Mains · Recipes

Romanian Pork Stew

A hearty, comforting stew, great on a cold day. Known in Romania as tocană
Prep Time1 hour 20 minutes
Cook Time40 minutes
Stew Time1 hour
Total Time3 hours
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Romanian
Keyword: pork, potatoes, stew
Servings: 4 people


  • large pot (at least 6 quarts) with a lid
  • large bowl
  • 2 medium bowls
  • food processor (optional)
  • kitchen scale
  • large spoon (preferably wooden)
  • cutting board
  • tongs or a slit spoon
  • a pitcher or something to hold a quart of water


  • 2.5 lbs white potatoes (about 6 medium potatoes)
  • 2 lbs pork shoulder or Boston butt (other cuts should be fine too)
  • 2 lbs white onions (about 3 onions)
  • 2 lbs kapia peppers (skinny bell peppers; can substitute with Cubanelles, Italian roasting peppers, or regular bell peppers)
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp thyme
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 16 oz tomato sauce (not ketchup)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp pepper
  • 1 quart water
  • 1 jar quality pickles (Grillo's are great)


Food prep (about 1 hour and 20 minutes)

  • Get the kitchen scale, food processor (if you have one), cutting board, the two medium bowls, and the large bowl
  • Attach the S-shaped blade to the food processor
  • Cut the ends of the onions, peel the outer layer, and discard.
    (Should be about half a pound of discarded material)
    2 lbs white onions
  • Chop them roughly into big chunks
  • We'll use the large bowl to weigh things, so put it on the scale, and weigh 1-½ lbs of the onions
  • Transfer the 1-½ lbs of onions from the bowl into the food processor.
    If you don't have a food processor, go ahead dice the onions very finely.
  • Pulse the food processor several times, until the onions are diced very finely.
    (Don't leave it on continuously, unless you want the resulting onion puree.)
  • Put the (now diced) onions back into the first medium bowl
  • Wash the bell peppers
    2 lbs kapia peppers
  • Cut out and discard the stem, seed sack, and white strips from the peppers, leaving bigger pieces.
    (Should be about half a pound of discarded material)
  • In the large bowl, weigh 1-½ lbs of pepper pieces, then dump them out onto the cutting board
  • On the cutting board, dice the pepper pieces to about the size of a thumbnail
  • Add the diced peppers into the first medium bowl, along with the diced onions
  • Back on the cutting board, cut the pork into roughly 1-2" pieces — the size of cherry tomatoes or marshmallows — put them into the second medium bowl
    The pieces being uniform in size is more important than the actual size, and try to cut them such that the pieces have a mixture of lean meat and fat, as opposed to just one or the other
    2 lbs pork shoulder or Boston butt
  • Peel the potatoes, cutting away any defects at the same time.
    2.5 lbs white potatoes
  • In the large bowl, weigh 2 lbs of the potatoes, then dump them out onto the cutting board
  • On the cutting board, cut the potatoes into the same size pieces as the pork and place them back in the large bowl
  • Turn a stove burner on medium and put the large pot on it to let it heat up a little bit
  • On the cutting board, cut the ends of the garlic cloves off and peel the skin
    6 cloves garlic
  • Sprinkle 1 tsp salt on the pork, then toss the pork pieces so the salt gets evenly distributed

Cook the Pork (about 20 minutes)

  • Turn the stove burner heat down to medium-low
  • Put the olive oil in the large pot and move it around so it coats the bottom
    1 tbsp olive oil
  • Fill most of the bottom of the pot with a layer of the pork pieces, but leave room for motion
  • Stir occasionally with the wooden spoon so they cook on all sides and don't stick to the pot
  • If there's more pork, add it in once the first wave starts browning
  • Cook the pork for 5-10 minutes, until it's got a nice toasted, caramelized color
  • Dice the garlic cloves, not too finely
  • Season the pork with salt and pepper and stir one last time
  • With tongs, or a slit spoon, remove the pork — but not the grease — to the medium bowl where it came from

Cook the veggies (about 20 minutes)

  • Add the diced onions and peppers to the pork grease in the pot
  • Season them with 1 tsp salt
  • Let them cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they soften up
  • Add the potatoes
  • Let the mixture cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally
  • Start heating up a quart of water, in the microwave or kettle or whatever, until it's at least warm
  • After the mixture's cooked long enough, season it with salt and pepper
  • Add in the thyme, paprika, and bay leaves
    2 tsp paprika, 2 tsp thyme, 4 bay leaves
  • Add in the diced garlic
  • Stir to mix it all together well
  • Pour enough of the warm water into the pot for the potatoes to be swimming, but not drowning, in it
    1 quart water
  • Add the cooked pork pieces back into the pot
  • Stir again

Stew (about 1 hour)

  • Cover the pot with the lid
  • Let it …. well, stew for 45 minutes, still on the medium-low heat
  • Take the lid off
  • Add the tomato sauce
    16 oz tomato sauce
  • Stir
  • Let it stew for 10 more minutes, uncovered
  • Season with salt and pepper, to taste
  • Let it cool a bit, then serve with pickles
    1 jar quality pickles


Adapted from Gătește Ușor.