Saturday 2 March 2024

Vegan in Hungary: 14 Accidentally Vegan Hungarian Recipes

vegan hungarian food

Ostensibly, Hungarian cuisine looks like it's going to be a right nightmare for vegans - like hello this country seems to be in a gastronomic polyamorous marriage with pork ('kolbász', 'szalonna', 'sertéspörkölt', etc.) and sour cream ('tejföl') - it is definitely easier to find vegetarian Hungarian recipes than vegan Hungarian recipes! Fortunately, when you scratch the surface, you'll uncover a vegan goldmine full of fresh, local fruit and veg; delicious, filling stews; and, of course, first-class wine. Thanks to the rona, a trip to Hungary might not be possible for you right now, neither will a list of foods to try in Budapest. But, what you can (hopefully) do is take a trip to your kitchen. All the recipes below could be made by an idiot (I know because I'm an idiot and I've made them), so take your physical trip to the kitchen, and (with the help of a food high) take an imaginary trip to Hungary through your stomach. If you're an actual real live Hungarian, but new to veganism, hopefully this blog post will surprise you! So without further ado, let us see what vegan Hungarian food can look like. Note: this post is brought to you by Tamás: a real live Hungarian and my best friend / lover 😻

Accidentally Vegan Traditional Hungarian Food

We're starting with the traditional Hungarian food for vegans that has and always will be plant based...  Okay, we took some liberties with recipes that start like “take a spoonful of lard” ("zsír" in Hungarian) and end with “top it with a spoonful of sour cream” (the infamous "tejföl") lol :D You can just replace the latter with a vegan cream (Dr. Oetker has one of the best vegan creams imo, easily found in Hungarian supermarkets) or skip it all together, and for the former you can replace with your favourite plant-based oil. If you want to keep it as authentic as it is vegan-ly possible, here’s a tip: natives tend to use sunflower oil... and a lot of it, like most deep-fried stuff is just drenched in it. (On that note: beware, cheap sunflower oil is not very healthy for you, neither is deep fried sh*t.) We're going to cover the following categories here:
  • vegán 'pörköltök' (vegan stews)
  • vegan 'főzelékek' (vegan 'sauces')
  • vegan 'köretek' (vegan side dishes)
  • vegán tészta-alapú ételek (vegan pasta-dishes)

But first, at the request of our host, Laura, we would like to begin with her all-time favourite Hungarian food that does not fit into any of these categories: 'lángos'.


Speaking of vegan deep fried sh*t and trying very hard not so like a hypocrite, I'm going to give in (just a bit) and start with my salt & oil addiction: 'lángos'. I like to describe it as the secret love child of garlic bread and deep fried doughnuts (ey oh.) It's salty, it's oily, it's fatty, it's my one true love. It's the grand way to clog up your arteries with fat - but also very useful after a hangover. You'll find it at any good underground station (good here meaning post-Eastern bloc dirty, aka many of the ones on Budapest's blue metro line). Sometimes the batter is made with milk / milk powder / yogurt or sour cream (ask) but more often than not they're accidentally vegan, and will only set you back like 1 dollar - the perfect vegan junk food, fast & hot.

hungarian vegan food

It's also a traditional Hungarian food. What? There's a popular, traditional Hungarian food that's accidentally vegan? Wait, traditionally, this garlic bread fried doughnut baby of mine is topped with sour cream (one of Hungary's above-mentioned two true loves) and disgustingly cheap grated cheese, but if you order it 'tejföl és sajt nélkül' ('without sour cream and cheese') but with 'sok fokhagyma és só' ('lots of garlic and salt') you'll have yourself a real vegan treat. And let's face it, this delicious oily bad bois are already too bad for you, why make it worse and add sour cream and cheese? Moving on before you say "but it taste nice tho"... wait, before we move on, you probs won't get a chance to try these out any time soon, so here is a good Vegan lángos recipe for you to try at home - just don't add the sour cream and cheese on at the end ;)

Vegan Pörköltök (Vegan 'Stews')

The Hungarian "pörkölt" can be distinguished be a few elements common to most of them: they almost invariably include sautéed onions, paprika powder, tomato sauce, salt & pepper - and a lot of meat. Only a few of them are meat-, dairy- and egg-free (the ones we list below) and most Hungarians would probably not categorise these accidentally vegan ones as 'stews' ('pörkölt') at all... in the colloquial, the word 'pörkölt' is almost synonymous with 'meat stew'. The reasons I have categorised them as 'stews' are the following: the presence of the above mentioned sautéed onions, paprika powder & tomato sauce; the thick, sauce-like texture of the end result and the fact that all three of them are eaten as a main course with a side dish: traditionally, with pasta, ‘tarhonya', 'nokedli' (the Hungarian gnocchi) or steamed / boiled potatoes, but in my experience, they also go well with  'ancient' grains like buckwheat, bulgur or barley (the classic 3Bs of vegan grain-based side dishes, the latter two are especially good if one is looking for a healthier tarhonya - substitute).


Okay, okay, we know, we have been told: it is not officially categorised as a 'pörkölt'... but it it basically made in a very similar way, as you will see very soon. 'Lecsó' is one of the most well-known traditional Hungarian recipes - it has been called 'the Hungarian ratatouille', though imo it's nicer than French ratatouille (sorry). It consists of tons of onions sautéed in sunflower oil, then the classic Hungarian pointy yellow peppers (‘TV' paprika, which is short for 'tölteni való paprika' which means 'to be filled' and has nothing to do with the telly - to Laura's disappointment) and lots of tomatoes cooked together  (the paprika / tomato ratio can change the taste of the final dish a lot, we prefer it with more tomatoes than usual, adding an extra bottle of organic tomato purée...). [Note: the lecsó depicted above contains some extra ingredients that are not part of the traditional recipe, namely: courgettes and red lentils (for some goodie plant-based protein!)]

vegan in hungary

Seasoning is (guess what? drumroll): red paprika powder (generally not spicy-hot, though... but whatever floats your boat), plus salt and pepper. You basically chuck them all together in a pot and start drinking 'fröccs' (Hungarian word for what many will insist is a 'traditional and unique Hungarian drink' but is literally just a spritzer and is not really specific to Hungary but can be found all over the Carpathian Basin...). When you're ready (read: drunk) so is your vegan lecsó, yey! [A sidenote from Laura: big shout out to Timi for introducing me to lecsó and big shout out to Tamás for showing me the traditional way to cook it: outside in a 'bogrács' (basically a suspended pot over a fire). ]


This is the Hungarian version of mushroom stew, traditionally made from white Champion mushrooms (my father always used to buy the cheapest, half-dry mushrooms from the marketplace when he was lacking money) but it can be made from any other type of mushrooms, of course: my mother used to use 'laska gomba' (oyster mushrooms), which are very popular in Hungary, you can easily get them from Tesco, but don't, cause they're evil, Tesco that is, not mushrooms, lol -- stick with Champions bought at the local greengrocers' or marketplace. Many others would use rókagomba or any other fungi native to Hungary (sometimes there are mushroom people [lol] I mean mushroom sellers at marketplaces). You can mix them in too which is what we prefer to do. A standard recipe would consist of onions – once again – sautéed in sunflower oil (maybe garlic as well), then the mushrooms thrown in and sautéed a bit as well, then water and/or tomato sauce, then salt, pepper and paprika powder – done! A nice protein-packed meal fer yer vegan health :) 

hungarian vegan recipes

[Note: the 'gombapöri' depicted above contains some extra ingredients that are not part of the traditional recipe, namely: carrots - thus more similar to Irish carrot stew - and the side dish is cooked bulgur instead of 'tarhonya', which is a carb-heavy egg-based pasta, therefore basically empty calories and a no-no for us vegans cos, egg.]


'Borsópörkölt' is a stew that's not as well-known in Hungary as the previous two - but it is vegan & very simple to prepare! Once again, onions sautéed in sunflower oil until brown, then chuck on the green peas, sweet paprika powder, water, salt & pepper, steam / cook the whole things and... done!

traditional hungarian food veganized

It's a typical poor person's food. Many recipes utilise mono-sodium glutamate ('Delikát') and of course, sour cream at the end - we prefer to skip both of these (or use vegan sour cream at the end & don't ruin your taste buds with unnecessary amounts of MSG!)

Vegan Főzelékek (Vegan Side Dish Sauces)

A note from Laura here: After 7 years of travel, 'főzelékek' (-ek is for plural) are one of the best gastronomic surprises I've ever had. I was blown away when I first tried them and they're so flexible they can be made from many different things. Back to Tamás: 'Főzelékek' translates directly as 'thick vegetable sauces eaten as side dishes' and of course, some are made/eaten with (surprise) copious amount of milk or sour cream, but some only require that pesky spoon on the end, the final touch (which we can graciously ignore). I'm a gigantic fan of it being made out of fresh sorrel from the garden ('sóskafőzelék'), but it can also be made from spinach and many other things. As to how to actually make them - read on! :)


Okay, so building on from gombapaprikas and lecsó we have another stew-like thing... the difference is, this will be thicker, more sauce-like and, unlike lecsó and gombapaprikás, is usually eaten as the side-dish with some deep fried pig corpse bits and/or sunny side up chicken menstruation served with it (the lecsó and the mushroom stew are traditionally eaten as the main dish with a side dish of boiled potatoes - yey, vegan!) I was kind of surprised (but glad) to find that the small greengrocers you'll find all over Hungary ('zöldséges') also stock dried lentils (and beans)! You can almost get all of your vitamins, minerals and essentials from these places. 

vegan hungarian dishes

Laura says: Tamás makes an incredible vegan lentil stew, and because he's Hungarian I'm gonna just assume all Hungarians can do this... no? Well, here's how he does it: soak the lentils for an hour or two in cold water (note: green lentils, which are used in Hungary cook slower than red lentils), then sautée the onions on oil until brown, chuck the soaked lentils on the onions, add salt & pepper & a bay leaf and cook until the water gets thick and the lentils get soft. Done. The longer you soak the lentils in cold water beforehand (I sometimes start soaking them the night before), the quicker it will cook. If you're feeling lazy, don't sautée the onions, just chop them up a bit and add them to the soaked lentils and start cooking them. If the sauce is not thick enough, but the lentils have already cooked you can easily convert it into lentil soup by adding more water and spices or alternatively make the sauce thicker by adding a handful of oats (or maybe two). You can also add a couple of gloves of garlic into the mixture, can't hurt. Now, the bay leaf gives it the most flavour, I very often also add some ground bayleaf as well. If you wanna take it into Mediterranean territory (as it is depicted on the photo above), add some rosemary and a dash of oregano and maybe some olives. You can serve it just as it is, but the original Hungarian version goes really well with some mustard on top (and then mixed in). Voilá! or rather: 'egészségedre'! ('to your health', aka 'bon appetit' in Hungarian)


Translated, this typical Hungarian dish is 'split pea sauce'. This one is very similar to the Indian dahl – it’s like the poor Hungarian cousin (poor in terms of the variety of spices added). Wash split peas and let them soak in water overnight like the lentils (or at least a few hours before cooking - note: split peas usually take even longer to cook than green lentils).... but of course, you can skip this step if you have enough time to cook unsoaked split peas. Add salt and pepper to taste and a bay leaf or two (this is traditionally discarded after cooking so I prefer to use bay leaf powder but I like to chew on them.

vegan hungary

Laura: what? lol I love how weird you are.. I always call them TanBay Leaves.. back to Tamás:) An onion (in whole or cut up, up to you), sautéed or unsautéed onions + garlic and start cooking. Traditionally, a thickener (‘habarás’ or ‘rántás’) is made separately, in another pan and then added to the recipe: once again, sautée onion garlic on oil (as you can see, this step is widespread in Hungarian cuisine) until it’s brown, then add some water, flour and paprika powder, mix it until it becomes thick... then add it to the split peas in the other pan (I do have to confess that I usually take the sautéed onions and all the other ingredients, chuck in the blender with some of the water from the already cooking split peas and blend it thoroughly... traditionally, it’s all made in a pan, manually but what the heck). If you're not willing to do this then here's an even simpler way: the aforementioned handful of oats chucked into the sauce. Done. Easy-peasy, says the beloved Pungarian.

#7. VEGAN PARADICSOMOS KÁPOSZTA (vegan pasta with cabbage & tomatoes)

Although this one is not officially categorised as a 'főzelék', it does fit the bill: thick sauce, eaten as a side dish. Preparation is simple: either sauté onions first...or don't and just chuck the diced-up onions, the diced-up cabbage, the tomato sauce and water into a pot.

hungarian vegan recipes

Add salt & pepper (some recipes recommend a teaspoon of sugar but f*ck that, the cabbage and the tomato sauce already contain natural sugars), bring to a gentle bubbly boil, then put it on low, you can choose to cook it just a little bit so the cabbage remains a bit crunchy or you can cook it to literally mush if you want a more sauce-like texture. Above-mentioned 'habarás' can be added if one prefers a more creamy texture instead of a watery sauce. Bon appetit! :) [Note: I've added some fresh citronella on top for decoration as you can see in the photo - this is not part of the traditional recipe, I just liked the colour lol]

Vegán Köretek (Vegan Bases)

All three of the following bases go wonderfully with roast veggies (carrots, pumpkins, mushrooms) or steamed ones (broccoli, carrots, parsnips, etc.), or your favourite meat-replacement burger like Jackfruit or soy burgers or vegan sausages / vegan Wienerschitzels. Just make sure to moderate or keep your processed food intake in check for the sake of your health plz. We would like to urge all vegans to go whole food vegan... sure, cheating days are allowed :) Since we've switched to a whole food diet and reduced processed sh*t to a minimum, life's been different (in a good way!)

#8. Vegan petrezselymes krumpli (fried potatoes with parsley)

Not necessarily a specifically Hungarian one (it is also very popular in Austria and Germany) but one of my all-time favourites at Sunday lunch were Granny’s parsley-potatoes, which is basically peeled, diced, cooked/boiled/steamed potatoes (steam ‘em instead of boiling them in water so they retain most of the nutrients) that are then sautéed on some sunflower oil with some fresh, chopped-up parsley (which you can get at any marketplace or greengrocers’ in Hungary in a nice little bouquet) and some salt and pepper thrown in, to taste. Mmmmmmmm! 

vegan hungarians

[Laura: I have so much love for these potatoes just looking at them now makes my whole face water (saliva, tears, snot everything, they're that good). Quick move on:]

#9. Vegan hagymáskrumpli (fried potatoes with onions)

Traditionally: take some peeled, diced-up potatoes, steam or boil them (steaming in healthier). While that's happening, sautée some onions in a pan with some vegetable oil. Sieve the potatoes once they are done, then dump them onto the pan, add salt & pepper and keep on sautéing for a bit. Once you're satisfied, start breaking the potatoes into a mush, mixing them in with the onions, the oil and the seasoning. Done done done.

vegan hungarian dishes

[Note: that's a mock Wienerschnitzel in the picture above, made from soy and whatnot - I don't even wanna know what else they put into it bc we don't usually consume vegan junk food but for the sake of the photo... and it did taste really good, I gotta hand it to them.]

#10. Vegan Rizibizi (rice with steamed or fried veg)

Another one my granny always used to make is ‘rizibizi’ (originating from the Italian 'rizotto') which is basically cooked or steamed white rice (not basmati, the regular one) with cooked and steamed veggies thrown in: green peas and sometimes chopped carrots and perhaps some parsley (you can also used deep-freezed ones).

vegan hungarian meals

[Note: the 'rizibizi' depicted above contains green peas and parsley, and nope that's not meat, it's seitan with Hungarian flavouring: onions, salt & pepper, paprika and sunflower oil.]

#11. Vegan Nokedli (dumplings or gnocchi)

Laura: Another Hungarian dish that absolutely blew my mind was nokedli. Nokedli is mostly translated as 'dumplings' but when I hear dumpling I think China, and maybe you do too... gnocchi is a better way to describe these imo.

traditional hungarian food

Anyway, the texture is incredible and I love it. Traditionally in Hungary nokedli is made with egg, but you can just replace that with chia seeds or another vegan egg substitute. It's also generally served with meat dishes but you don't have to do that either.

Vegan Tészták (Vegan Pastas)

#12. Vegan Krumplistészta (vegan potatoes with noodles)

This is probably the unhealthiest and unsurprisingly the least expensive item on the list but it’s a staple cheap dish at student cafeterias (‘menzák’) and yes, it is very tasty so here it goes: onions sautéed on oil (traditionally, a load of sunflower oil... I’d personally use just a tiny bit of good quality, organic coconut oil), diced, then boiled and/or steamed potatoes thrown in and mixed together with some salt, pepper and paprika powder (not hot, just regular) until the whole thing looks orange-ish from the paprika and the onions. Cooked pasta – traditionally square-shaped pasta is then mixed in... be sure the cook it al dante, otherwise it will all become a big mush! Voilá, there you have it: a massive dose of carbs – useful in case you’re gonna run a marathon or are preparing to hike or do some heavy workout. 

vegan recipes from hungary

(Laura: or if you just love potatoes and pasta and yourself.) Pasta can be replaced with brown pasta or chickpea pasta – but beware: refined carbs are not very healthy for you, so consume this only in moderation, as a delicacy or a treat. This used to be and still is, after all, the food of the poor, the working class, the agricultural and industrial workers in Hungary – very much like what pasta used to be for the masses of impoverished people in Italy. [Laura's note: omggg THIS MEAL. Move over England, I am now Hungarian.]

#13. Vegan Mákostészta (vegan pasta with poppy seeds)

A traditional staple food in Hungary, which is usually served as a second or main course (not as a dessert!), after soup or just in itself – you usually get a big plate of pasta (any kind will do, traditionally it’s this rectangular kind of pasta, I recommend getting one made of durum wheat or, once again, chickpeas) with ground poppy seeds mixed with caster sugar on top... that’s it! Sugarbomb! Insulin levels roller-coasting!

hungarian vegan food

While acknowledging the health benefits of poppy seeds and the relative healthiness of some pastas (especially brown pasta or durum wheat pasta), we would like to stress that refined grains in general are not healthy in any form, they cause an unnecessary spike in blood sugar, not to speak of caster sugar (or any kind of sugar, for that matter) prepare and eat this traditional vegan dish in moderation or before / after a heavy workout! [variation: Mákos nudli (above-mentioned dumplings with sugar & poppy seeds.)]

#14. Vegan Dióstészta sárgabaracklekvárral (vegan pasta with ground walnuts and apricot jam)

Another one of the same category, which I used to consume in copious amounts when I was an (overweight) lil kid - it was a favourite food of mine at school cafeterias, even though I preferred my grandma’s home-made apricot jam to the cheap, low-quality one they served... Serving is the same: same type of traditional rectangular pasta, ground walnuts and then a few (and a few more...) spoons of apricot jam on top.

vegan hungarian dishes

Please note that ‘lekvár’, that is, jam in Hungary is less like jelly and more like a sauce with a homogenous texture so it is supposed to mix very easily with the pasta and the ground walnuts). Once again – be careful, sugar alert! On the upside: walnuts are a really healthy for you!

Wrap Up: Accidentally Vegan Hungarian Food

So there you have it, 14 traditional Hungarian recipes that are (usually) accidentally vegan! Caveat emptor: if you are eating out, definitely ask the waiter about lard ('zsír'), added sour cream ('tejföl') and milk ('tej') and eggs ('tojás'), just to make sure. Also, don't forget to check out the local marketplaces for fresh fruit and veg and of course... Hungarian wine! Tanbay actually made a video of my mum and me trying some Hungarian wines - enjoy! :)

P.S.: If you're interested in an app designed for vegans & wanna support the vegan movement and us, veganvstravel as well, use this link plz to download Abillionveg. When registering, please use our referral code: TRAVELLINGWEASELS. If you wanna know why we think this is a great app, read here.

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