When it comes to getting to know a new country and culture, exploring their gastronomy is always a good idea. But where to start? You definitely don’t want to spend a lot in those typical tourist trap restaurants. To discover the best Hungarian food in Budapest look at our tips!
Traditional Hungarian dishes are primarily based on meats, seasonal vegetables, fruits, bread, and dairy products. It’s not necessarily the lightest but definitely super tasty. There are some famous dishes which are staple Hungarian specialities. Such as the gulyás (Goulash), the csirkepaprikás (chicken paprikash) or the pörkölt with nokedli (stew with dumplings). Usually classic Hungarian dishes contain a certain meat dish, usually pork, seasoned with Paprika, pepper and other spices plus the side, usually potato. Another popular way to prepare meat or cheese is to deep fry them after covering them in breadcrumbs. A typical Sunday lunch in Hungary is húsleves (meat soup, mostly from chicken) followed by rántott hús (fried chicken).
But what are some of the must-haves that you should try when traveling to Budapest?
Pörkölt is one of the most well-known Hungarian dishes, usually made from pork or beef. Typically they also include vegetables like peppers, tomato and onions, lots of paprika and some other spices. Locals usually eat these hearty stews with a side of rice, gnocchi-like noodles, potato or some fresh bread, and some fresh, crunchy pickles. There are heaps of traditional Hungarian restaurants offering pörkölt as a staple part of their menu, but if we had to pick one for you to try, we highly recommend Gettó Gulyás - one of the best Hungarian restaurants in the city. Located in the 7th district, near the Jewish quarter, Gettó Gulyás offers traditional Hungarian dishes such as Goulash, pörkölt, fried chicken and főzelék as well. Definitely a great idea to visit if you want to get to know the real Hungarian taste!
Rakott krumpli, roughly translated as “layered potato”, is a household staple. It’s basically potato layered with sausage, egg and sour cream. It is super tasty, especially when made from good, spicy Hungarian sausage. Definitely grab some csalamádé, a mix of pickled cabbage, carrot and cucumber, on the side to enjoy the full experience. The best rakott krumpli is made at home, so here is a recipe if you want to try it! Bring Hungarian sausage as a souvenir back home and try this delicacy.
If you are not in the mood to cook, you can also sample a rakott krumpli by one of the most famous chefs of Hungary. Stand25 Bistro offers some great and well-known Hungarian dishes such as rakott krumpli, főzelék and pörkölt as well. Both chefs of Stand25 are legendary in Hungary and are famous for these dishes. Give them a chance, you won’t regret it!
Gulyás (otherwise known as “goulash”) is probably the most famous Hungarian dish. Its lighter version is eaten as soup, while the thicker, stew-like version is a main course. Usually made from beef, gulyás is a very tasty dish with potatoes, carrots and sometimes other vegetables. Definitely eat it with a big piece of fresh, white bread!
When trying to find the best gulyás, be careful. Since it is so popular, a lot of low-quality but pricey restaurants try to convince you that they make the best one in the city. Bohémtanya in the city center is a great place to visit, it offers nice quality Hungarian food, gulyás as well.
Bestia also makes an amazing Goulash soup, and situated right next to Saint Stephen’s Basilica, you can’t beat their location either.
Főzelék is a great option if you are looking for something healthier and lighter, or simply meat-free. Főzelék is basically a thick, creamy vegetable stew (made creamy from rue, not actual heavy cream), eaten as a main dish with some meat or egg on the side. Főzelék can be made from a lot of vegetables, but the most common ones are made from potato, squash, peas or lentils. For the best places to try this Hungarian food, check out Hokedli or Főzelékes, both in Nagymező utca. Both places offer traditional flavors with a modern twist, and Hokedli always has gluten and lactose free options, sometimes even vegan ones.
We mentioned the most popular Hungarian dishes, however this list could go on forever. There are some other savory options which are not only delicious but very unique as well. Lecsó (ratatouille) is a classic summer dish made from pepper, tomato, egg and some kind of sausage. A great place to try different versions of lecsó is Korhely - next to the Hungarian Academy of Music, tasty Hungarian food and good pálinka are just two of the things that Korhely offers.
If you’re feeling a bit peckish and just want to grab a casual bite, try out the Hungarian ‘tapas’- a selection of different sausages and cold cuts, types of cheese, vegetables and spreads. You can usually find these boards in the starter section on the menu in most restaurants, but if you are looking for a more special gastro experience, try Sarki Fűszeres. A delicacy shop and bistro in one, they have some of the best cold cuts, sausages and cheeses in Budapest.
After all these savory dishes, let’s not forget the Hungarian desserts. Somlói and aranygaluska are some of the most traditional ones. While both of them are sponge cakes, Somlói comes with walnuts and raisins, covered in chocolate sauce, and aranygaluska is with walnuts and vanilla cream. You can try them in any of the restaurants we’ve recommended here!
If you are in the mood to try one of the famous Hungarian cakes, like Dobos torta or Eszterházy torta, look for the word ‘Cukrászda’ (confectionary). On the pest side, Auguszt is a great choice, but if you go to the Castle district, make sure not to miss Ruszwurm, the oldest confectionery of the Buda side.
Are you hungry yet? Want to try all of these dishes and then some, and don’t want to go one meal at a time? Check out our food related tours, and you can get a one-stop dive into some of the best local cuisine and food markets!