Goulash or Stew? Does It Really Matter?

Not too long ago, I wrote about the differences between cooking a meal in your choice of a pressure cooker for a real quick turn around, or a slow cooker which obviously takes much longer but produces the same luscious results. This Short Rib Goulash is another one in the series written about in the January issue of Better Homes & Garden Magazine.


There’s stew and then there’s its amazing cousin: goulash. Technique-wise, there’s not a huge difference between goulash and other beef stews. Traditional goulash is a stew/soup, usually using a cheaper cut of meat suited to slow cooking. It usually contains potatoes and other vegetables, as well as noodles.

Ask a bunch of people what a goulash is—and you’ll get as many different answers: a soup, a stew, a meat dish served on a plate; brown, red, mild, hot, spicy; made with beef, pork, mutton, game, even vegetarian. Although goulash originated in Hungary, this popular dish later spread beyond its borders, first to the Austrian Empire, Germany, and the Balkans, and finally around the world. That’s why there are so many versions of goulash today. Paprika seems to be the one undisputed staple that must be included.

The night prior, I seared the ribs and let them cool before storing in the refrigerator.

In almost all cases, you want to make sure to sear the short ribs first, which allows them to brown more efficiently, giving the goulash more flavor while also ensuring that the meat stays very tender. They will emerge from the cooker fork-tender and bathed in a gravy punched with flavor from butternut squash and a healthy dollop of horseradish. Doesn’t that sound heavenly on a cold winter’s night?

This recipe takes quite a bit longer than the Salmon with Lentil Hash and Bacon dish using either method, so keep that in mind. That falling-off-the-bone goodness is known territory for the slow cooker, but the pressure cooker cranks out the same delectable goulash in a half hour at pressure—giving you enough time to cook your noodles.

Because the slow method takes 12 hours and I could leave it get happy all day while we were at work, we chose the slow cooker again as opposed to the pressure cooker. But I did much of the prep the night before.

We used a gluten-free fettuccine, but you could also serve over egg noodles or polenta.

We were about a pound shy of the ribs and a half-pound over on the squash. After dinner, I suggested we make a quick soup out of the leftover butternut and beef broth. So Russ heated up a cup and half of the broth in the same pot we cooked the noodles, then added the already tender squash and used an immersion blender to make a very tasty, creamy soup. Instant lunch!

Total Time (includes hands-on prep)—
Slow Cooker: 
10 hrs 30 mins to 12 hrs 30 mins (low); or 5 hr 30 min to 6 hr 30 min (high)
Pressure Cooker: 1 hr, plus time to build and release pressure 



  • bone-in beef short ribs (3 3/4 to 4 1/2 pounds total), trimmed
  • tablespoon paprika
  • teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • tablespoons olive oil
  • pounds butternut squash, and/or rutabaga, peeled, seeded, and cut into 2-inch cubes (about 4 cups)
  • 1/2 cup beef broth (preferably homemade)
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • tablespoons soy sauce
  • cloves garlic, minced
  • teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
  • tablespoons tomato paste
  • tablespoons prepared horseradish
  • Hot cooked noodles (we used gluten-free fettuccine noodles)
  • Fresh thyme

After prepping most of the ingredients the night before, I put everything in the slow cooker before leaving for work, and turned it on low.

img_0071After I got home from work, I removed the meet and squash to a covered dish and poured the sauce into a gravy separator.

Horseradish sauce and tomato paste are measured out….

…then whisked into the strained liquids.


  1. SLOW COOKER: Season ribs with paprika, salt, and black pepper. In a very large skillet, brown meat in hot oil over medium-high heat or until well browned, turning occasionally (or use slow cooker browning function).
  2. Transfer to 6-qt. slow cooker. Add squash, broth, wine, soy sauce, garlic, and dried thyme. Cover; cook on low 10 to 12 hours or high 5 to 6 hours.
  3. Remove ribs and vegetables to a serving dish. Skim fat from cooking liquid. (I found using a gravy separator makes it an easy task.) Whisk in tomato paste and horseradish. Serve sauce with ribs and noodles. Top with fresh thyme.
  1. PRESSURE COOKER: Season the ribs with paprika, salt, and black pepper. For a 6-qt. electric cooker, use saute setting to brown ribs, half at a time, in hot oil. For a 6-qt. stove-top cooker, brown meat, half at a time, in hot oil in cooker.
  2. Return all meat to cooker. Add squash, broth, wine, soy sauce, garlic, and thyme. Lock lid.
  3. Set electric cooker on high pressure to cook 30 minutes. For stove-top cooker, bring up to pressure over medium-high heat according to manufacturer’s directions; reduce heat enough to maintain steady (but not excessive) pressure. Cook 30 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat. Let stand to release pressure naturally, at least 15 minutes. Open lid carefully.
  5. Transfer ribs and vegetables to serving dish. Skim fat from cooking liquid. Whisk in tomato paste and horseradish. Serve sauce with ribs and noodles. Top with fresh thyme.

We had quite a bit of leftover cooked butternut squash so we made a quick creamy soup with more beef broth using an immersion blender.

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