Hungarian Stuffed Peppers (töltött paprika) are a family favorite, easy to make and full of flavor! It's summertime and that means my garden is overflowing with lots of sweet Paprika peppers, perfect for this recipe.
Hungarian Stuffed Peppers is an Eastern European favorite, and reminds me a bit of Stuffed Cabbage Rolls. Instead of using cabbage, it's made with Paprika Peppers. My aunt, Olga, is from Hungary and makes all sorts of delicious foods stuffed inside Paprika Peppers. She first introduced us to Hungarian cooking, and I was hooked. This is one of my favorite Hungarian Paprika recipes.
What Peppers for Stuffed Peppers Recipe?
You can use sweet red Paprika peppers or the traditional sweet yellow Paprika peppers. These cone shaped peppers are the traditional Hungarian peppers they use in Hungary. They're the same vegetable, only one has ripened on the vine longer and changed color from yellow to red. These are not spicy peppers, but sweet peppers. Don't confuse them with Hungarian Wax Peppers, which can be spicy.
Paprika Pepper Stuffing
Caramelize the onions and garlic until they are browned, and place into a mixing bowl. Then parboil the rice for about 5 minutes. Drain and add to the onions. Parboiling the rice makes sure your rice cooks evenly with the meat inside the paprika peppers. Nobody like uncooked, crunchy rice.
This recipe is usually made with ground pork, but we usually make it with ground beef. Using your hands, mix the ground meat, onions and garlic, rice, egg, salt, black pepper and paprika spice powder. The dried spice, Sweet Paprika powder, is usually used in this meal. However, I like my meals spicier, so I add Hot Paprika Powder, it's up to you!
The Secret's in the Sauce!
Some Hungarian Stuffed Pepper recipes only use tomato paste and water as the sauce to cook the stuffed peppers. It's similar to what some people do with cabbage rolls. But I want more vitamins than a thin tomato water mixture. Other people use tomato juice, but that's still not quite right.
I always use Passata for my Hungarian Stuffed Pepper Sauce. Passata comes in a glass jar and is pure, uncooked, pureed tomatoes. So rich in vitamins and most importantly, flavor! You can find Passata Tomato Puree in all continental deli's. What if you can't find Passata? In North America, you can use Pureed Tomatoes or what Americans call Tomato Sauce. (This isn't the Aussie Tomato Sauce which is Ketchup)! Using Pureed Tomatoes gives a rich flavor and depth, with extra vitamins that complete this summer meal.
How To Thicken Stuffed Peppers Sauce
To thicken the sauce in the stuffed peppers, you make a basic roux thickener. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a saucepan. Add 3 tablespoons of flour and mix it until it becomes a thick paste. Fry the paste for about 2 minutes until it starts to cook, before mixing in 1 tablespoon of tomato paste. Cook it for another minute and slowly whisk in the Passata tomato sauce. You want it smooth and lump free.
Rinse out the passata jar, filling it about halfway with water, shake and pour into the saucepan. Add bay leaves, salt and pepper and some Vegeta seasoning. Always taste the sauce, and if it's too tart, add a tablespoon of sugar into the mixture.
How To Make Stuffed Peppers
Because Paprika Peppers are long, I bake them in a baking tray, lined up in a row. There are 3 parts to this recipe, the pepper stuffing, the roux thickener and the Passata Tomato Puree.
Cut the end off the pepper and remove the seeds, while keeping the pepper intact. Carefully stuff the peppers with the meat mixture. Don't overstuff with the meat mixture, as the rice will expand as it cooks, causing your peppers to split open.
You can also cut the tip off the paprika pepper, to allow the meat mixture to easily push to the thin side of the pepper. Just cut a tiny bit to allow air to escape. I had long Paprika Peppers, so I used the end of a knife to help push the meat further down the pepper tube.
Place the meat stuffed peppers in a deep baking tray. It needs to be deep enough to allow the sauce to completely cover the peppers as they cook. Pour the hot tomato sauce over the stuffed paprika peppers, ensure they are completely covered. If they are not fully covered, you can add some hot water to the mix until it's covered. Put into a 325°F/160°C preheated oven, and cook for about 1½ - 2 hours.
The cooking time depends on the size and thickness of the peppers, meat and rice. Check at the 90 minute mark and decide if it needs more time. If the peppers start to burn, cover with foil.
Stuffed Paprika Pepper Meatballs
This is one of my favorite parts of Paprika Peppers, it's the extra meatballs you make from the leftover stuffing! It's always hard to guess how much meat you will need for the peppers, because they are all going to be different sizes and thickness. So, any leftover meat gets rolled up into meatballs and placed in the same baking tray as your paprika peppers. It gets cooked together with the tomato sauce.
Stovetop Hungarian Stuffed Peppers
There is another way to cook these stuffed Paprika Peppers. Just use a stockpot! Prepare everything the same way you normally would, but don't use a baking tray. Layer the stuffed peppers in the stock pot, and add any extra meatballs on top. Pour the hot tomato mixture over the peppers and meatballs. If they are not fully covered, you can add some hot water to the mix until they're covered.
Bring to a boil on medium heat, cover with a lid, reduce to simmer on low for about 45 minutes. You don't want the heat to be too high, too fast, or the peppers will split. As soon as the meat is cooked throughout, then you are ready to eat! This is the faster way to prepare but your peppers have a higher chance of splitting this way.
Paprika Pepper Substitutions
Substitute Paprika with Red Bell Peppers (capsicums), as sometimes Paprika peppers are harder to find. Bell Peppers are available in supermarkets year round! If you can't find Paprika, substitute with red Bell peppers or yellow Bell peppers. I don't suggest using green Bell peppers. They have too much of a distinct flavor, that takes away from the original recipe.
Other suggestions have been Cubanelle Peppers, or even Anaheim Peppers (but that has a bit more heat in them). Basically you can stuff any pepper, as long as you can hold the heat! Traditionally the capsicum peppers used are sweet, or of very low heat.
What to Serve with Töltött Paprika?
The answer is nothing. Hungarian Stuffed Peppers are the hero of your dinner, the main meal. You don't need any side dishes or other foods to compete with. Always garnished with fresh parsley and a dollop of sour cream. You can serve with some slices of bread, because you will want to mop up the delicious sauce.
- use a pork and beef 50/50 mixture, some store sell veal and pork mixture
- any meat will work, substitute with ground chicken or ground turkey
- don't rush the cooking, low and slow is best to preserve the shape of the delicate peppers
- add a spicy red pepper into your tomato sauce, that will spice up your dinner
- double the recipe, and make extra meatballs in your sauce, perfect for leftovers
If you've never tried Hungarian Stuffed Peppers (töltött paprika), give this recipe a try! A classic Hungarian meal, perfect comfort food to try this summer. From garden to table, everyone will love this for dinner! Jó étvágyat! Bon Appetit! Приятного аппетита!
Hungarian Stuffed Peppers (töltött paprika)
- 6-8 Hungarian Yellow or Red Peppers
Hungarian Pepper Stuffing
- 1 lb /500g ground meat usually pork
- ½ cup rice parboiled
- 1 onion diced
- 1 garlic clove minced
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika powder
- 1 egg
- salt and pepper to taste
Hungarian Pepper Roux (thickener)
- oil for frying
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 3 tablespoons oil for roux
- 1 jar Passata Tomato Puree (tomato sauce)
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- Vegeta seasoning to taste
- Preheat oven to 325°F/160°C
Hungarian Pepper Stuffing
- In a medium saucepan, add 2 tablespoons of oil and fry the onions for about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and fry for another minute. When the onions are caramelized and starting to brown, remove from heat and place in a large bowl.
- In a small saucepan, parboil the rice. Add 2 cups of water to the rice and bring to a boil, allowing to boil for about 5 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water and add the the large bowl with onions.
- To the large bowl, add the ground meat, 1 egg, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 generous teaspoon of paprika, and 1 teaspoon of black pepper. Using your hands, mix the ingredients together until evenly mixed.
Making Hungarian Stuffed Peppers
- Cut the ends off the peppers and remove the seeds. Using your hands, gently stuff the peppers with the meat mixture. With any leftover meat, roll them into meat balls. Place the peppers and extra meatballs in a deep baking tray. It needs to be deep enough to allow the sauce to completely cover the peppers as they cook.
Hungarian Pepper Roux (thickener)
- Using the same medium saucepan as you used for frying the onions, heat 3 tablespoons of oil. When oil is hot, add 3 tablespoons of flour to make a roux. Fry together over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon tomato paste to the roux and fry for another minute.
- Slowly add the tomato puree to the roux mixture, while mixing the entire time to smooth out any lumps. Rinse out the tomato puree jar, filling it about halfway with water, shake and pour into the saucepan.
- Add 2 bay leaves, salt and pepper to taste. I always add Vegeta seasoning to the sauce for a richer flavor. Taste the sauce. If it is too tart, add 1 tablespoon of sugar.
- Pour the hot tomato sauce over the stuffed paprika peppers, ensure they are completely covered. If they are not fully covered, you can add some hot water to the mix until it's covered.
- Place the stuffed paprika peppers into the oven for about 1½ - 2 hours. If you see the peppers rising up and starting to burn, cover with foil. The cooking time depends on the size and thickness of the pepper, meat and rice. Check at the 90 minute mark and decide if it needs more time.
- Serve the pepper in a bowl or plate with plenty of sauce. Enjoy with generous dollop of sour cream and freshly chopped parsley.