Pörkölt (Hungarian Beef Stew)

By Lee Jackson ↣ Published on: December 3, 2023

Last Updated: December 3rd, 20231 Comment on Pörkölt (Hungarian Beef Stew)

Pörkölt is a rich and creamy Hungarian beef stew that rates as one of the most delicious in all of Europe. Succulent beef is fork-tender in a rich, russet sauce infused with sweet, smoky paprika. It’s perfection.

A bowl or Hungarian Pörkölt Beef Stew in a bowl, wrapped in a tea towel.

Hungarian Pörkölt is one of my most favourite of European stews. Ever since my first encounter with it in Budapest many years ago, I've been cooking this ever since. In all weather's it's a comfort food favourite, but come the colder months it's an essential! Every Autumn I make a large pan and freeze it in portions so I can rest assured I'll live through the winter!

Pörkölt is hearty stew packed with smoky aroma from Hungary's most prized ingredient, paprika - and LOTS of it! the dish a national treasure, and easy to see why

Typically Pörkölt is made with smaller cuts of stewing beef or pork but I like to use larger hunks of meat. It feels more special! Often the recipe includes bell peppers (typically the green ones). For my recipe I've changed this up too - I like to use peppers as a raw garnish at the end sometimes. You can of course dice up a green bell pepper and add it alongside the onion if you want to cook it. You decide!

A bowl of Hungarian Pörkölt Beef Stew drizzled with sour cream and garnished with parsley

Why it works?

It's comforting - Low and slow means you're in for a luxurious and silky sauce and meltingly tender beef. What could be more comforting than that!? It almost brings a tear to my eye!

What is Pörkölt?

Pörkölt (sometimes called Marhapörkölt) is a traditional Hungarian stew made from beef, pork and sometimes chicken with onion. Pronounced 'Peur-keult' it is a national dish, enjoyed all year round, but is especially loved during the colder months.

It gets its sweet flavour not only from the onion but also the generous spicing of Hungarian Paprika, famed around the world for its distinct colour and sweet and smoky flavour.

The dish also features Caraway, a pungent spice that permeates the sauce giving it its unique nutty, liquorice flavour.

Pörkölt v Goulash

What's the difference between Pörkölt (Marhapörkölt) and Goulash (Gulyás)?

  • Pörkolt is made using fewer ingredients, relying on the onion to break down and create the glossy sauce. Meat is the focus. Goulash features more vegetables.
  • Goulash is more of a soup, while Pörkölt is a thicker, creamier stew.
The ingredients for Hungarian Pörkölt Beef Stew

Stuff you'll need to make Pörkölt

Here's what gos into this lovely warming stew... nothing too taxing by the way.

  • Beef - I use chuck steak (stewing steak). I buy it whole and cut it into large hunks for my version of Pörkölt - it makes for a more rustic and hearty offering.
  • Onions - Use whatever you have at hand, red, brown - whatever.
  • Garlic - brings a bit of backbone to the rich broth.
  • Paprika - Hungarian Paprika is famed for its distinctive flavour and aroma. Try and use that for the most authentic flavour. Regular paprika is ok too if you're unable to source Hungarian.
  • Caraway seeds - this adds more of the authentic flavour to the stew. Caraway Seeds are strong in flavour but they mellow into the stew over the cooking time. They really make the difference!
  • Bay leaves - for more floral fragrance and a depth of flavour.
  • Tomatoes - I like to use tomato passata (blended tomatoes, not concentrated puree). This brings the tanginess and richness to the sauce.
  • Sour Cream - another classic Central European ingredient. A hearty dollop over the finished stew is a great addition. This is an optional extra, so you decide.
Beef being browned in a large pot with butter.
Onion, garlic, bay leaves and caraway frying in a large pot
Tomatoes and Paprika being added to the Hungarian Pörkölt Beef Stew
A pot of Hungarian Pörkölt Beef Stew

Step by Step

Making Pörkölt at home is not a difficult task, this one-pot stew is happy to simmer for hours until peak-perfection is achieved. Some things are best to wait for...

  1. Step 1 - In batches, brown the meat on all sides in a little butter. Remove from the pan.
  2. Step 2 - Fry the onion, garlic, caraway, bay leaves and salt & pepper until soft.
  3. Step 3 - Return the beef to the pan along with the tomato passata and paprika and stir well.
  4. Step 4 - Top with water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and simmer gently for 3 hours or until the meat is meltingly tender.

Serving: Serve with Nokedli (Spätzle noodles), mashed potatoes or a short pasta like fusilli. If you have the patience, you can refrigerate the stew overnight and eat the next day - the flavours are even more pronounced. This is a big ask, I know, but trust me - it's so good!

A plate of Hungarian Pörkölt Beef Stew drizzled with sour cream and garnished with parsley

A short guide to Hungarian Paprika

There are actually nine varieties of Hungarian paprika ranging in spice and pungency, we use the sweet variety in this recipe, but you could experiment with whichever you like. Typically Pörkölt is mild in spice, but there's nothing stopping you creating a spicy version. Here's what to look out for if you're thinking of dialling the heat up or down:

  • 1. Különleges (mildest)
  • 2. Csípősmentes Csemege
  • 3. Csemege
  • 4. Csípős Csemege
  • 5. Édesnemes (used in this recipe)
  • 6. Félédes
  • 7. Rózsa
  • 8. Erős (hottest/most pungent)

Serving & Storage Suggestions

It's traditional to serve Pörkölt with simple Nokedli (Spätzle) - a pasta-like thick batter which is dropped in spall pieces into boiling water to form small irregular dumplings. These are then tossed with butter and sometimes herbs. You can also serve alongside a short pasta like fusilli (spirals). I like to serve mine with lots of creamy mashed potato too.

A plate of Hungarian Pörkölt Beef Stew and pasta fusilli drizzled with sour cream and garnished with parsley.

Ready to get cooking?

So, it's pretty evident just how delicious this Hungarian beef stew is right? It's a dish that I love to have simmering in the background as I potter around the house. The air is filled with the warming aromas of paprika and caraway - a very comforting fragrance.

Whatever the weather, Pörkölt is a dish worth savouring, a real European treasure. I hope you enjoy!

A plate of Hungarian Pörkölt Beef Stew drizzled with sour cream and garnished with parsley
A bowl of Hungarian Pörkölt Beef Stew in a bowl, wrapped in a tea towel.

Any Questions? (FAQ)

Have a question about Pörkölt? Let me know in the comments.

What is Hungarian Pörkölt?

Hungarian Pörkölt is a traditional stew made with simmered meat (often beef or pork), onions, and paprika. It's cooked until tender and served with noodles, mashed potatoes or bread.

Is Hungarian Pörkölt similar to Goulash?

While both are Hungarian dishes, Pörkölt is a thicker stew with less liquid, focusing on the meat, while Goulash has more broth and often includes vegetables and potatoes.

What is the best meat for Pörkölt?

Typically, tougher cuts like beef chuck (stewing beef) or pork shoulder are ideal. They benefit from slow cooking, becoming tender and absorbing the flavours.

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A bowl of Hungarian Pörkölt Beef Stew in a bowl, wrapped in a tea towel.

Pörkölt (Hungarian Beef Stew)

Rate this recipe

5 from 3 votes
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Recipe by Lee
Course Main Course
Cuisine Hungarian
Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time3 hours
Total Time3 hours 20 minutes
Servings (adjustable) 4
Calories (per serving) | 479


  • 1.8 lb Beef chuck (800g) stewing beef (cut into large chunks)
  • 2 onions halved and thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 3 garlic cloves peeled and chopped
  • 2 tsp caraway seeds
  • 3 tbsp mild paprika Hungarian if you can get it
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ¾ cup tomato passata
  • tsp salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Sour cream to serve (optional)
  • Parsley to serve (optional)


  • In a large pot, melt the butter over a medium heat. Fry the beef in batches until browned on all sides. Set the beef aside.
  • In the same pan, add the onion, garlic, caraway, bay leaves and salt & pepper and fry gently for 5 minutes until the onion is softened.
  • Return the beef to the pan and add the tomato passata and paprika and stir well to combine.
  • Add 600ml water and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and simmer gently for 3 hours, until the beef is very tender.
  • Remove from the heat and serve.
  • Serving: Serve with Nokedli (Spätzle noodles), mashed potatoes, crusty bread or a short pasta like fusilli.


  • Pörkölt are traditionally served with simple Nokedli (Spätzle) dumplings. I also serve mine with mashed potato, crusty bread or with a short pasta like fusilli or rigatoni.
  • Garnish with a big dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of parsley or chives.
  • You can make this stew using pork, beef or chicken. If you're using chicken, use thigh meat on the bone as it won't dry out and cook for 1 1/2 hours only.
  • Stir 3/4 sour cream into the stew with 10 minutes left to cook and you'll have a delicious rich and creamy dish called 'Paprikas'.

Storage details

  • Fridge - the stew will stay good in the fridge (in an airtight container) for 5-6 days. Reheat until piping hot.
  • Freezer - Pörkölt freezes well for 3+ months. Keep in single portions in airtight containers and reheat from frozen in the microwave, stirring once or twice until piping hot.


Calories: 479kcal (24%) | Carbohydrates: 13g (4%) | Protein: 42g (84%) | Fat: 30g (46%) | Saturated Fat: 14g (88%) | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 14g | Trans Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 156mg (52%) | Sodium: 1058mg (46%) | Potassium: 1108mg (32%) | Fiber: 4g (17%) | Sugar: 5g (6%) | Vitamin A: 3034IU (61%) | Vitamin C: 10mg (12%) | Calcium: 81mg (8%) | Iron: 7mg (39%)
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