Hungarian/Magyar cuisine is distinct in its use of a multitude of spices, specifically hot and mild paprika. However, like most of Central Europe, you can usually only enjoy these flavors when paired with sausage and other meats. It is possible to get a meatless gulyás [goo-lahsh], but you might have to do some thorough searching first. Desserts like palacsinta [pah-la-chin-ta] are also the pride of Hungarian cuisine, and differ depending on the region you’re in. Most other vegetarian options are quite hearty, since they are heavy in potatoes, creams, and cheeses.
I was lucky enough to experience a few homemade classics while in Hungary. If you don’t have that option and are looking for a budget-friendly restaurant, I highly recommend Hummus Bar, which has several locations in Budapest. Although the menu doesn’t include Hungarian cuisine, the meals are cheap, incredibly fresh, and delicious. Most of the time, they don’t mind if you bring your own bottle of wine, and will even open it for you and give you glasses if you ask nicely (my kind of place). For an even cheaper option, try the street food in Budapest. We recommend a 500 forint (USD $2.30) lángos [lan-gosh]: deep-fried dough smothered in sour cream and cheese. Be advised: although you might think that you should finish one in its entirety on your own in the wee hours of the morning, I promise you that you’re better off sharing it.
Dishes to Try
Palacsinta [pah-lah-cheen-ta]: crepes typically filled with cottage cheese and raisins.
Cottage cheese spread with paprika and honey: try with bread, vegetables, or on its own.
Gulyás [goo-lahsh]: a hearty stew containing vegetables (especially potatoes) and seasoned with paprika; it’s one of the national dishes of Hungary.
Langos [langosh]: deep friend dough, smothered with toppings- sour cream and cheese is my favorite.
I am vegetarian-Vegetáriánus vagyok [veh-geh-TAI-ree-ai-noos vah-yok]
I am vegan-Vegán vagyok [veh-GINE vah-yok]
I do not eat meat or fish-Nem eszek húst és halat [nehm eh-sek hoosht ish hah-luht]
I eat fish-Eszek halat [EH-sek hah-luht]
I eat eggs and cheese-Eszek tojást és sajtot [EH-sek toy-yasht ish shoy-tut]
I do not eat eggs or cheese-Nem eszek tojást és sajtot [Nem EH-sek toy-yasht ish shoy-tut]
Do you have any meals without meat?-Van húsmentes ételetek? [Vahn hoosh-mehn-tesh ee-tell-eh-tek]
Can I have this without meat?-Kaphatok ebből hús nélkül? [kah-POH-tek eh-bool hoosh nee-el-KOOL]
Thank you-Köszönöm [KOO-sah-noom]
and, as always…
Cheers!– Egészségére [eh-gee-sheh-GEER-ah]
A special thanks to my friend,Veronika Fonagy, for help with translations and pronunciation advice, as well as for her and her roommates’ hospitality as new hosts!