This Hungarian Pepper Soup is a hearty, one-pot, meat-free, budget-friendly recipe as its deliciously packed with vegetables, potatoes, and rice, and flavoured with lots of tasty paprika and red pepper flakes. This easy vegetable paprika soup is vegan and plant-based, but it is even easier to prepare as gluten-free and with no-oil if preferred.
Origins of Hungarian pepper soup
Paprikás Krumpli Leves, or Hungarian Pepper Soup, is a traditional dish that traces its roots back to the 16th and 17th centuries. It may have come into existence during the time of the Ottoman Empire's conquest of Hungary, when paprika a key ingredient in this soup was introduced to the region by the Turks.
The Turks also introduced the concept of using paprika in soups, and it is possible that Hungarian pepper soup is a descendant of traditional Turkish soup recipes.
At first it was only the Hungarian peasants that added paprika to soups whereas the richer folk used it as an ornamental garden plant. But the upper classes soon discovered the deliciousness of paprika!
Paprika is a spice made from dried and ground red peppers, and it is now a traditional staple ingredient in Hungarian cuisine. The pepper soup is traditionally prepared with potatoes, onions, paprika, and beef broth and commonly served with a dollop of sour cream on top with perhaps a side of pickled cucumber or other pickled vegetable.
Vegan Hungarian pepper soup
Our vegan adaptation of Hungarian pepper soup is prepared with a vegan 'beef' flavoured broth, green and red bell peppers, carrots, celery, potatoes, leeks, onions, garlic, rice, canned chopped tomatoes, white wine vinegar, and of course paprika powder.
The tasty veggie packed soup is finished with a sprinkle of chopped fresh parsley, a dollop of vegan creme fraiche or sour cream and a good sprinkling of red pepper flakes or a good dash of paprika powder. The result is a delicious peppery paprika flavoured soup that is savoury and lightly sweet with sour undertones.
How to prepare Hungarian pepper soup
Hungarian pepper soup uses everyday fresh and store-cupboard ingredients and is quick and easy to prepare in one-pot. All the sides that are required is perhaps a few of your favourite crackers or a wedge of crusty bread to soak up those delicious paprika tomato soup juices.
Hungarian paprika is traditionally used for Hungarian pepper soup but if that's not available then whatever paprika you have to hand is perfect for a tasty bowl of home-cooked paprika vegetable soup.
First heat the oil [or ½ cup of veggie broth] in a soup pan and cook the diced carrot, red and green bell peppers, onions, potatoes and celery for 5-8 minute, stirring frequently.
Next, add sliced garlic, paprika powder and rice [we used long-grain rice].
Stir everything together and cook for another 1-2 minutes.
Pop in the diced leek and stir well.
Pour in the canned chopped [diced] tomatoes along with the vegan broth.
[We used 3 or 4 meat free beef flavour OXO cubes and boiling water to prepare the broth].
Bring to the boil and cook for 20 minutes.
Add the white wine vinegar and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
Remove from the heat and give the soup a good stir.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve with chopped fresh parsley, red pepper or paprika flakes or a few dashes of extra paprika powder, and a dollop of vegan sour cream or creme fraiche or plain yogurt.
If sour cream, etc, are not available but vegan mayonnaise is, then a teaspoon of mayonnaise will add a creamy texture and flavour.
Recipe notes and frequently asked questions
Leftover Hungarian pepper soup will keep for 3-4 days within a covered container and stored in a refrigerator.
The pepper soup will be very thick after being stored in the refrigerator as the rice will continue to thicken up the soup.
To reheat add the thick soup to a non-stick pot and add enough broth or water to get to the desired consistency. If you just add water then season with salt and pepper to taste.
Stir the liquid through the soup and bring to a gentle boil, simmer for 3-4 minutes until piping hot throughout.
Meal prepping home-made soup
This paprika vegetable soup or Hungarian pepper soup is a great recipe for meal prep as a batch can be prepared, cooled and then refrigerated. Once cool the veggie soup will be very thick as the liquid will just get soaked up, so the soup can be treated as a home-made concentrated vegetable canned soup.
For instance to reheat one portion or the equivalent of a small can of soup add about 3-4 heaped tablespoons of the thick soup to a pot along with 1 cup of water or vegetable broth. Although the exact amount of soup and liquid is personal preference so adjust to your preferred consistency and thickness. Prepared this way the veggie soup just looks identical to a can of vegetable soup, but is so much cheaper to prepare than to purchase!
Stir and reheat, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. A sprinkling of nutritional yeast flakes is a very tasty addition as is a dash of red paprika flakes or paprika powder for extra tasty pepper flavours. A wee dollop of vegan sour cream or similar is also delicious.
My family enjoys this home-made take on canned soup served in mugs or cups for next days lunch, as a small amount of leftover Hungarian pepper soup can stretch to quite a few servings when prepared this way.
Another way to stretch out smaller amounts of leftover pepper soup is to add a can of drained chickpeas and stir these through the leftovers.
Yes, its easy to make our vegan adaptation of Hungarian pepper soup as gluten-free as its simply a case of using a gluten-free broth or stock [bouillon] cubes.
Of course. The vegetables can be sautéed in a small amount of vegetable broth rather than oil in much the same way as the recipe states to cook the vegetables in oil.
Sautéing or sweating vegetables in vegetable broth or stock instead of oil is an easy way to reduce the amount of fat in a dish while extracting the flavour from the vegetables.
This process is becoming more popular as many people discover the benefits of an oil-free plant-based diet, so here is an easy method:
1. Heat the broth in a pan, go with about ¼ to ½ a cup to start off with, until the broth is gently bubbling.
2. Add the vegetables to the pan in the order specified in the recipe, which is generally onions first, then garlic, carrots, bell peppers, etc.
3. Stir the vegetables frequently adding small amounts of broth, whenever the broth evaporates, so that the vegetables do not stick to the pan and burn.
4. That's all that's required for sautéing or sweating vegetables in broth. The broth essentially replaces the oil and the recipe is followed just the same as usual.
5. Although it is important to not use too much liquid at one time, as then the vegetables will boil rather than sweat.
Cooking for my family, I use a mixture of cooking with oil and sautéing with vegetable broth, or more often than not just doing neither and simply chucking all the ingredients into a pot at once! It all depends on the recipe I am making, and possibly whether or not we will have a dessert for supper, as I reason that less calories at dinner means more room for pudding! Although that's just my own personal opinion!
Hungarian paprika is a ground spice made from a specific variety of pepper Capsicum annuum which is grown in Hungary and this type of paprika is a traditional ingredient for Hungarian cuisine.
Hungarian paprika comes in several varieties that range in flavour and heat levels, the following are just a few examples:
Sweet Paprika (Édesnemes): This is the most common type, which has a bright red colour and a slightly sweet flavour.
Hot Paprika (Rózsa): This variety is spicier than the sweet version, and it's used in dishes that require a bit more heat.
Smoked Paprika (Füstölt): Smoked paprika is not as common in Hungary as it is in Spain, but it is still available. It has a rich, smoky flavour.
Half-Sweet Paprika (Félédes): This variety is a blend of sweet and hot paprika and provides a balance of sweetness and heat.
Hungarian paprika is a key ingredient in many traditional Hungarian dishes such as Hungarian goulash and chicken paprikash. The peppers used for Hungarian paprika are sun-dried before being ground into a powder, which gives the spice its unique, deep flavour.
Also, Hungarian paprika has a protected designation of origin in the European Union, meaning that only paprika produced in certain regions of Hungary can bear the name "Hungarian Paprika".
Yes, you can use ordinary paprika as a substitute for Hungarian paprika in most recipes although the flavour may not be the same as a traditional Hungarian dish but the finished result will still be delicious. Also Hungarian paprika may lean more towards the spicy hot side compared to ordinary paprika so keep that in mind!
Flavour: Hungarian paprika tends to have a deeper, richer flavour compared to other varieties as this is due to the unique pepper varieties grown in Hungary and the specific process used to dry and grind them into paprika.
Heat: Some varieties of Hungarian paprika can be quite hot, similar to cayenne pepper, so if the recipe calls for a hotter variety of Hungarian paprika, and you're using a milder, regular paprika, you might want to add a pinch of cayenne pepper or chilli powder to mimic that heat.
Colour: Hungarian paprika also imparts a deep red colour to dishes, which may not be as intense when using other types of paprika.
For our pepper soup we used ordinary paprika as that's what we had to hand but we have used sweet Hungarian paprika for previous recipes and it really is delicious.
Yes, paprika is quite nutritious as its a spice that is derived from ground peppers, so it contains several beneficial compounds and nutrients.
Here are some of the nutritional benefits of paprika:
Vitamin A: Paprika is rich in vitamin A, with significant amounts provided in the form of carotenoids, which are converted into vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is important for maintaining healthy vision, supporting the immune system, and ensuring proper functioning of the heart, lungs, and kidneys.
Vitamin E: Paprika contains a good amount of vitamin E, which is an antioxidant that helps protect your cells from damage by free radicals.
Capsaicin: Capsaicin, a compound found in many peppers, has been linked to several health benefits, including pain relief and weight loss.
Antioxidants: Paprika is a good source of several antioxidant compounds, including carotenoids like beta-carotene, which help protect your body against damage from harmful free radicals.
Paprika is also a good source of iron and dietary fiber so with all the reasons given above, including paprika in your balanced diet is very worthwhile. Besides paprika just adds so much tasty flavour to food especially veggie dishes!
The paprika is the main flavour component of Hungarian pepper soup but if you can't access paprika and would like to try the soup it could technically be replaced with a different but similar spice such as chilli powder, chilli flakes, Ancho chilli powder, cayenne pepper, cumin powder, or black pepper.
However, the amount of the spices will need to be adjusted depending on the spice replacement for example you would not want to add 1-2 tablespoons of cayenne pepper [especially the cayenne we have in the UK as its very very hot!], and for any chilli powder or flakes you will need to add a small amount at first and then adjust to your liking.
As for the black pepper, start with a few pinches and add more if desired. In fact, before paprika was introduced to Hungary, black pepper, along with other herbs such as rosemary and sage, was a common spice used to flavour soups and stews.
However, back then, black pepper was quite expensive compared to the more affordable paprika, so paprika eventually replaced black pepper in many traditional Hungarian meals.
Although, do keep in mind that without paprika the finished soup won't be a paprika soup but it will still be a deliciously warm spiced vegetable and rice soup.
Hungarian Pepper Soup typically uses long-grain white rice or similar as this type of rice is versatile and works well in soup recipes as it maintains its shape and texture while also absorbing flavours from the broth and other ingredients.
For our soup recipe we went for ordinary white long grain rice as it cooks quickly, is easily obtainable, and relatively affordable.
However, if you prefer, you can experiment with other types of rice in this recipe but keep in mind that different types of rice can vary in terms of their cooking times and how much liquid they absorb.
For instance, brown rice or wholegrain rice has a nuttier flavor and does contain more fiber compared to white rice, but it also takes longer to cook. Wild rice or black rice are also good options for a rustic wholesome soup but again can take a longer time to cook.
Yes, of course the rice for the Hungarian pepper soup could be replaced with a different grain or pulse such as lentils, if you prefer. Although do bear in mind that a different grain or pulse will change the texture of the soup [especially red split lentils as they will almost dissolve into the soup] as well as the flavour and the overall cooking times.
A few ideas:
Quinoa: This grain-like seed cooks quickly and has a slightly nutty flavour. It's also high in protein and fiber. Just make sure you rinse it thoroughly in water before cooking to remove any bitter saponins.
Bulgur: Bulgur wheat provides a good source of fiber and has a light, nutty flavour.
Couscous: Couscous is technically a type of pasta and it cooks very quickly and can easily absorb the flavours of your soup. It's available in both whole wheat and regular varieties. Add the couscous about 10 minutes before the end of cooking the soup as it will cook quickly, alternatively after the soup has cooked turn off the stove top and stir through the couscous. Pop a lid over the pot, and leave the couscous to cook within the residual heat for about 10 minutes.
Barley: Pearl barley is a hearty grain that holds up well and brings a nice texture and subtle flavour to soups and stews. Although it does takes longer to cook than long grain rice, so do adjust your cooking times accordingly.
Farro: This ancient grain has a chewy texture and slightly nutty flavour and like barley, it takes longer to cook than rice.
Orzo: This is a small, rice-shaped pasta and it will give a different texture but it would be delicious in a Hungarian pepper soup.
Lentils: For a protein boost use split red lentils which will cook in about the same time as long grain rice.
Remember to adjust cooking times and liquid amounts as needed since different grains and legumes absorb water at different rates and require varying cooking times.
And please note that we have not yet tried and tested different grains in the Hungarian pepper soup, but please do let us know how you get on if you do substitute the rice. Many thanks!
A crust of bread! No seriously your favourite bread or cracker is perfect for enjoying alongside a warm sustaining bowl of Hungarian pepper soup.
For instance for an oil-free, yeast-free, and no-rising quick 100% wholemeal bread that is a delicious accompaniment to any soup or stew our Irish Soda Bread is ideal, or prepare a batch of easy 3 Ingredient Flatbreads, or go with an American twist and bake up a batch of Old-Fashioned Cornbread Muffins.
Hungarian dishes are often served with pickles so your favourite pickles are ideal such as pickled onions, cucumber, cabbage, beetroot, etc. For an easy and quick pickled red onion recipe that can also be used for a different vegetable including thin slices of cucumber, check out our Panzanella Italian Bread Salad recipe.
Also a simple salad such as a cucumber or tomato salad can bring fresh flavours that compliment the rich savoury soup. A little olive oil, vinegar and your preferred sweetener, along with salt and pepper, can be stirred together to create a simple salad dressing.
For a more filling addition, a cooked and sliced vegan sausage or a vegan hot-dog can be scattered over each soup serving. For an easy vegan hot-dog recipe that's prepared with the humble carrot do have a look at our Carrot Hot Dog recipe!
Yes, preparing Hungarian pepper soup using a pressure cooker on an instant pot is a great time saver. Use the following as a rough guide:
1. Heat up your pressure cooker using the sauté setting [use either oil or veggie broth], then add the diced bell peppers, onions, carrots, celery, and potato. Sauté for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. If your pressure cooker doesn't have a sauté function, you can do this step in a separate pan on the stove. Alternatively, omit this step and simply add all the ingredients to the pressure cooker.
2. Stir in the paprika powder, sugar, garlic, and rice, sautéing for another 1-2 minutes.
3. Add the leeks, chopped tomatoes, and hot vegetable broth to the pressure cooker. [Be careful not to add too much liquid to your pressure cooker so don't go above the minimum level stated on the pot, reduce the amount of broth if necessary].
4. Secure the lid on your pressure cooker and set to high pressure. If your pressure cooker allows you to set the time, cook for 10 minutes.
5. After the cooking time is up, let the pressure release naturally for about 10 minutes. Then, carefully release any remaining pressure manually according to the manufacturer's instructions.
6. If the veggies and rice are not cooked to your liking simply cook for a few minutes longer using the sauté or a setting that allows the cooker to cook without a lid.
7. Open the lid and stir in the white wine vinegar, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Leave the soup to sit for a few minutes to allow the vinegar to settle and meld with the soup flavours.
8. Serve the soup garnished with paprika flakes or red pepper flakes [or extra paprika powder], fresh chopped parsley, and a dollop of vegan sour cream, creme fraiche or yogurt, if liked.
Please note that different models of pressure cookers or instant pots may have slightly different instructions or settings, so always consult your pressure cooker's manual. Also, the texture of the vegetables and rice may be softer or a little different compared to cooking the soup on the stove.
Yes, Hungarian pepper soup can be prepared in a slow cooker or crock pot and this option is perfect for saving time and cooking fuel, and for having a dinner ready to enjoy after a busy day.
Here is a rough guide:
1. Switch on the slow cooker and set it to either low, medium or high setting so that it can start preheating while you prepare the vegetables. The veggies can be sweated or sautéed on the stove-top before adding to the slow cooker and this can add more flavour, but if preferred just add everything to the slow cooker.
2. Add all the ingredients stated within the recipe to the slow cooker, except the white wine vinegar, and any garnishes. Reduce the liquid to 1 litre [1 quart] of vegetable broth.
3. Pop a lid over the cooker and leave to cook on low for 6-7 hours, on medium for 4-5 hours, or on low for 3 ½ hours. Exact times will depend on your slow cooker and the soup is ready when the rice and vegetables are soft.
4. Pop the lid off the cooker and stir through the white wine vinegar, and leave the soup to sit for a few minutes to allow the vinegar to meld with the flavours. Season with salt and black pepper.
5. If the soup is too thick, it can be thinned down with extra vegetable broth.
More tasty traditional vegan dinner recipes
For lots more meat-free, plant-based, and vegan dinner ideas do check out our growing collection of Vegan Dinner Recipes as well as Vegan Lunch Recipes for your next family favourite meal. Happy cooking!
***please note: for US measurements click the 'US customary button' within the recipe and the measurements will switch to tablespoons, cups, and ounces.***
Hungarian Pepper Soup
- large soup pot
- 1 tablespoon olive oil [or your preferred oil or vegan butter]
- 1 large onion diced into small pieces [about 110 grams of prepared onion]
- 1 large red bell peppers diced into small pieces [about 150 grams of prepared bell pepper]
- 1 large green bell pepper diced into small pieces [about 150 grams of prepared bell pepper]
- 3 ribs celery diced into small pieces [about 100 grams of prepared celery]
- 1 large potato diced into small cubes [leave the skin on if unblemished, about 340 grams of prepared potato]
- 2 medium carrots diced into small cubes [about 125 grams of prepared carrot]
- 4 garlic cloves sliced
- 125 grams long grain rice rinsed and drained
- 2 tablespoon paprika use a Hungarian paprika if available although just use 1 tablespoon as it may be hotter, otherwise use just regular or a sweet paprika
- 1 ½ teaspoon granulated sugar or your usual sweetener or sugar
- 1 large leek diced into small pieces [about 320 grams of prepared leek]
- 1 can chopped tomatoes 400grams [14 or 15oz can]
- 1.5 litres vegetable broth [use a vegan 'beef' flavour if available]
Add near end of cooking:
- 2 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- 4 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
- dried paprika flakes or red pepper flakes or chilli flakes
- vegan sour cream, creme fraiche or yogurt
- Heat the oil or ½ cup of veggie broth in the soup pan, and add the bell peppers, carrots, celery, and potato.Cook over a medium heat for 5-8 minutes, stirring frequently.1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 large onion, 1 large red bell peppers, 1 large green bell pepper, 3 ribs celery, 1 large potato, 2 medium carrots
- Stir through the paprika powder, sugar, rice and garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently.4 garlic cloves, 125 grams long grain rice, 2 tablespoon paprika, 1 ½ teaspoon granulated sugar
- Stir through the leeks, and then pour in the hot vegetable broth and the chopped tomatoes.1 large leek, 1 can chopped tomatoes, 1.5 litres vegetable broth
- Season with salt and black pepper.
- Bring to the boil and simmer [gently boil] for 20 minutes over a medium heat, the vegetables should be soft and the rice cooked but if not simmer for an extra 5 or so minutes until soft.2 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- Pour in the white wine vinegar and simmer for 2-3 minutes or turn the stove ring off and pop a lid over the soup and it will continue to cook within the residual heat.
- Remove the pot from the heat and give the soup a good stir. Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve each portion with a sprinkle of red pepper flakes or paprika flakes, or a good dash of paprika powder. Fresh parsley and a scoop of vegan sour cream, creme fraiche or plain yogurt are tasty additions.4 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley, dried paprika flakes or red pepper flakes or chilli flakes, vegan sour cream, creme fraiche or yogurt
- Nutritional data is for guidance only and is not considered an exact calculation as ingredients vary.
- Nutrition info does not include optional garnishes or vegan sour cream, etc.
- Store leftover soup in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- Or freeze for 2-3 months.
- Reheat in a non-stick pot by stirring and gently boiling for 3-4 minutes. Extra water or vegetable broth [stock] will need to be added as the soup will become very thick as its stored due to the rice. For one serving add about 4 large tablespoons of thick leftover soup and about ½-1 cup of liquid. This makes a tasty home-made take on canned vegetable soup and is perfect for meal prepping soup for the week.
- We used 3-4 meat free beef flavour OXO stock cubes dissolved in boiling water to prepare the vegetable broth [these stock cubes are available at most UK supermarkets but any vegan stock or broth can be used].
- We used long grain white rice which cooks in about 15 minutes.
- We used ordinary paprika but if you happen to have Hungarian paprika then do use that instead, but at first add 1 tablespoon of Hungarian paprika to the soup and then see how that is as Hungarian paprika is more flavourful and could be spicier than your regular paprika so less may be required for the soup.
- For pressure cooker and slow cooker instructions for this soup do check out our recipe note and FAQ section above the recipe.
- To prepare the vegetables for the soup the cut does not have to be perfect but do roughly slice into small dice or chunks comparable to the size of vegetables in a can of vegetable soup, this will also ensure that the veggies all cook at the same time and quicker.
Prepared our delicious vegan adaptation of Hungarian Pepper Soup? Do let us know how you got on with the recipe as we love hearing from you. Thanks so much, Jacq x