Stuffed Kohlrabi Töltött Karalábé


Hungarians love stuffing vegetables. It’s such a flavorful way to use vegetables and elevate the plating from a boring bowl of stew to an  artfully stuffed and carved vegetable, placed majestically in a beautifully contrasting sauce, of which you can eat  as little or as much as you like.  Many of my favorite childhood foods were stuffed vegetables. Stuffed peppers, stuffed cabbage and the sublime and rare stuffed kohlrabi. 

Before I launch into my family’s version of “Stuffed Kohlrabi, I’ll show you two others. The first from my Mother’s Hungarian cookbook, the second from George Lang’s book “The Cuisine of Hungary ”  which I purchased many years ago, it became my go-to Hungarian cookbook ever since.  I’m adding the recipe from this book so you have a baseline for measuring ingredients.

My Mothers book (in Hungarian) which is difficult to use, not just because of the language barrier, but also the weights and measures are different, such as decilitre, decagram, evocanal (eating spoon). It ‘s a bare-bones old fashioned cookbook, listing ingredients and a short explanation of what to do with them. Very short.

After these two recipes, I will show you how my Mother makes it, but I have no weights or measures as she never measured anything, it was all by smell, feel, and taste. If you asked for the recipe something was always left out so her version would always reign supreme. It’s a family joke and she quite freely owns up the the practice.“You wouldn’t want the  Grandchildren thinking you make it better than me,” she explains. Hence the need to see the making unfold in its’ totality. And the reason I asked her to show me while I kept track by photographing the steps. You will need extrapolate your own version from the pictorial epic of my Mother and I cooking, but it’s so very worth it.

This version of “stuffed Kohlrabi” is in my Great Grandmothers style, who incidentally,  wasn’t really my Great Grandmother but the owner of the property my Grandfather was steward of.  I’m laying the background here as both styles are what was called “high’ versus the farm and peasant rustic styles, much more like French and Viennese cuisine.
For example, chicken soup in the high style was a rich broth drained of all meats and vegetables, a rich golden color with little fatty, flavor globules floating on top, with dainty handmade noodles, while the farm version was the chicken and vegetables staying in the pot and served that way. My family made both versions.

From My Mothers Cookbook which is so old, it doesn’t have any dates or copyright info in it. The recipes are simple and concise with barely any guidance as to technique.


8 pieces kohlrabi
40 decagram lean ground meat
1 piece white bread roll
1 decilitre milk
1 egg
2 decagram sugar
6 decagram butter
1 decilitre sour cream
4 decagram flour
1 gram ground pepper
fresh green parsley (1 bunch)

It will take me a while to translate the method as I grew up English speaking, forbidden to speak Hungarian so I could teach my parents the English I learned in school. So  it takes me a long time to sound out the words and decipher the meaning and flow.
I’ll keep amending this as time goes on:
Blanche the kohlrabi in hot water. Mix salt and pepper in the ground meat, add the egg and bread soaked in milk, and mix well. Fill the kohlrabi and make little meatballs from leftover meat filling. Chop up the cut out pieces of kohlrabi and the tender leaves, add to pot, layering the stuffed kohlrabi, meatballs, chopped pieces and leaves, add salt and sugar then cook until soft. When soft, remove to plate, make roux from butter and flour and clear liquid from cooking, whisk until thickened and pour back onto pot til simmering, then combine all.
(Simple instructions, no techniques, no Julia to help here)

So I’ll go on to George Langs Recipe:

6 medium sized kohlrabi
1/3 cup finely chopped green Kohlrabi leaves
1 tsp sugar
1/2 white roll
1/2 cup milk
1/2 small onion minced
2 Tbs butter
1/3 cup twice ground veal
1/3 cup twice ground pork
1/3 tsp pepper
1 tsp salt
1/2 egg
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon flour

Peel the kohlrabi and scoop out the centers. Place the vegetables in 1 quart salted water and boil until half done, about 25 minutes, but the time depends on the age of the kohlrabi. Drain the kohlrabi and reserve liquid.

Chop very fine the scooped-out centers of the kohlrabi and all the chopped leaves. Add sugar and sautee the mixture for a few minutes.

Add 2 cups of cooking liquid, and cook the chopped kohlrabi centers, and leaves until about half done.

Soak the roll in milk, squeeze roll and chop or shred into small pieces.

Fry onion in butter in a separate frying pan for a few minutes. Add the ground meat and saute for 5 minutes.

Add chopped roll, the pepper and salt, and the 1/2 egg. Stir well. and remove from heat. Adjust salt if necessary. Stuff this into the empty kohlrabi shells.

Place the stuffed shells into a baking-serving casserole. Pour chopped leaf mixture around shells and add the chicken broth if some extra liquid is needed.

Cook the kohlrabi over very low heat for 25 to 35 minutes or until the vegetables are done.

Make a thickening with flour and 3/4 tbs cold water. Take a ladle full of liquid from the casserole, whip it into the flour-water mixture, and pour it back into the casserole. Cook for 5 minutes longer.

Serve 1 kohlrabi as first course, or two or more for dinner.


And finally, here is the way we make ours.

Peel the Kohlrabi, reserving the tender green leaves without the woody stalks. Hollow out the bulbs leaving a quarter-inch wall to contain the filling. I use a melon baller which works well if the kohlrabi is young and tender. The ideal size is between a golf and a tennis ball.


peeled kohlrabi
Save the kohlrabi that are uniform in size and chop up the odd-sized and miss-happened ones.


chopped leaved and chopped roots
Roll the best tender leaves into a tight roll, slice thinly then cross cut to make 1 to 2-inch shredded bits.


chopped and hollowed roots
Into a large heavy pot or cast iron dutch oven, add the leaves, inner parts and chopped pieces of kohlrabi


cooking kohlrabi pieces
Add chicken or vegetable stock to the pot. I like Osem consomme best. Let it slowly simmer, adjusting salt levels.


hollowed kohlrabi
Admire your hollowed-out little roots. Discard any pithy ones. They will be hard and stringy later and ruin the dish. Younger tender bulbs are pale green and get whiter and tougher as they age.


cooking down kohlrabi bits
Into the pieces add finely cut red onion, about half a small onion to taste


cooked rice and meat filling
We use equal portions of finely ground beef and cooked rice. Use beef with a little fat, not too lean, ground chuck will yield better flavor.


Add egg, salt pepper and mix well
Add whole egg, pepper and a little salt. You must add salt to the meat mixture or wit will have no flavor when cooked in the broth. We are generous with the pepper as its the only seasoning in the meat mixture.


Meanwhile, make the rantas (roux) with oil, we use sunflower primarily, but any light golden oil will taste ok.


add the bulbs and cool the roux
Add the stuffed kohlrabi, place them gently, you won’t be stirring or disturbing the pot until the meat and rice have firmed up from simmering. Let the roux cool. Its very important that the roux is cool for the next steps.


Simmer gently, don’t stir other than to make sure no leaves are sticking to the side of the pot and drying out.


Add paprika powder
Add fine sweet Hungarian paprika to the cool roux. If the roux is too warm, the paprika will burn and become bitter.


Stir until the roux is a creamy paste.


simmering on low
The pot is simmering now on 2 on my electric stove. The meat is not pink any longer indicating it’s firming up.


remove bulbs
Remove cooked stuffed bulbs gently into a bowl, taste broth and adjust seasoning. Add chopped fresh parley a tiny bit of fresh dill weed to taste.


add milk to roux
Add milk to paprikash roux and stir gently.


add to pot
Add roux mixture to the pot, stirring constantly until it thickens up to a rich creamy yet soupy consistency. You don’t need to add it all the roux, just a little at a time till the consistency is correct.


simmer til creamy
Simmer until thickened up. The color should be a beautiful light buttery color.


At this point, add back the stuffed kohlrabi and keep warm until ready to serve.

Serve in wide bowls with fresh bread and a dollop of sour cream if you like.

The keys to our versions are:
Lots of “apro” which are little bits and pieces that makes the rich stew.
We don’t add the sugar unless the kohlrabi are old, tough and bitter, and we don’t use those anyway.
Seasoning the water and roux mixture is key. The paprika and salt balance can be tricky. If you use too much of either you can calm it down with sour cream.
If you inadvertently cut a hole in the little balls, patch it with a sliver from the melon baller and stuff it anyway. It’ll be ok.
Please let me know if you make any of these recipes, and what you thought!
Thanks 🙂

Thanks for reading my post!
-Love Andi

2 Comments Add yours

  1. This is a beautiful dish and delicious flavours; I love the sauce and delicate little “kohlrabi” balls. What a great post!

    1. Andrea Szabo says:

      Thanks so much. It’s one of those “labours of love” that are so worth it in the end. The taste is magical.

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