Hungarian Tomato-Pepper Stew (Lecso)

Hungarian Tomato-Pepper Stew (Lecso)

The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 45 mins
Total: 60 mins
Servings: 4 to 6 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
55 Calories
1g Fat
9g Carbs
2g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 55
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 1g 2%
Saturated Fat 0g 2%
Cholesterol 3mg 1%
Sodium 630mg 27%
Total Carbohydrate 9g 3%
Dietary Fiber 3g 9%
Protein 2g
Calcium 19mg 1%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Hungarian lecso (LEH-choh) is a vegetable stew that combines three of Hungary's favorite ingredients—peppers, tomatoes, and paprika.

Lecso can be served variously as a vegetable side dish, appetizer or the main meal itself (see the variations below). Many cooks preserve lecso by processing it in a hot water bath to be used in the winter months. It's similar to Serbian djuvece, Russian letcho, and French ratatouille.
Hungarian wax peppers, banana peppers or Italian green peppers (elongated) are preferred, but green bell peppers will work in a pinch.


  • 2 tablespoons bacon grease (or oil)
  • 1 medium onion (sliced thinly)
  • 1 pound peppers (Hungarian wax, banana, Italian or green bell peppers, cut into 1/4-inch strips)
  • 3 large tomatoes (very ripe, peeled and chopped, or use the shortcut ​below)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon sweet Hungarian paprika

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Hungarian Tomato-Pepper Stew (Lecso) ingredients

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  2. In a large skillet, sauté the onion in bacon fat or oil over low heat for 5 minutes.

    onions cooking in a pan

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  3. Add pepper strips and cook another 15 minutes.

    add peppers to the onions in the pan

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  4. Add tomatoes, sugar, salt, and paprika and cook for another 25 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until mixture resembles chunky tomato sauce.

    Hungarian Tomato-Pepper Stew (Lecso) ingredients cooking in a pan

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck


  • Shortcut: Use 2 (14 1/2-ounce) cans drained diced tomatoes instead of fresh.

Recipe Variations

  • Add 1/4 cup cooked rice to the finished dish and warm through.
  • For an appetizer, add 1/4 pound thin-sliced Hungarian Debreceni sausage to the finished dish.
  • Toward the end of the cooking time, add 4 beaten eggs and mix in.
  • To make this a full meal, add 1 1/2 pounds smoked or fresh Hungarian sausage.
  • For a lunch, serve in a bowl topped with a fried egg.

Raw Egg Warning

Consuming raw and lightly-cooked eggs poses a risk of food-borne illness.

Recipes Similar to Hungarian Lecso

  • French RatatouilleThis traditional vegetable stew originated as a poor man’s dish in Nice, France. These days, the stew is known and loved around the world and is often considered gourmet fare.
  • Serbian AjvarThis roasted eggplant-sweet-pepper mixture is sometimes referred to as vegetarian caviar. It can be mashed or left chunky, depending on personal taste, and served as a relish or vegetable, or spread on country-style white bread like pogacha as an appetizer. Its smoky flavor is a great match for grilled or roasted meats, especially lamb.
  • Basque PiperadeThis is a spicy tomato-pepper sauce with many of the same components as lecso. It can be used as a stewing or braising ingredient or a garnish to a finished dish. A pinch of sugar mellows out the sharp tang and acidity of the tomatoes and peppers.