Stuffed Peppers (Töltött Paprika)

No doubt about it – Hungarians love their peppers. The last time I went grocery shopping, four out of the five people standing in front of me in the check out line held plastic bags filled with them. Stroll across any market in Budapest and you will see peppers (paprika) in a wide range of colors, shapes, and flavors – from the sweet tomato paprika to the mild apple pepper to the innocuous-looking but lethal cherry chili.

Stuffed peppers or töltött paprika are very popular in Hungary, particularly at the end of the summer when both peppers and tomatoes are in season. For this dish, Hungarians like to use sweet, long yellow peppers. Known as banana peppers abroad, in Hungary they’re called tölteni való paprika (peppers for stuffing), or TV paprika for short. The first time I saw a sign for TV paprika, I thought how charming it was that these pepper-loving Magyars even have their own special peppers for watching television.

8 medium bell peppers
1 medium onion
4 tsp oil
½ cup/60 g rice
5 ½ cups/600 g ground pork
generous pinch of pepper

For the sauce:
4 ½ half cups/1 liter tomato juice
celery leaves
3 tbsp flour2 tbsp/30 g butter
1-2 tsp sugar to taste

Hollow out the peppers. Finely chop a quarter of the onion and sauté in the hot oil. Add the rice with a little salt, and cover with water. When almost cooked, set aside to cool.

Add the ground pork to the rice then season to taste with salt and pepper. Fill the peppers with the meat mixture to about ½ inch/1.25 cm below the edge as they expand during cooking. Bring the tomato juice to a boil and pour around the stuffed peppers. Add the remaining onion and celery leaves. Cover and finish cooking over a medium heat for about 50 minutes. Remove the peppers from the tomato liquid and discard the celery leaves and onion. Add flour to the hot butter, stirring continuously until it turns golden. Use to thicken the tomato juice. Season with sugar.






Finally, return the stuffed peppers to the sauce and let set for 10 minutes. Serve with a generous dollop of sour cream.

37 thoughts on “Stuffed Peppers (Töltött Paprika)

      • My grandfather grew Sweet Hungarian Banana Peppers. The hot ones take your breath away, literally. I need to grow some more this year in California.

        • Peppers, especially banana peppers, and, of course tomatoes, grow and have much better taste if grown in the mid-west. I live in Indiana and know what I’m talking about. I LOVE toltott paprika, and also toltott kapasta (stuffed cabbage).

  1. Actually. We don’t have any special pepper for watching television, but we do have a cooking channel, called TV Paprika. :) Love your blog, it’s so funny, even for a Hungarian!

  2. Hi Phil – looks delicious. We always use ground pork shoulder. I see no Paprika in this, and we always used Paprika. I am so hungry now.

    • No, we don’t always use Paprika – it depends on family traditions. I cook stuffed paprika without red pepper.
      (For those, who got sufficiently confused: paprika is the bell pepper and paprika is the ground red pepper too.)
      And I make the sauce fairly sweet, but definitely without sour cream.

  3. The terms “bell pepper”, “pepper” or in Australia and New Zealand “capsicum”, are often used for any of the large bell shaped fruits, regardless of their color. In British English, the fruit is simply referred to as a “pepper”, or additionally by color (as in the term “green pepper”, for example), whereas in many Commonwealth of Nations countries, such as India, Canada, and Malaysia, they are called “bell peppers”…

  4. That dish is extremely popular in the Czech Republic as well. People love it! It may be the inheritance from the times of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. On the other hand, Poles, Ukrainians, and Bulgarians stuff cabbage leaves in a similar way.

    • We Hungarians have stuffed cabbage too. It’s also a pretty famous national dish, that though doesn’t contain tomato. Otherwise, I guess, you could say that it’s kinda similar to stuffed peppers.

  5. that’s actually a good recipe!

    in our household, where my DH makes the best stuffed paprika ever made (he does it better than my mom), we don’t use celery leaves (it takes the flavour away) and use Kápia paprika instead of the simple TV-type.
    I suggest you try one time. Kápias are flaming red, somewhat longish and have a distinctive flavor.

    • There are eggs in the photo of the ingredients but no mention of them in the ingredients or directions. I am pretty sure they use they do belong.

    • No eggs in my recipe. The finely chopped onion goes straight into the ground meat along with the washed, but otherwise untreated rice. It is a bit different (longer) cooking. But I can imagine with eggs and with sauteed onion too. Every household has at least one chef who has his/her own recipes. We pay a lot of attention to what we eat, how we cook.

  6. Hi Mr. Done! You are quite a tripe, not only to Hungary where you live right now, but otherwise also…I’ve been reading your testimonials (essays) and I found it so informative, sometimes humorous, that I couldn’t hold it back any more…so I would like to compliment you, not only because you are doing a great job, but also you are debunking the negative stereotypes calcified in the minds of western societies about my Great country, which I love dearly. I wish all the best for you and may God bless you with further good will, and thank you again. With regards, Denes!

  7. Out of those five people standing in line for bell pepper, next time if you ask them, half of them will reply they are cooking “LECSO.” That’s a very tasty Hungarian dish also, you may want to try!

  8. Yum! I’m moving to Budapest in just over a week now! I’m vegan though so will miss out on eating these at the best places in town although I know there are some places serving veganised Hungarian classics so I can’t wait to find them! I may give a variation of this recipe a go. I’m used to peppers being expensive but I am guessing that isn’t the case in Hungary?

    • Hi “Forrest Park”,
      Congratulation on your best decision to move to Hungary! You will love it! For your vegan appetite, you will be in Heaven, since we, Hungarians cook ton’s of different vegan dishes, called “fozelek”,that you haven’t got in USA, I bet. We cook every type of veggies with similar method making a raw at the end (butter or lard the best, but can be oil as well and flour), that will make your almost veggie soup toward a stew. You name it, we make it: greenpeas, mixed veggies, cabbage, potato, spinach, bean, savoy cabbage and on and on
      ( borsofozelek, vegyes vagy finom-zoldsegfozelek,szekelykaposzta-lehet hus nelkul-krumplifozelek, spenot, bab- vagy kelkaposztafozelek es igy tovabb)
      If you ever need recipe don’t hesitate to email me and request one, or more from me:
      Enjoy your stay in Hungary!

  9. As a Hungarian kid I was also confused by the name TV paprika ;) . Also this dish is delicious if you eat it sweet… instead of sour cream just put a few spoonfuls of sugar on top and let it melt!
    Your blog is really great, I have so much fun while reading it!

    • I’m seconding loralan. You definitely should try this dish sweet. That’s how I eat it too. (Only I don’t put only a few spoonfuls of sugar in it. I put in it a LOT. XD Yes, I guess I have a really sweet tooth.)

  10. And here in Greece we call them gemista. . Stuffed tomatoes, stuffed peppers, stuffed cabbage. And of course we use beef instead of pork. And the banana peppers filled with cheese and baked. In Greece it’s called graviera, something like gruyere cheese but not exactly.

  11. Great recipe!!!! A bit different than ours, we are going to try it.

    My grandparents moved to Canada and had mom here. We eat only Hungarian food and are learning the language (it is hard LOL). We are saving up to visit our family that is still there. However, at 35 ended up in a wheelchair. I am worried that it isn’t wheelchair accessible there. What is your opinion?

    • If you are looking for celery stalks, I don’t think you’ll find it in Budapest. However, they do sell celery leaves and celery roots. Ask for “zeler” next time you go to the market…/ison

  12. Yummy! Looks delicious! And it looks super inviting served in Polish Pottery! :D I’m a fan of both! Beautiful pictures! I appreciate your blog, keep up the good work!

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