Hungarian Cuisine Facts and History
The Hungarian cuisine is very diverse, in terms of ingredients, and very delicious as well, belonging mainly to an ethnic group called Magyars. Meats, vegetables available according to season, fruits, bread, but also cheese and other dairy products are all part of this cuisine and can be found in various recipes.
In the ancient times, the Magyars were a nomad people, raising livestock because they could take the herds with them wherever they were traveling to. This may be an explanation why meat was, and still is, an important part in their cuisine.
Also, many of the traditional dishes of the Hungarian cuisine are originally cooked on an open fire, using a cauldron. In the 15th century, the sweet chestnut, garlic, onion, nutmeg, ginger, and saffron were introduced in this cuisine. The Turks influenced this cuisine as well, bringing their sweets and the use of eggplants in various recipes, together with pilaf, a dish using rice. But, influences also came from the Germans and Austrians, which where their neighboring countries.
Hungarian Cuisine Menu
Breakfast is usually large in Hungary, a large variety of foods being served in the morning. Sandwiches with bread, butter, cheese, ham, liver pâté, bacon, salami, or even sausages are among the favorites. Eggs, French toasts and veggie salads are also present. Hot beverages are preferred in the morning, like a cup of coffee, tea, or hot cocoa, which may be accompanied by pastries, a bun, strudel, or bread with jam or honey. Milk with cereals is another popular breakfast, especially among the young ones.
Lunch is considered the most important meal of the day, several courses composing it. An appetizer usually starts the lunch, and it can be cold or hot, consisting in fish, or eggs. The next dish will be soup, which can be made with veal, chicken, or other meat, veggies, noodles, or dumplings. Then the main dish comes, consisting in meat, cooked in various manners, and salad. And last, but not least, a dessert will end the lunch.
Whenever the Hungarians get hungry between meals, a sandwich, which contains the preferred ingredients, will make the perfect snack. Other snacks can consist in fresh fruits, like apples, pears, or plums, various pastry products, or even slices of cake, depending on preferences.
For dinner, the Hungarians will have something light, like a sandwich, again, a hot dog sausage called virsli, yogurt and a bun, all sort of pasties, or pancakes. Unlike many other areas around the world, in Hungary, pancakes are not served as a dessert, as they often make a main dish. Instead of being filled with something sweet, the Hungarian pancakes are filled with ground meat and spices.
The desserts in the Hungarian cuisine are very diverse, because people in this area love to end their meals with something sweet. The Dobos cake is a popular cake around here, consisting in a spongy cake with layered chocolate cream, and with a topping of nuts and glazed caramel. Rigó Jancsi is another popular dessert made out of cubes of spongy cake covered in a dark chocolate glaze. Túró Rudi is a sweet quark cheese that fills the inside of a chocolate bar. Many desserts consist in a spongy cake that is prepared with various fillings and sweet ingredients.
Wine is quite popular in Hungary, the people here producing this type of drink since the times of the ancient Romans. Tokaji is probably the most famous white dessert wine in the area. Beer is also appreciated, being almost as old as wine, a great number of beer brands being made in the country. Unicum is a brand of famous Hungarian liquor, which is a herbal bitter served as a digestive or aperitif.
Christmas is the time for special recipes, like halászlé, which is a Hungarian fish soup. Roasts are also a must-have for the Christmas dinner, like goose, turkey, or duck roast. Cabbage rolls, filled with minced meat and cooked in the oven, are also appreciated. As a dessert, the beigli is made during this period of the year, which a pasty roll filled with a sweet composition made with poppy seed or minced walnuts. Szaloncukor are flavored candies that are hanged as decorations in the Christmas tree, everybody picking them and eating them during Christmas.
For Easter, there aren’t many specialties that are prepared for this celebration, besides the traditional boiled eggs that are painted in red and the Easter sweet bread. Dishes with meat will again be present here, together with dishes that contain eggs, like a variety of yellow cheese, made with quark and eggs.
Most Popular Dishes
• Goulash – it is a thick soup usually made with veil or beef, in a cauldron set on an open fire, also containing potatoes, onions, carrots, garlic, and paprika.
• Chicken paprikas – it is a dish made with chicken that is slowly simmered in gravy made with cream and paprika, served usually with nokedli, which is homemade pasta.
• Pörkölt stew – is a stew made with chopped pork bits, very similar with the Italian ragu.
• Lecsó – a popular stew made out of various veggies, resembling ratatouille.
Most Used Ingredients
• Meat / Fish: veil, beef, chicken, pork;
• Veggies: tomatoes, potatoes, onions, carrots, peppers;
• Fruits: apples, plums, pears, grapes or raisins;
• Other: paprika, pepper, maize, wheat flour;
Hungarian Street Food – what to eat when traveling to Hungary?
Walking through Hungary? Then you need to try the Lángos. This is dough made out of wheat flour and usually mashed potatoes, flattened into a plate size sheet and deep fried. It is served warm with sour cream and grated cheese on top, even with garlic sauce or ketchup, according to preferences.
You may also enjoy the Kürtőskalács, or chimney cake, at the numerous street food stalls that spread a sugary vanilla flavor in the air. You can have the chimney cake with sugar and cinnamon, with ground walnuts, coconut flakes, melted caramel, and many other mouthwatering toppings.
Also, don’t miss the Rétes, which is the Hungarian strudel. It consists of a log made out of thin pastry, filled with a good amount of apples, cherry, poppy seed filling, and covered in powdered sugar. Kifli is another type of pastry product you can find on the streets of Hungary, resembling a croissant, but being more dense and filling. It is baked simple, without any topping or filling, as it can be served just like that, or with butter, cheese, ham, or whatever you like.
Are you from Hungary? Maybe you visited there? Please feel free to comment and add your own thoughts on Hungarian food.