Etli Kapuska – Turkish Cabbage Stew With Meat: Let Cabbage Reign

It’s usually springtime that comes to mind when we think of seasonal food and abundance – but autumn on the markets of Fethiye is also another period where the stalls are just piled high with all the seasonal produce that tells us summer is over and winter is almost upon us. That’s no bad thing; it’s that warm and cosy feeling that makes you think ‘comfort food’ as you buy up all the fruits and vegetables you haven’t seen since the year before.

The broccoli looks so tempting as the ‘trees’ are packed tightly and neatly, row on row, plump and green. Time for broccoli and potato soup or even a more traditional Turkish broccoli meze. Citrus fruits are just starting to come into their own, too. Just as the colder weather starts to come, we can give our bodies a Vitamin C boost and soups and meze dishes can benefit from a squeeze of delicately flavoured fresh, ripe lemon. It’s a great time of year to be in Fethiye!

(Etli) Kapuska – A Turkish Cabbage Stew Recipe (With Meat)

And then there are these not-so-little wonders of the vegetable world…

White Cabbage At Çalış Market

Huge cabbages for sale at Çalış Market

You can buy cabbage at Fethiye markets most times of the year, but, during winter, they bulge and grow, Jack-And-The-Beanstalk style, and some of them just make the mind boggle. Believe us, there are much bigger ones around than the cabbages in this photo, and these are more than big enough for any family.

So, what to make with all this cabbage? That’s what a reader asked us recently on Instagram. He too was amazed by the size of the cabbages, took a photo of them and asked us if there are any recipes which could make use of them. Ohhh, yes there are – and that request very conveniently reminded us that we are yet to post one of our favourite recipes: Etli Kapuska; a Turkish cabbage stew recipe with meat.

If you are anything like us and thought you didn’t like cabbage (or are not over keen on it); this Turkish cabbage stew recipe could be the one that changes all that. We love it! So let’s get started.

How To Make Kapuska With Meat

4.9 from 7 reviews
Etli Kapuska - Turkish Cabbage Stew With Meat
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Turkish
Serves: 4
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
This recipe for Turkish cabbage stew is pure comfort food for the winter months.
  • 300g stew beef or lamb cut into small chunks (you can use minced beef or lamb, too, if you wish)
  • 750g white cabbage, thick stem removed, washed and roughly chopped
  • 2 large onions peeled, quartered and sliced
  • 2 large Turkish tomatoes, washed and roughly chopped (or 1 400g tin tomatoes)
  • 2 tbsp salça (tomato paste or red pepper paste)
  • 500 ml hot water (this is approximate depending on how thick you want your juices)
  • 1 dessert spoonful sweet paprika
  • 1 dessert spoonful hot chilli flakes
  • 1 dessert spoonful butter or sunflower oil
  • Pinch of salt and pepper for seasoning
  1. In a large saucepan gently heat your oil or butter and then add your meat.
  2. Stir for a few minutes until it's browned.
  3. Now add your onion and stir until the onion starts to soften (around 5 minutes).
  4. Add your tomatoes to the pan, mix and simmer for around 5 more minutes before adding your paprika and chilli flakes, salt and pepper.
  5. Mix them altogether and add your tomato or pepper paste.
  6. Stir until the paste has dissolved into the mixture.
  7. Now add your hot water, bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and cover.
  8. Simmer for around 45 minutes until your meat is tender (around 20 minutes for minced meat).
  9. Now add your cabbage - it will seem a lot but will soon reduce.
  10. Stir in carefully, cover and simmer for a further 30 minutes until your cabbage is soft.
  11. Either serve as it is or add more water if you want thinner juices.
  12. Serve in a large bowl with fresh Turkish crusty bread.
If you are vegetarian or vegan, Kapuska can also be made just as a cabbage stew with the meat omitted. Just skip the meat cooking times.
Nutritional values are approximate, depending on which meat (if any) you use and the size of your vegetables.
Your meat doesn't have to be an expensive cut as you are cooking it for so long so it will be tender anyway.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1 Calories: 325

And that’s it! Kapuska can be made without meat if you are vegetarian or vegan (or if you’re just not in the mood for meat, of course) but whichever way you choose to make it, there’s no denying that this one pot Turkish cabbage stew is pure comfort food for winter. It’s a dish that lets the cabbage shine, hence the reason for using so much – and it’s the dish that made us fully appreciate the joy of cabbage! Who’d have though we could actually be excited about cabbage?

Kapuska Turkish Cabbage Stew

Pure comfort in a bowl – Turkish cabbage stew with meat; Kapuska

If you’re thinking ‘Kapuska’ doesn’t really sound like the name of a Turkish food – and if you’re thinking this dish doesn’t look like a typical Turkish dish, this is because we’re up in the cold north of the country for cabbage stew – a place where hearty stews are very necessary in winter.

Apparently, the word ‘kapuska’ originates from the Russian word for cabbage (Russian readers might be able to help us out there) and this type of stew is eaten in countries such as Romania, Bulgaria and Poland (the Polish word for cabbage is ‘kapusta‘ and it is also the name of their similar cabbage dish). So you get the picture. It’s that type of dish – a dish to keep us all cosy and warm in the colder months – and it comes with the clear advantage that it tastes fabulous.

Notes On Turkish Cabbage Stew

  • If you can handle it, don’t be shy with the chilli flakes (pul biber) as this dish is supposed to be hot and spicy.
  • As with lots of traditional recipes like this, kapuska is made differently in every home, to each family’s recipe. Add more water if you like, for more juices.
  • For an even more hearty cabbage stew, some people add bulgur wheat or rice. For us, we add more water and a little bit more salça just to make it more ‘soupy,’ as you can see in the photo.
  • Serve piping hot in a large bowl, tear yourself a piece of fresh, crusty bread and tuck in. It’s wintery, it’s seasonal and we just love it!
  • If you’ve got lots of fresh cabbage leftovers after making your kapuska, you could always make coleslaw from it.
  • Kapuska (Turkish Cabbage Stew) is in the Meat & Seafood section of our full collection of Turkish recipes.

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  1. How scrumptious!! This is like a soup version of the Canadian cabbage rolls I grew up with. 🙂

    • Ahh, well we have cabbage rolls in Turkey, as well, Krista. We love them although we’ve never made our own. Kapuska seems easier to put in the pan and forget about until it’s cooked. 😉 We will make the rolls one day, though. Thanks for the rating! 🙂

  2. I’ve not come across this one before, but it looks delicious.

  3. I love winter greens and had to rap myself over the knuckles not to follow the link to broccoli meze immediately, but to finish this lovely cabbage stew first. Thanks for the inspiration.

    • We’ve learned to love winter greens over the years, Mette, because of cabbage stews like this kapuska and other Turkish dishes. We don’t seem to do much exciting with vegetables in British cuisine. 🙂

  4. This looks so good!

  5. You guys took me back to Çarşamba Pazar in Yeşilköy that I used to shop at every week. The cabbages were the biggest I had ever seen in my life. I love Kapuska. I like to top it with a little garlic yogurt.

    • Hi April, yeah the cabbages in Turkey are just huge aren’t they. Kapuska is a great way to start making your way through one. Been experimenting with some recipes too, recently. 🙂

  6. I LOVE cabbage and THIS is the BEST tasting cabbage stew I have ever made. Thank you for sharing this wonderful recipe. I grow my own cabbages in winter and make this all through the winter months. With some home made sourdough bread it is a truly delicious meal. The cabbage is so under rated these days.

    • Thanks a lot for your comment, Sam and glad you enjoyed the kapuska. Yeah, we’re quite recent cabbage converts but it is a great vegetable. Lovely that you grow your own. 🙂 Thanks a lot for the rating, too.

  7. Just watched Rick Stein in Turkey & he made Kabushka – cabbage stew. I can’t wait to make it for dinner one night.

    • Hi Erica Ryan. Thanks a lot for your comment. You won’t regret making etli kapuska, honestly. It is sooo yummy. A real winter dish…but we have been known to eat it in other seasons, too. 🙂

  8. A friend made this and brought it over for a casual dinner. It was delicious!!! I will definitely be making this myself.

  9. Carina Downes says

    For the Kapuska, can I use Harrissa paste instead of the red pepper paste? And may I add dried red chilli? It will be my first try and want it to be authentic as seen in Rick Steins visit to the working mans restaurant in his Venise to Instanbul series!

    • Kapuska is a very old traditional dish, made in different parts of nothern Turkey, Russia, Bulgaria and the Balkans and each home will add its own ingredients. you can even add bulgur wheat or leave out meat altogether. And yes, we often add chilli flakes. 🙂 We’ve never seen it with harissa but sure it is used in some parts so why not. 🙂 Good luck.

  10. What a great recipe. I had a green cabbage and lamb minced meat. So glad that I googled this recipe. I used the pressure cooker with the stated ingredients apart from using paprika, as I did not have sweet paprika. It was delicious.. So good that we can have such a variety of flavours using simple ingredients . Thankyou

  11. This was our favourite dish last Winter (our first in Dalyan) and tonight we’re making it for a friend visiting from New Zealand. Doing our bit to give Kapuska some deserved international acclaim. Thanks for all the recipes and culinary inspiration.

    • Thanks a lot for your comment and your rating, Mark. Mıuch appreciated. 🙂 We make kapuska a lot during winter, too – looking forward to some colder weather and big cabbages! Hope your friend enjoys the cabbage stew! 🙂

  12. Absolutely loved the dish.I made it with beef mince and put a few diced potatoes in as well.I will also try it with lamb.

  13. First time I tried this i followed a recepie without chilli, second time with chilli and it really lifted it. We make a big pan and find it heats beautifully for a second day. It’s good for our low carb diet. Tasty, hearty and useful.

    • Yeah, kapuska is definitely good for those on low carb diets. 🙂 We love to add a bit of heat to our meals and we ALWAYS make a big pan of kapuska so we can enjoy it again the day after. Thanks a lot for your comment. 🙂

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