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Hungarian beef goulash | © Breville USA/Flickr cc.
Hungarian beef goulash | © Breville USA/Flickr cc.
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What the Locals Eat: A Typical Day's Food in Hungary

Picture of Alex Mackintosh
Updated: 21 August 2017
Hungarian cuisine is typically filling and – although vegetarianism is gaining popularity across the country – very much focused on meat, with a diet shaped by centuries of culture and tradition. With a rich culinary heritage, we take a look at what locals eat in a day, as the pace of modern life mingles with tradition.

Breakfast

Breakfast in Hungary is typically large and filling, with both sweet and savoury options on the table. Sandwiches, breads, cheese spreads, cold meats, jams, pastries and more can all be enjoyed first thing in the morning. However, what Hungarians eat for breakfast often depends on the energy requirements for the day, and can be very different in cities such as Budapest and in the countryside. The grab-and-go breakfast has become increasingly popular in the capital as commuters travel to work; bakeries can be found across the city serving coffee, pastries and sandwiches. Try a kakaós csiga, a traditional Hungarian chocolate pastry.

Where to go: Kiskovász Kézműves Pékség is a small, local bakery in Budapest serving delicious fresh Hungarian pastries made daily.

Lunch

When time allows, lunch is a three-course affair consisting of soup, a main course (which is often meat based, although vegetarianism is on the rise), and dessert. It’s not uncommon for the soup to be fruit-based; called gyümölcsleves, sour cherry is a popular flavour. However, more often than not in today’s more fast paced society, lunch is a quicker meal eaten around midday.

Many restaurants in Budapest offer a daily menu, which consists of two or three courses from a set menu at a discounted price; dishes vary, but are usually meat-based and filling. Főzelék – a uniquely Hungarian stew – is also popular; try it from Hokedli, in the city centre. Rántott csirke (deep fried chicken) is another well-loved lunch dish, and locals in the city centre head to Csirke Csibész, which often has a queue out the door around midday. Alternatively, head to Rapaz – a friendly chicken restaurant serving fast, freshly prepared dishes.

Chicken paprikash
Chicken paprikash | © stu_spivack / flickr cc.

Supper

The evening meal is often less of a focus in Hungary and dishes served will vary depending on what was eaten earlier that day. On special occasions or at times when a family is able to eat together, it may be a three-course meal similar to that served at midday. However, more often than not it’s a time to either finish off leftovers from lunch or eat something a little lighter – it can often take the form of bread, cheese and cold meats, just as at breakfast.

Traditional Hungarian dishes often eaten can include paprikash, lecsó (a type of vegetable stew most common in summer and autumn) and stuffed peppers. The meal is often accompanied by a shot of pálinka, a typical Hungarian fruit brandy. Before the meal, it’s a must; after the meal, it’s highly recommended!

Hungarian Lecsó
Hungarian lecsó | © zeevveez / Flickr cc.
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Snacks

To keep hunger at bay between meals, or for a lighter option when a full meal isn’t necessary, there are a number of popular Hungarian snacks which do just the trick. Uzsonna is the name given to an afternoon snack to stave off hunger until the evening meal; it’s typically made up of a light dish such as cake, pastries or a sandwich. There’s also lángos (fried dough topped with sour cream and cheese); palacsinta (stuffed crepes which can be sweet or savoury, and are typically reminiscent of grandma’s cooking); and pogácsa (fire baked bread, often stuffed with a variety of savoury fillings).

Where to go: for lángos, Retro Lángos Büfé at the Arany János utca metro station in Budapest is known as one of the best places in the city centre.