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Quick Guide to Hungarian Cuisine

stuffed cabbage


What is Hungarian Cuisine like? What flavours are typical in Hungary? What's the Hungarian National Dish? What foods do you have to try in Budapest? What kind of alcohol comes from Hungary? 

We'll try our best to answer your questions! These were our impressions of the Hungarian cuisine after spending one month in Budapest, Hungary:

HUNGARIAN NATIONAL DISH

hungarian national dish

Gulyás - Goulash

The Hungarian national dish is Gulyás  - or as you probably know it 'Goulash' (your first Hungarian lesson: Hungarian 's' is pronounced like English 'sh'). 

Gulyás finds its origins in the medieval Kingdom of Hungary and is a hearty stew of beef, potatoes, onions and Hungary's favourite spice: Paprika (more on that in a moment). 

We recommend: Vegan Gulyás from Kozmosz Vegán Étterem - finom!! 


TYPICAL HUNGARIAN FLAVOURS

Paprika

paprika hungarian is it

Paprika is a big deal in Budapest, or at the very least every souvenir shop is covered in paprika merchandise. It's kind of their national symbol. Take some home for your grandma!


Paprika came to Hungary in the 16th Century: Hungary wasn't on the Silk Road, so paprika was used as a cheap version of black pepper. Paprika is actually a Hungarian word - one of the very few Hungarian words used in English (others are biro, vizsla, goulash and itsy-bitsy). 


It's generally just sweet paprika that's used in lots of Hungarian dishes, but spicy paprika is used to flavour things like Salami. 


Poppy Seed

hungarian cuisine

We saw poppy seed used in so many dishes - as a filling, or as a topping, or both! This is something we haven't really seen before so we always noticed it. It's excellent in strudels. 

Lavender

budapest cooking

Like a lot of central European countries, Lavender is used a lot. Try Hungarian lavender! 


BEST HUNGARIAN FOODS

Rétes 

hungarian food

Rétes or 'strudel' are insanely delicious. It's basically pastry filled with goodness: poppy-seed (of course), cottage cheese, dill, squash.. 

Be warned though, they are super filling! This was the first thing we tried on an excellent food tour, but it made us full immediately! 

Potato Scone 

I don't have a photo of any of the potato scones we had in Budapest - which is probably about 10,000. It's because they are my favourite snack and I always ate them before I got a chance to take a photo. Sob. They are basically scones made out of potato and cheese. Scone + Potato + Cheese are basically the holy trio for British people. 

Stuffed Cabbage à la Kolozsvár

hungarian cuisine

Stuffed cabbage is another traditional Hungarian dish. They are generally stuffed with meat and rice, but we don't eat meat so ours were stuffed with faux sausage, and it was literally the best thing ever.


The cabbage is often pickled (sauerkraut) which makes it even more delicious. I'm literally thinking about booking a flight to Hungary just to have this meal again. 


We recommend: Napfenyes for the best stuffed cabbage ever.


Lecsó

Something we are sad we didn't get to try in Hungary is Lecsó - paprika vegetable stew. We didn't get to try it because we didn't know it was a thing until too late. Oh well, yet another reason to go back to Hungary!! 


HUNGARIAN SNACKS

When we were staying in Budapest, we tried out lots of snacks that we found in the supermarket. This was before we stopped eating dairy so there are plenty of chocolate snacks in here. We laughed way too much at the snack 'Bumm' (which isn't even pronounced like that and means boom). Also, my hair was super frizzy that day because it was really humid - enjoy!  


HUNGARIAN DESSERTS

Cheese Dumplings 

hungarian desserts

Like a lot of the foods we've mentioned so far, Hungarian cheese dumplings are super filling and super delicious - you can't go wrong!

We  recommend: Napfenyes for vegan Hungarian cheese dumplings! 

Meggyleves

Meggyleves is sour, cold, cherry soup. Sour, cherry soup sounds great, cold sounds less great, but we'd LOVE to try this - especially if we can find a version without the cream! 

Kürtőskalács

chimney thing

Kürtöskalács are chimney shaped doughnuts often filled with cream or ice cream or similar. 

These originate from Hungarian-speaking parts of Romania. We didn't know this and tried our first one in Prague. We didn't like it. But we liked Budapest a lot more than Prague, so by that logic we will probably like kürtöskalács better in Budapest, another thing to try next time!



HUNGARIAN ALCOHOL

Wine


Before we went to Budapest, we didn't even know that Hungarians made wine, let alone that it's super delicious. Like some of the nicest wines we've ever tasted. 

There's a Hungarian wine called "Bull's Blood" - which has a great story behind it. 

But my favourite Hungarian wines come from the Tokaj region, in particular: from the Tokaji Furmit Grand Selection (dry, citrusy) and wine from the Royal Tokaj Winery - the 'King of wines'.

We recommend: an evening at Thursdays at the Tasting Table in Budapest, to learn more about Hungarin wine and food. 

And if you want to see something funny, watch the vlog about us going on a wine cruise on the Danube:


Brandy 

drinking in hungary

Where there's wine, there's often brandy and Hungarian brandy (or 'Pálinka) i
s amazing. Again this was something we tried at the Tasting Table. 

Unicum 

unicum

Unicum is the Hungarian signature spirit. It's kind of like Jaegermesiter, but better. Unicum was accidentally invented when a doctor was trying to make medicine for Joseph the second. 


It's been popular and readily available in Hungary ever since - except for the 40 years that the USSR occupied Hungary. The Unicum family took the secret recipe to the US so the Soviets couldn't make it!


The recipe is still a secret to this day - though it is known that it's 40% alcohol and has over 42 digestive herbs in it. 





MUST DO FOOD TOURS IN BUDAPEST

Hungarian Vegetarian Food Tour



We would recommend this tour to anyone wanting to learn more about Hungarian vegetarian food. But particularly if you don't know Budapest very well, as you walk round Budapest and get to learn more about it. 

[Find out more: our Taste Hungary - Hungarian Vegetarian Food Tour review]

Vizeat is a cool company, similar to airbnb but for food - fancy meeting locals and having an authentic cooking experience with them? Vizeat is the place to do it - you can go round for a meal or even learn to cook yourself with new Hungarian friends.

We discovered Vizeat after we left Budapest, but you can read our review here: Vizeat review - taste the city with locals where we tried it out in Rome. 

Thursdays at the Tasting Table with Taste Hungary


I would recommend Thursdays at the Tasting Table to tourists and locals to Budapest alike. The food is delicious, the wine is delicious and you can learn a lot.

[Find out more: our review of Thursdays at the Tasting Table


IS IT POSSIBLE TO BE VEGAN IN BUDAPEST?

Our experience: we were vegetarian in Budapest and on the cusp of becoming vegan. Personally, we didn't find it hard to be vegetarian in Budapest at all, but being vegan was another matter:

There are some AWESOME vegan restaurants in Budapest (our favourite was Napfenyes), but apart from those it was hard eating out:  like most European countries, if it doesn't have meat in it, they will put cheese in it, and omg the cheese tastes so good. 

As experienced vegan travellers now, I'm confident that next time we visit Budapest we will be able to do it vegan :) so watch this space!

WHERE TO STAY IN BUDAPEST

After you've done all that eating, you'll need somewhere to stay, we recommend:

Voted the #1 hotel in Budapest and we can see why - it's lush! Perfect for a special occasion (we went for Tanbay's birthday)! 

For longer stays, why not have a place with a kitchen so you can cook some meals yourself? If you're new to Airbnb we can give you a voucher.

Fancy free accommodation in Budapest? Try out House sitting - look after someone's house whilst their away in return for free accommodation. (Get a 10% discount if you sign-up to our newsletter.) 

HOW TO GET TO BUDAPEST

If you're travelling from far away (we flew in via Rome) we recommend the website Kiwi - it will find you the shortest and cheapest flights anywhere in the world. 

Buses are also great in Europe. We took the bus from Budapest to Bratislava, another bus from Prague to Budapest, and a third bus from Budapest to Zagreb. A cheap way to get around with varying degrees of comfort (on one of the buses we had TVs to watch, hot drinks and a comfy seats. On another one the bus was two hours late and the air-con didn't work. Same company. Pot luck!) 

Driving is also a great way to get around we use Skyscanner car comparison to find the best deals. 


CONCLUSION

Just like we loved Budapest and love Hungarians, we love Hungarian food. It's filling, it's delicious and I am currently looking at the best flights to Budapest to take us back so we can do some serious eating.  

If you have any suggestions, comments, questions, spelling mistakes to point out, please leave a comment below <3 



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ABOUTME

We're Laura and Tanbay, a British/German couple who have successfully weaselled our way out of the rat-race and want you to do the same! We also want to make it clear that we sometimes use “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, we only recommend products or services we use personally and believe will add value to our readers.

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