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Etli Kapuska Recipe – Turkish Cabbage Stew With Meat

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If you are anything like us and thought you didn’t like cabbage (or you are not over keen on it), this Kapuska recipe (Turkish cabbage stew recipe) could be the one that changes all that.

We love it. So let’s get started. Let’s let cabbage reign!

A close up of a bowl of kapuska with the title over the top - Winter warmer Kapuska Cabbage Stew.
Kapuska Turkish cabbage stew is real winter comfort food

It’s usually springtime that comes to mind when we think of seasonal ingredients 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…

Market stalls with lots of large white cabbages piled up and also on the ground.
Huge cabbages for sale at one of the Fethiye markets

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 the photo above. 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. He 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 were yet to post one of our favourite recipes…

Etli Kapuska; a Turkish cabbage stew recipe with meat.

Kapuska Variations

You’ll see kapuska made in different ways.

  • It can be made without meat if you are vegetarian or vegan (or if you’re just not in the mood for meat, of course).
  • You can make it more filling with the addition of bulgur wheat or rice.
  • You can use different meats: add your leftover lamb or beef, chicken, minced meat (grouınd beef or lamb) or cubed meat.
  • You can make it as a soupy stew or as a thicker, healthy side dish.

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 thought we could actually be excited about a big pile of chopped white cabbage?

A bowl of juicy reddish Kapuska in a white bowl. A silver fork in the top left corner.
Pure comfort in a bowl – Turkish cabbage stew with meat; Kapuska

Kapuska’s Wide Reach

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; the Black Sea regions of Turkey.

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 Eastern Europe 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.

It’s even loved by British chef, Rick Stein, who felt compelled to make this Turkish version of a cabbage stew in his food travel series, From Venice To Istanbul.

How To Make Kapuska With Meat

With all of these variations around how different people prefer their kapuska, how do we make ours at home?

A close up of kapuska. Slices of white cabbage in a loose tomato stew.
We love a soupy kapuska

Well, as you can see from the photos in this article, we love to make a soupy kapuska using tomato paste and hot red pepper flakes (pul biber) to add a bit of spice.

Don’t be shy with those chilli flakes. Go as hot as you can handle.

Plenty of salt, black pepper and hot water makes a stock when mixed with the meat juices and tomato paste. And if you want an even more soupy kapuska, don’t be afraid to add more water.

And, rather than ground meat or minced meat, we like to use small chunks of beef because we prefer the texture and it feels more, then, like a cabbage stew.

No bulgur pilaf or Turkish rice accompaniments for us.

We just love to put the stew in a big bowl and serve piping hot with some wedges of crusty bread to mop up all of those tasty, comforting juices.

Our Kapuska Recipe

A bowl of white cabbage stew with meat. The stew is coloured and flavoured with tomato paste.
4.93 from 14 votes

Etli Kapuska – Turkish Cabbage Stew With Meat

This recipe for Turkish cabbage stew (Kapuska) is pure comfort food for the winter months.
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Course Main
Cuisine Turkish
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 45 minutes
Servings 4
Calories 325kcal
Author Turkey’s For Life

Ingredients

  • 300 grams stewing beef or lamb, cut into small chunks
  • 750 grams white cabbage thick stem removed, washed & roughly chopped
  • 2 large onions peeled, quartered & sliced
  • 2 large tomatoes washed & roughly chopped (or 1x400g tin tomatoes)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste or red pepper paste
  • 500 millilitres 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 salt & pepper for seasoning

Instructions

  • In a large saucepan gently heat your oil or butter and then add your meat.
  • Stir for a few minutes until it’s browned.
  • Now add your onion and stir until the onion starts to soften (around 5 minutes).
  • Add your tomatoes to the pan, mix and simmer for around 5 more minutes before adding your paprika and chilli flakes, salt and pepper.
  • Mix them altogether and add your tomato or pepper paste.
  • Stir until the paste has dissolved into the mixture.
  • Now add your hot water, bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and cover.
  • Simmer for around 45 minutes until your meat is tender (around 20 minutes for minced meat).
  • Now add your cabbage – it will seem a lot but will soon reduce.
  • Stir in carefully, cover and simmer for a further 30 minutes until your cabbage is soft.
  • Either serve as it is or add more water if you want thinner juices.
  • Serve in a large bowl with fresh Turkish crusty bread.

Notes

  • 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

Serving: 1Calories: 325kcal
Tried this recipe?Please consider Leaving a Review!

And that’s it! One of the best ways to enjoy cold winter days – a big steaming bowl of kapuska served with fresh crusty bread.

Afiyet Olsun!

Notes On Turkish Cabbage Stew

  • As well as tomato puree, red pepper paste (biber salçası) is also a common ingredient in Turkish recipes. If you can get this, we sometimes use a mix of the two.
  • 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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Recipe Rating




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Edward Jago

Wednesday 13th of December 2023

I have now made this dish several times with variations in meat (cubed beef, minced beef, cubed lamb and vegetarian beef suppliments - for our vegetarian friends). Each variation a success. I prefer lamb and my wife beef.

I use tinned Italian whole small tomatoes added late to give it extra 'texture'. For the brave try chopped fresh chillies (medium strength green ones so that you can get more in there).

Can't get the right flour to make Mediterranean style bread (which I couldn't get enough of as a child in Malta during the 1960's).

Part baked baguettes or crusty rolls that you finish off in a hot oven are passable.

Cooking another one this evening (December), so better get on with it.

Turkey's For Life

Thursday 14th of December 2023

Hi Edward, thanks a lot for your comment and your rating. :) Seems like you love kapuska as much as we do. We prefer cubed beef in ours but we're not too fussy. Hope you enjoyed your next batch.

Mariya

Monday 12th of June 2023

Sooo goood!! made it so many times!!

Turkey's For Life

Monday 12th of June 2023

Hi Mariya, thanks a lot for your comment. And we agree, kapuska is delicious, isn't it. A perfect winter warmer! :)

Cristiana

Wednesday 31st of May 2023

I was looking for such a recipe. Thank you

Turkey's For Life

Wednesday 31st of May 2023

hi Cristiana, thanks a lot for the 5 star rating for our kapuska recipe. It really is a lovely dish. :)

Alfreda

Wednesday 24th of May 2023

Can you use fresh chillies instead of dried flakes?

Turkey's For Life

Saturday 27th of May 2023

hi Alfreda, yes, if you like. :)

Don

Tuesday 29th of November 2022

Made this many times with a couple of my own additions to the recipe. My Turkish neighbour in North Cyprus loved the additions as well.

Turkey's For Life

Saturday 10th of December 2022

Thanks a lot for your comment, Don. :) We often make our own little additions to recipes so why not with kapuska, too. :)

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