Hungarian Fisherman Soup – Halászlé

This is a very old, very traditional Hungarian recipe. It requires very few ingredients and is relatively easy to make. I’m going to give you a modern version, and the original version (it might sound a little strange to some people), but both taste delicious and pretty much the same.


  • preferred: At least 3 type of fresh water fish: carp, catfish, or other medium size fish.  (if no other type of fish is available, it can be just one type)
  • 1 red onion
  • paprika (sweet and spicy)
  • salt
  • oil
  • 1-2 tomatoes, red pepper

Dice the onion and saute it in a large pot. Add the diced tomato and red pepper, add salt and paprika (to taste).

Clean the fish, but leave the skin on. Cut off the head and the fins of the fish and cook it in the pot. This is the base stock. After 30 minutes, or when the meat can be scraped off the head, take out the head and the fins and discard.

At this point some people say you should mix this stock in a blender and then return it to the pot, but it’s not necessary. Cut the rest of the fish into 1-2 inch pieces and place them in the pot. Add enough water to cover it, add more paprika (don’t be shy) and salt. It’s best if it is a little spicy, although you can make it very hot, if you prefer.

Bring to a boil and simmer for an hour. Do not stir, only gently move the fish around, so they don’t break up.

It’s best served with bread or toasted bread.

Original recipe:


  • At least 3 type of fresh water fish: carp, pike, catfish, or other medium size fish.
  • several types of small fish (freshwater)
  • 1 red onion
  • paprika (sweet and spicy)
  • salt

Use a large cast iron pot and cook this soup over open flame. Use freshly caught fish. Clean and gut the fish, and let their blood drip into the pot. Place the small fish on the bottom, then one layer of cut up carp (1-2 inch thick), one layer of pike and one layer of catfish. (if you have other fish, place them on top, the best type of fish goes on the top). The head goes into the soup, gets cooked and stays 🙂

Next layer: sliced red onion.

Pour enough water so that all the fish is covered (Along the Tisza river they used to use water from the river for the soup)  As soon as it comes to a boil, add salt and paprika. Simmer for an hour -hour and a half without touching it so the fish doesn’t break up.

You may cook the smaller fish separately with paprika and then break them up to give thickness to the soup, then add the larger fish and cook together.

Check out what it feels like eating this wonderful, satisfying, spicy fish-deliciousness

leave a comment and let me know how it turned out

23 thoughts on “Hungarian Fisherman Soup – Halászlé”

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