Polish Leczo (Lecsó): Kiełbasa and Peppers Stew

Leczo z Papryką

Leczo (pron. “letcho”) is a Polish-style vegetable stew, heavily inspired by the Hungarian Lecsó. 

In this recipe, juicy bell peppers, sharp onions and rounds of smoky kiełbasa are coated in rich, thick tomato sauce. When served with rice or some fresh bread, Leczo stew makes a wonderful meal for either lunch or dinner.

For the full list of ingredients & detailed instructions, please see the recipe card at the end of this post. But before you scroll, there’s important stuff to know below.

Leczo stew came to us from the northern parts of Hungary (where it’s called Lecsó) (source). After a few minor tweaks, it has stayed on Polish menus for good. In a way, Polish Leczo is closer to French ratatouille – as it has plenty of sauce, and a high variety of veggies. 

Each homecook prepares it a bit differently. Some add meat (e.g. chicken), others add chopped bacon, but the most popular meaty ingredient remains the classic kiełbasa sausage. You can also omit the meat altogether and treat it as a side dish.

The same goes for vegetables, their selection depends on the season. In Polish leczo, you’ll likely find the classic trio: tomatoes, peppers and onions – but also zucchini, eggplants, and even squash. 

The key is to find your favourite version of this dish, and just stick to the base – tomatoes and peppers. The rest is up to you.

Do you need any special ingredients or equipment to make this Polish Leczo?

No, most of the ingredients should be available at any major supermarket.

Ingredients for Polish Leczo stew: bell peppers, tomatoes, garlic, onions, kiełbasa sausage

The only trickier ingredient is the sausage – you’ll need a pound (roughly 450-500 g) of what’s internationally known as ‘Polish kiełbasa’. This is a mildly spiced sausage, mostly made of pork, known in Poland as kiełbasa ‘wiejska’ or ‘zwyczajna’.

Here’s more on Polish kiełbasa, its types (there are many!) and how they differ.

Equipment-wise, you’ll need a deep frying pan or a wide cooking pot, either one with a lid.

What should you serve with this Kiełbasa and Peppers Stew?

In general, Leczo is a stand-alone dish, usually served for lunch or dinner. 

This fragrant stew is often paired with a slice of fresh bread, or a portion of cooked grains (rice, barley, buckwheat). It also tastes great alongside a few crispy Polish Potato Pancakes.

When cooked without the sausage, Leczo can be served as a side dish – to accompany steaks or roast meats. 

Can you make this Leczo Stew another way?

Yes, there are a few things you can change up. 

Adding zucchinis: In Poland, we also enjoy another version of this stew – packed with fresh zucchinis. Here’s the Zucchini Stew recipe.

Using different protein: I’ve seen recipes with shrimp or chicken breast chunks. Sounds fab, give it a go.

What diets is this Polish Leczo suitable for?

This recipe is both gluten and dairy-free.  It is also low-carb and keto friendly.

To make this dish suitable for vegetarians, opt-in for a meat-free sausage and swap the lard for a plant-based oil.

How long can you keep this Leczo in the fridge?

Once served, don’t leave it at room temperature for more than 3-4 hours.

Once cooled, refrigerate the leftovers in a container with a lid for up to 3 days.

When you’re ready to eat again, reheat only a portion that you’re planning to consume. Bell peppers have a tendency to overcook easily, therefore it’s best to avoid reheating the dish over and over again.

Can I freeze this Kiełbasa and Peppers Stew?

Yes, you can. Freeze the dish in a freezer-friendly container with a lid, as soon as it’s cold enough to do so. Remember to label it with a description and the date. Aim to consume within 3 months.

How do I reheat this Polish Leczo?

From chilled: Reheat it in a saucepan on a medium heat, stirring frequently. If it’s too thick and starts to stick to the pan, add some water, passata or stock. Cook for 10-12 minutes, until hot throughout.

Alternatively, place it in a microwave-proof container with loosely fitting lid and heat for 4-7 minutes until heated throughout.

From frozen: Defrost thoroughly, then as above. Before serving, make sure it’s piping hot all the way through.

Smacznego!

Polish Leczo (Sausage and Pepper Stew)
Polish LEczo

Polish Leczo (Lecsó): Kiełbasa and Peppers Stew

Yield: 4-6
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 medium onions (roughly 0.7 lb, 320 g in total), sweet or yellow
  • 1 lb (450 g) kiełbasa sausage (in Poland, try 'wiejska' or 'śląska')
  • 4 bell peppers (colours may vary)
  • 2 tbsp lard, can sub with canola or olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • ½ tsp salt
  • black pepper, ground
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika powder
  • ½ tsp spicy paprika powder, or chili powder
  • 2 lb (900 g) tomatoes, can sub with 17.6 oz (500ml) tomato purée passata
  • 2 tbsp tomato concentrate/paste, optional

Instructions

Prep work:

  1. Peel and dice the onions finely. Slice kiełbasa into rounds. Set aside.
  2. Dice four bell peppers, or slice them into strips (I usually dice two of them and slice the other two into strips). Set aside.

Cooking:

  1. Drop two tablespoons of lard into a deep skillet/frying pan (or a wide cooking pot), and melt it on a medium heat.
  2. Add diced onions and sliced kiełbasa sausage and fry for 5-7 minutes, stirring from time to time.
  3. Add in two garlic cloves, minced or crushed, and continue frying for another 3 minutes.
  4. Add bell peppers and continue frying for yet another 3 minutes. 
  5. Season with salt and a generous pinch of ground black pepper. Add smoked paprika and chili powder. Stir together.
  6. [using fresh tomatoes] Peel (optional) and dice tomatoes roughly, removing the seeds as you go. Add it into the pan. Alternatively, pour in the tomato passata. 
  7. Cover partially with a lid and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the dish turns too thick, you can add some water or stock.
  8. At the very end of cooking, add two tablespoons of tomato concentrate and stir it in.
  9. Serve hot with cooked rice or a slice of bread.

Notes

This recipe is adapted from the 1981’s little Polish cookbook called "3 dania w 30 minut" ("3 courses in 30 minutes") by Wera Sztabowa.

I’ve adjusted the ingredients ever-so-slightly, so it’s easier to cook today, but the essence of the dish remains the same.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 571Total Fat: 31gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 20gCholesterol: 95mgSodium: 1101mgCarbohydrates: 44gFiber: 3gSugar: 8gProtein: 29g

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Kasia Kronenberger

Kasia is the founder of Polonist, where she celebrates Poland’s very best food.
She’s a self-taught home cook, who – through her own culinary attempts – wants to show you how to recreate Polish flavours at home, wherever that is.
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