Székely Gulyàs, or Hungarian Pork and Sauerkraut Stew

Sauerkraut, or sour cabbage, has been made in Europe for centuries, ensuring the precious vitamin C and other nutrients during the Winter. Thinly sliced, fermented cabbage is used in a variety of hearty dishes or eaten uncooked in pleasantly tangy salads. Even though it’s not my daily fare, I like both raw and cooked sauerkraut and usually start seriously craving it when it gets colder. Thanks to Kelly (Inspired Edibles) I know now that sauerkraut’s lactic acid bacteria enhance my natural immune system. Thank you Kelly for your professional remark!

Some people are put off the sauerkraut and are afraid even to taste it mainly because in many countries (like France or Switzerland) it is served as a disgusting undercooked, under-seasoned heap, with sausages and fatty pork cuts. Low-fat, spicy and aromatic, Székely Gulyàs is the exact opposite. When I first saw it browsing through Zsuzsa’s recipes (Zsuzsa is in the kitchen) I instantly knew I would love it as much as all the Hungarian dishes I had tasted or cooked.

Székely Gulyàs (pronounced “see-cay goo-yash”) is thicker than the famous gulyàs and there is a doubt about the “székely” name. Some people say it comes from an ethnic group called “Székely”, who still lives in the present Romania, others – like Kàroly Gundel, a famous Hungarian cook- say it was named after a writer Jozsef Székely, whom Gundel calls the “godfather” of this stew. Apparently traditionally Székely Gulyàs called for three kinds of meat, but now people use only one. Whatever the origins and history, this is a perfect dish for cold days: hearty, but low-fat and with the enticing aroma mainly due to the Hungarian sweet paprika. It is traditionally served with sour cream, but I find it equally delicious with thick sour milk I replace sour cream with.

I have slightly simplified Zsuzsa’s recipe, omitting the oven baking stage, but in spite of these changes, my Szekély Gulyàs was excellent. Thank you, Zsuzsa for one more delightful Hungarian culinary discovery!


Like many stews, this one gets at least twice as good when reheated the following day. Actually it improves every time it’s reheated.

Do not throw away the liquid drained from the sauerkraut. You can add it during the cooking process if you feel your dish is not tangy enough. Personally I love my sauerkraut dishes very tangy, so I don’t even drain the liquid most of the time.

Preparation: about 2 hours (but it’s definitely best reheated the following day)

Ingredients (serves 2):

300 g lean pork

1 teaspoon caraway seeds

1 small onion

1 big garlic clove

300-350 ml sauerkraut (raw, not cooked)

3 tablespoons Hungarian sweet dried paprika (

(1 tablespoon hot Hungarian paprika)

1-2 tablespoons oil

sour cream or milk

salt, pepper

Drain the sauerkraut, but don’t throw away the liquid (see the TIP above).

Cut the meat into bite-sized pieces.

Chop the onion and the garlic.

Fry the onion until soft.

Add the meat and fry it until golden brown.

Take the pan from the heat, add the spices and the garlic, 125 ml (1/2 cup) water.

(Add hot paprika to taste or skip it if you don’t want a fiery dish.)

Lower the heat and simmer the meat covered for one hour.

Take off the lid, add the sauerkraut and some more hot water to cover the whole dish.

Continue to simmer first uncovered, then, after 30 minutes, covered for about 1 hour in total.

Serve immediately with a splash with sour cream or sour milk or let it cool down, refrigerate overnight and serve it reheated the following day.


51 Replies to “Székely Gulyàs, or Hungarian Pork and Sauerkraut Stew”

  1. It’s interesting, sauerkraut is a bit of a superstar food in the nutrition world – for the vitamin C as you mention but also the lactic acid bacteria arising from the natural fermentation process which is associated with enhancing the immune system. I adore raw cabbage and could (and sometimes do) eat it all day long – mostly in the form of cole slaw. Fermented cabbage is an even healthier variation. I love this recipe Sissi – the paprika and caraway seeds sound like delicious additions too!

    1. Thank you so much, Kelly! I love such warming and hearty, but guiltless recipes 🙂 I also adore raw cabbage. You have jsut reminded me I haven’t had a coleslaw in ages! (Thank you once more for your kind message and sorry again).

    2. Kelly, we have been wondering with Mr.Three-Cookies whether these lactic acid bacteria disappear during the cooking process… (And thank you very much for this information, I will add it to my post 🙂 )

      1. Yes, I’m afraid the conventional wisdom is that heating the sauerkraut kills the bacteria. You can make your own sauerkraut quite easily though by simply adding salt to the cabbage and Sissi’s delicious seasonings. Cover the cabbage with a piece of wax paper and pound until the cabbage releases some humidity. Place cabbage in a mason jar (or other) and cover tightly. Leave at room temperature for three days before moving to the fridge. Sauerkraut will preserve for months.

        Hope that helps!

        1. Thank you so much, Kelly, for the answer and for the quick sauerkraut recipe. I had no idea it could be as quickly made as kimchi! My grandmother used to be the only brave one making sauerkraut in the family and everyone admired her for it. She made the cabbage ferment in a big jar outside (in Winter, so it was cold) and it took her several weeks before the sauerkraut was ready.
          I will try your quick method! (I’m now making one more kimchi, already third this Winter, so I’m ready for any fermenting experiments).

  2. I’m not a fan of sauerkraut and usually unroll my cabbage rolls to only eat the middle (even at the age of 55) though these days I may leave one out of 3 cabbage rolls wrapped, but my Hungarian SIL would probably love this dish. 🙂

    By the way, my family are Romanians from the former Yugoslavia so I’m finding the site you referred to very interesting from a cultural/recipe viewpoint. Many thanks.

    1. I have never had sauerkraut in the form of whole leaves (the Polish, Russian, Swiss and French versions I had were always shredded before the fermentation process), but I have already heard about this method. Is it the acidity or the smell you dislike? I suppose sauerkraut is the “love or hate” type of food. Just like kimchi.
      I knew you had Romanian origins, but I had no idea there were Romanians in the former Yugoslavia. I feel ignorant. I only knew the sad history of Hungarians who live outside of Hungary. Thank you 🙂

      1. If she had time, my mother soured a whole head of cabbage (core removed) to get the soured cabbage which was used to make the cabbage rolls. Sometimes she also added commercially purchased sauerkraut to the top of the cabbage rolls to add flavour. Occasionally a ham bone with some ham left on it was added to the very large roasting pan. 🙂

        Yes, the former Yugoslavia had a large Romanian population. There were villages close to the border of Yugoslavia, when it was created in 1918 after WW I (named Yugoslavia in 192) that were largely composed of Romanians. In the breakup that started in 1991, when Serbia and Croatia declared independence, the area the my parents and I were born in became part of Serbia.

        1. Thank you for this history lesson. One lives and learns! I must try one day making a whole cabbage ferment and taste it. The only one available here is shredded.

          1. You can probably use the liquid (live culture) from the shredded sauerkraut to start the fermentation of the whole cabbage and then use the leaves to make cabbage rolls when they’ve soured enough. I think that’s what my mom used to do as I still recall the big covered pot in the basement with the cabbage in it.

      2. PS: I think my dislike of the cabbage in the rolls is a texture thing … they’re kind of limp and stringy. I like the flavour and acidity of the liquid/broth and often spoon some of it over the mashed potatoes that my mom served with the cabbage rolls. Same thing with the stuffed peppers … love the filling, hate the peppers. 🙂

        1. Oh, so maybe you would like the finely shredded one? I have to make the whole leaves and compare. We can share our opinions then 😉

          1. I always thought I disliked cabbage but recently tried coleslaw for the first time at the age of 54. And I liked it. So, I have no problems with raw crunchy cabbage, it’s just the cooked stuff I don’t like. I also don’t care for over-cooked peppers (red or green) so the stuffed peppers dislike is probably for the same reason … a texture thing.

            By the way, my mom’s cabbage rolls and stuffed peppers were only ever made with hand diced pork. Never beef. Especially NOT ground beef or hamburger.

            And, let’s not get into a discussion on whether or not to put sour cream on your cabbage rolls. 🙂 Wars have been started for less trivial reasons.

            1. Putting or not putting cream on cabbage rolls sounds like a very important matter and I’m not surprised 🙂 Quarrels about cooking or serving methods can go forever. (Although I have never had cream on cabbage rolls, not to mention the fact that I haven’t had them for at least 10 years… and never made with sour cabbage but with fresh one, I must make them some day…)

  3. I’ve tried a German sauerkraut stew made with tomatoes not paprika, sort of similar to this, very delicious. I always think of having it again.

    Sauerkraut has good bacteria and I always wondered whether the bacteria is killed through cooking, I don’t know the answer. That is my only hesitation with cooking sauerkraut

    1. I am not surprised you like sauerkraut. I don’t know why, but for me it’s the same “shelf” as herring (maybe it’s also umami????). The German stew sounds good too! I am also wondering if the bacteria disappears (I know most of vitamin C does), I have to ask Kelly from Inspired Edibles; she is the specialist! On the other hand I am certain cooked sauerkraut is as good as any vegetable. It must retain some fibers at least.

  4. YES!!! And you made it with pork like a real Hungarian! And you used real paprika too – wow Sissi I am DELIGHTED – people here too turn up their noses on sauerkrout, but one taste of this dish and they are hooked. hehe. This is good food all it needs is a chunk of rustic bread. 🙂

    1. Thank you so much, Zsuzsa for this enthusiastic comment and for your comprehension about my stove cooking because of laziness. I am thrilled to learn you approve of my székely gulyàs. You are my ultimate judge when it comes to Hungarian dishes. I didn’t know “real Hungarians” made it with pork 🙂 I simply love pork much more than beef…
      I have lots of Hungarian paprika at home. You will not believe me, but they sell kalocsai paprika in my local supermarket and also the very salty hot paste in a tube (the only two Hungarian products they sell in Switzerland). Mine is however brought from Budapest and I was furious first when I started to see it here (I have brought about 1 kg of it! but different origins and kinds). I also grow my own Hungarian paprika on the balcony. I take the seeds out of the “necklaces” of hot peppers and they always grow! They don’t give very hot fruits, but they are lovely and aromatic.

      1. wohoo thats not so! The authentic dish is cooked on the stove! When I make it, I tend to make a rather large amount, there are takers for a dish or two 🙂 and its just easier to cook it in the oven in a large baking pan. Guess who is lazy ha! You live in Europe Sissi, so I am not suprised you have access to good paprika. Canadians by large cannot appreciate the difference fresh, authentic spices can make. That is why I have to buy my paprika on line. You must have a lively patio, I love those necklaces.

        1. Thank you, Zsuzsa! I was sure the oven stage was obligatory. Actually my hot pepper necklaces hang in the kitchen and my balcony is tiny 🙁 But I manage to grow several herbs and some Hungarian paprika too 🙂

  5. Dear Sissi,

    I was put off when I first tasted sauerkraut in a German restaurant when I was younger. But that was probably because it may not have been the best version and my tastes were not as diverse and experienced.

    I tried sauerkraut recently at a Bavarian beer cafe and it’s tasted delicious to me as I see it as another form of kimchi, or hamchoy. I also love a Hungarian goulash because it is so warming and comforting especially in winter.

    1. You have probably tasted the same version they make here: undercooked, under-seasoned, etc.. It’s true that sauerkraut is just a European kimchi. Every single Hungarian dish I have tasted was delicious and I also rather crave it in the Winter.

  6. “disgusting undercooked, under-seasoned heap, with sausages and fatty pork cuts”

    Oh god, a thousand times this. Seriously – when I’m in my local Auchan during the morning they have a guy setting up a choucroute stand with a MASSIVE pan… seriously, I could lie down flat in this thing. During the morning he cooks up this reprehensible slop before doling it out to cabbage-crazed French people who seem to be under the bizarre impression that this is some sort of gourmet treat. Nasty, nasty, no. Stop it right now!

    I love sauerkraut though – I’ve made it myself a few times and it’s fantastic. It’s such a shame that the French manage to wreck it. I love the look and the idea of this dish Sissi – a real winter warmer, and a far cry from the vapid muck sold in plastic tubs in French stores with big lumps of wobbly, fatty meat shoved on top! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    1. Thank you Charles for the compliments and for making me laugh out loud! Your observations are so perfect! Every time I go to the French supermarket or even a butcher and I see the ready-to-warm awful bits of meat and the disgusting greyish choucroute, I lose my appetite for several hours. Luckily here raw choucroute is widely available and people cook it themselves.

  7. Well, I’ve learned something new about sauerkraut. I’ve really enjoyed the other Hungarian dishes I’ve made (mainly Chicken with Paprika) so I’ll have to give this a try because it looks so good in your picture. Glad to have found your blog!

    1. Thank you so much, Barb, and welcome! I also love chicken with paprika. I am also glad to have found your blog!

  8. Haha! What interesting and diversed (is there such a word?) comments.
    I am in the “crazy-for-sauerkraut” group. I can remember the first time I had it as a kid with bratwurst sausages and fell totally in love with it to the amazement of everyone. Now I also make my own with some added cumin seeds.
    I love the sound of this recipe, Sissy. It’s something I know I’ll enjoy having. Unfortunately, it’ll have to wait for the day when I’m alone and having no one else to cook for, then can I enjoy this. Definitely a keeper!

    1. Thank you so much, Ping. It’s funny how certain dishes I post about provoke unexpected reactions (I still remember my simple tart with black pudding and the fact that while it had lots of disgusted/surprised/enthusiastic reactions, it had been so innocent and basic for me…).
      Do you mean you don’t cook anything just for you? I have always had (of course when I have time). It’s nice to do something egoistic and have a one-person feast from time to time 🙂 This dish is very simple, doesn’t require much attention and if even better reheated, so if my husband didn’t like it (he loved it) I would certainly make it just for myself and could have it two days in a row.

    1. Thank you so much, Karen. From my experience with sauerkraut, it is best when frozen and then unfrozen and heated.

  9. I’m another sauerkraut and pork fan…especially when cooked together till the pork is falling apart….mmmmmmm.

    1. Hi, Liz! I’m happy you like sauerkraut too. Here the meat also starts falling into pieces after a certain time.

  10. I definitely didn’t know sauerkraut can be so nutritious! Thanks to you and Kelly for the knowledge. Hungarian dish – I don’t think I’ve had Hungarian food before… I really have to think what was Hungarian food or if I ever had one. This stew looks delicious!

    1. Thank you, Nami! I think it has similar nutritious benefits to kimchi: both are fermented. Hungarian food is very easy to recognise: it’s usually beautiful red since it has lots of sweet paprika (sometimes also hot, but not as hot as Korean dishes can be).

  11. Sauerkraut is one of those thing either you love it or you just cannot enjoy it, right.
    I really like it but somehow always felt it is way too much of work to get it right.
    My friend mom make its really nice, I always settle for store bought version.

    With that being said this stew looks really good and yummm….

    Sissi wishing you and your family a very Happy and Prosperous 2012.

    1. Thanks, Reem. This dish is definitely not much work and the result is excellent. Happy New Year to you too!

    1. Actually I think that sauerkraut is cooked with pork in many Central and Eastern European countries.This dish is much much simpler and less elaborate than bigos of course 🙂

  12. I popped over from your latest post, Sissi, I just couldn’t help myself. My Dad used to dine in Gundel’s in Budapest as a young man. We tried getting in the last time we were there, but they weren’t open for lunch (and God forbid we go out for dinner — aaahhhkkk, relatives!). I don’t love gulyás but this recipe with the sour kraut looks amazing. I shall have to try it when the weather gets a little colder and perfect for stews.
    By the way, I have been reading Zsuzsa’s blog but I am unable to comment on it. Even though I type in her codes perfectly, it claims I am doing it incorrectly. It’s quite frustrating.

    1. Thank you, Eva. I love most Hungarian dishes I have tasted (or rather prepared because I went only once to Hungary and apart from my friend’s creations I don’t have any contact with this cuisine). Most are quite heavy though. This one wasn’t heavy at all and of course everything depends on the meat cuts one chooses.
      I’m so sorry for your commenting problem. I have never had this issue, but someone once told me about the same problem on my blog. I wonder why it happens…

    2. Hello Eva, I got an update because I posted here previously.

      Concerning my blog, I disabled the posting feature on the cookbook section, [the cookbook is just a collection of links and I wanted to keep it uncluttered] but you shouldn’t have any problems posting on any of the recipes on my main blog.

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