News News from Hungary Hun­gar­i­an Food & The 68 Dish­es You Should Know

Hun­gar­i­an Food & The 68 Dish­es You Should Know

From lán­gos to goulash to chick­en paprikash — learn about the his­to­ry of Hun­gar­i­an food and the coun­try’s most famous dishes.

Hun­gar­i­an food today is a reflec­tion of Hun­gary’s con­ti­nen­tal cli­mate — cold win­ters, hot sum­mers — the coun­try­side fare, and the influ­ences of neigh­bor­ing coun­tries and eth­nic minori­ties. For exam­ple, while Hun­gar­i­ans have been eat­ing a form of goulash for hun­dreds of years, dish­es like stuffed pep­pers, schnitzel, and cholent have grad­u­al­ly seeped into the main­stream thanks to Ottoman, Aus­tri­an, and Jew­ish influ­ences, respectively.

Hun­gar­i­an food improved con­sid­er­ably in the 15th cen­tu­ry dur­ing the reign of renais­sance king Matthias: Through his Naples-born wife, Beat­rice, he hired Ital­ian chefs who intro­duced new ingre­di­ents, and cook­ing tech­niques like pasta-making.

While the ensu­ing occu­pa­tion by Ottoman Turkey end­ed Hun­gary’s inde­pen­dence for near­ly two cen­turies, it also brought forth impor­tant culi­nary inno­va­tions — stuffed veg­eta­bles, many sweets and desserts, and cof­fee appeared in this time. This was also when New World pro­duces like corn, pota­to, beans, squash, toma­to, and papri­ka arrived in Hun­gary. In fact, papri­ka (cap­sicum) went on to rev­o­lu­tion­ize Hun­gar­i­an cook­ing after local farm­ers cul­ti­vat­ed a host of sub­species rang­ing from sweet to scorch­ing hot.

A papri­ka-laced veal stew with a side of egg dumplings (nokedli).

Mean­while, French cook­ing tech­niques began to spread into the house­holds of the nobil­i­ty and lat­er the whole coun­try, tam­ing the some­what crude and spicy Hun­gar­i­an peas­ant fare (for exam­ple roux replaced bread as a thick­en­er). This yield­ed a more refined yet still dis­tinct cook­ing style that’s con­sid­ered the basis of mod­ern Hun­gar­i­an food.

Giv­en the small size of Hun­gary, region­al dif­fer­ences today are scant. One notable excep­tion is Tran­syl­va­nia, part of Roma­nia today but with a size­able Hun­gar­i­an com­mu­ni­ty. There, instead of papri­ka, herbs like tar­ragon, mar­jo­ram, thyme, and juniper have remained essen­tial sea­son­ings and corn-based dish­es like polen­ta are promi­nent. Also, excel­lent sheep­’s milk cheeses are made there.

Lunch in Hun­gary usu­al­ly begins with a soup. Unike in oth­er parts of Cen­tral and East­ern Europe, few soups have a char­ac­ter­is­ti­cal­ly sour taste. At the top of the soup hier­ar­chy sits “húsleves,” lit­er­al­ly meat soup, usu­al­ly made from beef or poul­try with a fla­vor­ful broth. No wed­ding din­ner is com­plete with­out it. The every­day soup of choice is usu­al­ly deter­mined by the sea­son: There might be a hearty bean soup stud­ded with smoked pork knuck­les in the cold months, and a light cher­ry or apri­cot soup in the summer.

Hun­gary’s cli­mate is suit­able to cool and warm-sea­son veg­etable crops alike, so there’s both things like cab­bage, car­rots, beets, and cau­li­flower, but also toma­toes, bell pep­pers, green beans, and sum­mer squash. Rather than sim­ply reduc­ing them to boiled or steamed side dish­es, sea­son­al veg­etable stews called főzelék often appear as main cours­es. Usu­al­ly a late-sum­mer dish, equal­ly good is lec­só, the local rata­touille. Before veg­eta­bles became avail­able year-round, most peo­ple got their vit­a­mins and carbs in the form of sauer­kraut and pota­toes in the win­ter months.

The con­cept of a sal­ad course does­n’t exist in Hun­gary. Instead, peo­ple accom­pa­ny their main cours­es by a small plate of veg­eta­bles, usu­al­ly shred­ded cab­bage, cucum­bers, beets, or toma­toes. This is also the case dur­ing the win­ter months, with the only dif­fer­ence that they typ­i­cal­ly eat them pick­led (savanyúság).

Meat is fun­da­men­tal to Hun­gar­i­an food. Options span from poul­try to beef and to a less­er extent game and game birds, but pork is most preva­lent. Pork turns up in myr­i­ad per­mu­ta­tions. A papri­ka-laced roast sausage paired with mus­tard and a slice of crusty bread is a pop­u­lar every­day meal, but high­er-end restau­rants also serve man­gal­it­sa, the curly-haired breed of her­itage pork known for its fla­vor-rich mar­bled meat. His­tor­i­cal­ly, lard was the most com­mon cook­ing fat, but it’s now eclipsed by veg­etable oils (onion­ssautéed in lard and strewn with papri­ka is the foun­da­tion of many Hun­gar­i­an dish­es, includ­ing the goulash, paprikash, and pörkölt).

While Hun­gary’s pre­served meats pale in com­par­i­son to Ital­ian cold cuts, sza­lon­na and kol­bász, two cher­ished cured meats, have for cen­turies pro­vid­ed vital sus­te­nance to locals, espe­cial­ly farm­ers and labor­ers. The pre­mi­um télisza­lá­mi, a smoked, fer­ment­ed, and aged sausage laced with herbs, is right­ful­ly regard­ed as a nation­al treasure.

Hun­gary is a land­locked coun­try. This does­n’t mean you can’t find a decent grilled shrimp cock­tail these days, but fresh­wa­ter fish like carp (pon­ty), cat­fish (harc­sa), and, less com­mon­ly, trout (pisztráng) and pike-perch (fogas) are like­ly fresh­er. Sad­ly, long gone are the days when bel­u­ga stur­geons were swarm­ing in the Danube. And while fish isn’t the strongest suit of Hun­gar­i­an food, the local fish soup — fish­er­man’s broth or halás­zlé — is worth trying.

An unusu­al meal cat­e­go­ry in Hun­gary are the sweet pas­ta dish­es (tész­taé­tel): reg­u­lar noo­dles topped with ingre­di­ents like toast­ed semoli­na and apri­cot jam (grízes tész­ta) or ground pop­py seeds and pow­dered sug­ar (mákos tész­ta). Peo­ple usu­al­ly eat them as a sec­ond course after a hefty soup. The most com­mon every­day dessert is palac­sin­ta, the local crêpe rolled with jam or cin­na­mon sugar.

Sim­i­lar to Aus­tria, Hun­gary is a cake-super­pow­er. The tra­di­tion­al cakes are best known for fea­tur­ing ground pop­py seeds and wal­nuts as pas­try fill­ings. Note that restau­rants in Hun­gary don’t serve cakes, and instead you’ll have to vis­it a spe­cial­ized pas­try shop (cukrász­da) to try a clas­sic Dobos or Ester­házy torte.

Hun­gar­i­an cheeses don’t exact­ly set the world on fire, in part because unlike in places like France and Switzer­land, there’s lit­tle avail­able moun­tain pas­ture in the coun­try for cows to graze on (Hun­gary’s per capi­ta milk con­sump­tion is also one of the low­est in the EU). But sour cream appears in many foods. With a hint of tart­ness, it lends a pleas­ant kick and a creamy con­sis­ten­cy to dish­es. Also pop­u­lar is túró, a snow-white, fresh, unripened curd cheese sim­i­lar to cot­tage cheese. Túró is high­ly ver­sa­tile, appear­ing in both sweet and savory clas­sics, and also in Hun­gary’s icon­ic can­dy bar, the Túró Rudi.

His­tor­i­cal­ly, Hun­gary has been a wine-drink­ing rather than a beer-drink­ing coun­try, with Tokaj in the north­east being the lead­ing wine region. The com­mu­nist era (1947−1989) did no favors to the rep­u­ta­tion of Hun­gar­i­an wines, but today a new gen­er­a­tion of ambi­tious wine­mak­ers are com­mit­ted to putting the coun­try back on the radar of oenophiles.

The 68 Essen­tial Hun­gar­i­an Dishes

Dear read­er, before you start to ques­tion the ori­gins of the below dish­es, bear in mind that region­al foods influ­ence one anoth­er in all parts of the world. For exam­ple, the goulash soup has become as much part of Aus­tri­an cui­sine as the Wiener schnitzel seeped into Hun­gar­i­an house­holds. If any­thing, this is a beau­ti­ful cul­tur­al exchange through food, enrich­ing both countries.

In Budapest, you’ll find many of the below dish­es in tra­di­tion­al Hun­gar­i­an restau­rants, and also in étkezdes, which are cheap, unfussy, lunch-only restau­rants across the city. Note that some of the items are sea­son­al, such as the win­try cab­bage rolls, so they may not be served year-round.


#1 — Choco­late bun (kakaós csi­ga): As in Italy, Scan­di­navia, and France, many peo­ple in Hun­gary start their days with a morn­ing pas­try instead of a full break­fast dish. If you have a sweet tooth, you’ll find this rich choco­late bun shaped in a spi­ral to be a real treat, espe­cial­ly if you eat it while still warm. My favorite in Budapest: Pék­műhe­ly 2.


#2 — Túrós batyu: Apart from the kakaós csi­ga, above, túrós batyu is Hun­gary’s oth­er beloved morn­ing pas­try. The stuff­ing of túró, a snow-white fresh curd cheese, lends a beguil­ing sweet-tart fla­vor to this palm-sized break­fast snack. My favorite in Budapest: At any bakery.


#3 — Lán­gos: Many Hun­gar­i­ans asso­ciate these deep-fried, cir­cu­lar doughs with sum­mer vaca­tions spent at Lake Bal­a­ton, but thank­ful­ly lán­gos is avail­able year-round. At its best, the crispy, gold­en crust yields to a steam­ing, doughy inside. For the most mem­o­rable expe­ri­ence, head to a Budapest mar­ket hall and get the clas­sic ver­sion topped with sour cream and grat­ed cheese. My favorites in Budapest: JóKrisz Lán­gos Sütöde.


#4 — Lip­tauer (körözött): Named after the curd cheese of Lip­tov, in today’s Slo­va­kia, Lip­tauer is a pop­u­lar spread through­out the coun­tries of the for­mer Aus­tro Hun­gar­i­an Empire. The orange-hued mix­ture con­sists of sheep­’s milk curd cheese (juhtúró), but­ter, papri­ka, chopped onions, and car­away seeds. Hun­gar­i­an peo­ple usu­al­ly slather körözött on bread and pair it with cold beer. My favorite in Budapest: You can buy ready-made körözött sold in small ramekins at Boci Tejbolt inside the Klauzál Mar­ket Hall.


#5 — Cured sausage (kol­bász): In the Hun­gar­i­an coun­try­side, peo­ple have tra­di­tion­al­ly pre­pared kol­bász dur­ing the win­ter pig slaugh­ter. Kol­bász con­sists of a paste of meat, fat, and a papri­ka-heavy spice blend. The mix­ture is stuffed into a tubu­lar cas­ing — usu­al­ly using the pig’s intes­tine — and then smoked and dried. Sliced kol­bász is high­ly ver­sa­tile, appear­ing in many Hun­gar­i­an clas­sics, for exam­ple lay­ered pota­toes (rakott krum­pli), and also as sand­wich toppings.


#6 — Sza­lá­mi (sala­mi): Tra­di­tion­al sala­mi is a rel­a­tive­ly recent type of pre­served sausage in Hun­gary, dat­ing back to the 19th cen­tu­ry. Com­pared to kol­bász, above, sza­lá­mi is thick­er and usu­al­ly made with­out papri­ka, hence the absence of an orange-red hue to it. It’s also aged for longer so it com­mands a high­er price tag. A pre­mi­um cat­e­go­ry is télisza­lá­mi, rec­og­niz­able by a white pro­tec­tive mold that grows on its sur­face dur­ing dry­ing. Two his­toric com­pa­nies, Pick and Herz, are still the main pro­duc­ers. Sliced sza­lá­mi works both as a snack and as a sand­wich topping.


#7 — Sza­lon­na: “Sza­lon­na” is an umbrel­la term in Hun­gary for all cuts of pre­served pork that come from right under the animal’s skin, be it fat­back, pork bel­ly, or jawl. Most sza­lon­na is salt­ed and smoked, but treat­ments vary by region. To this day, sza­lon­na is a cher­ished, ener­gy-rich sus­te­nance across Hun­gary. Peo­ple either cook sza­lon­na into dish­es for a fla­vor boost, or eat it sim­ply with bread and vegetables.


#8 — Bread smeared with lard (zsíroskenyér): A fla­vor-rich Hun­gar­i­an bar snack, zsíroskenyér is an open-faced sand­wich smeared with lard (pork fat) and sprin­kled with rings of onion and a hint of papri­ka. Con­ve­nient­ly, it pairs well with draft beer and is also wal­let friend­ly. A few places also serve a VIP ver­sion made with Man­gal­it­sa lard. My favorite in Budapest: When the hunger for zsíroskenyér aris­es, I usu­al­ly go to Grinzin­gi, an old-school, unfussy neigh­bor­hood joint in down­town Budapest.


#9 — Fried fat­back (töpör­tyű & pörc): Morsels of fat­back fried to a gold­en, crispy brown may not be for the faint of heart, but they’re a deli­cious snack. You can eat them as they come or with some red onions and a fresh slice of bread. Most butch­er shops in Hun­gary make them from both pork and goose fat (schmaltz). Pörc is a sim­i­lar prod­uct, using pork bel­ly instead of fat­back (think chicharrón).


#10 — Goulash soup: The sym­bol of Hun­gar­i­an food — a papri­ka-laced soup packed with cubes of ten­der beef, pota­toes, and pinched noo­dles — needs lit­tle intro­duc­tion. Once the nour­ish­ment of shep­herds, today the goulash is a sta­ple across house­holds in Hun­gary. Use the table­side hot papri­ka paste to adjust the spice lev­el to your taste. My favorite in Budapest: At these restau­rants.


#11 — Beef broth (marhahúsleves): Húsleves is a sig­na­ture of Sun­day fam­i­ly meals across Hun­gary, usu­al­ly served from a large soup tureen for the whole table, sim­i­lar to a pot-au-feu. The steam­ing and fra­grant broth packs a cut of soft beef, root veg­eta­bles, and angel hair pas­ta. It’s often paired with bone mar­row and toast on the side.


#12 — Fish­er­man’s soup (halás­zlé): Hun­gary’s take on the bouil­l­abaisse has myr­i­ad region­al per­mu­ta­tions, most notably those in the river­front cities of Baja and Szeged. The crim­son-hued broth is bol­stered with papri­ka and comes laced with a vari­ety of fish. The clas­sic ver­sion fea­tures ten­der, oily carp fil­lets. Tra­di­tion­al­ly, halás­zlé is part of the Christ­mas-Eve din­ner in Hun­gar­i­an families.

#13 — Jókai bean soup (Jókai bableves): A clas­sic win­ter soup named after the cel­e­brat­ed Hun­gar­i­an writer, Mór Jókai. The main com­po­nents are smoked pork knuck­les, crispy sausage, pin­to beans, and root veg­eta­bles. The soup is usu­al­ly thick­ened with roux and sour cream. Note that your most pro­duc­tive hours will not be after eat­ing this.


#14 — Palóc soup: This stur­dy soup is sim­i­lar to a goulash, but green beans and sour cream add a lay­er of savory depth to it. Restau­ra­teur János Gun­del, father of Károly Gun­del, cre­at­ed this soup in 1892 as a birth­day present to his reg­u­lar patron, Kálmán Mik­száth, a promi­nent Hun­gar­i­an writer. Mik­száth wrote many nov­els about the Palóc peo­ple, hence the soup’s moniker. The orig­i­nal recipe calls for mut­ton, but most places make it with beef or pork these days.


#15 — Sauer­kraut soup (korhe­lyleves): Hun­gar­i­ans tra­di­tion­al­ly eat this soup as a hang­over cure after a noc­tur­nal debauch in the small hours of a cold win­ter morn­ing. Bright tast­ing sauer­kraut, slices of smoked or boiled sausage, and a thick broth laden with fat and sour cream are meant to soothe the stom­ach and mit­i­gate the headache.


#16 — Lebbencs soup: This pota­to and noo­dles-laden soup harkens back to the coun­try­side folks of east­ern Hun­gary, around the town of Debre­cen, who often ate it. The soup starts with melt­ing down a small slab of pork fat­back into lard and crispy crack­lings, to which come the pota­toes and noo­dles. Lebbencs is the name of the paper-thin sheet of dough that they’d dry and then chip off bits from into dishes.


#17 — Cold sour-cher­ry soup (hideg meg­gyleves): You’re unlike­ly to find this beloved sum­mer treat out­side of Hun­gary. The key is fresh, pit­ted cher­ries here that are trans­formed — using water, sour cream, and sug­ar — into a deli­cious­ly creamy, sweet-sour chilled soup.


#18 — Foie gras (libamáj): Usu­al­ly asso­ci­at­ed with French food, few peo­ple know that Hun­gary is the world’s sec­ond largest pro­duc­er of foie gras. Most fine din­ing restau­rants serve this del­i­ca­cy as an appe­tiz­er with a side of fruit jam to match the rich fla­vor and but­tery tex­ture of the fat­tened duck liv­er (tra­di­tion­al­ly, foie gras pairs with a glass of gold­en Toka­ji aszú wine). Though not cheap, foie gras in Budapest is more afford­able than in most places around the world.


#19 — Green pea stew (zöld­borsó főzelék): Be it cab­bage, lentil, pota­to, beans, spinach, squash, or green peas, Hungary’s love affair with veg­etable stews (főzelék) has pro­duced many lip-smack­ing dish­es. Főzelék stands on its own as a main course paired sim­ply with a thick slice of crusty bread, although top­pings often include a sun­ny-side up egg, meat­ball, pörkölt, or sausage. My favorite in Budapest: Öcsi Étkezde.


#20 — Sum­mer squash stew with dill (tök­főzelék): Hungary’s main veg­etable stew draws both avid admir­ers and detrac­tors. What­ev­er side you take, let’s agree that a chilled and light ver­sion dur­ing the warmer months, thick­ened with sour cream, is tough to beat.


#21 — Lec­só: Made from bell pep­pers, toma­toes, onions, and a sprin­kle of papri­ka, the best time for this Hun­gar­i­an rata­touille is the late sum­mer, when veg­eta­bles are ripest and most fla­vor­ful. Lec­só is even bet­ter when boost­ed with a fried egg and thin slices of crispy sausage.


#22 — Lay­ered pota­to casse­role (rakott krum­pli): Sim­i­lar to a pota­toes au gratin, butHun­gar­i­ans lay­er this dish with sour cream, slices of hard-boiled eggs, and crisped-up papri­ka sausage. The sum of the parts is light and creamy, with a gooey top­ping of melt­ed cheese. Rakott krum­pli is best when served with a side of pick­led veg­eta­bles. My favorite in Budapest: Stand25 Bisztró.


#23 — Beef stew (marha pörkölt): Pörkölt and paprikash (see next entry) are the ances­tors of the goulash soup. They orig­i­nat­ed among shep­herds in the Hun­gar­i­an Plain, Alföld, who stewed meat in a caul­dron over open fire. Pörkölt is dry-stewed and usu­al­ly made with beef or pork (less com­mon­ly veni­son or mut­ton). The tra­di­tion­al side dish to both pörkölt and paprikash is either egg dumplings (galus­ka) or egg “bar­ley” (tarho­nya). My favorite in Budapest: Men­za.

chicken paprikash with sour cream

#24 — Chick­en paprikash: Paprikash is very sim­i­lar to a pörkölt, above, but here the meat is usu­al­ly gen­tly steam-cooked, using more liq­uid than with a pörkölt. Also, paprikash is fin­ished with sour cream and usu­al­ly made with chick­en or veal, rather than beef.


#25 — Csikós tokány: Tokány is a cat­e­go­ry of stew dish­es sim­i­lar to pörkölt and paprikás, above, but usu­al­ly pre­pared with less papri­ka than those two. His­tor­i­cal­ly, tokány was most com­mon in Tran­syl­va­nia, and the name itself comes from the Roman­ian word for ragout. You can rec­og­nize a tokány by the thin, elon­gat­ed shape of the bits of meat. Smoked sza­lon­na and sour cream give a dis­tinct taste to csikós tokány, which can be made with any meat you like.


#26 — Stuffed cab­bage (töltött káposz­ta): In the Mid­dle Ages, sauer­kraut with meat was regard­ed as the nation­al dish of Hun­gary. When the Ottomans ruled the coun­try, the Turk­ish prac­tice of stuff­ing meat into fruit and veg­etable leaves start­ed to spread and hence the cab­bage rolls appeared across East­ern Europe. A bed of sauer­kraut and a gen­er­ous dol­lop of sour cream top­ping set apart the local ver­sion. Töltött káposz­ta is a trea­sured win­ter sta­ple and an oblig­a­tory food at wed­ding recep­tions in Hun­gary. My favorite in Budapest: Rosen­stein Vendéglő.


#27 — Stuffed pep­pers (töltött papri­ka): Anoth­er dish adopt­ed dur­ing the country’s occu­pa­tion by Ottoman Turkey in the 16 – 17th cen­turies, Hungary’s take on the stuffed pep­pers comes filled with a mix­ture of ground pork, rice, and a spice blend. A bed of sub­tly sweet toma­to sauce and a side of boiled pota­toes are part of the charm.


#28 — Széke­lyká­posz­ta / Széke­lygu­lyás: A Budapest restau­rant invent­ed this hefty dish in 1846 using left­over pork stew (pörkölt) lay­ered with sauer­kraut. It quick­ly became a hit and spread across Hun­gary. Despite what many peo­ple think, széke­lyká­posz­ta has noth­ing to do with Tran­syl­va­nia; széke­ly peo­ple do live in Tran­syl­va­nia, but the dish’s moniker actu­al­ly refers to József Széke­ly, the per­son who first ordered it.


#29 — Schnitzel (rán­tott hús): This Ital­ian-Aus­tri­an bread­ed veal cut­let has made its way deep into Hun­gar­i­an kitchens, being a sta­ple dish of Sun­day fam­i­ly meals. When done right, a ten­der and juicy meat hides behind the thin, crispy exte­ri­or. While the orig­i­nal recipe calls for veal escalopes, Budapest restau­rants often serve it with pork loin, chick­en breast, or a ham-and-cheese fill­ing (cor­don bleu). My favorite in Budapest: Buja Disznó(k) and Café Kör.

Man­gal­it­sa pork chop paired with polen­ta and fresh vegetables.

#30 — Man­gal­it­sa pork chop: Sim­i­lar to the black-hoofed Iberi­co, the Hun­gar­i­an Man­gal­it­sa is a trea­sured breed of her­itage pig, known for its rich­ly mar­bled meat and curly “fleece.” Miche­lin-starred restau­rants around the world reg­u­lar­ly serve Man­gal­it­sa, but on their home turf in Hun­gary you’ll be able to feast on this porcine del­icay at rel­a­tive­ly wal­let-friend­ly prices. My favorite in Budapest: HILDA.


#31 — Vadas: Vadas is a catch-all phrase for dish­es pre­pared with an orange-hued, sweet-tart veg­etable sauce made from root veg­eta­bles and spiked with mus­tard, lemon, and a lit­tle sug­ar. Restau­rants usu­al­ly pair it with slow-cooked beef (vadas marha) and bread dumplings. My favorite in Budapest: Földes Józsi Vendéglő­je.


#32 — Cholent (sólet): First intro­duced by Hun­gary’s Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty, this tra­di­tion­al Sab­bath dish has since spread into the main­stream. Many cholent vari­a­tions exist, but in Budapest it usu­al­ly con­sists of slow-cooked beans and pearl bar­ley topped with sliced brisket or goose leg. Jew­ish-style restau­rants usu­al­ly serve it on Fri­days and Sat­ur­days. My favorite in Budapest: A Séf utcá­ja (on Fridays).


#33 — Pork rice pilaf (bác­skai rizs­es hús): Evolved from the Ser­bian casse­role called dju­vec, this is a rice pilaf stud­ded with bits of stewed pork. Toss­ing left­over pörkölt with bell pep­pers, toma­toes, and a creamy rice cooked in a rich broth is anoth­er way to think of it. The dish, which is eat­en as a main course, isn’t com­plete with­out a side of pickles.


#34 — Papri­ka pota­toes (paprikás krum­pli): Yes, it’s con­sid­ered a low-brow food, but don’t look down your nose at this papri­ka-pota­to com­bo that has nour­ished gen­er­a­tions of Hun­gar­i­ans across school cafe­te­rias and eater­ies. The sim­ple ingre­di­ents belie the dish’s nice­ly lay­ered fla­vor, which is usu­al­ly boost­ed with sliced frank­furters and a side of pickles.


#35 — Lungs with bread dumplings (szalontüdő/savanyútüdő): Also pop­u­lar in the Czech Repub­lic and Aus­tria, this plate of cooked veal lungs — the tra­di­tion­al recipe calls for veal but in Budapest it’s often made with beef or pork — is best when served with a creamy and bright tast­ing sauce tinged with lemon juice and a cou­ple of bread dumplings on the side.


#36 — Hun­gar­i­an tripe stew (pacal pörkölt): As in Italy and France, tripe in Hun­gary has long been con­sid­ered a poor man’s food but it can be won­der­ful­ly deli­cious when cooked to ten­der sub­mis­sion with a bit of bite left to it. In Hun­gary, nat­u­ral­ly, the juli­enned strips of beef tripe arrive in a red-hued papri­ka and onion-laced sauce and a side of boiled potatoes.


#37 — Goose giblets por­ridge (ludaskása): This is one of Hun­gary’s old­est dish­es, although in the days of yore it was often made from mil­let por­ridge instead of rice. Today, it’s best known as an eco­nom­i­cal dish con­sist­ing of left­over goose giblets, bits of goose back, and wing meat that are cooked into a bed of al dente rice mixed with root veg­eta­bles. Ludaskása used to be pop­u­lar among both the Chris­t­ian and the Jew­ish res­i­dents of Budapest around the turn of the 20th century.


#38 — Roast­ed sausages (sütőkol­bász & hur­ka): Be it break­fast, lunch, or din­ner, roast­ed sausages are a pop­u­lar com­fort food in Hun­gary among blue-col­lar and white-col­lar peo­ple alike. A gen­er­ous dol­lop of mus­tard, pick­led veg­eta­bles, and a thick slice of crusty bread are all you need for this pre­tense-free meal. Kol­bász is a meat sausage with papri­ka-for­ward spices while hur­ka is stuffed with a paste of cooked offal and rice. My favorite in Budapest: These sausage shops.


#39 — Cucum­ber sal­ad (uborkasalá­ta): As men­tioned in the intro, fresh veg­eta­bles are usu­al­ly served as a side dish in Hun­gary instead of as a sep­a­rate sal­ad course. One of the most com­mon options is a cucum­ber sal­ad, thin­ly sliced and spiked with salt, vine­gar, and a blob of sour cream. It goes down espe­cial­ly well with a chick­en paprikash, pörkölt, or schnitzel.


#40 — Pick­led veg­eta­bles (savanyúság): For a coun­try with a rel­a­tive­ly long win­ter like Hun­gary, pick­led veg­eta­bles (savanyúság) pro­vide essen­tial nutri­ents dur­ing the bar­ren months of the year. The savanyúság options are end­less: from pick­les, to cab­bage, to pep­pers, to beets, to onions, to gar­lic, to you-name-it. Most savanyúság is made in a vine­gar brine that’s often spiked with sug­ar to bal­ance out the acid­i­ty (except for pick­les and sauer­kraut, which are lacto-fermented).


#41 — Cot­tage cheese noo­dles (túrós csusza): A medieval Hun­gar­i­an dish, this plate of baked egg noo­dles comes smoth­ered in sour cream, túró, and sprin­kles of crispy pork crack­lings. Hun­gar­i­ans often eat it as a sec­ond course after a fish­er­man’s soup. Don’t ask me why, but some peo­ple swap the bacon for pow­dered sug­ar and turn this into a sweet dessert.


#42 — Cab­bage noo­dles (káposztás cvekedli / koc­ka): This is one of those dish­es that’s more than the sum of its parts: Shred­ded cab­bage, which has been sautéed with lard and sug­ar, coats square-shaped bits of slip­pery pas­ta. A hint of ground pep­per­corns gives it a lit­tle kick, and some restau­rants will also top it with roast pork.


#43 — Pop­py-seeds noo­dles (mákos tész­ta): Recipe col­lec­tions from the 16th cen­tu­ry already include this easy-to-whip-up noo­dle dish blan­ket­ed in ground pop­py seeds and pow­dered sug­ar. Hun­gar­i­ans usu­al­ly eat after a hearty soup. Thanks to the trace amounts of opi­ates, exas­per­at­ed par­ents would serve this to soothe their unruly chil­dren and help them fall asleep.


#44 — Semoli­na noo­dles (grízes tész­ta): Anoth­er unfan­cy but inven­tive hot noo­dle dish in which toast­ed semoli­na flour is driz­zled over egg pas­ta. What helps win over the hearts of many peo­ple about this one is the gen­er­ous dol­lop of apri­cot jam top­ping. My favorite in Budapest? Kádár étkezde.


#45 — Wal­nut noo­dles (diós tész­ta): The third mem­ber of the trio of sweet noo­dle dish­es in Hun­gary (see above the oth­er two). A Hun­gar­i­an recipe book from the 1600s already lists this dish as an option for meat-free days. The broad and flat egg pas­ta noo­dles are first slicked with but­ter, then show­ered in a blend of ground wal­nuts and pow­dered sugar.

Sweet-tart cot­tage cheese dumplings (túró­gom­bóc) are among the few Hun­gar­i­an dish­es mak­ing a comeback.

#46 — Cot­tage cheese dumplings (túró­gom­bóc): You’re unlike­ly to find sweet-tart cot­tage cheese dumplings out­side of Hun­gary. They’re boiled, then coat­ed in fried bread­crumbs and fin­ished with sour cream and pow­dered sug­ar. Go fig­ure. They’re light and tasty. My favorite in Budapest: Kiosk Buda.


#47 — Var­gabéles: Orig­i­nat­ing in Tran­syl­va­nia, this strudel-cake enclos­es fresh túró (cot­tage cheese) lay­ered with noo­dles, raisins, and a sprin­kle of vanil­la sug­ar. Restau­rants serve a gen­er­ous­ly por­tioned cube-shaped slice as a sec­ond course after soup. 

The arany­galus­ka, a tra­di­tion­al Hun­gar­i­an dessert, quick­ly became a sig­na­ture dish at Felix restaurant.

#48 — Yeast rolls (arany­galus­ka): Sweet yeast rolls are com­mon across Cen­tral Europe, but these feath­er-light baked buns coat­ed in melt­ed but­ter, ground wal­nuts, and sug­ar are dis­tinct­ly Hun­gar­i­an and impos­si­ble to stop eat­ing. Each bit comes show­ered in vanil­la custard.


#49 — Kaiser­schmar­rn (császár­morzsa): Named after “the Kaiser,” Hab­s­burg emper­or Franz Joseph, this shred­ded crepe sprin­kled with pow­dered sug­ar and raisins is anoth­er adored dessert across the for­mer Aus­tria-Hun­gary. In Hun­gary, peo­ple make it with semoli­na instead of reg­u­lar wheat flour and bathe the plate in fruit preserves.


#50 — Plum dumplings (szil­vás­gom­bóc): When George Lang, the leg­endary Hun­gar­i­an-Amer­i­can restau­ra­teur, was asked what his last meal would be, plum dumplings were one of the dish­es he men­tioned. These boiled, pota­to-dough dumplings, which orig­i­nate in Aus­tria-Hun­gary, are espe­cial­ly reward­ing in the ear­ly fall when plums are at the height of the season.


#51 — Jam-filled dumplings (dere­lye or barát­füle): A fill­ing of plum jam (szil­valekvár) or sweet cot­tage cheese (túró) can real­ly crank up this ravi­o­li-like noo­dle dish. The dumplings are rolled in bread­crumbs and sprin­kled with pow­dered sug­ar. Peo­ple often make dere­lye with pota­to dough as a byprod­uct of the plum dumplings, above.


#52 — Pop­py-seeds dumplings (mákos nudli): Yes, pota­to dumplings are end­less­ly ver­sa­tile. Instead of a fill­ing, these dia­mond-shaped noo­dles come with a driz­zle of sug­ared pop­py seeds (or ground wal­nuts). As with its two sis­ter dish­es, above, peo­ple usu­al­ly eat mákos nudli as a main course after a hefy soup.


#53 — Rice pud­ding souf­fle (rizs­felfújt or rízskoch): A sta­ple in can­teens and cafe­te­rias across Hun­gary, this rice pud­ding souf­fle is strewn with raisins, fla­vored with lemon zest, and then baked to a gold­en brown. Peo­ple usu­al­ly fin­ish it with pow­dered sug­ar and apri­cot preserves. 


#54 — Crepes (palac­sin­ta): Won­der­ful­ly thin pan­cakes rolled with a sweet fill­ing — apri­cot jam, sug­ary cot­tage cheese (túró), or, more recent­ly, Nutel­la — are Hungary’s most pop­u­lar dessert. For a local expe­ri­ence, try palac­sin­ta at a food stall inside a mar­ket hall. My favorite in Budapest: Mari­ka Lán­gos Sütő­je.


#55 — Gun­del palac­sin­ta: This is a gussied-up fried palac­sin­ta bathed in choco­late cream. The rum-infused fill­ing includes ground wal­nuts, can­died orange, and raisins. There are var­i­ous ori­gin sto­ries, but most like­ly it was Ilona Matzn­er, wife of the cel­e­brat­ed Hun­gar­i­an writer Sán­dor Márai, who intro­duced this pan­cake to Károly Gun­del, who lat­er per­fect­ed it at his renowned Budapest restaurant.


#56 — Pop­py seeds bread pud­ding (mákos guba): It’s hard to think of a more reward­ing depos­i­to­ry for left­over, stale bread rolls than this clas­sic Hun­gar­i­an pop­py seeds bread pud­ding. Bol­stered with milk and a fin­ished with a creamy vanil­la sauce, they trans­form into a moist, deeply sat­is­fy­ing baked dessert dish. My favorite in Budapest: Kiosk Pest.


#57 — Semoli­na milk pud­ding (tejbe­gríz): For many Hun­gar­i­an peo­ple, a hot plate of semoli­na flour cooked in milk and sug­ar is the quin­tes­sen­tial com­fort food, evok­ing fond child­hood mem­o­ries. Grow­ing up, I used to eat it at least once a week, sprin­kled with cocoa pow­der or cin­na­mon (a sim­i­lar dish, tejberízs, swaps the semoli­na flour for rice).


#58 — Strudel (rétes): Strudels evolved from the bakla­va, which Hun­gar­i­ans adopt­ed when Ottoman Turkey ruled the coun­try in the 16 – 17th cen­turies. Lat­er, strudels spread across the whole Aus­tro Hun­gar­i­an Empire. What makes them unique in Hun­gary is the sheer vari­ety of fill­ings, both sweet and savory. Have you had enough apple strudels in Vien­na? No prob­lem, try one with cot­tage cheese (túró), cab­bage, or pop­py seeds in Budapest. My favorite in Budapest: Strudel House and Strudel Hugó.


#59 — Bejgli: Dur­ing Christ­mas, no Hun­gar­i­an din­ing table is com­plete with­out these sweet rolls filled with ground pop­py seeds and wal­nuts. Peo­ple usu­al­ly place them on a plate side by side because there’s a folk belief that the pop­py seeds bring pros­per­i­ty and the wal­nuts keep trou­ble away. Bejgli is a sta­ple across coun­tries in Cen­tral Europe.


#60 — Chim­ney cake (kürtőskalács): Feel free to just tear into this aro­mat­ic Tran­syl­van­ian chim­ney cake flaunt­ing a caramelized crust and a chewy, soft inte­ri­or. Tra­di­tion­al­ly, as seen above, kürtőskalács is made by wrap­ping the dough around a bak­ing spit and then cooked over char­coal. My favorite in Budapest: plen­ty of kürtőskalács ven­dors exist in Budapest’s down­town, for exam­ple Mol­nár’s, but only Vitéz Kürtős by the Budapest Zoo makes them over charcoal.


#61 — Dough­nut (fánk): You might know it as krapfen, Berlin­er, bom­bolone, suf­ganiyah, or jel­ly dough­nut — fánk is the Hun­gar­i­an ver­sion of this cen­turies-old deep-fried pas­try tra­di­tion­al­ly eat­en in the days of Car­ni­val. Besides jam, fánks can also come with a choco­late or a cus­tard fill­ing and a sprin­kle of pow­dered sug­ar atop. Most bak­eries and gro­cery stores in Hun­gary serve them year-round.


#62 — Dobos torte: Cre­at­ed by local con­fec­tion­er József C. Dobos in 1884, this pop­u­lar Hun­gar­i­an sponge cake sports lay­ers of choco­late but­ter cream. After pathet­ic attempts by com­peti­tors to repli­cate his con­coc­tion, Dobos decid­ed to make the recipe pub­lic and, still today, you’ll find Dobos torte in most Budapest pas­try shops. The cake’s sig­na­ture fea­ture is the shiny, brit­tle caramel top­ping. Here you can read about oth­er clas­sic Hun­gar­i­an cakes and pas­tries. My favorite in Budapest: Auguszt Down­town.


#63 — Ester­házy torte: Named after a Hun­gar­i­an roy­al fam­i­ly, the Ester­házy torte is one of the most well-known in and out­side the coun­try. It com­pris­es alter­nat­ing lay­ers of ground wal­nuts (or almonds) and rum-inflect­ed but­ter­cream with a white fon­dant coat­ing. Inter­est­ing­ly, it con­tains no flour. At its best, the Ester­házy torte is rich, but not cloying.


#64 — Krémes: Sim­i­lar to a Napolean pas­try, krémes is a cher­ished cus­tard slice across Cen­tral Europe with each coun­try flaunt­ing a slight­ly dif­fer­ent ver­sion. In Hun­gary, apart from reg­u­lar krémes — vanil­la cus­tard enclosed by puff pas­try — there’s also “fran­cia” krémes, which comes with an extra lay­er of whipped cream and a caramel glaze on top. My favorite in Budapest: Ruszwurm.


#65 — Ger­beaud slice: This bite-sized cake, cre­at­ed by the leg­endary Café Ger­beaud, is a sta­ple of all pas­try shops in Hun­gary. Under a choco­late glaze lie lay­ers of a sweet dough alter­nat­ing with a fill­ing made from ground wal­nuts and apri­cot jam.


#66 — Flód­ni: This rich cake lay­ered with plum jam, apple, ground wal­nuts, and ground pop­py seeds orig­i­nates from Hun­gary’s Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty. Tra­di­tion­al­ly, peo­ple ate it for the Jew­ish hol­i­day of Purim, but today flód­ni is a cher­ished treat and wide­ly avail­able across Budapest pas­try shops.


#67 — Som­lói galus­ka: Despite being a rel­a­tive­ly recent inven­tion, dat­ing back to the 1950s, the som­lói galus­ka is a beloved dessert dish across Hun­gary. It con­sists of a rum-inflect­ed sponge cake soaked in vanil­la cus­tard, choco­late cream, and whipped cream, with a sprin­kling of wal­nuts and raisins. Apart from pas­try shops, restau­rants also serve it. My favorite in Budapest: At these pas­try shops.


#68 — Pogác­sa: These soft and savory snacks, which are also pop­u­lar across the Balka­ns and Turkey, fall some­where between a scone and a bis­cuit and come in dif­fer­ent sizes and vari­eties. In Budapest, you’ll see many of them topped with melt­ed cheese or filled with pork crack­lings (töpör­tyűs) or cot­tage cheese (túrós). Both bak­eries and pas­try shops sell pogác­sa, but those often can’t hold a can­dle to a fresh home­made version.

Source: off​beat​bu​dapest​.com / Tas Tobias