Hungarian Venison Goulash

4.93 from 13 votes
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Venison goulash. Love the name. Sounds so mysterious, like something warriors in the Dark Ages would have wolfed down to make them strong before battle. I grew up eating my mum’s goulash, and it was good.

Sadly, that wasn’t actually goulash. It was chili. I only learned this years later, after I ordered goulash at a Hungarian restaurant in Wisconsin. What they served me looked nothing like chili, and everything like what you see above: A thick, meaty stew heavy on the paprika, served with little pasta dumplings on the side.

venison goulash in a bowl.
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

But guess what? Even that wasn’t actually what the Hungarians would call gulyás. It was pörkölt. Wha? Yeah, I know, all those umlauts over the “o’s” make my head hurt. Best I can tell, this word is pronounced something like “purr-cult.”

Oh. And before we get too deep, this is absolutely not the bizarre, macaroni-stuffed, ground meat thing that some Americans think of as goulash. This is a Hungarian dish.

Making anything authentically Hungarian is like running a gauntlet. There really is no one “authentic” goulash, as every Hungarian cook makes it her own way.

Tomatoes? Green peppers? Verboten in some recipes, required in others. Sour cream? Typically only allowed as a tableside condiment, if at all — there is another dish, paprikash, that includes sour cream mixed into the stew itself and is usually done with chicken. Vegetables? Sometimes, and most often carrots, parsnips and potatoes — those are in an actual gulyás. Wine? Only with venison, apparently. Stock. A little. Beans? Hell, no!

After no small amount of research, the only constants I can determine are paprika and onions. Lots of onions and lots of paprika. More than you think you’d need.

As for the meat, beef is the most common I’ve seen, but venison goulash is a thing in Hungary. Feel free to use any red meat here, however, from beef to bison to any form of venison; I used some the blacktail deer for the pictures. If you are a vegetarian, I’ve seen mushroom goulash in Hungarian cookbooks, so use them instead.

What to serve your venison goulash with is also variable. Mashed, boiled or smashed potatoes are all common, as is spätzle. This, I think, is an Austrian touch: Those of you who remember your history might recall that there was once this thing called the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Anyone care to guess who Franz Ferdinand and Gavrilo Princip were? Ultimately, I went with the Hungarian version of spätzle: a little pasta dumpling called nokedli.

The key to my version of Hungarian pörkölt (venison goulash) is time. Cooking venison requires patience… and either forks or a potato masher. You cook the stew slowly for hours and then, when the meat is thinking about falling apart, shred or mash the whole shebang with a potato masher to combine.

This integrates everything and prevents that dryness you can get in the center of stewed venison chunks. I’ve never seen this done in Hungarian recipes, but trust me, you want to do it.

Venison goulash is a perfect hunting camp meal or easy Sunday dinner. All it asks of you is time, and it rewards you with a spicy, rich, meaty bowl of goodness that sticks to your ribs and makes you want to come back for seconds. Jó étvágyat!

Look for more flavors of Eastern Europe? I have a whole collection of Eastern European recipes here

Close up of a bowl of venison goulash.
4.93 from 13 votes

Hungarian Venison Goulash or Pörkölt

You will want fresh paprika for this recipe, meaning the stuff that has likely been sitting around in your pantry since the Jurassic Period won't cut it. Paprika needs to be bright red and smell wonderful. And if you don't want angry Hungarians beating down your door, buy Hungarian paprika.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Hungarian
Servings: 8 people
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours
Total Time: 3 hours 30 minutes



  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • A little water or milk


  • 1/4 cup lard, bacon fat or sunflower oil
  • 2 pounds venison stew meat, cut into 3 to 4-inch hunks
  • Salt
  • 5 cups chopped onions
  • 1/4 cup sweet paprika, Hungarian if at all possible
  • 2 teaspoons hot paprika
  • 2 teaspoons caraway seed
  • 1 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 1 cup crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cups venison or beef stock
  • 1 cup red wine


  • Heat the lard or bacon fat over medium-high heat in a large Dutch oven or stewpot and brown the venison in batches. Salt the venison as it cooks. It will take 20 minutes or so for all the meat to brown. Remove the venison as it browns and set aside.
  • Add all the onions and caraway seeds and turn the heat to medium. Sauté the onions, stirring often, until they are browned. This will take a solid 30 minutes if you do it right. I cover the pot about halfway in. Add the venison back, then all the other ingredients. Mix well and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook over low heat for 2 hours, or until the meat wants to fall apart.
  • When the meat is ready, make the nokedli dumplings by mixing all the ingredients in a bowl until you have a thick batter. Get a large pot of water boiling and add enough salt to make it salty. Push the batter through a colander with large holes or a spaetzli maker into the boiling water. Boil the nokedli dumplings until they float, then 1 minute more. Drain and set aside.
  • Use a pair of forks or a potato masher to shred the meat in the pot. Add salt if needed. Serve the goulash alongside the dumplings with some sour cream at the table to mix in.


Any stew meat from any red meat animal will work. Oh, and don't freak out about the huge amount of onions. They cook down.


Calories: 428kcal | Carbohydrates: 39g | Protein: 36g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 193mg | Sodium: 598mg | Potassium: 903mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 2270IU | Vitamin C: 10mg | Calcium: 76mg | Iron: 7mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe? Tag me today!Mention @huntgathercook or tag #hankshaw!

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About Hank Shaw

Hey there. Welcome to Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, the internet’s largest source of recipes and know-how for wild foods. I am a chef, author, and yes, hunter, angler, gardener, forager and cook. Follow me on Instagram and on Facebook.

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Recipe Rating


  1. Hi Hank, magyar here. Nice recipe. I don’t usually use tomatoes but people from Budapest do. one thing I learnt from and old Hungarian bloke that adding smoke spare ribs is essential for venison gulasch. He use to make it every Aug 20 outside our apartment block in the Alföld and it was incredible.

  2. An iced-in December night last week inspired me to finally try this recipe from Buck, Buck, Moose, and it not surprisingly turned out to be a perfect choice. A good friend, who’s also a great wild game cook, had brought something like it to hunting camp a few years ago, and explained the difference between “real” goulash and the burger-and-tomato sauce stuff my dear old Mom used to make in mass quantities.

    Anyway, for my trial batch I used a 2 1/2 pound elk hind quarter roast and followed the recipe pretty closely. The final result was fantastic, and per my girlfriend’s preference we served it over egg noodles topped with sour cream and parsley.

    However, when I tasted it shortly into the simmering phase, it seemed almost too hot (spicy) for me, and I knew it would be a problem for my girlfriend since she generally doesn’t like really spicy food. Perhaps the “sweet” paprika I used was hotter than usual, but the two teaspoons of hot paprika was seemingly too much. Fortunately, I added a couple extra cups of home-canned tomatoes (since I had a opened a new jar anyway for the recipe), and that brought the heat level right to where we like it in my household.

    My suggestion, then, is for folks who don’t like their stews too spicy to start with only 1 tablespoon of hot paprika, then add more later if needed.

  3. As always, a great recipe. I used snow goose instead of venison and cooked it a little longer. It turned out just wonderful. Thanks Hank!

  4. Hank, I’ve got a crockpot of this goulash cooking today; it looks pretty broth-y. Is that the aim, or should I try to thicken it to be more stew-like?

    Thank you!

    ps – I LOVE Buck, Buck, Moose!

  5. Goulash has always been a staple at our deer camp in Northern WI. Mind you, it was always the kidney bean, elbow macaroni, hamburger helper variety, so imagine everyone’s surprise when I made a big batch following this recipe and served up the previous year’s deer. Unfortunately, the competent shall be punished and I was voted camp chef-for-life and am on the hook to bring this every year now… Woe is me!

    1. Awesome! Mr. Competent!
      A friend just gave me some venison. Between the recipe author and you, my father being from Hungary (deceased unfortunately) this will be a no brainer. Hungarian paprika is a staple in our home.

  6. It’s getting close to gun season here, so I wanted to use up the venison in the freezer. All I had left was ground, but used it, and just skipped the shredding step. I went to Hungary earlier this year, and had the real deal paprika and nokedli maker. A wonderful Sunday dinner.

  7. Made this with meat that was gifted to me and generically labeled as “steaks”… I wasn’t sure where on the animal the meat was from, which was frustrating, but I took a chance on the slow-and-low cooking and it turned out great, not dry or sawdust-y. Only tweak I made was to put my pot in the oven at 350 with the lid slightly ajar to better regulate temp since my stovetop burner is hard to maintain at a low enough heat.

    The noodle recipe turned out fine in the end but was a little frustrating in giving no reference point for how much liquid or what the consistency of the batter should be (could we compare it to cake batter? Or thinner/ thicker than that?) I added at least a cup of milk and it was still more dough-like than batter-like and took me forever (and a good amount of elbow grease) to force it through a colander.

    Overall 5 stars for the meat part of the recipe and would def make again!

  8. This was the best recipe–I had to share it with the rest of our family and friends who hunt/fish. Thank you!

  9. Thank you for sharing your recipe with us. I’m in the mood for Goulash so I’m going to try yours. I see you like to make big cut of meats does this make a difference in cooking smaller cuts like 1″ – 1 1/2″ pieces. thank you will see if this is a cook again meal Tom ps I like that this make for up to 8 that’s a plus.

  10. We like to cook gulyas over an open fire with a pot and tripod stand. It stems cowboy food (like American chili) in central Europe and is often prepared in the outdoors from what I’ve heard. If you can find a good bit of palinka or slivovitz, even better!

    I’ll be trying it out with venison when things thaw out here…

  11. This is a great recipe – I’m using it with anonymous wild deeer from a Hertfordshire farm shop. My Austrian friend advises equal quantity onions and meat, and that works well with pork and beef too. Hungarian paprika has a nuttier or smokier flavour than the spanish dolce, but the dolce is a good enough substitute. Usually I pop in just a handful of 1/4″ cubes of turnip and parsnip – they cook down and add a little sweetness into the mix – but this time I just followed the recipe and let it speak for itself. It’s so tempting to add in juniper berries and sliced peppers and bits of potato etc – but you can always have those as a side. Preference is buttered noodles tossed with finely chopped chives and parsley. And being thoughtful of others I always save the wine for the chef. Thank you.

  12. I am making this tonight with venison!

    Do you have any suggestions on what kind of red wine would be best to use?

  13. This looks sooo good & I have a freezer stocked full with venison, courtesy of Dad. Thanks for the great recipes!

  14. I do a very similar version that includes a little less onion and a couple cups of chopped mild to medium peppers. Great groceries!!!

  15. How ironic! I was looking for recipes for venison, when I came across your name. And what’s the first recipe I see, Hungarian Goulash! I just made my mom’s goulash last week except I used venison. It was delish!!! The recipe varies slightly from the one you posted, but you’re right on with lots of onions and lots of paprika!

  16. Hank, you said “lots of Paprika”. Okay but what kind? I often use Spanish paprika (pimenton) – dolce, agridulce and picante – and love it.

    But I have had (allegedly Hungarian) goulash in restaurants in London, New York and Vienna and have found no distinguishing flavour. All are very rust red in colour but is that it?

    I have also bought Hungarian paprika powder a couple of times, tasted it straight and used it in the occasional stew. It might as well be chalk. What am I missing?

    Ward Horack