If there’s a dish that reminds me of late spring and early summer, this is it. Lecsó is a staple in Hungarian households—a humble but oh-so-flavorful pepper stew you’ll fall in love with at first bite. I grew up eating it at least once a week during the warmer season. This dish also reminds me of a dear family friend. We would see him only once a year, and every time he would visit, my mother would make an extra pot of lecsó, just for him. It was his all-time favorite food.
If you take a peek at the ingredients, you might be wondering: Can a mix of onions, peppers, and tomatoes really be that good? Oh yes, it can! Though modest, the vegetables come together into the most delicious, luscious stew.
Some people use lard to cook the vegetables. Some add fried sausage or bacon to the dish. And some even add rice. Lecsó is one of those dishes you can make your own once you understand its main components. This vegan version is what my father grew up with and passed down to me, and I never felt the need to change it. The only thing I sometimes do differently is play with the spice levels, experimenting with different types of paprika—hot, sweet, smoked—or chile flakes. The Hungarian sweet peppers (aka sweet banana peppers) commonly used in lecsó are very popular in Eastern Europe, but if you can't find them, use yellow or red bell peppers instead.
I just pair my lecsó with crusty bread, and I'm good to go. If you have any leftovers, they also work really well as a pasta sauce. It’s the perfect light lunch for a summery day. —Carolina Gelen
- Prep time 10 minutes
- Cook time 30 minutes
- Serves 4
neutral oil (such as sunflower or vegetable)
(about 3 medium) yellow onions, thinly sliced
garlic cloves, minced
1 1/3 pounds
(about 6 medium) Hungarian sweet peppers or yellow bell peppers, thinly sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
(28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes
Crusty bread, for serving
- Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly translucent, 4 to 5 minutes.
- Throw the garlic and peppers in and cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, until the peppers become tender. Reduce the heat to medium-low.
- Season the onions and peppers with a big pinch each of salt and pepper, plus the paprika. Add about three-quarters of the tomatoes and their juices to the pot, crushing the tomatoes using your hands.
- Simmer the mixture for 12 to 15 minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the pepper stew has thickened. Add more tomatoes along the way if you’d like (otherwise save in the fridge for another day). You’re looking for a jammy, not-too-brothy consistency. Season again to taste and serve with bread on the side.