Sauerkraut goulash (Székelykáposzta/Székelygulyás)

A Budapest restaurant invented this hefty dish in 1846 using leftover pork goulash (pörkölt) and sauerkraut. The mixture quickly became a hit and spread across Hungary. Despite what many people think, székelykáposzta has nothing to do with Transylvania; while székely people do live in Transylvania, the dish’s moniker actually refers to József Székely, the person who first ordered it.

Ingredients

Yield: 4-5 servings; Total time: 1 hour and 30 minutes

  • 600 grams (1 ⅓ pounds) boneless pork shoulder or spare rib, cut into 2 cm (¾ inch) cubes

  • 750 grams (1 ⅔ pounds) sauerkraut, rinsed and drained

  • 1 tablespoon lard (if you don’t have any, you can render pork belly or fatback or use vegetable oil)

  • 1 tablespoon Hungarian sweet paprika

  • 1 teaspoon ground caraway seeds

  • 1 onion, peeled and minced

  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

  • Salt to taste

  • 1 ripe medium tomato, peeled and cut into very small pieces (or puréed into smooth paste using an immersion blender)

  • 1 Hungarian wax pepper or yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into very small pieces (or puréed into smooth paste using an immersion blender)

  • 250 ml (1 cup) water or chicken broth

  • 200 grams (¾ cup) sour cream

  • Slices of crusty bread

Directions

  • Step 1: Heat lard or oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high, then add minced onion and sauté until translucent, about 6-8 minutes.

  • Step 2: Add meat and sear until it’s lightly browned, about 5-6 minutes.

  • Step 3: Reduce heat to medium-low and stir in paprika, caraway seeds, minced garlic, and the small bits of tomato and bell pepper. Add ½ cup water or chicken broth to almost cover the meat, place lid on pot and let it simmer for 30 minutes.

  • Step 4: Add drained sauerkraut to the pot and combine with the meat (if the sauerkraut is very salty, first rinse in a few changes of cold water and drain). Add ½ cup water or chicken broth so that liquid almost covers it, then continue cooking at a low simmer until sauerkraut has softened but still a bit crunchy and meat is very tender, about 45 minutes.

  • Step 5: Turn off heat, then add ½ cup sour cream to the pot and mix well. Taste the sauerkraut goulash for salt and add some if needed.

  • Step 6: Serve in shallow soup bowls, garnishing each plate with a dollop of sour cream on top. Add slices of crusty bread on the side.

Words of advice

(i) The thickness of this dish should be between a stew and a soup, so try adjusting the added liquid accordingly. (ii) Be careful not to oversalt. The sauerkraut is already salty so you may not need to add much.

I created these recipes with the help of nearly a dozen historical Hungarian cookbooks, adjusting ingredients, cooking times, and methods to reflect my own preferences and tastes of the current day. Do you have any feedback? Please let me know!