Authentic Austrian Beef Goulash

March 15, 2018
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Tender Austrian Shortrib goulash recipe

Austrian beef goulash: Tender beef in a thick paprika-based gravy, Nockerl (Austrian-style pasta) and a kaiser roll (and a very untraditional dollop of sour cream).

Tender beef, coated in a thick and smooth gravy, served with homemade Austrian-style pasta. Doesn’t that sound like the best comfort food ever? Yes it does, and yes it is! Austrian beef goulash (Rindsgulasch) is one of my most favorite dishes.

 
When we lived in Boston and went to Austria for holidays, my mom would ask me if I’d have any cravings for Austrian food and what she could cook for me. The answer was always the same: Beef goulash. There is just something about this dish that makes it so special and comforting. Unlike what most people think, beef goulash is easy to make, it just needs time.

 

As you may have noticed from browsing the recipe index on this site, I am not really much into eating meat. I only eat meat occasionally. However, when it comes to an authentic Austrian beef goulash, I never say no.

 
I particularly enjoy it when served with a pile of homemade Austrian-style pasta like Spaetzle (recipe here, simply omit the caramelized onions) or homemade Nockerl that you can see in the pictures. They are similar to Italian gnocchi, but much easier and quicker to make from scratch (recipe here). I am a huge carbs person, so I am equally looking forward to the handmade pasta as to the goulash itself ;-)

Authentic recipe for Austrian Beef Goulash

 

Creamy goulash gravy without flour or roux

Austrian beef goulash is not comparable to Hungarian goulash. It may have derived from Hungary, but it evolved into a completely different dish today. Authentic Austrian beef goulash is also known as “Wiener Saftgulasch” which translates to something like “Viennese gravy goulash”, highlighting the thick gravy base.

 
Whereas Hungarian-style goulash like gulyás or pörkölt is often soupy and contains bell peppers or potatoes, the Viennese-style goulash only contains beef and onions. The Austrian beef goulash consists of tender beef that is coated in a thick, dark, and smooth gravy, made without any thickening agents like flour, roux, or sour cream. It thickens naturally over time with the help of dissolving onions and collagen-rich beef.

 

Which cuts for beef goulash

The best cuts for tender Beef Goulash are shank your chuck

The best cuts for tender beef goulash contain plenty of collagen and fat.

The key is to use tough cuts of beef that you would usually use for stews – with plenty of collagen and fat. If you cook this kind of meet low and slow, the collagen will transform into gelatin, making the meat tender and the gravy thick and rich. That’s the secret. Austrians traditionally use cuts from the shank (‘Wadschinken’), but if it is not easily available, you can use cuck (beef shoulder) or short rib as well.

 
The only thing you have to keep in mind is to use cuts with fat and connective tissue (collagen), usually from either the front shoulder or the rear end. This website provides an overview of the different cuts of beef, which I consider very helpful. Also, there is a summery for the best cuts used in stews on serious eats.

 

The picture above shows 2 1/4 lbs (1 kg) of beef. I bought it at a supermarket in Vienna, pre-packed and cut into 4 parts. Since goulash is such a favorite among Austrians, the package only said “goulash beef”, but didn’t specify from which part of the cow the meat came from. I would guess shank, since this is the traditional cut to use for goulash. It could have also been a cut from the chuck (shoulder) though.

Reheating enhances Goulash

There is a saying in Austria that roughly translates to something like „Reheating only works for goulash.” (“Aufgewärmt ist nur ein Gulasch gut.”) You will hear this saying when somebody  considers getting back together with an ex (“reheating” the relationship) is a bad idea. I always have to smile when I hear this saying. It’s so typical Austrian, classic Viennese grumpy style.

 

Prepare the goulash at least one day in advance, preparing it two days ahead would be even better to enhance the flavors, to thicken the gravy and tenderize the beef even further. Reheat the goulash once a day, other than that, store it in the refrigerator.

 
Enjoy with a fresh and crunchy Kaiser roll and some homemade spaetzle. Find the recipe plus a 1-minute video for the ‘Nockerl’ in the pictures here. They taste kind of like spaetzle but their texture is a bit firmer and they are larger, similar to Italian gnocchi. I simply love Nockerl as a (very traditional) side dish for goulash – and they are super easy to make from scratch at home.

 Viennese gravy goulash recipe

 

Step-by-step recipe for authentic Austrian beef goulash

Beef for tender Austrian Beef Goulash

Which cuts of beef for beef goulash? Austrians use boneless shank, cut into 2-inch (5-6 cm) cubes.

Cut beef into 2-inch (5-6 cm) cubes. Only trim off thick outside fat, in case there is any. I hardly trimmed off anything here. The interior fat will be rendered out during cooking which makes the beef tender and the sauce smooth and thick. Find details above for which cuts to use.

Which cuts of meat for Austrian Beef Goulash Recipe

Sear beef until nicly browned.

Heat 1 tablespoon clarified butter or oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add beef and sear, turning occasionally, until beef is browned, about 5-10 minutes. The pot shouldn’t be crowded or the meat won’t brown nicely. Rather add beef in two batches. Add more oil if needed. Transfer beef to a large plate and set aside.

 

Sliced onions for Austrian Beef Goualsh

Slice onions into thin half rounds.

Peel onions and cut them in half, lengthwise. Cut into thin and even half-moon slices to ensure they all cook evenly later.

Onions for Austrian Beef Goulash recipe

Cook onions until golden brown in color.

 

Add a tablespoon clarified butter or oil and the sliced onions to the pot. Cook for 8-10 minutes over high heat, stirring steadily. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until the onions are golden brown and soft, stirring often, about 15 minutes. They will lose a lot of volume.

How to make an authentic Austrian Beef Goulash

Add water and spices and reduce until the water has evaporated like in the picture.

 

Add tomato paste, marjoram, caraway seeds (I always mince them, see step 5 in the recipe part below), and paprika to the onions. Stir for about 20 seconds. Do not roast longer since paprika will get bitter if roasted for too long. To be on the safe side, you can add all the spices except paprika. Roast them for ½ to 1 minute.

 
Now add paprika and stir for a few seconds. Immediately add vinegar, followed by a cup (240 ml) of water. Stir well and let the onion-mix reduce until almost all liquids have evaporated, about 15 minutes (see picture above).

Austrian beef goulash with thick gravy

Blend onions, then add beef.

Add another cup of cold water (for easier blending) and blend using an (immersion) blender, then return to pot. The sauce will be orange but will darken the longer it cooks.

 

Add salt, bay leaves, and beef with any accumulated juices to the pot. Stir to combine, cover with a lid, and return to a simmer over low heat. Only if the beef cooks low and slow it will get tender. This will take about 3 hours.

After about 3 hours of braising.

 

After about 3 hours of braising: The meat is tender, the sauce is darker in color and thickened slightly. Season to taste with salt (you will probably have to add a pinch or two).

Viennese Beef Goualsh recipe

Austrian beef goulash served with Nockerl (Austrian-style pasta) and kaiser rolls.

In theory, the goulash is ready now. However, I highly suggest letting it cool overnight (put it in the fridge, lid on) and reheating the goulash the following day. This will enhance the flavor and texture.

Authentic Austrian Beef Goulash with thick gravy

You can reheat it over the next couple of days, the goulash will only get better. Add a little water to thin, if needed. Store in the fridge in between.

Austrian Beef Goualsh with Spaetzle or Nockerl

Serve with a crunchy Kaiser roll and Austrian-style pasta like Spaetzle or Nockerl. Enjoy!

 

If you are on the lookout for a different kind of goulash, try this Creamy Austrian potato goulash. In general, there are two kinds of goulash in Austria: One is beef goulash, the other one is potato goulash (picture below).

Creamy Austrian-style Potato Goulash

Vegetarian or vegan potato goulash: You can easily adapt this creamy potato goulash to fit vegetarian and vegan diets. For a vegan version just omit the sausage and add more salt and pepper – and smoked paprika, if you like.

 

Authentic Austrian Beef Goulash

Yield: 6 servings (best when reheated & freezes well)

Authentic Austrian Beef Goulash

This is a recipe for an authentic Austrian beef goulash. The beef is tender and the gravy is dark, smooth, and thick – the reason why it is also known as ‘Viennese gravy goulash’. The key is to use tough cuts of beef that you would usually use for stews – with plenty of connective tissue (collagen and fat), usually from either the front shoulder or the rear end. If you cook this kind of meet low and slow, the collagen will transform into gelatin, making the meat tender and the gravy thick and rich. Austrians traditionally use cuts from the shank (‘Wadschinken’), but if it is not easily available, you can use cuck (beef shoulder) or short rib as well.

Prepare in advance: Goulash gets better with time. Prepare the goulash one day or two days in advance to enhance the flavors, to thicken the gravy, and tenderize the beef even further. Reheat the goulash once a day, store it in the fridge in between.

Recipe: Ursula | lilvienna.com

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 lbs (1 kg) whole boneless beef shank (if not available, use shoulder/chuck roast or short rib)
  • 1 3/4 lbs (800 g) yellow onions
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried marjoram
  • 1/2 tablespoon caraway seeds or ground caraway seeds (do not substitute cumin), see step 5
  • 1 tablespoon (20 g) tomato paste
  • 4 tablespoons (30 g) sweet Hungarian paprika
  • 1 teaspoon hot paprika or a pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1/2 tablespoon vinegar (any will do)
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine salt
  • 2 bay leaves (optional)
  • Clarified butter or vegetable oil

  • In addition: Large pot with lid
  • Perfect side dishes: Kaiser rolls, Spaetzle (recipe here), or Nockerl (recipe here)

Instructions

  1. Cut beef into 2-inch (5-6 cm) cubes. Only trim off thick outside fat, in case there is any. The interior fat will be rendered out during cooking which makes the beef tender and the sauce smooth and thick.
  2. Peel onions and cut them in half, lengthwise. Cut into thin and even half-moon slices to ensure they all cook evenly later.
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon clarified butter or oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add beef and sear, turning occasionally, until beef is browned, about 5-10 minutes. The pot shouldn’t be crowded or the meat won't brown nicely. Rather add beef in two batches. Add more oil if needed. Transfer beef to a large plate and set aside.
  4. Add a tablespoon clarified butter or oil and the sliced onions to the pot. Cook for 8-10 minutes over high heat, stirring steadily. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until the onions are golden brown and soft, stirring often, about 15 minutes.
  5. Note: This step is optional. You can add marjoram and caraway seeds as is (almost all recipes do so). I, on the other hand, always mince marjoram and caraway seeds to transform them into powder (or at least chop finely). Mince the marjoram with a sharp knife until powdery. This works very well and you’ll be finished within 30 seconds. Now the trickier part: Usually, caraway seeds tend to be too firm to crush with a mortar and pestle. Either, grind caraway seeds with an electric grinder (coffee grinder), or chop them with a knife. I usually sprinkle the seeds onto a dollop of softened (clarified) butter and mince them with a sharp knife. The butter prevents the caraway seeds to jump off the cutting board. Add the seeds including the (clarified) butter during the next step.
  6. Add tomato paste, marjoram, caraway seeds, and paprika to the onions. Stir for about 20 seconds. Do not roast longer since paprika will get bitter if roasted for too long. To be on the safe side, you can add all the spices except paprika. Roast them for ½ to 1 minute. Now add paprika and stir for a few seconds.
  7. Immediately add vinegar, followed by a cup (240 ml) of water. Stir well and let the onion-mix reduce until almost all liquids have evaporated, about 15 minutes.
  8. Add another cup of cold water (for easier blending) and blend using an (immersion) blender, then return to pot. The sauce will be orange but will darken the longer it cooks.
  9. Add salt, bay leaves, and beef with any accumulated juices to the pot. Stir to combine, cover with a lid, and return to a simmer over low heat. Only if the beef cooks low and slow it will get tender. This will take about 3 hours. The sauce will get darker in color and it will thicken slightly. Season to taste with salt (you will probably have to add a pinch or two).
  10. In theory, the goulash is ready now. However, I highly suggest letting it cool overnight (put it in the fridge, lid on) and reheating the goulash the following day. This will enhance the flavor and texture. You can reheat it over the next couple of days, the goulash will only get better. Add a little water to thin, if needed. Store in the fridge in between.
  11. Serve with a crunchy Kaiser roll and Austrian-style pasta like Spaetzle or Nockerl. Enjoy!
https://www.lilvienna.com/authentic-austrian-beef-goulash/

 

Did you follow this recipe? You could share your result here. All you need to do is take a picture with your smartphone and send it to enjoy@lilvienna.com

Beef Goulash with Austrian Spaetzle made by User following a recipe by www.lilvienna.comDewan: My version of goulash. Thank you.  Enjoyable!

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Beef Goulash following a recipe by www.lilvienna.comMichael: The goulash was a big hit!!! No leftovers ;-)

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Austrian Beef Goulash following a recipe by www.lilvienna.comThe Swan family: Thank you for the delicious recepie.  We have traveled all over the world from being stationed in Italy for 4 years.  Preparing this dish, with the aromas and then the flavor was like being pulled back into the Austrian countryside, where we stopped and walked into a little cottage to eat for the first time.  We paired it with a delicious spatzle and spinatknodel. 

 Click to enlarge.


Austrian Beef Goulash following a recipe by www.lilvienna.comMomir: Hi, this is one of the best gulasch recipes ever :) It instantly became top dish for winter time :)  

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Tender Short Rib Goulash following a recipe by www.lilvienna.comMihaela: I am Mihaela a Romanian in Austria trying to make Austrian Goulash :).
Thank you !!!! this is the best recipe till now and came out good .

Kind regards Mihaela T.

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Authentic Austrian Beef Goulash was last modified: May 6th, 2020 by Ursula

18 thoughts on “Authentic Austrian Beef Goulash

  1. Kim

    I copied and pasted and printed out this recipe.. Looks so good. I will post a picture when I make this yummy looking authentic Austrian beef goulash. I am making it for my sons birthday along with Spaetzl.

    Reply
    1. Ursula Post author

      Hi Kim,
      Great to hear that! I hope it turns (or turned) out well! I love this dish on a rainy or cold day, it’s so comforting. Even more with homemade paste, be it spätzle or homemade nockerl :-)

      Reply
  2. Howard

    Ursula, I was skiing in Kitzbuhel in 1978 (very dating I know) I had this goulash and loved it but have never had it since. Always wind up with the Hungarian versions which is not the same. I add beef to mine but also add small whole brown mushrooms for variety and reduce the meat. Thanks so much.

    Reply
    1. Ursula Post author

      Great to hear, Howard. Nope, Hungarian and Austrian goulash are definitely not the same as you’ve noticed. Love the addition of mushrooms! Thanks so much for your comment :-)

      Reply
  3. Mark Freckleton

    Dill pickle juice.. I get a brand are pickles called Hengstenberg, imported from Germany at Big Lots. But it is a practice I first heard of in Salzburg, so I think it’s authentic. I like it anyway. In fact I had some this evening.

    Reply
  4. Jeanine

    Hi Ursula, it’s quite hard to get Hungarian Paprika (powder) in my country. Is there something I can substitute it with or is there an alternative?

    Reply
    1. Ursula Post author

      Hi Jeanine,
      You can substitute any paprika powder that doesn’t taste too hot. Hungarian Paprika tastes mild. Hope you’ll find something like that. Best, Ursula

      Reply
  5. Adam Okoye

    I made this for the third or fourth time this evening, this time using a mix of lamb and beef chuck (it’s currently in the refrigerator as yes, it tastes much better the next day). This recipe is, by far, my favorite goulash recipe. I studied abroad in Vienna for 9 months when I was in my early 20s and came to love goulash. The one piece of critical feedback that I have is that, given that you’re simmering the soup for three hours, I haven’t found a need to blend the onions before adding the beef. They more or less disintegrate on their own. Either way, thank you so much for this recipe. I’ve sung its praises to friends of mine who have spent time but don’t currently live in Vienna.

    Reply
    1. Ursula Post author

      Hi Adam,

      So happy that you like the recipe :-) Even better when the onions kind of dissolve – my mom never blends the goulash either. I usually do since i love it when the sauce is very thick and super smooth. Hope you will make it again and again and again. And thanks so much for the praises. All the best for 2020, Ursula

      Reply
  6. Arne Liebert

    Hello Ursula,
    I made this goulash version with Nockerl this past weekend. The goulash was amazing! I will definitely make it again.
    I also made the apple strudel because a good strudel is amazing with coffee. But since it’s hard to find around here (Toronto) these days, I felt I needed to make it myself. It tasted great but I have to work on the dough to get it as thin as you instructed.
    Thanks so much for sharing all these Austrian recipes. I look forward to exploring your website further. My next recipe will be the Kaiserschmarrn. :-)

    Kind regards,
    Arne

    Reply
    1. Ursula Post author

      Hi Arne,

      So happy to hear that you made the goulash, nockerl and apple strudel. Wow! Stretching the strudel dough is a little tricky in the beginning but will get better every time you do so. If the dough isn’t stretched really, really thin, the strudel crust may be a little hard ;)
      Hope you’ll finde some more recipes here to try. All the best, Ursula

      Reply
  7. Anna

    I will be attempting this tomorrow. I originally thought goulash was an Austrian cuisine. I’m really ignorant on where food came from. I think I love goulash with pasta the most because that’s how my dad use to cook it. My dad is Austrian and use to make goulash a lot for me and my sister. Hopefully, I don’t mess it all up!

    Reply
    1. Ursula Post author

      Hi Anna,

      I hope you tried and liked it. Pasta is always a good choice! Well, Austrians will tell you that goulash is Austrian cuisine ;-) And since our grandmothers and their ancestors have been making it already, it is considered Austrian. Also: The hungarian version is made differently. So here you go :)

      Reply

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