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A true hearty Viennese goulash with Gluten-Free Dumplings is a Winter favourite in Austria!
An authentic Viennese goulash is a thick rich paprika beef stew with equal quantities of onions and beef which gives a sweet gravy that is seasoned with Austria’s favourite spice; caraway, plenty of garlic and marjoram.
Hungary’s national dish, Gulyás was the inspiration for the Viennese Goulash, adapted from a soup to a stew with less spiciness and the addition of caraway and marjoram, and christened Wiener Saftgoulash meaning Viennese gravy goulash.
With hundreds of different goulash versions made in coffeehouses, restaurants and Austrian homes, this recipe is a classic one that is followed by well-renowned chef Wolfgang Puck and the Sacher Hotel in Vienna.
This heart-warming dish is perfect for cold days to warm up after being outdoors for long periods. Goulash is often served at ski resorts as a perfect pick me up.
Key ingredients used
Don’t be alarmed by the number of onions used in goulash. Besides the beef, it’s all about the onions, (12 of them for 1.5 kg of meat!) which makes the goulash truly stand out. If you want to be more accurate with the ratio of onions and meat, simply weigh the onions until you reach the same weight as the meat.
The addition of sliced red capsicums or peppers is not traditional in Viennese goulash, but rather a Hungary version called Gulyásleves. I like to add them anyway as it sweetens the goulash sauce and adds an extra tinge of red to the dish.
Using unsmoked hot and sweet paprika is essential, none of those Spanish smoked paprikas will work in this dish. If you can find Hungarian paprika, this is the perfect one to use. Make sure the paprika smells fresh. Brands that top the lists are Kotányi and Szeged.
Although Vienna is next door to Hungary, it is amazingly hard to find Hungarian ingredients like this handy goulash paprika paste sold in squeezable tubes. I can only find it at some open-air markets and if I’m lucky occasionally at international supermarkets. Use it in place of the tomato paste should you find it in your country. It gives an extra Umami flavour to the dish.
Goulash or Stewing Beef
In Austria, it is straightforward to find goulash meat already cut from the shank and packaged. Alternatively, the butchers will happily prepare this beef cut if you let them know it’s for goulash.
Outside Austria, I would recommend a beef that doesn’t have too much grain but just enough connective tissue which will slowly break down into a tender goulash. Use stewing beef such as chuck or round steak for best results. Using any other cuts that are less tough will fall apart in this recipe and your goulash will end up being a mushy stew.
What beef substitutes can be used?
If you rather use different meat, either pork or lamb shoulder can be used.
To convert it into a vegetarian goulash, select potatoes, pumpkin or an assortment of mushrooms including chanterelles and other wild mushrooms. Throw in some pre-cooked lentils for some protein. Reduce the cooking time from 3 hours to 1 hour for the vegetable goulash. Replacing the beef stock with a vegetable stock is easy using my homemade vegetable stock paste recipe.
You’ll need to swap the butter for plant-based butter to make this goulash vegan.
What is Fiakergoulash?
In Vienna, a popular variant of the Viennese goulash that is seen on many restaurant menus is the Fiakergoulash, named after Vienna’s horse carriages, that ferry the many tourists around the city sights.
The goulash is typically served with a fried egg, a small split bratwurst, a large gherkin pickle and a few slices of serviettenknödel, a bread dumpling which I have included in this recipe as a gluten-free side. This heavy dish was invented to nourish the coachmen or coachwomen who would often stop off for a heartwarming lunch at the many Viennese inns and restaurants.
How is goulash eaten?
Typically, either with:
- a Kaiser Semmel bread roll by dipping in torn pieces into the goulash sauce
- boiled or steamed potatoes
- a few slices of potato Rösti cakes, which is exactly like a hash brown.
- Sliced dumplings, Serviettenknödel.
- Spätzle, a popular delicate egg pasta from Austria, Switzerland and Germany. It has a uniquely chewy, dumpling-like texture and is perfect for absorbing rich sauces like goulash.
Making the goulash at least one or two days ahead will enhance the flavour. Reheating the goulash is more common than eating it the same day it is prepared.
Viennese fondly have a saying that loosely translates “Reheating only works for goulash”, which when expressed, it means someone is considering getting back together with their ex; like reheating a relationship!
Soup or Stew?
If you want it as a soup, keep the lid on throughout the 3-hour simmering time and leave out the cornflour paste. For a stew with a thicker sauce, take the lid off during the last 30 mins to reduce the sauce slightly and add the cornflour paste.
What is Serviettenknödel?
Serviettenknödel literally means in German, Napkin dumplings. The dumplings are moulded into a log shape and wrapped in a napkin or for practical purposes, a kitchen tea towel and poached in water. They are later sliced and served with goulash or any casserole dish that has a sauce that needs mopping up by the dumpling slices.
Viennese Goulash with Gluten-Free Dumplings (Serviettenknödel)
GOULASH SEASONING BLEND
- 1½ tbsp hot paprika powder (unsmoked)
- 1½ tbsp sweet paprika powder (unsmoked)
- 1½ tsp ground or whole caraway seeds
- 1½ tsp dried marjoram
- 12 medium onions, chopped finely
- 1.5 kg goulash beef or stewing beef, cut into 5cm pieces cut into 5cm pieces
- 4 tbsp store-bought or homemade gluten-free plain flour
- 3-4 tbsp olive oil
- 50 g butter
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 red capsicums/bell peppers, chopped finely
- 3 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 litre store-bought or homemade beef stock
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
- 1 tbsp cornflour Known as cornflour in the UK and corn or maize starch in the USA
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
Gluten-Free Dumplings (Servittenknödel)
- 200 g stale gluten-free Kaiser bread rolls, cut in cubes or use store-bought gluten-free bread cubes (Semmelwürfen)
- 280 ml milk, lukewarm
- 1 onion, chopped finely
- 2 tbsp butter
- 4 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped finely
- 1 tsp ground nutmeg
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp freshly cracked black pepper
- 2 eggs, separated
- 1 whole egg
GOULASH SEASONING BLEND
- Mix the goulash seasoning in a small bowl. Set aside.
- Gather & measure all the ingredients to make Viennese goulash.
- Bring the beef out to room temperature for at least 30 minutes before cooking.
- In a large, deep Dutch oven or heavy-bottom casserole dish, cook the onions in the olive oil, butter and pinch of salt for 35 minutes on medium-high heat until the onions look slightly golden but still soft and translucent.
- Add the goulash seasoning blend to the onions together with the garlic, red capsicums/peppers and tomato paste.
- Stir constantly for one minute. Do not over fry the seasoning as burnt paprika will ruin the dish.
- Dry the beef cubes with a paper towel and coat them thoroughly and evenly with the gluten-free plain flour.
- Shake the excess flour off the beef and add it to the onion mixture. Stir well and add the beef stock.
- Add the bay leaves, salt and black pepper.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to the second-lowest setting. Cover and leave to simmer gently for 3 hours, or until the beef is very tender but not falling apart.
- Mix the cornflour with one or two tablespoons of the goulash sauce in a small bowl until a smooth paste forms. Add this back to the goulash together with the lemon juice and stir in well. This will thicken the goulash sauce slightly.
- Simmer for a further 15 minutes before turning off the heat. Leave the goulash to cool down slightly before serving. If serving later, allow to cool down completely before chilling.
Gluten-Free Dumplings (Servittenknödel)
- Gather & measure all the ingredients to make gluten-free dumplings.
- Pour the lukewarm milk over the bread cubes in a large bowl. Mix well and allow to soak for 30 minutes.
- Heat the butter in a large, wide pan and add the onions. Fry for several minutes, or until translucent.
- Add the onions to the soaked bread cubes as well as the parsley, nutmeg, salt and pepper.
- Separate the two eggs and place the egg whites in a clean bowl. Set aside. Add the egg yolks and the remaining whole egg to the bread mixture.
- Whisk the egg whites until stiff. Fold the whites into the bread mixture until thoroughly incorporated.
- Layout a clean light-coloured tea towel on the kitchen counter and wet your hands with cold water to mould the dumpling into a log shape measuring approximately 24cm by 7cm.
- Continue wetting your hands in the cold water to smooth the dumpling log before rolling it up snugly and twisting the ends, using an elastic band or kitchen string to tie the ends securely.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and add the dumpling gently to the water, pushing it in carefully or slightly bending the log if it is too long.
- Lower the heat and simmer with the lid on for 20 minutes.
- Lift the dumpling out of the pot and place it on a plate to cool down for 20 minutes before carefully unwrapping it from the tea towel.
- Allow to cool down more if it feels too hot to handle. With a large knife, cut the dumpling into 5cm thick slices and arrange them on a serving platter. Cover the dumpling if serving it later. Reheat in the microwave or oven until heated through.
- Keeps for 4 days chilled
- Suitable to freeze
- Keeps for 4 days chilled
- Freezes well in slices
Speed up the goulash cooking time by using a high-pressure cooker or an Instant Pot. Select the meat casserole setting which is usually at 35 minutes on High.
Alternatively, prepare the goulash the night before and pour the goulash into a slow cooker/crockpot to cook overnight on LOW for 9 to 10 hours. This may over tenderise the beef to a falling-apart stage so only choose this setting if you don’t mind this consistency, otherwise slow cook for only 7 to 8 hours.