During my most recent visit to Hungary, I learned much more about what makes traditional Hungarian food unique. Hungarians make use of seasonal foods, and many of the dishes focus on meats, fresh vegetables, and dairy products. I also learned that many traditional dishes are influenced by Jewish and Austrian cuisine.
And of course, Hungarian food can’t be discussed without mentioning paprika. Hungarians make heavy use of the spice, and it seems to make its way into almost every dish, especially those with a sauce.
In no particular order, I present to you my favorite in Hungarian food:
Pogásca is a popular savory bread, like a Hungarian version of the scone.
We had these several times at breakfast with strong coffee. Although they may not look heavy, they are typically quite dense and filling.
Flodni is a typical Hungarian-Jewish style cake. its four layers include apples, walnuts, poppy seeds, honey and plum jam.
Those of you who, like me, don’t have a sweet tooth may still enjoy this cake. The walnuts and poppy seeds help even this dish out and make it less sweet.
Meggyleves is the one dish I admit I didn’t particularly care for during my walking food tour of Buda. However, it is a very traditional Hungarian food, and many people loved it, so I thought it should be included.
The dish is a fruit soup served cold. Considered a summer delicacy, it is also sometimes referred to as sour cherry soup.
Resztelt máj, or liver and onions, may have surprised me the most because I don’t typically enjoy liver.
But in this dish, the liver is fork tender, the onions are perfectly caramelized, and both are served in a gravy like sauce that goes so well with the potatoes.
You can’t talk about Hungarian food without mentioning goulash. The stew is made with meat, typically beef, vegetables, and a heavy dose of paprika in the sauce.
This version differed slightly from others, as it was served with spaetzle noodles, a possible Austrian influence I mentioned earlier.
Hungarians are proud of their Mangalica pork and for good reason.
It is some of the best cured meat I’ve ever tasted. The pig is a Hungarian crossbreed of domestic pigs and wild boars.
Literally translated “Mangalica” means “hog with a lot of lard”- although it doesn’t sound healthy, it’s very delicious.
Cholent was easily my favorite dish from the Jewish Cuisine Walking Food Tour.
While this stew is a traditional Jewish dish, because of Budapest’s large Jewish population, it has become a popular local specialty as well. The stew is made up of beans, barley, meat (this version was made with goose leg), and whole eggs.
To adhere to Jewish law, which doesn’t allow for cooking on the Sabbath, this dish is started on Friday afternoon and allowed to slowly cook overnight and eaten for lunch the next day. It’s a hearty meal and one I still crave.
Hungarians take their pastries and desserts very seriously. This pastry, which we enjoyed with coffee for breakfast, was piled high with layers of flaky dough and custard or pudding like filling and finished off with a generous sprinkling of powdered sugar. A bit sweet, but I loved the flaky crust.
This fruit tart was more to my liking. It also had a buttery crust but is instead topped with fresh fruits baked to a chewy texture. I absolutely loved it.
I know I said that I wasn’t presenting this list in any particular order, but food-wise, I have saved the best for last.
Langos was a borderline obsession for me and is quite possibly my new favorite Hungarian food. The dish is made up of fried bread with your choice of toppings.
Some prefer it plain, with only fried dough. Others rub garlic oil or put cream on theirs. Some like to add onions.
As you can see from my pic above, I like all of it at once! I wish this dish was healthier, because we ate it nearly every day, with, of course, an ice cold beer.
These were my favorite Hungarian dishes, but the list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning some local drinks as well.
Unicum, sadly, I didn’t love it, but it is Hungary’s national drink and definitely bears mentioning.
Unicum is an herbal drink drank as a digestive or aperitif and made from a secret recipe of more than forty herbs. It is aged in oak casks and, in my opinion, tastes much like Jägermeister.
But I did love the Hungarian wines.
I feel Hungary is seriously overlooked as a producer of quality wines.
Hungary actually has 22 wine regions which together produce nearly 100 local wine varieties.
I took part in a tasting table experience with Taste Hungary that taught us much about the country’s wine production while giving us the opportunity to try some of the best bottles. I highly recommend joining them in their tasting room if you’re interested in wine tourism.
Have I convinced you to try Hungarian food? Which dish looked best to you? Let me know in the comments section below!
Travel writer and owner of the blog. My work has been featured on Fodors, Eater.com, International Living, and Great Escape Publishing, among many others. My story? Nearly six years ago, I left my job at an Oklahoma City law firm and embarked on a journey around the world. At the time, I thought I would only be gone for 6 months, but the more I traveled, the longer my bucket list became. Flashpacker describes how I travel. Rather than traveling as the normal world wise backpacker and staying in hostel dorms, I prefer a more comfortable experience, and typically stay in private rooms, take Ubers instead of taxis, and now use a suitcase instead of a backpack. Foodie, on the other hand, describes one of the key reasons why I travel. I love to pick a central “base camp” and then explore the surrounding area, really immersing myself in the culture and interacting with the people, and enjoying and exploring the food of an area is an essential part of this experience.