Last Updated on March 20, 2018

Contrary to popular opinion in the U.S., Hungarian Gulyás (Goulash) is not a thick sauce and meat chunks served over noodles, but rather a soup. It is a delicious soup with a paprika base rather than a tomato base that simmers for a long time and is a delicious combination of tastes. As I consider what it has been like to raise our children here in Budapest for the last seven years, I think of this traditional dish … a unique flavor that is not common in the states but is rich in flavor and spice.

When God called us to Hungary to serve in the Campus Crusade Headquarters of Eastern Europe and Russia, we thought this little adventure would last about two years, and then we would come right back to our friends and family all the more wise for having lived abroad. As we start our eighth year and look back over God’s goodness, one of the greatest areas of blessing (and, occasionally, challenge ) has been in raising our children outside of their home culture. It is a unique life that, like gulyas, is rich and full.

Three of our four children attend an international Christian high school. Although their course work is in English and in a traditional American style, their lives are blessed with diversity. Because of the draw to learn English, their classes are filled with kids from around the world: Korea, China, Russia, Romania, Slovakia, Poland, Serbia, Hungary, and others. One of my favorite things in their lives is that they are so comfortable with people who are not just like them. One day when this diversity was very apparent to me was during a Spanish class party my son had last year. As a native Texan, I was asked to bring some Tex-Mex to the party. Other children had contributed, as well. Somehow I don’t think the Korean gimbap fit the theme, but it was devoured even faster than my enchiladas!

Being only three when we moved here, our youngest daughter  has become fluent in this beautifully complicated language. She is starting fourth grade in Hungarian national school and is thriving. I can’t help but rejoice in how big her world is. She sings the national anthems of two countries and can watch Disney channel in two languages! As a parent, it can be difficult as my Hungarian is just a small fraction of hers. I often misunderstand things, make embarrassing language mistakes, and nod my head like I understand when I really have no clue what someone is saying! However, we have some amazing Hungarian friends because of this inroad. We even have some women who have come to know Jesus personally. We have a glimpse of God’s heart for the nations!

We are so thankful for the mix of flavors in our lives. We are so blessed and so rich from the opportunities we have had to trust the Lord in living out of our comfort zone. We are not who we were when we left, but after some simmering, we are so grateful for the zest and spice we have gleaned from the cultures around us.

Want to make traditional Hungarian Gulyas Leves? Try the following recipe from


  • 2 medium onions, chopped finely
  • 2 tablespoons bacon fat or vegetable oil
  • 3 pounds cubed beef chuck roast
  • 1 tablespoon sweet Hungarian paprika
  • 4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch rounds
  • 2 parsley roots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch rounds
  • 1 small bunch parsley, tied with butcher’s twine
  • 4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon Vegeta seasoning (see below)
  • 1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds (optional)
  • 2 Hungarian wax peppers or banana wax peppers, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • Pinch hot Hungarian paprika
  • Salt to taste
  1. In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, brown onions in bacon fat or vegetable oil over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until translucent. This will take 10 to 15 minutes. Do not let the onions brown. Salt the onions lightly to help tenderize them. Add a small amount of water, if necessary, to keep them from sticking to the pan.
  2. Turn the heat to high and add the meat cubes and sweet Hungarian paprika and stir constantly for about 3 minutes or until the meat has been seared on all sides. Add water to cover by an inch and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until meat is almost tender, adding water, as necessary, to keep it above the level of the meat. This can take up to 2 hours.
  3. Add the carrots, parsley roots, bunch of parsley, potatoes (if using), Vegeta, caraway seeds (if using), banana wax peppers, and hot paprika. Bring back to the boil, reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook until the vegetables are tender but not falling apart. Add additional water, if necessary, to keep a soup consistency. Add salt to taste.
  4. Serve over Hungarian csipetke or nokedli dumplings.
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I’m Valerie Seely. I live just outside of Budapest, Hungary, and lead a very adventurous life with my wonderful hubby and four children. I love living here, and even after seven years, I still catch my breath as I cross over the Danube River that divides this beautiful city. I am so thankful for the impact living cross-culturally has had on all of us. My life sounds exotic, but most of my time is spent doing normal mom stuff — taxi driving, cooking, hosting parties for teenagers, etc. One great moment in my life was when I was told by a doctor that due to my dust allergy, I should “never, ever clean house again!” That is fine with me because I would much rather be spending  intentional time with my amazing family and investing in the lives of other women. I also love to cook, have people in my home, travel, try to learn Hungarian, change my hairstyle, do drama coaching for school plays, make new friends, and create cozy moments at home.

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  1. Joan Swanson says:

    Valerie…I loved your article! Brings back some wonderful memories of living overseas. I agree with you that living in Europe was one of the greatest things we could have ever done for our kids! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Valerie Seely says:

      We were priviliged to have you in our community for as long as we did…we still talk about TJ from time to time!

  2. I would like to teach you all that GULYÁS pronounced gouyash as LY= y sound.
    But if you mean your special American goulash, that’s an other story 🙂

    1. Valerie Seely says:

      Thanks for the Magyarul lesson, Izabella… teach us all the intricacies of this lovely language would take an eternity…that is why Hungarians have told me it will be the language of heaven! 😉

  3. Tammy Stocks says:

    Valerie – great article. I too feel blessed to have raised my children within a different culture. They have an understanding of the world most people just don't get. Making gulyas is one of my favorite things to do. Thanks for putting into words what so many of us feel – blessed by the circumstances God has led us to.

    1. Valerie Seely says:

      Definitely blessed!