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Lecsó- Hungarian Pepper-Tomato Stew

Lecsó- Hungarian Pepper-Tomato Stew is a dish made with peppers, tomatoes, onions, and garlic.

Lecso Hungarian Pepper Tomato Stew in a white bowl

Lecsó- Hungarian Pepper-Tomato Stew

This dish is a summer delight made traditionally with Hungarian wax peppers or Hungarian sweet peppers, onions, garlic, and tomatoes. The sweet paprika adds a rich flavor to the sauce.

Lecsó, this Hungarian Pepper-Tomato Stew can also carry smoked bacon, sausages, or even pork. In other words, it could be vegetarian/vegan or not.

If you choose not to add any meat, it can be a delicious side dish that can complement any grilled, roasted, or fried meats. You can try it with my favorite Chicken Schnitzel.

What are Hungarian Wax Peppers, and what other peppers can I use for this dish?

Hungarian Wax Peppers are a variety of hot peppers that originated in Hungary. They are pretty hot peppers and can be used in many dishes.

These peppers are not very popular in the US, but you might find them sometimes in Farmer’s Markets. You can also grow them in your garden. (affiliate link)

If you cannot find Hungarian wax peppers, banana peppers or the humble bell peppers are fine to use. My favorite ones are the red ones, and this is what I used today. You can also use yellow or orange bell peppers.

Ingredients for Lecso peppers tomatoes onion garlic on table

 A few words about paprika:

What you need to remember about Hungarian cuisine is that what truly defines this delicious cuisine is the skillful use of seasoning.

Hungarian cooks believe that seasoning is essential and requires a delicate touch.

Any Hungarian cuisine will contain a wide variety of spices. Caraway seeds, cinnamon, dill, and poppy seeds are frequently used. 

However, the Hungarian national spice is paprika. Paprika is what makes Hungarian cooking different than any other cuisine.

Paprika is available in three strengths: sweet, semisweet, and hot. If you are familiar with Hungarian paprika, you already know which strength you like. If you are unfamiliar with it, I suggest you start with the sweet one.

If you like it, then you can go further and use semisweet or even hot in your Hungarian recipes. Start small if you have never used paprika in your recipes until now.

Being the most popular condiment used in Hungarian cuisine, of course, this Lecso dish will have paprika in it. 

Play with the taste of the dish and use, according to your liking, sweet, hot, or even smoked paprika.

Do you know what else carries good amounts of paprika? Goulash! If you have never made this dish, you should try it. It is very comforting and satisfying on chilly days.

Lecso Hungarian Pepper Tomato Stew with schnitzel and pickles

Lecsó

Traditionally, this dish is made with lard, but not many people out there use lard in their cooking anymore, so I used oil.

Note: I see some pretty crazy ingredients in some recipes that are called authentic and that they don’t have anything to do with Lecso, like liquid smoke and coconut oil. Lecso doesn’t use smoked peppers or grilled ones. Therefore, the liquid smoke has no place in the recipe.

And please, for the love of God, do not add coconut oil to this dish, there is nothing Hungarian, authentic, or traditional about it, and it will ruin the taste of the beautiful vegetables. No lard? Use oil. That simple!

The recipe is ready in under an hour, and the peppers will have a little bite to them, but the flavors, together with the onions and garlic, are divine.

Even if it doesn’t take a lot of time to make it, do not make it in a hurry. Stew it slowly over a low fire until the various tastes and flavors create a marvelous blend.

You can also eat it cold or warm, on a good piece of crusty bread, for a quick snack, as a dip, or as an accompaniment for omelets or meats.

HOW TO MAKE LECSÓ- HUNGARIAN PEPPER-TOMATO STEW:

Start by slicing the onions.

Sliced onion on wooden board with knife

Place them in a pan with the vegetable oil or lard.

You can use regular or red onion, as you like, or based on the availability. There are no rules.

Sliced onion cooking in a dark pan

Cook the onions slowly until they become translucent. 

Sliced onions cooking in a pan

While the onions are cooking, wash the peppers, 

Halved red bell pepper on wooden board

and clean the inside by removing the core and the seeds.

Cored and halved red bell pepper on wooden board

Cut the peppers in quarters, 

Quartered red bell pepper on wooden board

then in thin slices, about half-inch thick.

Sliced red bell pepper on wooden board

It will take about 10 minutes for the onions to cook down and become translucent. Make sure you stir them once in a while because you want the onions to cook slowly, not to fry.

Add the chopped peppers and toss them together with the onions.

Sliced red peppers cooking with onions in the pan

Chop the garlic.

Slicing garlic on wooden board

Add it to the pan.

Peppers onions and garlic cooking in the pan

Also, add paprika, salt, and pepper.

Peppers onions and garlic cooking with paprika in a pan

After 5 minutes of cooking everything together, add the fresh chopped tomatoes you bought from the Farmers Market or the canned diced tomatoes.

Slicing tomatoes bowl of tomatoes in the background

Remember, you can make this dish in the winter, too, with ingredients you get at your local grocery store, like canned diced tomatoes.

Sliced tomatoes added to Lecso with wooden spoon

Keep cooking on low-medium heat for 10 minutes or until the peppers get softer.

Lecso vegetables cooking in the pan

Serve warm or cold as a side dish next to your favorite meats.

Variations of this Hungarian ratatouille dish:

  • Serve this dish with mixed in scrambled eggs for breakfast.
  • Fry an egg and serve it on top of Lecso.
  • Cook pork pieces and add them to the dish. Replace the pork with sausage or cooked bacon.
  • Add a cup of cooked rice when the dish is cooked. Mix and serve as a side dish.

What to do with Lecsó leftovers:

I hope you don’t have leftovers, but if you make extra, they keep well in an airtight container, in the fridge for up to 4 days. You can also freeze and use them in winter as a quick meal.

In Hungary, people preserve this dish for winter by placing the stew in sterilized jars, sealing them, and processing them in a hot water bath for 30 minutes. There is nothing better than opening a jar of this Lecsó in the winter and serving it next to roasted meats. It is like opening a jar of summer!

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Lecso Hungarian Pepper Tomato Stew

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Enjoy!

A white bowl with Lecso

Lecsó- Hungarian Pepper-Tomato Stew

Lecsó- Hungarian Pepper-Tomato Stew is a summer dish where the star of the recipe is the red sweet pepper. This dish is made with bell peppers, onions, garlic and tomatoes. The sweet paprika is added to the sauce for a rich flavor.
4.60 from 25 votes
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Course: Side dishes
Cuisine: Hungarian
Diet: Vegetarian
Keyword: authentic Hungarian lecso, best Hungarian Lecso, Hungarian pepper-tomato stew, Lecso vegetarian, Lecsó- Hungarian Pepper-Tomato Stew, magyar lecso, vegetarian pepper tomato stew
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 147kcal

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil I used sunflower oil, but olive oil is good too
  • 3 large onions white or red, chopped
  • 2 pounds fresh Hungarian Wax peppers , or banana peppers or red, yellow and orange bell peppers stemmed, seeded, and sliced lengthwise 1/2 inch thick
  • 4-5 garlic cloves chopped
  • 1 tablespoon sweet paprika or to taste
  • 3-4 big tomatoes chopped small or canned diced tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Optional: 1-2 sausages smoked bacon etc.

Instructions

  • Heat the oil in a fairly large pan and saute the chopped onion until translucent.
  • Add the chopped peppers and toss them together with the onions for about 5 minutes.
  • Add the chopped garlic, then paprika, salt and pepper. Mix and cook for another 5 minutes.
  • Add the chopped tomatoes of the canned diced tomatoes.Cook until the sauce reduces and the peppers are soft and cooked.
  • Serve as a side dish with your favorite meats.
  • Optional: If you add bacon or sausages, start by cooking the bacon and sausages first, then continue with the recipe the same way.

Nutrition

Serving: 1g | Calories: 147kcal | Carbohydrates: 15g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 6g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Sodium: 2464mg | Potassium: 484mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 1875IU | Vitamin C: 83mg | Calcium: 88mg | Iron: 2mg
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Recipe Rating




Melinda

Monday 17th of October 2022

I love when I see a recipe for anything Hungarian and they stick to the basics. This is exactly how my Anyu taught me. I do add Keilbasa and some times I add a hint of vegeta in lieu of salt.

Thank you for sharing this dish.

The Bossy Kitchen

Monday 17th of October 2022

Thank you, Melinda!

Virág

Tuesday 21st of June 2022

Great recipe, though I had a mini heart attack seeing the peppers you used. Lecsó should be made with Hungarian wax peppers but I understand that they may be hard to find outside the country.

The Bossy Kitchen

Tuesday 21st of June 2022

I know, Hungarian wax peppers are the way to go, but we do what we need to do in order to enjoy the dish here, in America. Red sweet peppers are the most available ones on my side of the world, and they make a decent lecso. I wish to find some Hungarian wax peppers, but I did not see one in many years.:- ) Thank you for visiting and for your kind words.

Helge

Friday 15th of April 2022

I added banana peppers and a spicy Salsiccia.... turned out nice

Mike Johnson

Monday 1st of July 2019

Hello Gabriela!

Thought I would ask you if you know of any nicknames for the Lecso meal that would have been in use around WWI? I do historical presentations on WWI for local schools and organizations, and Lecso is the meal I chose to put in my Austro-Hungarian Army mess tin for the Hungarian soldier fake food meal I have. All armies in WWI had nicknames for the food they were served. My Austrian meal is "pinkle" (little fingers), small sausages on rice. I would love to know what lecso was called, so that I stay with the nickname theme. I have done school presentations for over 35 years now, and I have found the kids really enjoy the food part of my talks. After I am done with my presentation the kids get to come up and try on the helmets, toot the bugles and poke the fake food to see if it is real. Lately, the food part has been the most popular. A gal in Arizona makes most of my food items, and she does a great job! May I hear from you at your convenience?

Best wishes,

Mike J.

The Bossy Kitchen

Monday 1st of July 2019

Hi Mike,

Your story is very interesting! I never heard of "pinkle" before, and I honestly have no idea if this dish had a name besides Lecso, which is also known in German as Letscho. The dish is popular in Hungary but it is also popular in Transylvania. I was trying to do some research in my Eastern European cooking books and history, hoping to find some information but I could not find anything. I am sorry I cannot help. So, you are saying that the food is actually "fake"? It would be fun to actually make the food with them or for them, so they can get a taste of how the food was like. Some dishes are really awesome! If you find out the nickname for Lecso, please let me know. I would be interested to know about that too. Thank you for visiting.

Monday 8th of April 2019