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Pörkölt – a Hungarian meat stew

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When you think about Hungarian food, the famous Goulash soup might be the first to come to mind. In this case it’s convenient if you thought of that since Porkolt is basically a stew version of Goulash soup. Pörkölt is a meat stew usually made with beef or pork and of course the Hungarian fundamental ingredients: onion, bell peppers and paprika.

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I lived two beautiful years in Hungary unfortunately at a time in my life when I wasn’t ready to learn about cooking. I remember the busy farmer’s market I had to walk through every morning to get to school and the delicious way everyone’s kitchen would smell – sometimes of a slow-cooked stew, but most often of freshly baked bread.

I missed many opportunities to learn traditional Hungarian cooking from my husband’s grandma – a righteous, strong-willed, stubborn, woman who (rightfully) reprimanded me for not trying to learn Hungarian and adored me for everything else. We would sit in a cramped little kitchen while she served us various courses (clearing one to make room for the next). She would serve home-made simple sweets as we waited for meal time, like candied orange peels or beaten eggs with sugar and strawberries.  Then we would always start with a rich broth. She would remove the exhausted veggies and just serve the clear liquid, and I would proudly return them into my soup, not knowing it was the liquid that held all the nutrients. After the soup came a feast of two different meat dishes, rice, pickled salad, and potatoes or corn and if it was summer and I was lucky – a fruit sauce for the meat. Dessert was, in the Hungarian fashion, never too sweet. I remember indulging in her home-made pastries hours after lunch while listening to the family converse in Hungarian I never understood.

Though I did not learn about cooking then, it has been my wish to learn now and I am determined to honor the cooking and traditions from that country that gave me so much.

I have started my journey with Pörkölt and by now I have made it enough times I am confident in my recipe. I had searched much until I found this lovely, detailed recipe which I based mine on. Traditionally Pörkölt is made with lard but I have not found pasture-raised pork lard and have yet to make my own. If you’d like to replace the olive oil with lard – more power to you!

Pörkölt – a Hungarian meat stew
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Cuisine: Hungarian
Serves: 7-8 people
Ingredients
  • 3 pounds pasture-raised pork (shoulder roast, ham roast or tenderloin)*
  • 3 large onions, very finely minced (you can use a food processor and pulse a couple of times wary not to get a mush)
  • 3 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 bell peppers, chopped
  • a bunch of fresh marjoram or 2 tablespoons dried
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt (more to taste)
  • 1½ tablespoons sweet Hungarian paprika (more to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
Instructions
  1. In a large saute pan or pot, heat olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Add minced onions and saute on medium heat, stirring frequently, for about 25 minutes. Do not let the onions get burned. When they start to get sticky, add a bit of water (1/4 cup or less) and resume siring. Repeat this process for 25 minutes and up to 40 min.
  3. While the onions are sauteing cut the meat into 1 inch cubes (or smaller), not forgetting to stir the onions occasionally (especially when the water is drying up)
  4. Increase heat and add meat cubes to onion pan, siring and searing the meat for 3-5 minutes.
  5. Decrease heat to medium low and add a bit of water, just enough to barely cover the meat.
  6. Add salt, paprika, bell peppers, tomatoes and marjoram if using dried. If using fresh add half now and half in the last 20 min of cooking.
  7. Loosely cover the pot and simmer on low for about 1 hour 30 min. Add more water and stir if necessary. If in a hurry, uncover and simmer at medium or medium-high heat for 40-60 min.
  8. Serve Porkolt over nokedli (Hungarian dumplings) or over rice or pasta.
Notes
I have made this recipe with both pork and beef and much prefer the tenderness and taste of pork. In my opinion the taste of the beef gets lost in the tomato and paprika flavors. Tenderloin will be easier to cut but is usually more expensive than shoulder or leg.
You can simmer for longer than 1 hr 30 min. My father-in-law loves reminiscing that time when Judit forgot about the Pörkölt cooking and left it on low heat for hours. He swears it never tasted so good.
In a Hungarian household, porkolt is usually served over nokedli and with a side cucumber salad. Unlike warmer cultures, Hungarians don’t boast beautiful, fresh, green salads. “Salads” in Hungary are usually small plates of vegetables in vinegar or pickled. I’ll upload simple nokedli and cucumber salad recipes next!

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Hi! Thanks for reading! I’m a certified nutritionist with a business degree. I write about the local + sustainable foods scenes in The Woodlands and share recipes made from scratch! Keep in touch and follow me!

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