Kapuska is a Turkish cabbage stew made with ground beef and delicious savory spices. This stew is hearty, comforting and so tasty. It makes a perfect meal with crusty bread. The recipe is simple but extremely versatile. And you can even make it vegan!
This is a fantastic, easy, quick, hearty dinner that can be made in less than an hour. And it’s perfect for freezing or storing leftovers. This meal is very budget-friendly, nutrient-dense, and uber-filling. Try it and let us know what you think!
Our all time favorite cabbage dish is stuffed cabbage (lahana sarma). And when we crave it but have no time or energy to make it, we make either unstuffed cabbage soup or this Turkish style cabbage stew. We love them all!
If you love hearty stews like this, you might want to see our classic Turkish beef stew too.
What Is Kapuska?
The word kapuska originates from kapusta, which means cabbage in Slavic languages. Cabbage means lahana in Turkish but the name of this Turkish dish is apparently inspired by the name of their similar cabbage dish in these countries. So is the dish itself.
Kapuska is the Turkish version of a cabbage stew popular in the Balkans, Russia and in Eastern Europe countries like Ukraine and Poland. It is a common winter dish in Thrace and Black Sea regions of Turkey. Each cuisine has its own twist on the stew, but they are all comforting and perfect for cold days.
This cabbage stew can be made with virtually any kind of meat, but you can make it vegetarian as well. The spices used are all very simple but create an uber-rich and savory dish. And, while white cabbage should preferably be used, you can use any that you'd like.
Turkish version of kapuska recipe today is often with cabbage and ground beef. However, it used to be vegetarian and considered as the dish of the poor people in the past. According to this article on Wikipedia, the famous Turkish poet Fethi Naci mentions kapuska in his memoirs as the food they ate most during World War II.
The taste behind the simplicity of this Turkish cabbage stew is so amazing that it has become a world-wide taste today.
After trying kapuska at a restaurant in Istanbul, the famous British chef Rick Stein must have loved it so much that he decided to make it in his own kitchen too. He definitely helps this old-fashioned Turkish stew become popular around the world.
About The Ingredients and Substitutes
While it may seem like this cabbage and ground beef stew contains many ingredients, they are all very simple.
White cabbage: Traditionally, if you visit Turkey and order cabbage stew at a local restaurant, you will see it is made with white cabbage. However, you can really use any type that you'd like. A head of medium cabbage is enough for this recipe.
Ground Meat: Today we are making this cabbage stew with ground beef (minced meat), which is the traditional way. But you can actually also make it with diced beef, lamb or chicken too. And of course, if you’d like, you can make it completely vegetarian too.
Spices: For this kapuska recipe, we use salt, black pepper, cumin, paprika, and red pepper flakes (chilli flakes). These spices help create a rich and tasty stew. You can use dried mint too if you want.
Garlic: Use fresh garlic. We use only four cloves but you can always increase the amount. Stews like this are always tastier with the addition of garlic
Water: To help make this recipe versatile, we use water to help build the stew base. You can use beef, chicken, or vegetable stock for even a richer flavor.
Tomato paste: It is an essential ingredient for stews. It helps add a richer color, savory flavor, and balanced undertone. You can replace it with tomato puree (use ¼ cup), or you can combine it with Turkish red pepper paste, which is a delicious paste made from sweet or spicy red peppers.
How To Prepare Cabbage
Remove the outer leaves. Only if the outer cabbage leaves are "rotten," bruised, blemished, or dirty should you remove them. This is up to your discretion.
Cut the cabbage into 4 sections. Then, cut off the hard stalk at the base of each quarter. This is optional, but many people don’t love this hard part.
Now chop the cabbage. You can alter the consistency of the kapuska by making chunkier or thinner cabbage pieces.
How To Make This Recipe
This is a really straightforward recipe you can easily make during busy weekdays.
- Make the base: To start, heat olive oil or butter in a large pan (or in a Dutch oven) over medium heat. Sauté the onions until they become translucent. Add the ground beef and leave it to brown. Break the larger chunks apart with a spoon. It will cook for roughly 5-8 minutes. The juices will be released and re-absorbed.
- Add the seasoning ingredients: Add in the tomato paste, chopped garlic, and water. Mix them in well and leave them to cook for 5 minutes. Then, add all of the remaining spices. Mix them in very well.
- Add the chopped cabbage: Once you’ve created a uniform base, add the chopped cabbage and lemon juice. Stir and put the lid on, leave the cabbage to cook covered for 5 minutes while stirring 2-3 times.
- Add the hot water: Pour the water in the pan and bring the stew to a boil. Once it boils, reduce the heat and allow it to simmer covered over low heat for 20 minutes. Your stew should look like a thick soup. You can add extra water if it gets too dry.
- Serve: Once you are happy with the consistency of your stew, remove it from the heat. Leave it to rest for a couple of minutes. Then, sprinkle extra red pepper flakes on it, garnish it with chopped parsley and serve.
This beef cabbage stew is one of the most versatile stews you will find. You can make adjustments and create your own version.
Make it vegetarian / vegan: Leave out the ground beef. The remaining ingredients are already vegan. If you are after vegan cabbage dishes, you might want to check out our old-fashioned cabbage soup too. To add plant-based proteins, you can use garbanzo beans if you want.
Add grains: You can also make this ground beef and cabbage stew with grains. Bulgur wheat is a personal favorite and it’s hearty and nutritious. Rice will also work great. Add them along with the chopped cabbage.
You may just need to adjust the amount of water or stock you use. These grains will absorb more liquid. So, keep an eye on your kapuska to ensure it doesn’t get too dry. If it does, simply add more hot water and let it cook for a few minutes.
This cabbage and mince stew has a surprisingly rich and versatile flavor profile. It actually goes well with a ton of different accompanying dishes.
You can either serve it with a dollop of plain yoghurt either on the side or top the stew with it when serving.
How To Store and Reheat
This stew has quite a long shelf life. If you are lucky enough to have any leftovers, you can store them inside the fridge or freezer. For both, you can place them inside an airtight container.
Kapuska will last roughly 4 days inside the fridge. It can last up to 3 months in the freezer. Remember to wrap the container with foil to help deter excessive freezer burn.
You can reheat the leftovers in a pan over low heat. Just add a splash of water let it simmer for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.
As always: If you make this recipe, let us know what you think by rating it and leaving a comment below. And post a pic on Instagram too—tag @give_recipe so we can see!
Kapuska (Turkish Cabbage Stew)
A comforting and tasty stew with cabbage and ground beef (minced meat)
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 35 minutes
- Total Time: 45 minutes
- Yield: 6 1x
- Category: Dinner
- Method: Cooking
- Cuisine: Turkish
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 250 g (½ pound ) ground beef
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- ¼ cup water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or crushed chili)
- 450 g (1 pound) white cabbage, ( a medium head) roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 cup hot water
- Parsley for garnish, chopped
- Heat oil in a pan and cook the onions until translucent.
- Add in the ground beef and cook it, breaking down the blocks with a spoon. Let it first release its juice and then absorb it.
- Add in tomato paste, garlic and ¼ cup water. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Season with salt, black pepper, cumin, paprika and red pepper flakes.
- Add in roughly chopped cabbage and lemon juice. Cook covered for 5 minutes, stirring a few times.
- Add in hot water and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat and let it simmer covered for 20 minutes. It will be like a thick soup. You can add extra water if needed.
- Remove from heat and garnish with chopped parsley.
- It is up to you to use the hard parts of the cabbage or not. We do like them, but some people don’t want to have them in their dish.
- Use any cabbage you can find.
- You can make it vegetarian. Just leave the ground beef out.
- Check the amount of the liquid when it is simmering. If you think it gets too thick, add in a little more water.
- If you love hot and spicy dishes, you can sprinkle extra red pepper flakes on it when serving.
- If you have leftover cabbage, use them to make coleslaw or pickles.
- Serving Size: 1 bowl
- Calories: 208
- Sugar: 8.7 g
- Sodium: 598.7 mg
- Fat: 12.1 g
- Carbohydrates: 15.9 g
- Protein: 10.8 g
- Cholesterol: 28.3 mg
Keywords: cabbage stew, kapuska