One-Pot Wonders

Lecsó (Hungarian Pepper Stew)

July 12, 2021
4 Ratings
Photo by Carolina Gelen
  • Prep time 10 minutes
  • Cook time 30 minutes
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

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

What You'll Need
  • 1/3 cup neutral oil (such as sunflower or vegetable)
  • 1 pound (about 3 medium) yellow onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 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
  • 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes
  • Crusty bread, for serving
  1. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly translucent, 4 to 5 minutes.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Windischgirl
  • Smaug
  • Carolina Gelen
    Carolina Gelen
  • MorganE
Carolina is a resident at Food52. She's also one of the hosts of Choose Your Own Recipe Adventure, our YouTube show where our Food52 readers pick the ingredients and techniques for a brand new recipe. Carolina recently immigrated to the U.S. from Transylvania, a place she spent most of her life. She continues to get inspired by the classic Romanian and Hungarian foods she was raised on, creating approachable, colorful, and fun recipes. For more cooking ideas and candid moments, check out her Instagram @carolinagelen.

7 Reviews

Windischgirl July 16, 2021
As another Hungarian-American (and someone who also posted a Lecsó recipe to this site), I’m a little unnerved by the use of canned tomatoes. It’s meant to be a summer dish, so tomatoes and peppers fresh from the garden and still warm from the sun are the ideal ingredients…visit your local farmer’s market if you don’t have a garden. Any leftovers (or if you were blessed by abundance in the summer) could be put up in canning jars to last the winter. In this country, my mother would freeze extra lecsó; it’s easy to make. Please, only use canned tomatoes if it’s the dead of winter.
Magepalm August 19, 2021
Yes. Please, can we ALL make this the standard.... if it's concentrated tomato flavor that's needed... just cube them and cook them down a bit before adding to the dish. Canned is never the same and never nearly as good... doesn't matter what part of the world the dish comes from.
MorganE May 17, 2021
Made this dish using 6 yellow bell peppers which released a lot of water, extending the cooking time to about an hour and half of simmering. Very much worth the time. I could and would eat every week as a summer time lunch or light dinner. Added some red chili flakes and ate with olive oil toast. So so good. Thank you, Carolina!!
Carolina G. July 12, 2021
I'm so glad it was worth the time, Morgan, I'm happy you liked it :)
Smaug May 14, 2021
Minor sidebar- if you're going to save part of a can of tomatoes in the refrigerator, you should really transfer it to a nonreactive container, such as glass or plastic.
RocketScience May 14, 2021
A lecsó nagyon finom! My grandfather was born Hungarian and lecsó was common in my house growing up. I definitely think it tastes best made with pork or bacon fat and with a little sour cream and fresh dill, and to my mind it makes a lovely meal with some scrambled eggs. But it's pretty flexible. I do object to the notion of red pepper flakes instead of paprika - it sounds delicious, but I don't know that I would consider it lecsó without paprika.
Smaug May 14, 2021
I like the idea of dill- I'm looking forward to trying this when tomatoes and peppers come into season.