10 iconic Hungarian food and drinks you must try in Budapest
World of Food & Drinks assembled a list of the top 10 things everyone should try in Budapest, and also added where to find them when one visits Hungary’s capital. The list contains the most iconic traditional Hungarian dishes and drinks to die for. Recipes for many of these dishes can be found in Daily New Hungary’s “recipe of the week” series.
1. Fisherman’s soup (Halászlé)
Hungarian Fisherman’s soup is similar to fish paprikash, but with more water. This delicious spicy soup is usually made from carp caught in the river Danube. The recipe relies on the traditional paprika powder, which gives the soup’s bright red colour. Most famous versions of fisherman’s soup are: fisherman’s soup of Baja, Szeged and the Tisza region. You can try this soup in many places in Budapest, for example at Horgásztanya Restaurant.
2. Goulash (Gulyás)
Goulash is one of the (if not the No. 1) most famous Hungarian dishes. Goulash is a rich stew made of meat and vegetables, and with lots of paprika. Traditionally, it is made from beef, but you can also find goulash made from pork or chicken. You can try the goulash in almost every restaurant in Budapest, but for a unique dining experience, you can go to Vagon restaurant or Gettó Gulyás.
3. Chicken Paprikash (Csirke paprikás)
Chicken paprikash has everything that characterises Hungarian cuisine: paprika, pepper, onion, garlic, green, pepper, tomato, meat and sour cream. This dish has a creamy sauce which the chicken meat is simmered in for over an hour. Traditionally, it is served with egg dumplings called nokedli. You can try this really popular Hungarian dish at Paprika Jancsi, Budapest.
4. Hungarian Lecsó
Several nations have their own versions of this meal (e.g. French ratatouille). Hungarian Lecsó is basically a vegetable stew made from tomatoes, yellow peppers and onions. Vegetables are seasoned with salt and paprika powder. Meat lovers often put sausages in their lecsó, but the original version of this meal is made without meat. Lecsó is usually served with bread and a scoop of sour cream. There are not many vegetarian traditional Hungarian dishes, so Lecsó is really a must try meal for vegetarians visiting the capital. You can try it at the restaurant M10 in Buda.
Sólet is a stew made from kidney beans, onions, barley and paprika. It is traditionally a Hungarian-Jewish dish. Sólet is usually served with a whole or a halved egg as garnish. You can try it in the heart of Budapest’s Jewish Quarter, at Kőleves restaurant.
6. The Hungarian street food: Lángos
Lángos is a deep-fried dough served with a variety of toppings. However, the traditional Hungarian Lángos is served with garlic oil, sour cream and grated cheese on top. You can find the best lángos at the different food markets of Budapest, such as the Great Market Hall, or you can visit the restaurant Lángos Papa.
7. Sponge Cake (Somlói galuska)
Indisputably, the sponge cake is one of the most famous Hungarian desserts. This dessert is the encounter of several tasty layers. It is a trifle made with three different flavoured sponge cakes, cream, raisins as well as walnuts and chocolate sauce. This dessert was first made for the World Expo in 1958, and it became an instant success. You can try this dessert right at the restaurant where it was created: Gundel.
Fröccs is the simplest and most wonderful drink to have on a hot day: it is basically wine mixed with soda water. There are many versions of fröccs with different names, depending on the wine-to-soda ratio. As Hungarian wines are delicious, so is fröccs. You can order fröccs in literally every bar in Budapest, but World of Food & Drinks recommends Szimpla for the most authentic fröccs experience.
Pálinka is probably the most well-known Hungarian alcoholic beverage. It is a strong shot, traditionally distilled from different kinds of fruits: plums, pears, peaches, cherries, grapes etc. Pálinka is typically enjoyed both before eating (to help appetite) and at the end of a meal (to aid digestion). Quality and home-made pálinka is great, but stay away from the suspiciously cheap ones. You can try 250 premium pálinkas of differing flavours at Abszolut Palinka.
10. Milk bars
Drinking milk in dedicated milk bars is a relatively new tradition in Budapest. Milk bars open early in the morning to welcome anyone who is stopping by for cup of coffee or milk and some breakfast on their way to start their day. Visit Cserpes Tejivó to see what a special Hungarian milk bar is all about. The place offers a large selection of pastries and dairies.