Birkapörkölt – Hungarian Sheep Stew


The Birkapörkölt is one of those recipes which fits perfectly on a Sunday lunch in a cold day or in those grey days.

Pörkölt in Hungarian means stew, and this recipe can be used also for other kind of pörkölt (beef, veal, venison), with little variations.

Personally I really like the particular taste of sheep meat and I have no problem with its stronger taste and smell (well, that’s exactly why I like it 🙂 ). Many people, especially between the younger ones, instead seems not to like it much and nowadays it’s not always easy to find this meat in the stores/butchers, usually you have to look for it a bit more than for other kind of meat.

(HERE you can see another very good recipe with sheep meat).

What gives that stronger smell it’s the sheep fat, so if you clean well the meat before cooking it you will have a less intense smell (As I said I have no problem with it, but here not everyone like it so intense). Of course if you remove all or almost all its fat you will have to use a bit more pig fat in the recipe, otherwise it will be too dry.

Obviously since it’s a traditional recipe you can find different variations, someone cut the meat in bigger pieces and someone in smaller, someone use meat with bones someone without bones, someone add also other parts as the head and offal (as in the “Karcagi birkapörkölt” for example, that’s very special and it must be really “sheepy” 😀 ).

The traditional way is to prepare it in the “bogrács“, a large cauldron placed over the fire. But you can make it good also in a pot in your kitchen 🙂 depending on the age of the animal and on the quantity of meat cooked (and the pot size) the cooking time can vary, but usually at least 3 hours are needed to make it tender.

This is how my wife’s family use to do it in Balaton lake area. It’s not a difficult recipe, there are few steps but you have to take care to do those steps correctly.


INGREDIENTS (4-5 people):

  • 1 Kg of sheep meat (I used the thigh, I measured the weight after I removed the main pieces of fat)
  • 60-70 g of rendered lard or smoked “zsiros szalonna” (salo)
  • 1 yellow pepper (“sarga paprika” in Hungarian)
  • 1 “zöldpaprika” (it’s a green spicy Hungarian pepper)
  • 1 big golden onion
  • red paprika powder, 2-3 teaspoons
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 tomato
  • 1 glass of red wine (not everyone use it, but I like it)
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1-2 bay leaves
  • salt


  1. First of all remove the main pieces of fat from the meat (if you have no problem with its taste you can leave more), then cut it in smaller pieces of about 3-4 cm large.
  2. Take a pot or a cocotte and heat the fat (I used the “zsiros szalonna” cut into small cubes), and when it’s well melted add the onion and the 2 peppers (the green and the yellow) cut into small pieces, and at low heat you make them soft, about 15 minutes, you’ll see.
  3. When the vegetables are well soft remove the pot/cocotte from the heat and add the red paprika in powder, and while doing it stir continuously and fast. In that way the paprika will go everywhere and will not attach in any place.
  4. Now bring back the pot/cocotte over the heat and add the meat. Mix well with all the vegetables and set the heat higher for some minutes, and keep mixing otherwise you could burn the onion. Add also the tomato cut in small pieces and season with some salt.Untitled-1
  5. Now pour the red wine and keep the heat higher until the wine has reduced.
  6. When the alcohol is gone set the heat very low, at the minimum, add 1 or 2 bay leaves and cover (I removed the bay leaves after about 1 hour and half). Let it simmer for at least 3 hours long, or even better prepare it one day before and cook it for 2 and half or 3 hours, then let it rest all night long and the day after cook it always at low heat for another 1 hour. That’s what we did this time. Before the end control if the salt is enough, and add also freshly ground black pepper.
  7. Serve it next to some galuska or sztrapacska (kind of galuska made also with potato and mixed with sheep quark cheese and smoked szalonna/salo), and a slice of good bread to clean all the sauce 🙂 Hungarians often like to add also some sour cream on it. But I’ll tell you that also a good polenta fits well next to this stew.

PS: Pörkölt is not gulyas/goulash, it shouldn’t have a sauce too much liquid but thicker.





4 Comments Add yours

  1. Karen says:

    Your stew looks delicious. I agree with you about the fat giving lamb or sheep its strong flavor. Trimming the meat well will definitely make for a milder tasting dish.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Karen! 🙂 as I said I like that taste, but if you have to cook it for other people that maybe don’t like strong flavors then it might be a good idea to trim some fat 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I have no problem with mutton (the meat from adult sheep; usually spent ewes or castrated males) but some people prefer lamb (the meat from baby to adolescent sheep, depending on the classification). I think this could really be made with either mutton or the larger grain-fed lambs.

    Of course Jews or Muslims in the Austro-Hungarian empire wouldn’t have used pig fat!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes you can do it also with lamb of course. But the older sheep has more intense flavor, and usually who ask for this dish in Hungary is looking for that 🙂 and it’s obviously not a recipe of the Jewish Hungarian community 😀


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