Growing up, I ate my fair share of punjene paprike. Punjene Paprike are Croatian stuffed peppers. It is a customary Croatian dish usually served at get-togethers and special occasions along with sarma, cabbage rolls. My mother always makes these stuffed peppers for Christmas and Easter.
Croatian Stuffed Peppers – Punjene Paprike
There are many different variations of this recipe and we even eliminate the rice to make a keto version of Croatian stuffed peppers. My mother traditionally serves the punjene paprike with mashed potatoes, yes more carbs. Punjene paprike means more than one stuffed pepper. Punjena paprika means one stuffed pepper in Croatian. If you love peppers then you will love this peperonata recipe.
Tips For Making Punjene Paprike – Croatian Stuffed Peppers
- Use a large pot. We usually use a large soup stock pot to cook our punjene paprike. (a must have in a Croatian kitchen)
- Use a variety of pepper colors (red, green, yellow, and orange) when making the punjene parike. I am not a fan of green peppers but they do give the sauce so much flavor. I am a fan of the red peppers.
- My mom usually adds smoked meat (another Croatian dish) in the stuffed peppers for extra flavor, although you can omit this if you are not a fan of smoked meat.
- Along with the smoked meat, my mom would sometimes add sausages to the sauce.
- We always make extra punjene paprike to freeze and save for a later date. I find that they taste even better the next day and make great leftovers.
Punjene Paprike – Stuffed Peppers Ingredients
- 10 medium-sized different colored peppers (or as many as you need – make extras to freeze)
- 1 -2 packs of lean beef depending on how many peppers. You can use lean beef but the most flavor is from fatty beef or use a mix of 1/2 beef and half pork or even 1/2 veal and 1/2 beef. Make it to your preference. Typically my mother uses half beef and half pork.
- one large onion
- 1 garlic cloves (you can omit the garlic) my mother goes heavy on the garlic!
- 1-2 tablespoon paprika
- salt and pepper to taste
- Vegeta (a Croatian seasoning) optional
- 1/2 cup to 1 cup of uncooked rice (depending on how much rice to meat ratio you prefer and this is optional) If you are looking for a low carb version or if you are not a fan of rice then you can omit this.
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup of freshly chopped parsley
- 2 bay leaves (I think my mother puts bay leaves in everything)
- 1/2 cup finely diced slanina/speck which is basically smoked ham (if you don’t like smokey flavors then omit this)
Pujene Paprike – Croatian Stuffed Peppers Sauce
- 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 diced onion
- 1-2 tablespoons of flour (you can use a gluten free alternative)
- small can of tomato paste ( I like a bit more tomato sauce)
- 1 box of chicken stock (or water)
- Pinch of Vegeta ( a little goes a long way – optional)
- Salt to taste
Punjene Paprike – Croatian Stuffed Peppers Instructions
- Cut out the top of the peppers and set aside.
- Scoop out the insides and remove all of the seeds as they are bitter.
- Wash and dry the peppers.
- Mix all the stuffing ingredients in a large bowl until well combined.
- Fill the peppers with the meat stuffing until they are almost full.
- Arrange the stuffed peppers in the saucepan. Don’t pack them too tight as they can break.
- Add in 2 bay leaves and the smoked meat if you decide to use it.
Punjene Paprike -Croatian Stuffed Peppers Sauce
- In a saucepan on medium heat add the olive oil and saute the diced medium onion
- Once the onions are cooked add 2 tablespoons of flour and cook until light brown. Keep stirring and scraping so it doesn’t burn. Add the tomato paste, 1 pack of stock (or water) along with the Vegeta, and salt & pepper.
- Stir all the ingredients until the sauce has boiled. Pour the tomato sauce over the peppers. Make sure that each pepper is well covered in the sauce.
- Add smoked meat and sausages if you like smokey flavors (my mom always adds smoked meat like sausage)
- Cook the stuffed peppers on a medium heat for approximately 2 – 2 1/2 hours.
- Once the peppers are done cooking let them cool slightly before serving as they can fall apart.
- Remove them gently from the pot with a slotted spoon so they don’t break.
- Serve with mashed potato or rice (my mother always made both). A great rice or mashed potato alternative is mashed cauliflower for a keto version of punjene paprike.