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Updated: Mar 18, 2021




For a thousand years or so, Hungary's food, like its culture, has had an intriguing double identity, cleverly blending eastern mystique with the West's traditions.

Recipes were adapted to suit their own tastes, which also gave the dishes a national flavour.

Authentic Hungarian dishes are definitely not for people on a diet.

You may find the dishes a bit too heavy and fatty; however, their rich flavour, aroma and texture compensate you for the slightly excessive calorie intake.

But don't think that everything is soaking in pork fat and paprika. These ingredients are essential for authentic Hungarian dishes, but properly portioning them and using modern cooking methods can make healthy and delicious dishes.

The ingredients they cook with are simple. The fertile Hungarian plain and the favourable climate provide excellent conditions for growing tasty vegetables, fruits, and to raise domestic animals whose meat is savoury.

Several unique ingredients are account for the distinctive flavour of Hungarian meals:


Several unique ingredients are account for the distinctive flavour of Hungarian meals:

  • Hungarian paprika

  • lard

  • onion and garlic

  • sour cream

  • cottage cheese, walnut and poppy seed in sweet courses


Around 500 AD the Magyar tribes migrated and settled down near the River Don. They got into contact with Turks and Bulgarians and learned much about cooking from them.

The soup was an important meal in Hungarian cuisine at that time, as it is today.

A perfect Hungarian lunch always starts with some kind of soup. It was a complete meal and more like a stew in those nomadic years.

Potato Pottage

They usually served soups with small round-shaped pasta, tarhonya. As of today, we still have tarhonya as a garnish in our menus.

Pea pottage with breaded cauliflower

Other ancient Hungarian dishes are stuffed cabbage, beef soup, fish soup, and the famous goulash.

They are still very popular. Ancient Hungarian cooking used several types of grains, like millet, oat and later wheat.

The most delicious dishes were always made in a single pot. This pot was usually the bogrács, a cast-iron kettle, hung on an iron stick over the fire.

Bogrács is a very popular cooking utensil today, and they use it for outdoor cooking.


After settling down in the Carpathian Basin, the Hungarian ancestor's incorporated pork into their cuisine.

They often cook pork dishes today, especially in the villages where almost every family raises its own pork, and butcher it wintertime within a great feast called "disznótor".

In the early middle ages after the Hungarian State's consolidation, Hungarian cuisine had influences from both western and eastern nations.

Especially the great invasions left their marks on our cooking.

In more modern times the cuisine has had Austrian/ Germany influences.

Cocoa Rolls

Being a poor country during the communist era, the population had to eat what they could produce themselves, including potatoes and local livestock.

After 1990 when communism fell in the country, more opportunities started to appear.

Hungarian chefs would now use modern techniques and incorporate the old traditional dishes to make some splendid foods.

Meals are a family time where everyone sits down together and enjoy the food.

Easter has a great tradition also, with the heart of the holidays are Himes Tojás which translated means, decorated egg. Hungarian tradition is to dye eggs with bright colours.

The eggs are used as decoration, to eat or as we read in a newspaper online " given to men to water the ladies" we are still trying to figure out what this means.


Traditional breakfasts are large and can consist of open sandwiches with bread or toast, butter, cheese or cream cheese, Turo cheese, Korozoff ham, liver pate,

Bacon and Salami, Kabanos, Beerwurst or Kolbasz.

But that is mainly at the weekends when families have more time.

Liver paté,Red Onion and Pickles

School or work will usually start at 7.45-8.00 a.m, so weekdays can be pastries and typically more western breakfast options.


When time allows, lunch can be a three-course option consisting of soup, a main course, and dessert.

It's not uncommon for the soup to be fruit-based; called gyümölcsleves, sour cherry is a popular flavour.

However, most of the time, lunch will be a quick snack at the midday in this fast-paced world.

Medieval Restaurant Meal

Many restaurants in Budapest offer a daily menu, consisting of two or three courses from a set menu at a discounted price; dishes vary, but are usually meat-based and filling.

Főzelék – a uniquely Hungarian stew – is also popular; try it from Hokedli, in the city centre. Rántott csirke (deep-fried chicken) is another well-loved lunch dish, and locals in the city centre head to Csirke Csibész, which often has a queue out the door around midday.

Alternatively, head to Rapaz – a friendly chicken restaurant serving fast, freshly prepared dishes.


The evening meal is less of a focus in Hungary, and dishes served will vary depending on what was eaten earlier that day.

On special occasions or when a family can eat together, it may be a three-course meal similar to that served at midday.

However, more often than not it's a time to either finish off leftovers from lunch or eat something a little lighter – it can often take the form of bread, cheese and cold meats, just as at breakfast.


Traditional Hungarian dishes often eaten can include paprikash, lecsó (a type of vegetable stew most common in summer and autumn) and stuffed peppers.

The meal is often accompanied by a shot of pálinka, a typical Hungarian fruit brandy.

Before the meal, it's a must; after the meal, it's highly recommended! And too much is a disaster.

My friend Fanní Kovari has given us lots of advice on Hungarian cuisine.

With her passion for her country we hope we have mentioned as much as we can and done the Food some justice,

she has also kindly given us her grandmothers Mankucs (Cabbage roll) recipe, which is local to her village, Ósi, which means Ancient it is in the Fejér region near Balaton.


300gr plain flour

1 egg


Warm water

Mix to form a hard dough but still roll it out, knead until smooth, and rest in the fridge.

Grate or finely slice a large white cabbage.

Thinly Slice 3 brown onions

Cook slowly on some oil/fat, salt-pepper-caraway seeds until brown and soft, cool.

Cut dough into two and roll it out to 1-2mm thin, brush the whole dough with fat/oil and spread half of the cabbage mixture thinly and then fold, start on one side and fold over 5cm dough and keep on folding to have about 3-4 layers.

Put both folded parcels onto a baking tray, brush the top with fat/oil, bake for 15-20 mins on 180C, until nice and brown.

Slice and eat!!

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