The First-Time Foodies Guide To The 18 Must-Try Traditional Hungarian Foods & Drinks

If you’re a couple of foodies like us, welcome to our post that is going to make you drool and whip out the stretchy pants at the same time. Caleb and I basically travel to eat and drink and we really understood the assignment when we lived in Hungary.

We had a chance to try almost all the traditional Hungarian food, and we’ve narrowed it down to the absolute best ones like Chicken paprikash, Cabbage strudel, Stuffed Crepes, cottage cheese noodles, and Esterházy torte.

In this beginner’s guide to what to eat in Hungary, we’re *only* going to cover the must-eat foods and drinks and then give you an exact itinerary to fit them all in a short trip. We don’t want you to waste any calories on local eats that aren’t the best. Let’s dive in, starting with a video of some of the foods you’ll be eating!

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🌶️ Heavy on the paprika

🐮 Heavy, rich food with lots of sour cream

🥘 Comforting food (good for rainy days)

🍰 A large variety of cakes

🥩 Lots of meat

This is not an exhaustive list of all the Hungarian foods you could ty but, but we promise we’re covering all the best Hungarian foods!

You know, the kind where you look at each other and raise your eyebrows, and no words are needed to say what you’re both thinking: “OMG, THIS IS SO GOOD!?”

That’s what we’re talking about here. Budapest literally means Buda’s Oven so you know it’s got some good eats! You must plan these into your trip!

1. Chicken Paprikash 

This is one of my (Taylor’s) personal favs! Chicken paprikash is a stew-like dish with a bright orange color thanks to a ton of Paprika, which is a staple in Hungarian food according to Michelin Guide. However,  it’s finished with a hefty dose of sour cream, so it’s stupid-creamy and rich, and that sour cream tones down the spice. It’s really not spicy at all!

It’s a super typical food and commonly served with chewy, springy egg dumplings and the combo is so. Dang. goooooood.

Find our favorite in Budapest at: Pörc & Prézli Étterem or Kek Rosa

If you want to bring Hungarian cuisine home, we highly recommend this cooking class. We made the best chicken paprikash with a nice local, flowing wine and a fun, memorable night!

A plate of traditional Hungarian goulash with spaetzle, garnished with fresh herbs, served at a restaurant with other dishes in the background

2. Pörkölt

Think of this as the stew version of goulash! It has similar ingredients like meat, onions, garlic, and lots of peppers (again, not spicy.) It’s cooking for a long time, and the meat (usually pork or beef) melts in your mouth!

Find our favorite in Budapest at: Ghetto Gulyas.

A plate of roasted duck legs served with red cabbage and potatoes, ready to be enjoyed in a restaurant setting.

3. Roasted Duck Leg With Red Cabbage

Duck legs are cooked in their own fat for hours, so the meat literally falls off the bone, but the skin is still so thin, golden brown, and crispy. Usually served with a tangy, soft red cabbage and the pair? *chefs kiss*

Dare I say they rival the duck legs we’ve eaten in France? *ducks as a croissant is thrown at my head.*

Find our favorite in Budapest at: Cafe Kor (you get 2 legs – value baby!) or Hungarikum Bisztro.  

4. Lángos

I’m sure you know this one: deep-fried circles of golden-brown dough as big as your head (seriously, look at the langos compared to Caleb’s head in the photo) piled high with sour cream and cheese, and we recommend going all out by adding cabbage, sausage, and onions.

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Hope you packed your stretchy pants, ya’ll.

This is a good one for couples like us because they’re big and shareable!

Find our favorite in Budapest at: Langos Papi (a tiny window that you have to go to!) 

A bowl of goulash soup served in a paper cup on an orange table, with blurred people walking in the background at a market or festival.

5. Goulash Soup

This is probably *the* dish that you think of when you think of traditional Hungarian cuisine.  It came about to nourish herdsmen, and then it just kinda stuck around.

It’s a SUPER hearty soup loaded with Paprika (always) beef, potatoes, and sometimes some small noodles or vegetables if the soup-creator is feeling, you know, healthy. It’s more “soupy” than we imagined, and we’re not mad about it.

Surprisingly, it’s not all that spicy. Many restaurants serve Paprika on the side if you want to heat things up a little bit.

Find our favorite in Budapest at: Ghetto Gulyas or Szaletly

A bowl of Hungarian fisherman's soup (halászlé) with a rich red broth, served with condiments on the side.

6. Fisherman’s soup (halászlé):

If you’ve ever had French bouillabaisse, then you kinda know what fisherman’s soup is.  The most traditional fish to find in the soup is catfish or carp (our preference), and it’s a SUPER simple recipe: onion, broth, Paprika (do you see the pattern?), and little chunks of fish.

That’s it! But, as simple as it sounds, it’s super tasty! Warning: it is on the “fishy” side, but we like it that way. 

Find our favorite in Budapest at: Rosenstein.

A dish of Hortobágyi crepe served in a bowl with a rich sauce, topped with sour cream and garnished with green herbs.

7. Hungarian Stuffed Crepes (Hortobágyi Palacsinta )

This a dish we both talk about all the time. It’s a thin crepe loaded with stewed meat (traditionally veal) along with onions, Paprika, and sour cream. It is then doused in a sauce similar to chicken paprikasha.

It’s not the prettiest dish, but my gosh, it’s delicious and worth every darn calorie.

Find our favorite in Budapest at: Negro Mangelica.

A bustling street food stall with a variety of stuffed cabbage rolls and sausages served on a large grill, surrounded by eager customers waiting to be served.

8. Stuffed Cabbage (töltött káposzta)

Yep, just like the stuffed cabbage your grandma makes, which gives me a real soft spot for stufed cabbge. We’re talking cabbage stuffed with ground pork, rice, lots of Paprika and served over tender, tangy sauerkraut.

This is best eaten in the winter (due to the cozy factor), and we love it at Budapest’s Christmas markets if you’re planning a Christmas market trip!

Find our favorite in Budapest at: Kéhli Vendéglő.

A plate of Mangalica pork medallions served with mashed potatoes, crispy croquettes, and garnished with fresh herbs.

9. Mangalica Pork

Mangalica is a type of Hungarian pig that has some amazing meat, similar to the Iberian pig in Spain. You can find it in all applications like roasts, chops, wrapped in bacon, etc, in Hungary. You have to try it at least once!

Find our favorite in Budapest at: Negro Mangelica (as the name suggests, they specialize in it!)

A bowl of cottage cheese noodles topped with crispy bacon bits and chopped chives, accompanied by a mug of beer and a partially visible plate of food in the background.

10. Cottage cheese noodles (túrós csusza)

If you like mac and cheese, which you do because you’re a human who exists on this Earth, you have to try this simple, flavorful, and hearty dish. 

It goes down like this: pasta, cottage cheese, sour cream, and a heavy dose of crunchy bacon chunks. Yep, it’s as good as it sounds.

Find our favorite in Budapest at: Tati Farm to Table. 

A close-up of two slices of strudel on a white plate, dusted with powdered sugar and accompanied by a fork.

11. Strudel

You love strudel, we love strudel, everyone loves strudel. It’s some sort of filing wrapped in a golden-brown, thin, and crispy crust. But, the strudel in Hungary is unlike many others!

The variety of fillings we tried is insane! We had savory cabbage strudel (which is actually our favorite!) and interesting sweet versions like sour cherry with chestnut plum and caramel.

Find our favorite in Budapest at: Strudel Hugo (SO MANY FLAVORS)

12. Chimney cake (kürtőskalács) 

Another one you probably know, especially if you’ve been to any European Christmas markets.  It’s a piece of dough wrapped around a baking spit, roasted over a fire, and covered in cinnamon sugar!

The outside is really crispy, and the inside *should* be soft and fluffy if you get a good one.

PRO TIP: as good as it smells, AVOID AVOID AVOID getting a chimney cake from a hut on the sidewalk or in the metro. They’re cheap for a reason: they’re usually pre-baked and hard.

This is one that’s easy to share for couples because you can easily pull the layers apart in a spiral and each eat half. Plus, they’re big!!

Find our favorite in Budapest at: Pichler Gelato and Chimney Cake OR Kiraly Kalacs kurtokalacs (a tiny blue shop)

Slices of Dobos torta, a Hungarian layered cake topped with caramel glaze, displayed in a bakery with a price tag of 1390 HUF.

13. Dobos Torte 

This is one for our chocolate lovers (aka everyone!)  A classic Hungarian cake made of sponge cake with chocolate buttercream and finished off with a glossy, sweet slice of caramel on top.

It’s super-rich…which means it’s heaven in your mouth.

Find our favorite in Budapest at: Cafe Gerbaud or August Cukrászda

Close-up of Esterhazy Torte slices displayed in a bakery case, with a sign indicating the name of the cake and its price as 1020

14. Esterházy torte 

I didn’t think I would like this one because I don’t like walnuts, but I liked it so much I forgot to take a good photo. 🤣

It’s a flavor bomb of a cake with layers of walnuts (sometimes almonds) with rum-laced buttercream. ← read that again. RUM. LACED. BUTTERCREAM.

It actually has no flour, but we found it to be surprisingly fluffy, soft, and quite sweet!

Find our favorite in Budapest at: August Cukrászda, Cafe Gerbaud, or Daubner Cukrászda

A slice of Hungarian kremes, a layered pastry with cream filling, served on a white plate in a cafe, with a glass of water and a blurred background of a person sitting.

15. Krémes

This is my favorite dessert on the list. If you’ve had a Napolean pastry, you’ll love this. It’s essentially just a massive slice of vanilla custard sandwiched between crispy, golden-brown puff pastry.

While Ruszwurm claims to be the favorite of an old king and makes theirs with whipped cream (so it’s more airy), we do prefer it at Auguszt because 1. 2 layers of puffy pastry and 2. The custard is denser and more delicious (in our opinion).

You could always try both. You know, for comparison and stuff? 😏

Find our favorite in Budapest at: August Cukrászda or Ruszwurm Cukraszda

A slice of Gerbeaud cake, a layered Hungarian dessert with chocolate, walnuts, and apricot jam, served on a white plate in a cafe setting.

16. Gerbeaud slice

I can’t lie, I personally don’t love this one, but Caleb does, and it’s VERY classic, so it’s on the list. I just have a “thing” against orange fruit with chocolate. ←I’m weird.

The most interesting thing about this cake is that it’s not cake at all: it’s layers of pastry crust (like pie crust) layered with chocolate, ground walnuts, and apricot jam.

Don’t expect it to be soft and fluffy; it’s got a pie-like, crumbly, and dry texture.

Find our favorite in Budapest at: Cafe Gerbaud.

5 bottles of Hungarian wine on table, half empty so you know they've been enjoyed

17. HUNGARIAN WINE!!!!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Hungarian wine ruined us for any other wine ever. The white wine is SOOOOO GOOD. And, our wine judge friend told us that they don’t export it because 1. they drink it all and 2. Hungarian is so hard to learn that no one wants to learn it to read the bottles. 😅

The famous wine is the Tokaji Aszu which is SUPER sweet but has no added sugar. The wine gets a fungus called noble rot which gives it it’s sweetness. Then the grapes are hand harvested and gravity is used to press them (that’s why it costs so much!)

Find our favorite in Budapest at: You MUST do this wine tasting in Budapest. Hands down, one of the best wine tastings we’ve done all across Europe. Worth every penny that we spent to do it.

a bottle of Hungarian Unicum on a table

18. Unicum

A Hungarian Herbal liquor that is strong, bitter and usually used as an aperitif or it makes great cocktails!

Find our favorite in Budapest at: We really enjoyed the tour of the Zwack Unicum Musuem which is the only place in the world that makes Unicum and you can taste on the tour!

Want to make sure to eat the best traditional foods but short on time?

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Exactly how to fit all these foods in a short trip

Okay, you might think 18 food/drinks is impossible to fit in a short trip, but it’s not as long as you’re willing to share, which is one of our top tips for traveling as a couple! Here is how we would structure your days/meals to try everything on this list:

Day 1:

  • Breakfast: Go to Strudel Hugo and share some strudels
  • Lunch: Share the duck legs at Cafe Kor. You get two and you have a big snack coming up, so just share one main.
  • Snack: Share a langos at Langos Papi
  • Dinner: At Getto Gulyas, share some goulash to start, followed by chicken paprikash and porkolt.
  • End the day with a Hungarian wine tasting.

Day 2:

  • Breakfast: Go to Cafe Gerbeaud and share a Gerbeaud slice and Dobos torte.
  • Lunch: Share cabbage rolls at Kéhli Vendéglő.
  • Snack: Share a chimney cake at one of our restaurant picks.
  • Afternoon visit to the Zwack musem to try Unicum (it’s only open until 5)
  • Dinner: At Negro Mangelica and share two pork mains and a Hortobágyi Palacsinta to start
  • End the day with more wine at WINE NOT? Hungarian wine bar.

Day 3:

  • Breakfast: Go to August Cukrászda and share a Kreme and Esterházy torte.
  • Lunch: Share cottage cheese noodles and whatever else you want at Tati Farm To Table.
  • Snack: re-eat your favorite thing! 🙂
  • Dinner: Dinner at Rosenstein and share the fisherman soup and whatever else catches your eye (everything is good here.)
  • End the day with more wine at Kadarka wine bar.

Well, our foodie friend, that’s a wrap on the traditional food in Hungary we really think you should try. Yes, there are some others, but if you hit these, you’re nailing all the ones that we loved the most. Let us know in the comments if you have questions or what you try!

Now that you know what and where to eat, it’s time to learn about the 3 unmissable experiences you must have in Budapest if you love food!

Or, check out our top tips for visiting Budapest!

Other Budapest posts:

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