What are some traditional foods to try in Hungary?
When it comes to famous European cuisine, Hungary probably isn’t the first country that comes to mind. Along with being largely underrated, its fare is often overshadowed by nearby neighbouring countries, or mistakenly overlooked altogether.
But Hungarian food is so much more than just Goulash and paprika, although both are prominently featured. With influences from the Turks, Austrians, and Germans (amongst many others), Hungarian cuisine has evolved to include a unique complexity of flavours and an abundance of ingredients.
Most dishes are notoriously heavy and deliciously rich, often cooked in lard and topped with cheese curd or sour cream. A few staple ingredients used in most recipes include pork or beef, cabbage, potatoes, and, of course, the most ubiquitous of all Hungarian ingredients: paprika. Ranging from spicy to smoky to sweet, this vibrant red spice dominates most dishes and is used commonly as a condiment as well as a seasoning.
From handmade pasta and dumplings to tenderly cooked meats and savoury soups, with exquisite and indulgent desserts, Hungarian cuisine definitely doesn’t deserve to be overlooked.
Whether you’re travelling in Budapest or elsewhere in Hungary, the following foods are a delicious introduction to Hungarian cuisine.
You can join a guided food tour to try some of these or seek them out on your own during your trip!
Traditional Foods to Try in Hungary
Lángos – Fried Dough
Lángos is the ultimate Hungarian street food: flattened, deep-fried dough topped with savoury ingredients, such as sour cream and grated cheese or garlic butter, although sweet versions are popular as well. It’s flavourful toppings, crispy exterior, and soft chewy centre make for a really heavy (albeit delicious) snack.
Paprikás Csirke – Chicken Paprikash
Another traditional food to try in Hungary is Chicken Paprikash. This popular and flavourful dish is made with chicken stewed in a creamy paprika sauce, sometimes topped with a dollop of sour cream, and often served alongside noodles or nokedli (Hungarian dumplings). The sauce is generally made with a sweet paprika, so it’s a great dish to sample if you’re sensitive to spice.
Gulyás – Goulash
Goulash is Hungary’s most well-known national dish, but traditional Hungarian Goulash is quite different from the variations you’ll find outside the country – it’s more of a soup than a stew. Primarily made with tender chunks of beef, vegetables, and plenty of paprika, with some versions including csipetke (hand-rolled pinched noodles). It’s hearty and comforting, with a distinct smoky, spicy-sweet flavour.
Halászlé – Fisherman’s Soup
Goulash may well be the most infamous Hungarian soup, but halaszle is just as much of a national staple, and equally delicious. It’s characterized by a fiery red broth, made from fish giblets, paprika, peppers and onions. The ingredients are simple, but the flavours are complex – it’s spicy and savoury, with generous portions of melt-in-your-mouth freshwater fish fillets – usually carp, catfish, perch or pike. Try it accompanied by a basket of sliced white bread and, you guessed it, more paprika – in the form of a spreadable hot paste.
Túrós Csusza – Curd Cheese Noodles
Another traditional food to try in Hungary is curd cheese noodles. Only four ingredients make up this basic and tasty dish: túró (a fresh, soft curd cheese), homemade egg noodles, fried bacon, and sour cream. The noodles, cheese, and bacon are mixed together, topped with sour cream, and heated briefly before serving.
Lecsó – Vegetable Stew
Lecsó is a versatile stew of tomatoes, onions, peppers and sweet or hot paprika. It can be eaten for breakfast with a fried egg on top, served as a side dish, or enjoyed as a main meal with added kolbász (Hungarian sausage) or bacon.
Traditional Desserts to Try in Hungary
Hungarian confections are much like their savoury counterparts – decadent and incredibly delicious. Naturally, I couldn’t recommend just one, and you can’t go wrong with any of the following.
Hungary’s favourite cake is somlói galuska, made from sponge cake layered with chocolate cream, walnuts, rum and topped with whipped cream.
Kürtőskalács, or ‘chimney cake’ is baked rotisserie-style outdoors over charcoal, and topped with anything from cinnamon to walnuts, granulated sugar and caramel.
Kifli are a great lighter option: crescent-shaped pastries filled with a sweet walnut or poppy paste, and Krémes – a massive portion of custard between layers of pasty – are perfect if you prefer something rich and filling.
Now you have some ideas of traditional foods to try in Hungary during your visit. Bon appetit and Jo étvágyat!
What do you think of Hungarian cuisine?
Have you tried any of these foods?
SO good!! After reading this I immediately googled Hungarian Food Toronto! Bring on the notoriously heavy and deliciously rich food.
Enjoy! And let me know if you find any good Hungarian restaurants in Toronto 🙂
I’ve tried Langos (on a German Christmas market) and Goulash of course. I’d love to try the Chicken Paprikash. yummie!
It’s delicious, and definitely worth a try! 🙂
I had Lángos at the Christmas market in Budapest and it was delicious!
Langos is the best!
These look like amazing dishes. Would love to try Chicken Paprikash.
It’s a great dish – everyone seems to love it!
Yum! These all look delicious- especially the Chicken Paprikash. But I’m a total sucker for the Polish desserts – i’d love to try these!
The desserts were amazing, and very tough to resist!
I tried only a couple of things from this list – my time in Hungary was faaaar too short – but I loved pretty much every street food item I saw. I’d say it had to most appetizing array of all European open-air markets I’ve visited to date.
The Great Market Hall is fantastic – there are so many delicious foods to choose from!
And what about Layered cabbage a la Kolozsvar?? that is one awesome comfort food!!! especially with soured cabbage!! (Kolozsvar was part of Hungary, so we can safely include this dish as Hungarian)and with lots of soured cream!! I think we could make a much longer list, especially if we include the dishes of ex-Hungarian regions in Eastern Europe.
I haven’t tried that layered cabbage dish, but it sounds delicious! And I agree – we could easily add so many more dishes! This is more of an introductory list, for those who may not be as familiar with Hungarian cuisine 🙂
I love Hungarian cuisine, definitely the best part of the culture!
When I was in Hungary I used to try langos it is very tasty. In general, I liked the Hungarian cuisine. Very satisfying.))) Thanks for the article!
The list is good, and your Hungarian spelling is perfect 🙂 I came to your blog from a youtube video (South Africa) and very funny to see my home country food on your blog.
Greetings from Budapest.
I’m going to Hungary in about 10 days, so I was excited to get all this information about foods to try! Thanks, Audrey!