After weeks on the road, it's easy to get sick of noodles, rice, and standard hostel kitchen fare, but when you're choosing between fine dining and another week on the road, eating cheap always wins out. Fortunately, you don't have to make those tough choices in Budapest, one of Europe's cheapest cities to travel. Hungary may not be world-renowned for its cuisine, but those willing to set aside the "boiled cabbage and meat" stereotypes may be surprised to find a wealth of flavorful, satisfying, and cheap(!) local eats worth tucking in to. Here are our favorite Hungarian dishes on a backpacker budget.
Gulyás Leves (Goulash soup)
We know, we know, soup doesn't sound like the most satisfying meal, but trust us, this hearty stew will put some meat on your bones. More than just your standard beef-and-vegetable soup, it's spiked with plenty of paprika to warm from the inside out.
Expect to pay: 800-1200HUF / €2.50-4
Lángos (Deep-fried dough)
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While Eastern European food is big on meat, there are still plenty of vegetarian options. Lovingly referred to as "Communist Pizza," lángos consists of a slab of fried dough the size of your head topped with sour cream, cheese, and sometimes garlic sauce. Yes, it is exactly as delicious as you imagine. (Did we mention fried dough?)
Expect to pay: 300-500HUF / €1-1.50
Paprikás Csirke (Chicken paprikash)
It may not be as cheap as some of the other items on this list, but a steaming plate of spicy meat stew with homemade butter noodles will definitely cure your hunger for hours. Paprikash is one of Hungary's best-known national dishes, and can be made with chicken, pork, veal, beef, or even mushroom (for the vegetarians out there). Top it with sour cream and enjoy like a local.
Expect to pay: 1800-2800HUF / €5.75-9
Töltött Káposzta (Stuffed cabbage rolls)
You may be surprised to discover in Budapest that you actually love cabbage. In this dish the cabbage is typically pickled, giving it a mild sourness that balances the savoury rice and meat (or sometimes vegetarian) filling. Served with sauce, stuffed cabbage will definitely satisfy.
Expect to pay: 1500-2200HUF / €4.80-7.10
Like French crepes, Hungarian pancakes are large, thin layers of dough wrapped around sweet or savory fillings. At around €1 each or less, you can sample plenty to find your favorite, from nutella or nuts to Hawaiian-style ham and pineapple. Though we recommend giving a savory pancake with cheese curd filling a shot -- when in Rome, right?
Expect to pay: 190-380HUF / €0.60-1.20
Kürtőskalács (Chimney cake)
This dessert isn't just impressive to look at -- it's pretty dang delicious, too. This is sweet street food at its finest; cooked over coals and then rolled in cinnamon, sugar, coconut flakes, or nuts. We wouldn't blame you if you indulged in more than one. Find it at markets at outdoor stalls.
Expect to pay: 250-400HUF / €0.80-1.30
Túró Rudi (Chocolate bar)
Said to be Hungary's favorite sweet, túró rudi is the perfect between-meals snack or after-dinner treat. A chocolate-coated cottage cheese bar may not sound like everyone's cup of tea, but don't knock it 'til you've tried it!
Expect to pay: 300HUF or less / less than €1
Tell us, do you have a favorite Hungarian food? Or are you looking forward to arriving Budapest to taste these delish eats?