Breaking down a Hungarian Christmas menu

The Holiday Season just isn’t the same without the smells and tastes we’ve come to love, especially when it comes to Christmas.

Like most countries, Hungary has its own Christmas menu that is related to its own customs and traditions. Tables are usually adorned with green pine boughs, various Christmas decorations, and oranges and apples, which are the symbols of health and love in peasant culture.

Budapestbylocals.com collected the best traditional Christmas recipes from Hungarian cuisine, including the famous fish soup still eaten by most Hungarian families on December 24.

1) Hungarian Fishermen’s Soup (Halászlé)

Ingredients for about 6 portions

1,000 g different type of small fish (freshwater fish)

1,500 g carp (whole or fillets)

2 tablespoons lard

2 tablespoons Hungarian paprika powder

2 large onion

1 green pepper

1 big potato, peeled

salt and ground black pepper to taste

1 tomato, peeled and diced

1 egg and flour for the noodles


1. Clean the fish.

2. Remove its teeth, tail, fins and scales with a sharp knife.

3. Wash it with cold water.

4. Open up the carp at its belly and remove the insides.

5. Slice it up into 2-cm thick slices and salt them.

6. Cut out the eyes from the head.

7. Peel the onions and dice them.

8. Peel the potato.

9. Dice the tomato.


1. First of all, we make a fish stock from the small fish and the head of the carp

2. Heat the lard in a large pan and braise the diced onions.

3. Sprinkle the onion with paprika, and immediately pour about 3 L water into the pan to prevent the paprika from getting burnt.

4. Put the small fish, the head of the carp, the diced tomato and salt in the pan and cook it until the meat comes off the bone.

5. Sieve the stock and bring it to a boil.

6. If you find the stock a bit thick, add some water.

7. Put the salted carp slices in the fish stock; add slices of hot, green pepper and some salt, if necessary, and bring it to a boil.

8. Grate the potato and add it to the soup. Cook for 1-2 minutes.

9. Beat an egg and add 1-2 tablespoons of flour; mix until you get a batter. It should not be too thick or too thin.

10. Salt the mixture a bit, then cut nice ball shapes into the boiling soup with the help of a spoon. Cook for 2-3 minutes.

Hungarian fish soup is a substantial meal, especially this version with noodles and grated potato.

2) Stuffed Cabbage


6-8 sauerkraut leaves

1,000 g chopped sauerkraut

100 g (2 cups) pearl barley or rice

400 g minced pork

1-2 onions

1 clove of garlic

1-2 tablespoons lard or oil

2 teaspoons Hungarian paprika powder

ground black pepper

1-2 bay leaves


200 ml sour cream


Make the stuffing:

1. Braise half the diced onions in lard, add the minced pork and the pearl barley (rice), and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon paprika.

2. Add the mashed clove of garlic, some salt, ground black pepper, and stir well.

3. Place some stuffing on the sauerkraut leaves and make nice rolls.

4. Braise the remaining onion in oil.

5. Remove the pan from the heat, add 1 teaspoon paprika powder, half of the chopped sauerkraut and the bay leaves.

6. Place the stuffed rolls in the pan, and cover with the other half of the sauerkraut.

7. Add some water and cook until tender (approx. 1.5-2 hours).

8. Remove the stuffed rolls.

9. Mix sour cream with 1-2 tablespoons of flour; add to the sauerkraut, and cook for 1-2 minutes; dilute with some water if necessary. The name of this last process is habarás in Hungarian, and it thickens the meal.

10. Place the cabbage rolls back in the pan.

11. We have this dish with sour cream and slices of white bread.

3) Beigli – Pastry Rolls with Walnut or Poppy Seed Stuffing

A traditional Hungarian Christmas Eve dinner is not complete without beigli.


For the dough:

500 g flour

150 ml sour cream

250 g butter

1 tablespoon sugar

20 g fresh yeast

1 egg

50 g caster sugar

a pinch of salt

For the poppy seed stuffing:

200 g ground poppy seed

150 g castor sugar mixed in 100 ml water

1 package (10g) of vanilla sugar

50 g raisins soaked in 50 ml rum

grated rind of a well-washed lemon and lemon juice

1 coffee-spoon ground cinnamon

1 coffee-spoon ground cloves

Prepare the poppy seed filling:

1. Bring the water with the sugar in it to a boil.

2. Remove the mixture from the heat, and pour onto the ground poppy seed.

3. Mix in the drained raisins, the vanilla sugar and ground cinnamon and cloves.

4. Add grated rind of a lemon and 1 tablespoon of its juice.

For the walnut stuffing:

400 g ground walnuts

250 g caster sugar mixed in about 1 dl milk

50 g raisins soaked in rum

grated rind of a well-washed orange

1 package (10g) vanilla sugar

Prepare the walnut filling:

1. Bring the milk with the sugar in it to a boil.

2. Remove the mixture from the heat, and pour onto the ground walnuts.

3. Mix in the drained raisins, the vanilla sugar and grated rind of an orange.

Prepare the dough:

1. Warm the sour cream a bit. It should be lukewarm.

2. Add the egg to the sour cream and mix it.

3. Crumble the yeast into the mixture.

4. Add diced butter to the flour, sprinkle it with 50 g caster sugar and a pinch of salt.

5. Mix in sour cream with the yeast and knead into a dough.

6. Make 4 loaves, wrap them up in saran wrap and let them rest in the fridge for at least 2 hours (even better, if you leave it there overnight).

7. Knead the loaves a bit.

8. Roll them out into a 1/2 cm thick rectangle on a floured board.

9. Spread filling onto the dough, leaving 2-3 cms empty along the edge.

10. Fold back a 2-3 cm strip at the shorter sides (prevents the stuffing from coming out).

11. Roll the dough up, and place in a buttered oven dish.

12. Brush the top of the rolls with slightly beaten egg yolk and let rest for 30 minutes.

13. Spread the rolls with egg white to give them a nice glaze.

14. Let rolls rest for another half an hour.

15. Prick the top and the sides of the rolls with a fork to prevent cracking.

16. Bake the beigli in a preheated oven at 180 °C for about 40 minutes until the top gets a nice brown color. For the first 20 minutes, do not open the oven.

17. Let the pastries cool in the oven dish. Cut the rolls into slices if you want to serve them immediately.