hangovers and although I haven’t tested this myself, it makes sense.
Sauerkraut is fantastic for your gut and the hit of sour flavours might get rid of the headache.
Even if you are not a fan of Sauerkraut, I still urge you try this dish.
Born during the harvest season, this soup perfectly represents the labour classes during 16th century Hungary.
During those times, wheat was harvested by hand using a scythe or a sickle and that was extremely hard work.
Kaszáslé was the soup cooked during the harvest season, packed with veggies and meats in order to give the much needed energy to the farmers.
There are diﬀerent preparations but the traditional recipe requires the use of smoked meats and results in a comforting yet refreshing broth.
The soup is hearty, meaty, flavourful and delightfully savoury.
Also, it is one of the few soups that uses croutons traditionally, which add an extremely welcoming crunch to an already fantastic soup.
This dish is not as popular as it used to be but still is something to try if you find it on the menu.
5- Újházi soup
Hungarian gastronomy is all about comfort and what is the most comforting of them all? — Chicken soup.
Újházi chicken soup was made after the instructions given by a famous Hungarian actor Ede Újházi, during the 19th century and then rightfully named after him too.
It was first prepared at the Wampetics restaurant and while it seems like such a simple dish, it is considered an important part of the Hungarian gastronomy.
Traditionally, the dish required the use of a rooster but now highest quality hen does the job and the addition of noodles/dumplings is deemed necessary too.
The dish has become such a staple for the locals that it is served as a classic at wedding receptions as well.
I wouldn’t want to miss out on such a flavourful chicken soup whether it is summers or winters.
There is a side dish that I absolute love in Portugal; creamed spinach with garlic.
It tastes fantastic but Hungarians have a dish that takes it to another level.
Spenótfozelék is a creamy spinach stew that can be served as a side dish but holds itself great as a main too.
It is a great spring or early summer recipe.
This spinach stew is comforting but super light and nutritious.
It starts oﬀ with a ton of garlic and a basic béchamel but traditional variations use whipped egg yolks that makes it even more decadent.
It is then served with poached eggs on top or even meat patties.
I personally love it with fried eggs and a dash of lemon.
The vibrancy of this simple dish cannot be ignored.
Surprising fact — Almost all of the vegetable stews in Hungary are served with meatballs on the side.
I have found that this dish while truly fantastic on its own, feels incomplete without the meatball.
Krumplifozelék is the Hungarian dish that does the humble combination of meat and potatoes justice.
When I first came across this dish, I wasn’t super interested because it felt boring to me but I couldn’t have been more wrong.
The flavours would take you straight to childhood as this meal just oozes warmth.
Usually potatoes serve as a side to meats but in this dish, a crunchy meatball (or two) works great as an accompaniment to some humbly stewed potatoes.
It is slightly sweet due to the sweet paprika, a little tangy and definitely not a dish to miss out on.
You must have noticed something common in the names of the last three dishes; ‘Fozelék’.
Fozelék is what Hungarians call the vegetable stews in their cuisine.
They hold a special place as there are many types which can be similar and also extremely diﬀerent.
Tökfozelék is one that is loved all over the country and has its own identity.
This summer squash stew is cooked liked any other ‘fozelék’ but has a distinct flavour due to the hefty use of dill.
What is truly diﬀerent about this one is that in many restaurants this dish is served cold and for many Hungarians that is their preferred way.
It shouldn’t work but it absolutely does.
The flavours of dish complement each other really well and makes for a delicious stew to enjoy during the summers.
Last but not the least, to cover up the soups and stews, we have the Hungarian goulash.
This is a dish which is most loved by the locals and tourists alike in Hungary.
Goulash is the national dish of the country and I must say it is the most straightforward one.
It is has all the basic tropes of a hearty meat stew spiced with sweet and hot paprika but is simply an amazing comforting dish.
Goulash is usually enjoyed with egg dumplings, which work as the perfect vessel to carry the stew’s luxurious sauce.
You won’t be able to avoid this dish and you wouldn’t want to either as this dish is delicious and available at almost every restaurant throughout Hungary.
It is can also be served as a soup which is equally iconic but I think the stew does a better job.
Recommended food tours:
- Budapest Food Tour
- Budapest: Hungarian Meal in a Local Home (Dinner / Lunch)
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Food In Hungary To Tingle Your Taste Buds
Technically, this dish can be categorised as a stew.
In most places it is even called a Hungarian Hunter’s stew but this dish is more than that.
Vadas is also the term used for dishes that result in or are served with a orange coloured, tangy-sweet sauce.
The dish calls for game to be used in its preparation, hence the use of ‘hunter’ in the name.
Many restaurants serve this orange sauce on top of slow-cooked meat or even grilled meat alongside a serving of plump bread dumplings.
The flavours are fantastic as the sauce is prepped with root vegetables, mustard, sugar and the textures work extremely well together.
When the meat is grilled, it adds a great layer to this dish.
While this dish is served at many Hungarian restaurants, at its heart it is still a street food.
Lángos is truly one of the best things to enjoy while traversing the streets of Hungary.
To entice you a bit, it is fried bread; crunchy exterior with a soft fluﬀy interior.
The bread can be used as a base to make many variations just like pizza but most traditionally it is enjoyed with sour cream and cheese.
This dish hits the feels every time as it reminds me of a bread that is very common in the Indian cuisine — Bhatura.
You can also compare the flavour and the texture of this bread to focaccia.
Trust me, this is something that you fall in love with during your first tasting.
12- Rakott Krumpli
Hungarians are seemingly quite skilled at taking side dishes and inspirations from other cuisines and then turning them into standalone mains.
Rakott Krumpli is a layered potato dish that resembles the French gratin potatoes.
Hungarians treat the potatoes the same way they are treated in a gratin; sliced thinly and coated in seasoned fat.
In Rakott krumpli, the layers of potatoes are joined with layers of sour cream, hard-boiled eggs and crispy paprika sausages.
While it is enjoyed during lunch or dinner, I think it is worth the eﬀort to prepare it in the morning as it is one of the perfect breakfast dishes.
It is served with a side of pickled veggies which take this dish on another level.
13- Töltött Káposzta
It is said that Hungarian cuisine would not feel as traditional without the use of cabbage.
Cabbage is used in many diﬀerent methods all across the array of Hungarian dishes.
Töltött Káposzta are stuﬀed cabbage leaves that popped up during the 16th century and since have become an obligatory staple for the locals.
This is a dish that is served and loved all over eastern Europe in diﬀerent variations.
In Hungary, the cabbage leaves are cooked and then stuﬀed with a flavourful mince of chicken or beef.
The stuﬀed rolls are then cooked with some sort of liquid essentially steaming them to tender perfection.
They are served with a creamy paprika sauce on a bed of sauerkraut and topped with a hefty serving of sour cream.
14- Chicken Paprikash
This dish was my introduction to the Hungarian cuisine and I would assume that it is also the most famous among tourists.
When it comes down to Hungarian classics, it is either Paprikash or Goulash and of the two I prefer this beauty.
Even since this dish was born there have been methods of preparing it with almost all the veggies and meats but the most authentic one is done with chicken.
The chicken is cooked until extremely tender and is coated in a tangy paprika sauce that is creamy, luxurious and undeniably comforting.
This strikingly red dish needs to be served with egg noodles or dumplings called Nokedli.
You would easily find Paprikash at any restaurant and it is a must try.
15- Mangalica Pork
If you love pork, you have to try dishes prepared with Mangalica pork.
Mangalica is the breed of pigs that are native to Hungary.
Much like Iberico from Spain, this breed is known for its fat content.
The name means ‘hog with a lot of lard’ and the meat is beautifully marbled resulting in a texture that when cooked right, the meat just melts in your mouth.
It is also one of the few breeds that has a thick layer of curly fleece, making it resemble a sheep.
Dishes prepped with Mangalica Pork are extremely expensive around the world as it is considered a luxury delicacy.
In Hungary you are able to enjoy it at much more aﬀordable prices and you should definitely not give up on that chance.
Recommended cooking classes:
- Budapest: Hungarian Chimney Cake Workshop
- Budapest: Hungarian Cooking Class – Foodapest
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- Budapest: Market Tour and Hungarian Cooking Class
Desserts In Hungary To Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth
There are many dishes in the Hungarian cuisine that use fresh cottage cheese and while not everyone would be a fan of them, I think they use cottage cheese quite well.
Túrógombóc is the dish which I think every one would love and the flavour of fresh cottage cheese in a sweet setting shines really well.
These cottage cheese dumplings are soft, crumbly and have an amazing slightly tart sweet taste.
Their dough is formed with semolina, eggs, lemon and vanilla.
Cooked dumplings are covered in toasted breadcrumbs and topped with a mix of sour cream and sugar.
These are light, fluﬀy and make for a fantastic snack.
In some variations crushed walnuts are used which gives túrógombóc a lovely nuttiness.
This is a dessert that comes from the former Austro-Hungarian empire.
While this dish is normally associated with Austrian cuisine, it is equally loved and celebrated in Hungary too.
This dessert is a part of most Hungarian households due to its simple preparation but still packs a ton of flavour.
In Hungary, these shredded pancakes are made with semolina flour instead of refined wheat flour.
There are raisins mixed through the batter and the pancake is topped with powdered sugar.
When served with one of the many diﬀerent Hungarian fruit preserves, this dessert is more than enough to satisfy your sweet tooth.
18- Mákos Guba
Bread puddings are a dessert that is love by all.
For me, they are one of the best desserts as they are quick, easy and use leftover ingredients to make a filling product.
Mákos guba is a poppy seed bread pudding that is loved by the Hungarians.
It is a classic dessert for them and extremely important part of their Christmas tradition.
In Hungary it is made with a local bread called Kifli.
The pudding is super comforting and uses the perfect amount of poppy seeds so that the flavours gel well together.
Usually served with a creamy vanilla sauce, this bread pudding is great finisher to any meal.
19- Esterházy Torte
You have probably heard about it or have seen this torte at a confectionary.
This torte is quite famous around the globe and is rightfully so.
Named after a prince of the Esterházy dynasty, this dessert was made in Budapest in the late 19th century.
The torte is known for its many beautifully presented layers.
The alternating layers comprise of ground walnuts, rum flavoured buttercream and the top is covered in a white fondant coating.
Even though it looks like a cake, it is not and contains no flour.
The texture is decadent but not too heavy and the flavour is delightfully nutty.
It was made for the royal family so you can expect the torte to be quite rich.
20- Hideg Meggyleves
I didn’t want to include this soup with the others because while Hungarians consider this to be a pre meal soup like any other, it works as an amazing light dessert for people who don’t enjoy extremely sweet stuﬀ.
That is true, even though this is technically a dessert, most locals enjoy it during the start of their meal.
The soup is served chilled, so it is mostly enjoyed during the summers and this dish is extremely native to Hungary because I had never heard of it outside.
The soup uses fresh sour cherries cooked using water, cream and sugar.
It is tangy, sweet and texturally it is luscious.
Anytime I get my hand on fresh cherries, this is the dish I make.
Hungarian cuisine is definitely one of the most unique and flavourful cuisines to try out there.
The dishes that I have recommended are just a few to help you get started.
But there are many more fantastic dishes and variations of each dish that you can go through.
Just explore the cuisine on your own beyond my recommendations too and enjoy.
- Budapest: Wine, Cheese, and Charcuterie Tasting
- Budapest: Hungarian Wine Tasting Experience
- Budapest: Essentials of Hungarian Wine Tasting Class
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