Kapuska…When life hands you cabbage…

Or more like when your CSA hands you three heads of cabbage three weeks in a row!  What would you do?

I admit that hurrying to sign up for a CSA share two days before they started delivering the spring-summer produce prevented me from making some pros-cons analysis. It did not occur to me that I would be handed vegetables which I do not normally eat, sometimes three weeks in a row and in the amounts that two people can not possibly eat. I know, I should have thought about it! Well, I learned my lesson when I opened my first box of produce. The half of the box was overtaken by collard greens.

First problem: I am not very fond of collard greens! I know I can stuff them with some filling and cook it Turkish style but have to set aside time for that! Second problem: Lately, I do not have much time! So, cooked a little portion of it and gave the rest to a friend who loves collard greens.

Then I got the second week’s box , again lots of collard greens and a head of cabbage… week after that, another head of cabbage and another one…

Finally, when I realized I have to do something with the cabbage other than giving it to the friends who have rabbits to feed (I am serious!), I decided to make the Turkish dish, Kapuska. I had not had the dish for 11 years since I moved here, because…well, I do not typically buy cabbage!

This dish is commonly cooked in Turkey but the name hints Russian or Balkan origin. A friend whose grandmother was from Hungary made a similar dish without meat and tomato-pepper paste and served it cold. After a short research, Wikipedia told me that “kapusta” means cabbage in Polish,Hungarian, Russian, Slovak, and Ukrainian. Again, as it is the case for many dishes, the cooking style varies from thin soup to a very thick (like mashed potato thick) consistency.

So here is typical Turkish cabbage stew recipe whenever you are tired of making coleslaw and wanting to have something more substantial as an entree. I know the dish is not the prettiest looking one on the camera (or more likely reason is that I am lacking of the skills) and your house will not smell as heavenly as when you bake a pie but hopefully you will appreciate the soft texture of cabbage and the combination of the spices. I added nigella seeds to give an unexpected punch and garnished with sumac on top because this fragrant herb adds great lemony taste to anything you make. Feel free to play with the spices to have your own version.

And know which vegetable will be coming your way, plan in advance if you decide to buy a CSA share!

Turkish Cabbage Stew

Yields: 4 – 6 main servings

Cooking time: 75 minutes (15 min preparation and approximately 1 hour cooking)

  • 1 head of cabbage (leaves chopped in big pieces and cleaned)
  • 1 big yellow onion (thinly sliced)
  • 1 lb of  beef (I normally buy the ones labeled and cut for stew)
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon red pepper paste (if you do not have this, just add more tomato paste)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon nigella seeds
  • Sumac for garnish
  • 2 cups of water (add more if it needs to cook everything thoroughly)
  1. Heat the olive oil in a deep pot for 30 seconds or so and add the beef to brown.
  2. After the beef is browned well on all sides, add the onions and stir frequently until onion slices turn translucent.
  3. Add the tomato and pepper paste, stir to combine well with onion and beef.
  4. Add cabbage and water, stir. If the pot is too full, add cabbage in batches until it cooks down.
  5. Once cabbage is wilted, add nigella seeds, salt and pepper. Stir. Cover the pot and let it cook until meat and cabbage are cooked. Adjust the water based on how soupy or thick you like.
  6. Adjust salt and pepper to your taste and garnish with sumac on top before serving.





  1. by Parsley Sage
    1:03 pm
    May 29, 2011

    I’m not the biggest cabbage fan myself…but, this looks pretty darn good :)

  2. by Nisrine M.
    2:38 pm
    May 29, 2011

    I happen to like cabbage so I’m finding this quite delightful!

  3. by Buket
    5:29 pm
    May 29, 2011

    Kapuska, any season of the year, any day of the week any time of the day….. The best dish you can make with cabbage
    Thanks !!

  4. by Sommer@ASpicyPerspective
    9:14 pm
    May 30, 2011

    That looks so hearty and tasty. I’ve got little cabbages just beginning to bud in the garden right now. I will save this one for later. :)

  5. by Geni
    10:10 am
    May 31, 2011

    This looks fantastic Ilke! I wish I had a seat at your table last night. I would never think of a stew type dish for cabbage. Another idea is an Asian style slaw with peanuts and Thai peanut sauce for the dressing. Google that if you get more cabbage! :)

  6. by All That I'm Eating
    2:28 pm
    May 31, 2011

    I do think it’s great to get unusual vegetables delivered to you as you feel more adventurous with them. You were most unfortunate to have that many cabbages! Looks like you made something lovely and hearty with them though.

  7. by Jeanette
    2:00 pm
    Jun 1, 2011

    Ilke, thanks for sharing this recipe – I’ve never heard of kapuska, but I always love learning about other country’s cuisines. I joined a CSA this year too so I am curious to see how that goes.

  8. by Shelley
    9:03 am
    Jun 2, 2011

    Cabbage always stumps me too! And I have the same CSA problem- I wrote a blog post on my CSA anxiety as well. I’ve been getting lots of yellow squash lately. I used Epicurious to search on sqaush and found a great chillled Thai squash soup. Whew!

  9. by Lisa @ Tarte du Jour
    8:49 pm
    Jun 2, 2011

    Your stew looks really delicious! I love how you found a way to work with what you were given! Sometimes the best and most creative things can come from that!

  10. by Xiaolu @ 6 Bittersweets
    4:42 pm
    Jun 3, 2011

    Looks like a great way to use up all that cabbage :)

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