What to Eat in Budapest: 15 Treats You Should Not Miss

Published by: Bounce7 October, 2022

Budapest, Hungary is brimming with historical landmarks, fantastic architecture, and interesting cuisine including some delicious street food that will have your taste buds dancing. The diversity of Budapest can be found in the restaurant culture where you can find traditional Hungarian fare as well as restaurants that specialize in Italian, Greek, Asian, or even American.

One of the most iconic dishes you will find in Budapest is Hungarian goulash or gulyás which is a soup that is made with meat and potatoes and seasoned heavily with paprika. Another favorite is paprikas csirke or basically baked chicken in a creamy sauce that is also seasoned with paprika.

A Budapest food guide is the best way to decide which foods you want to try. Stay safe with cottage cheese or jokai bean soup or be daring and try some of the spicier options. You will, of course, toss your diet out the window when you visit.

What to eat in Budapest will be determined by what you are craving. Budapest offers sweet treats, savory dishes, and creamy snacks. Some of the best food in Budapest is sampled while sipping Egri Bikavér or Bull’s Blood, a deep, full red wine. Budapest food is not just about meat and potatoes, there are several vegetarian restaurants in Budapest for those who do not eat meat.

The best street food in Budapest includes their famous kurtoskalács or chimney cakes which are hollow bread that has been rolled in cocoa, cinnamon, and nuts and sometimes filled with cream. Before you set out to eat your way through the city, you will want to stow your bags at luggage storage in Budapest and explore the Budapest food scene or maybe try a cooking class while here.

Budapest Food: Lángos

This is one of the best street food items offered in Budapest, Hungary and is Hungarian bread that has been deep-fried and then served with a variety of toppings. Some compare the bread to that of a hybrid between an Italian pizza crust and an American donut. Lángos is a wonderful snack as you make your way through the city checking out the sights.

Some of the more popular toppings include grated cheese and sour cream, mushrooms, garlic, ham, and sausages, or the deep-fried dough is just glazed with garlic water for a subtle garlic flavor. When you find yourself looking for a quick snack, stop by a street food vendor and order a lángos.

Budapest Food: Gyumolcsleves

Also called cold fruit soup, gyumolcsleves is kind of like an acai bowl. However, cold fruit soup is cooked before it is chilled in the refrigerator. This dish is usually made using frozen berries, apple chunks, and cherries, milk, sugar, cinnamon, and then flour is used as a thickener. Salt is also added to taste.

You can sometimes find restaurants that have made gyumolcsleves using citrus or tropical fruits for a refreshing variation of this rather refreshing cold treat. Cold fruit soup is very popular during the summer months and may be more difficult to find during the colder months.

Budapest Food: Chicken Paprikash

Often called paprika chicken or chicken paprikas, this is a traditional Hungarian dish that showcases paprika, one of the most common spices found in Hungarian fare. Many say that this is one of the best comfort food dishes in Hungary and is made with a liberal amount of sour cream and paprika to make a creamy, flavorful sauce for the chicken.

The dish originally used chickens that were past their prime and therefore the meat was tougher, nowadays, younger chickens are used and the meat is tender and juicy. Once the chicken breast is cooked, it is placed on top of egg noodles, called nokedli or spaetzle, and then smothered in the creamy, spicy paprika sauce.

Budapest Food: Somlói Galuska

Invented by Károly Gollerits in the 1950s, this Hungarian sponge cake looks more like a trifle than a cake. It is created with multiple layers of sponge cake, chocolate sauce, and whipped cream. It is a sinful dessert and should be one of the first desserts you try when you get to Budapest.

Restaurants try to re-invent the somlói Galuska by adding extra ingredients to the layers such as fresh fruit, chocolate buttercream, or flavoring the whipped cream. The original somlói Galuska is still one of the best, even though the other versions are pretty good, too.

Budapest Food: Toltott Káposzta

Some say the toltott káposzta is the Hungarian version of a spring roll where cooked cabbage is used instead of rice paper. Stuffed cabbage is a staple in many Hungarian homes and is usually made with a mixture of minced pork, rice, sauerkraut, eggs, and seasonings including paprika. It is usually served with a little drizzle of sour cream over the top of the cabbage roll.

While many believe stuffed cabbage originated in Hungary, several other countries also have similar stuffed cabbage dishes. You can easily find cabbage rolls or stuffed cabbage in China, Poland, Russia, Croatia, Ukraine, Egypt, Azerbaijan, the United States, and South Korea.

Budapest Food: Gulyás

Gulyás is the Hungarian national dish. Hungarian goulash is kind of a rustic meat stew made with meat and a variety of roughly chopped vegetables, including potatoes, and seasoned heavily with paprika. Goulash is most commonly made with beef, but other meats such as lamb, veal, or pork have been used to change up the flavor profile.

Goulash was invented during the 9th century, but paprika was not introduced to Hungary until the 18th century. The original gulyás were made by boiling meat and then adding veggies. Paprika was added in the 18th century and then the dish evolved even more and tomatoes were added in the 19th century.

You can eat goulash any time of the year and many Budapest street food vendors offer this dish using various veggies and spices. Some offer hot paprika for a very spicy dish while others use a milder paprika for a smaller kick to your taste buds.

Budapest Food: Hungarian Kolbász

A visit to Budapest means you have to sample one of the most popular and traditional Hungarian sausages, the kolbász. This smoked sausage is made with pork, pepper, paprika, garlic, and caraway. Most restaurants offer a kolbász dish or two and of course, several street food vendors offer this unique sausage.

After trying the kolbász, give the hurka a try, it comes in two different types: véres which is blood sausage, and májas which is liver sausage. Budapest eateries offer several different varieties of sausages including Virsli, a thin and long sausage. The párizsi is a large, thick sausage that kind of looks like bologna. And the szalámi is similar to salami.

If you are looking for a wonderful place to go and sample some of these different types of Hungarian sausage, head over to the Budapest Central Market where street food vendors fill the area and offer fantastic dishes that are made with sausage.

Budapest Food: Froccs

Froccs is Hungarian for a spritzer and this popular summer drink is a wine spritzer that is refreshing. It is made with carbonated water and Hungarian wine and is a favorite with locals. Restaurants offer Froccs year-round, but it really is best sitting outside at a sidewalk café in the summer sun.

While you are trying to decide what to eat in Budapest, sit back and relax with a refreshing spin on Hungarian wine. You can even pair it with a Hungarian strudel to appease your sweet tooth. When you visit Budapest, you may want to download a Budapest restaurant guide to help you decide where to go.

Budapest Food: Rántott Sajt

Who does not love deep-fried cheese? Rántott Sajt is made using a flat block of cheese, usually mozzarella, that is coated in breadcrumbs and then dropped into a vat of oil to be deep-fried. Rántott sajt is served with a side of fries or rice to make a delicious meal. When visiting Budapest, you will want to give this dish a try.

This dish actually originated in Romania, but Hungarians have personalized the dish to make it their own and it is made using local ingredients. This deep-fried cheese is best when served hot so the cheese inside is nice and gooey. It is now a traditional Hungarian food you do not want to miss.

Budapest Food: Kurtoskalács

This doughy street food is an iconic sweet treat. Also known as a chimney cake, the cake is really a traditional bread that is baked in a cylinder shape and then rolled in cinnamon and sugar. It is sometimes rolled in nuts or cocoa. The chimney cake is made from strips of dough that are wrapped around a thick cylinder and cooked over fire.

Some pastry chefs have taken it a step further to make this sweet treat positively sinful by filling the hollow middle with chocolate buttercream, whipped cream, or fresh fruit. It is one of the best Budapest desserts. You cannot leave Budapest without sampling this classic Hungarian dish.

Budapest Food: Palinka

While not a food product, Palinka is a fruit brandy that originated in Hungary and is a popular drink in Budapest. Palinka is made from several different fruits that are grown in the Carpathian Basin along the Great Hungarian Plain.

Some common flavors of Palinka include cherry, plum, apricot, and pear. You can expect that many restaurants in Budapest will offer a shot of Palinka to complete your dining experience. The alcohol content is somewhat high so you can expect a kick when you first take a shot. It goes great with Hungarian desserts and compliments any delicious dish.

Budapest Food: Tarragon Chocolate Truffle

After sampling some of the best Hungarian restaurants, make time to stop in at Rózsavolgyi Csokoládé, a Hungarian chocolatier that uses traditional techniques to create delightful chocolate creations. They use cocoa beans from Madagascar and Venezuela to create their tarragon chocolate, truffles, bonbons, and several other decadent items

While the tarragon chocolate truffle is not overly sweet, it has some amazing undertones and the milder flavors combine to create a party in your mouth. Order a pack of these creamy truffles to share with loved ones or keep all to yourself.

Budapest Food: Hungarian Lecsó

One of the more versatile soups in Hungarian cuisine, this tomato-pepper soup has been used as a main dish, an appetizer, or even used as a base for goulash or other meat stews calling for a thick, rich broth. Some people compare lecsó to ratatouille which is one of the more versatile French dishes.

Several of the countries in central and eastern Europe have their own versions including Poland’s laczo and Germany’s letscho. Some of the best Budapest restaurants will have lecsó on their menu, order a glass of Palinka and enjoy a bowl of lecsó.

Budapest Food: Dobos Torta

Called drummer cake, drumstick cake, Dobosh, or Dobos torte, this Hungarian dessert is made by alternating thick layers of traditional sponge cake and chocolate buttercream. It is made even more sinful when a layer of caramel tops it. 

Named after the chef who invented the Dobas Torta, Jozsef C. Dobos, the cake was first presented at the National Exhibition in 1885. This dessert is still a favorite at Hungarian restaurants including fine dining establishments. Order a cup of coffee, Hungary’s national drink, and eat Dobos Torta.

Budapest Food: Halaszle

Fisherman’s soup is a staple in Budapest and is made from a mixture of river fish, usually mostly carp. The soup is served warm and is spicy to warm you up on a chilly winter day. The broth is made with a very generous dose of hot paprika, onions, tomatoes, and green peppers, although you can add any type of vegetable you have on hand. 

If you are not able to handle spicy dishes, this is not the dish for you. It will warm you from the inside out. If you are not sure you can handle the heat, order a glass of milk with your bowl of fisherman’s soup to tame the flame that will ignite your taste buds.

Sample the Delicious Hungarian Dishes

After sampling all this amazing food, you will want to look for ways to get out and move so you do not go home ten pounds heavier. Check out the best hikes in Budapest, Hungary to help you digest all this rich and tasty food.

Many of the traditional Hungarian dishes actually hail from the Jewish quarter and offer a glimpse into the cultural heritage of the city. Jewish cuisine is rich and full of flavor. The local cuisine covers everything from fine dining and Budapest ruin bars to some of the ultimate Budapest street food in the country.

Order a bowl of Hungarian stew or try the egg noodle dumplings, the delicious food found in a Hungarian restaurant will make your mouth water. Traditional Hungarian food may not be to everyone's liking, but you have to admit the Budapest food scene is filled with intriguing dishes that have inspired many in Central Europe to create their own takes on these classics. So as you descend into Budapest Airport, make a list of what you'll try on day one!

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