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.
Pastries And Desserts
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.
A flavorful, hot stew or soup made of meat, noodles, and vegetables seasoned with paprika and other spices. Goulash is one type of soup or stew made predominantly in Hungary. It is one of the most common national dishes of the country and a symbol of Hungary.
I am a big fan of goulash; it’s definitely one of the best stew recipes I have ever tried, and I would recommend it to everyone. What makes it very special is the combination of spices and paprika that gives that beautiful flavor. I have tried it with pork and beef meat, and I liked them both, and it really depends on your taste, so you have the option to choose. Believe me; you will not regret trying this symbol of Hungarian cuisine.
Fisherman’s Soup (Halászlé)
Fisherman’s soup or Halászlé is a hot, spicy, paprika-based fish soup. It is a traditional soup beloved by both local residents and travelers. It includes a large quantity of the trimmings of fresh carp, such as heads, bones, and skin, simmered with vegetables, including red onions, green peppers, and tomatoes, for a couple of hours. It is then strained, and ten minutes before serving, hot ground paprika and finger-thick carp are added.
What really shocked me was the unusual combination of fish and paprika mixed together; it has a distinctive smell, but don’t let that fool you. When I tried it, it was delicious. It probably won’t be for everyone, but if you are a fan of fish recipes like I am, you should definitely try the Hungarian Fisherman’s Soup.
Chicken Paprikash (Csirke Paprikás)
Chicken Paprikash is one of the few well-known and beloved dishes in Hungarian cuisine. This authentic dish is big on flavor, thanks to the tender chicken dipped in rich and creamy paprika-infused sauce.
Each time I tried this dish, it was prepared almost the same way. The ingredients are straightforward; it has onion, garlic, water or broth, lots of paprika, and chicken. Sometimes they put salt, pepper, and tomatoes. I think this is one of the dishes with which I fell in love with the traditional foods of Hungary. It has terrific taste, and sometimes they make it even spicier, which I like. It is a definite must-try dish.
Meat Pancakes (Hortobagyi Palacsinta)
Hortobagyi palacsinta is a Hungarian pancake, and it’s really one of a kind. First, it is filled with meat, and it’s usually veal. They prepare the meat almost as you prepare it for a stew, minced and fried with onion and other spices, and they use veal, chicken, mushrooms, or Hungarian sausage. Then the pancakes are filled with minced meat, baked in the oven with paprika and sour cream, and on the top, they put fresh parsley.
This dish is probably one of my top five Hungarian dishes that blew my mind. It didn’t seem like something at first, but when I tried it, I was positively surprised. It is delicious, and the way the meat is prepared makes it unique.
Stuffed Cabbage Leaves (Töltött Káposzta)
Thanks to the Turkish influence, this method of preparing this dish is very similar to making dishes like dolmas or sarma. Except for using grape leaves, the Hungarian style of making it is with cabbage. Inside the cabbage, they put the filling, a combination of ground pork, egg, rice, and paprika.
It has a unique taste, one of those recipes passed over for generations, and you can feel its tradition in every bite. It is a dish I have tried many times and enjoyed every time. It probably isn’t for everyone because of its unique taste, but I recommend you try it.
Meat Stew (Pörkölt)
Pörkölt is Hungarian for beef stew, and it is a trendy Hungarian recipe. They prepare it by braising the meat, and then, in a tomato-based sauce, they simmer it with onions. It is often confused with goulash, but it is a different recipe.
It wasn’t my favorite dish that I tried, but it all depends on the person’s taste. It is a very traditional Hungarian food, and many of the people I know have ordered it many times, which speaks for this recipe’s beauty and quality.
Jókai Bean Soup (Jókai Bableves)
This soup was named after the Hungarian writer Jókai Mór. First, they use all kinds of beans, vegetables like carrots and onions, paprika and salt, sour cream, and ham hocks.
It was a delightful dish to try; it has a beautiful smell and tastes delicious. This Hungarian recipe was terrific, and I would definitely order it again.
Pasta With Cottage Cheese (Túrós Csusza)
Turos Csusza is a famous indulgent comfort food similar to the popular mac and cheese. It is made from scraps of pasta and then tossed together along with tangy sour cream and creamy cottage cheese, and on the top, they put crispy bacon.
What’s not to like about this dish? I absolutely loved it; the taste, the smell, even the aesthetic of the plate; everything was absolutely amazing. It is a definite must-try Hungarian food.
Pork Bone Soup (Orjaleves)
Orja is the meaty part of the bone and is used as the main ingredient for cooking this recipe. This meal is very old and traditional Hungarian food used almost as a survival meal because the bones did not cost and did not burden the family’s budgets. It’s made of pork bone; inside, it has carrots, parsley roots, salt and pepper, small onion, whole and peeled, and soup noodles.
It is a definite must-try for the lovers of stew and pork; although this dish wasn’t my favorite, it is a prevalent and respected dish, considering that it was almost the critical meal for their survival in the more harsh times.
Hungarian Trifle (Somlói Galuska)
This cake comprises three different sponge layers, walnuts, raisins, pastry creme, and rum syrup. Sometimes they put a large ice creme scoop and make three balls with chocolate sauce and whipped cream.
This was a very rewarding recipe to try; the cake was lovely and unique. It was a delicious dessert; together with the coffee, it was a combination made from heaven.
Dobosh Cake (Dobos Torta)
This cake is a very famous one in Hungary. It is a sponge cake layered with chocolate buttercream and caramel, named after the Hungarian chef Jozef C. Dobos. On the sides, the cake has walnuts, chestnuts, hazelnuts, or almonds.
It was a delight to try this wonderful recipe, and if anyone is a fan of cakes, then Dobosh Cake is one you cannot miss out on. I was absolutely stunned by the taste, and what I liked really much was that it wasn’t too sweet; on the contrary, the combination of the ingredients made it taste perfect.
Hungarian Tripe Stew (Pacal Pörkölt)
It is a traditional dish prepared on an open fire in a cauldron. Generally, it can also be prepared in a pan in their homes. It has boiled tripe, and they prepare the broth with vegetables, salt, water, and seasoning. It is usually served with pickled green tomatoes and boiled potatoes.
It is a Hungarian culinary treasure and a delicious dish to try. I really loved it, and for all of the culinary freaks like me that like to try all kinds of food recipes, I think you will enjoy the Pacal Porkolt a lot.
Chimney Cake (Kurtos Kalacs)
Kurtos Kalacs is a spit cake, and it is particular to the Székelys of Transylvania and the Hungarian-speaking region of Romania. It is cylindrical and hollow, and when it’s done baking, it is sprinkled with a topping that sticks to the caramelized sugar.
It has a delightful taste, and the people in Hungary really like eating it, and so did I.
Pork Rice Pilaf (Bácskai Rizses Hús)
This dish is a trendy one, and it comes from Hungary’s southern neighbor, Serbia. It is a rice pillar, and it’s studded with stewed pork meat. Traditionally on the side, they eat it with pickles; sometimes, they even put grated cheese on the top.
This dish is delightful and tells of how much time and patience it takes to make it taste amazing. It was innovative and delicious, as are all of the recipes they have in their traditional Hungarian cuisine, and I am thrilled to be able to try them all.
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.
Visiting other destinations in Europe? Check out our other guides:
- Where to Find the Best Schnitzel in Vienna, Austria
- 9 Best Vienna Restaurants
- 10 Fun Things To Do In Vienna
- The 13 Best Budapest Restaurants
- 8 Best Brno Restaurants
- Where to Find the Very Best Apple Strudel in Central Europe
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.