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"Toltott paprika" means "stuffed peppers" in Hungarian. The peppers in the dish are typically paprika peppers, a popular variety of pepper in Hungary that in some other countries is more commonly seen in the dried, ground form as the spice paprika. Both the fresh and spice versions of paprika come in a wide range of flavors, from sweet and mild to very spicy. Any type of paprika peppers may be used for toltott paprika, depending on the heat level desired.
There are two different fillings that can be used for toltott paprika. One is a filling predominantly made of cheese with vegetables and seasonings mixed in, which is generally served cold. The other is a meat and rice filling, with the stuffed peppers being cooked in a tomato sauce — this version is served warm.
Paprika peppers are obviously the traditional choice for this dish, but cooks who cannot find them may substitute Hungarian wax peppers, banana peppers, or Italian peppers — all varieties of which share the long cone shape of paprika peppers. The tops of the peppers are chopped off and the seeds and membranes are cut out. Then the peppers are washed, dried and set aside while the filling is prepared.
A cheese filling for toltott paprika is typically made using Liptoi, a soft sheep's- or goat's-milk cheese. A mixture of feta and ricotta cheeses and sour cream can approximate the flavor and texture if Liptoi is not available. The cheese is mixed with onions and chives and the mixture is stuffed into the pepper pods. This type of stuffed pepper is typically chilled and served cold rather than cooked.
The meat filling for toltott paprika generally contains ground beef, pork, or veal, or some combination of the three. Onion is browned and mixed with the ground meat, along with partially cooked rice, egg, and seasonings. The mixture is stuffed into the pepper pods, which are then placed in a pan for baking. A simple tomato sauce is poured over the toltott paprika and it is baked until the peppers are soft. The tomato sauce can be seasoned to taste after the peppers are removed from the oven.
Either filling is usually minimally seasoned, using ingredients such as salt, pepper, chives, and parsley. Ground paprika may be sprinkled on top to boost the paprika pepper flavor. Toltott paprika may be served as either an appetizer or a main dish.