How to Make German Goulash from Scratch

German goulash is one of my favorite comfort foods and always reminds me of my childhood. It’s a hearty, flavorful dish made with tender beef, onions, and a rich paprika-infused sauce. In our home, this simple meat dish was served on top of potatoes or spaetzle and a side of veggies. Unlike stew or other versions, our goulash did not include any tomato products or veggies (other than onions).

plate with noodles goulash red cabbage and peas
Goulash on Spaetzle with green peas and pickled red cabbage. One of my favorite comfort foods.

Also Read: Oven Roasted Beef Stew, Braised Red Cabbage, Homemade Spaetzle (German Noodles)

Helpful Tips for Great Goulash

  • Use beef chuck or round roast for the best results. Some marbling (fat) is good – it helps the pieces from being dry.
  • Be sure to brown your meat to build a good “fond”. The browned bits at the bottom of the pot after braising meat are called fond. These browned bits are rich in flavor and when deglazed add depth and complexity to the sauce.The best way to release or deglaze that fond is with a little wine or vinegar.
  • Onions and sweet paprika are key flavor makers in this recipe. It seems like a lot of onions – but they will blend into the background and just add amazing flavor. And the paprika is what goulash is all about, just don’t swap sweet paprika for hot or smoked paprika.
  • Use wine or vinegar in your goulash. Don’t worry, it won’t taste like vinegar and the alcohol cooks out. They balance flavor, help tenderize meat, help break up the fond and enhance the overall flavor and aroma. If you ever feel like a sauce, stew or soup is missing something or lacks some brightness – add a shot of acid!
  • Don’t overcrowd the pot when searing the beef. This prevents browning and steams the meat.
  • For a thicker sauce, use a cornstarch slurry (1 Tbsp cornstarch 2 Tbsp cold water). Use this slurry shortly before serving after the sauce has had a chance to thicken naturally on it’s own while cooking.
browned beef cubes in pot
Brown the beef to build a flavor – even if using a crockpot or instant pot. Do it in batches, one layer at a time so the beef browns nicely.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is German Goulash?

Here’s the thing, while Germany is not a huge country (especially compared to Canada!), it is very regional. Each little corner of Germany has it’s own food rituals and differences. What we ate in the small farm village in the middle of Germany in the state of Hessen, was a lot different than what German’s in Southern, Northern or Eastern Germany ate. For example, my family never ate perogies (East) and rarely had spaetzle (South); our carb of choice was potatoes. So my definition and experience of “German Goulash” may be different than goulash in other parts of Germany.

In my experiece, German goulash is not a soup or stew – it is a meat side dish served over potatoes or spaetzle. It is not loaded with vegetables, it is just stewed beef with onions, paprika in a rich, savory sauce.

By the way, from what I can tell, German goulash is knock off on Hungarian Goulash.

finished goulash in black pot with parsley
No additional veggies, basically ust beef, onions and paprika.

What’s the Difference Between German Goulash Hungarian Goulash and American Goulash and Stew?

They’re all delicious! Make them all. They are all variations of braising meat and adding a tasty sauce – some with vegetables, some with different cuts or kinds of meats and some using tomato products to build the sauce.

Hungarian Goulash: The OG! A big shout out to Hungarian herdsmen who would slow-cook seasoned meat, usually beef or veal, with onions and other vegetables in a heavy kettle over an open fire. There are different variations of course, but Hungarian Goulash often features vegetables like bell peppers, potatoes and or carrots, tomato products to build the sauce and other spices like caraway seeds.

American Goulash: American goulash is quite different than the European versions. I was quite surprised when I learned macaroni in one pot with ground beef and tomato sauce was called “goulash”! It’s delicioius and we make this too, but it’s a lot different than European goulash.

Stew: For me, stew is a whole meal with meat and plenty of vegetables and a more soup (although thick) like consistency. The hearty veggies are cooked with the meat and are super tender and delicious. I love stew!

What Type of Meat to Use for Goulash?

The beauty of the long, slow cooking process is that you can use some of the most affordable types of beef for goulash. In fact, you don’t need or want beef tenderloin – lean cuts of beef that don’t have a lot of marbling (fat and collagen rich connective tissue) will turn into dry, tough pieces when stewed. You don’t want that!

Cuts of beef with collagen and fat are great – they dissolve and add flavour and make meat soft and tender. In the store, look for cuts called:

  • Chuck (from the shoulder)
  • Round (from the rear leg)

Use precut “stewing beef” found in the meat aisle or save money and cut it yourself from roasts or sliced meat. Even if you’ve never cut meat before – it’s easy and you’ll quickly get the hang of it. Look for the grain of the meat, (long, visible muscle fibers) and cut perpendicular (against) the grain to create shorter strands into uniform, 1 inch cubes.

You could also try pork, lamb or veal although I never tried this recipe with anything but beef.

Is German Goulash Spicy?

No. German goulash gets its flavor from sweet paprika, which is not spicy. Traditionally – Germans don’t do spicy! Of course times have change- but I have been at too many gatherings of German family and friends where too much black pepper caused panic and a call for milk!

What is paprika?

Goulash is not goulash without paprika – it is a signature ingredient. But what exactly is paprika? Paprika is a ground spice made from dried peppers. The variety of peppers used varies – that’s why there are different types of paprika. For goulash, sweet or Hungarian paprika is most common.

Smoked paprika is made from peppers that have been smoked over a fire. It has a strong, deep smoky flavor. It is not typically used in goulash. Do not replace sweet paprika with smoked paprika in goulash or any recipe. Always start with a small amount as it can be very intense in flavor.

Can I Make this in a Crockpot or Slow Cooker?

Yes – but please, for the love of flavor, brown your beef first! Then combine the chopped onions, garlic, paprika, and any other dry spices mentioned in the recipe. Add the browned beef (if using) and beef broth. Stir to combine. Cook on LOW for 8-10 hours or on HIGH for 4-6 hours, or until the beef is fork-tender. Thicken if desired, adjust seasoning and add a sprig of parsley.

Note: I have not made this goulash in a slow cooker, but this would be the general process.

Can I Make this in an Instant Pot or Pressure Cooker?

Yes – but please, for the love of flavor, brown your beef first and saute your aromatics while you’re at it! Then add the remaining ingredients to the Instant Pot. Stir to combine. Close the lid and ensure the pressure valve is set to “Sealing.” Select the “Manual” or “Pressure Cook” function and cook on high pressure for 30 minutes. Once the cooking cycle is complete, allow for a natural pressure release for 10 minutes, then release any remaining pressure manually.

Note: I have not made this goulash in a pressure cooker, but this would be the general process.

How Long Can You Store Leftovers?

Cool and keep goulash in the fridge in an airtight container for 3-4 days.

Can you Freeze Goulash?

Yes! Goulash, especially when made without potatoes freezes beautifully. Cool completely. Place in airtight container (leave room for expansion) or bag and freeze. Use within 6 months for best flavor, although it will be safe to eat for much longer.

What to Serve with Goulash

We eat goulash as the meat portion of a meal so we always serve it with a carb and a side of veggies and/or a salad. Here are some ideas to consider:

Classic Comfort Food Sides:

  • Mashed Potatoes: A creamy and comforting side that soaks up the rich goulash sauce.
  • Spaetzle: These soft German egg noodles add a delightful textural contrast to the stew.
  • Egg Noodles: Another great option for soaking up the sauce, offering a slightly lighter alternative to mashed potatoes.
  • Rice: Fluffy white rice or wholesome brown rice will both work.

Vegetable Accompaniments:

  • Frozen Peas: Easy and delicious side – check out two different ideas.
  • Pan Fried Frozen Beans: Another fast tasty option.
  • Sautéed Greens: Sauteed spinach, kale, or Swiss chard provide a pop of color and freshness alongside the rich goulash.
  • Cucumber Salad: A light and refreshing salad with a touch of vinegar cuts through the richness of the goulash.
  • Sauerkraut, Pickled Beets or Pickled Red Cabbage: A tangy side goes so well with the delicious sauce of goulash.
  • Braised Red Cabbage: Classic German style sauteed red cabbage.

Bread Options:

  • Crusty Bread: A perfect accompaniment for dipping into the flavorful goulash sauce.
  • Dinner Rolls: Soft dinner rolls provide a comforting element to soak up any remaining sauce.
goulash on noodles on plate with veggie sides
Make this goulash!

Recipe for German Goulash

finished goulash in black pot with parsley
Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

German Goulash

German goulash made with beef cubes, onions and seasoned with paprika. This is how my family made it in Germany and I've carried on the tradition with only a few minor changes. In our family, we did not add any tomato products or vegetables other than onions. It was served over boiled or mashed potatoes and a side of braised red cabbage or cucumber salad.
Prep : 20 minutes
Cook : 2 hours 30 minutes
Total Time: 21 minutes
Servings: 8
Author: Getty Stewart

Ingredients

  • 3 lb beef cubes chuck or round
  • 2 tsp cajun seasoning or salt and pepper
  • 3 Tbsp flour
  • 3 Tbsp oil or bacon fat divided
  • 3 large yellow onions, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup red wine*
  • 4 cups beef broth
  • 2 Tbsp` paprika not hot
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 3 Tbsp fresh parsley chopped

Instructions

  • In large Dutch oven or heavy pot (5 qt), heat oil or bacon fat on medium-high heat.
  • Pat beef dry with paper towel. Season with Cajun seasoning or salt and pepper and lightly dredge in flour. Add to pot in single layer and sear on all sides, about 2 minutes per side. Do several batches as needed to avoid overcrowding which will steam meat instead of browning it. Remove meat and any juices and loose bits from pot and set aside.
  • Add onions and sauté until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat and add splash of water if needed to avoid browning onions.
  • Add garlic and cook another 2 minutes until soft.
  • Deglaze pot with red wine, scraping bottom as needed. Add beef stock. Stir in beef, paprika, and bay leaves. Bring to boil then reduce heat to simmer. Cover and cook until beef is tender about 2 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.
  • Taste and season with additional paprika, salt and black pepper as desired.
  • Garnish with freshly chopped parsley

Notes

To Thicken: If you want to thicken the sauce, combine 1 Tbsp cornstarch with 2 Tbsp cold water in a small bowl until dissolved. Slowly stir into sauce shortly before serving and return to boil for 2 minutes.
*use 1/4 cup red wine vinegar instead of red wine
Try it with spaetzle, braised red cabbage and cucumber salad.
Tried this recipe?Mention @GetGettyS or tag #GetGettyS

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

Calories: 360kcal | Carbohydrates: 10g | Protein: 40g | Fat: 14g | Sodium: 729mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 3g | Iron: 4mg
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: European, German
Keyword: beef, goulash

Other German Recipes You Might Like

I cook a lot of German food – but my recipe collection on this blog is pretty sparse. I think that’s mostly because the German food I grew up on is straight forward with a few key ingredients- meat, potatoes and vegetables. Boil potatoes and half the meal is already done! Add some ham, sausage, beef, chicken or fish and a side of veggies. That’s dinner! Frequently used sauces to go with any of the above include white sauce and this creamy dressing. Maybe I need to add a few more recipes to the list!

Braised Red Cabbage

Spaetzle or German Noodles

German Cucumber Salad

Rhubarb Cake – Streusel Kuchen wiht Sweet Yeast Dough

Stollen – German Christmas Cake

I hope you try my family’s version of German Goulash and let me know what you think! When you make it, share your photo and tag @getgettys so I can see it and like it!

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