This recipe for tushonka is a modern and delicious spin on the canned stewed meat eaten in the Soviet Union during World War II.
Tushonka, or Russian canned stewed meat, was a staple in my Ukrainian household growing up. I can still remember the delicious smell of my mother spending an entire day in the kitchen slow-cooking and canning it. To this day, I still crave it and always have a jar or two on hand myself.
Initially eaten primarily by Soviet soldiers during World War II, tushonka slowly crept into civilian life and ultimately became beloved comfort food. More so, it represents a deep-seated love affair the Slavic people have with canning and storing meat for a rainy day.
Today, tushonka is used as a quick way to add tasty protein to a variety of pasta and buckwheat dishes. Consider it the SPAM of Slavic culture!
The Homemade Advantage: I often purchase Army Brand Tushonka at a local Russian store in my neighborhood. Although delicious, it’s very fatty and full of preservatives. Making your own tushonka at home is a great way to save money AND control the ingredients!
What is Tushonka?
Although tasty and comforting, tushonka has somewhat of a dark history. During World War II, it was shipped into the former Soviet Union through the Lend-Lease Act, an American foreign policy that permitted then-President Roosevelt to send everything from military to food supplies to the Allied Powers. Today, it’s a staple in many Slavic households. Below, find an overview of the recipe flavor, texture, and cooking time.
- Flavor: Tushonka is super savory with a simple seasoning of bay leaves, pepper, salt, and garlic.
- Texture: Much like a canned chicken or tuna, the texture of Russian canned stewed meat is ultra-tender and moist.
- Time: From prep to canning, tushonka takes just under 5 hours to make.
How to Make Stewed Meat
Making tushonka requires a few wholesome ingredients, a couple steps, and a little bit of patience. Below, find a quick hitter overview of the recipe.
- Trim & Prep the Meat: Using a sharp knife, trim the meat of excess fat and slice it into one-inch cubes.
- Season the Meat: Place the meat cubes into a Dutch oven and season liberally.
- Bake the Meat: Next, cover the Dutch oven with a lid and bake the meat at 250°F (4 hours for pork, 6 hours for beef).
- Sterilize the Jars: In the last 30 minutes of cooking, sterilize the canning jars. First, wash the lids and jars thoroughly with soap and hot water. Place them in the oven next to the Dutch oven for around 15 minutes, or until they appear totally dry.
- Can the Meat: Being careful not to burn your hands, spoon the hot meat mixture into the hot jars. Using an oven mitt or towel, twist on the lids tightly. To further seal the lids, flip the jars upside down for about 2 hours.
- Refrigerate Canned Tushonka: Finally, place the jars of tushonka in the refrigerator. Keep them stored for up to 3 months and enjoy!
Tips for Making the Best Tushonka
Below, find some top tips and tricks for making the best tushonka.
- Use lean cuts of beef or pork. If you’re using beef, opt for chunk roast or a couple of tenderloins. If you’re using pork, opt for tenderloin, loin roast, or shoulder. Since the stewing process will make the meat ultra-tender, there’s no need to shell out the big bucks for expensive cuts.
- Season the meat liberally. Use your hands to massage the seasoning onto the meat thoroughly. Don’t be shy!
- Cook the meat low and slow. Cooking the meat on low heat over a long period of time will make it super tender and tasty.
For a simple snack or light lunch, spread old or warmed tushonka onto a toasted piece of bread. You can also add it to a variety of soups and pasta or grain dishes for extra protein. Keep in line with Slavic tradition by mixing it into buckwheat with mushrooms or beef stroganoff pasta or substituting it for ground beef in old fashioned goulash.
- Refrigerator: When properly canned, Russian canned stewed meat will keep for up to 3 months. Once you open a jar, plan to use it within a week.
- Freezer: Freeze tushonka by allowing it to cool down completely. Then, transfer it into an airtight plastic container or a freezer-safe bag. It will keep for up to 6 months. When you’re ready to use it, thaw it in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.
What is Russian tushonka?
Russian tushonka is a traditional stewed canned meat. It was eaten by Soviet soldiers during WWII but is widely see as a Slavic comfort food today.
What is tushonka used for?
Tushonka is used as a quick protein for a variety of grain, pasta, and soup dishes. Many Slavic households keep a couple jars on hand for a rainy day.
How do I eat tushonka?
You can eat tushonka by spreading it on top of toasted bread. You can also add it to buckwheat, pasta, or soup.
What type of beef or pork cut should I use for tushonka?
Use lean cuts of beef or pork for tushonka. Tenderloin or roasts work really well.
How should I store canned tushonka?
Store canned tushonka in the refrigerator for up to three months. Once you open a jar, plan to eat it within a week.
Other Classic Russian & Ukrainian Recipes
- Halushki (Traditional Ukrainian Dumplings) – Ukrainian-style dumplings with bacon and sauteed veggies
- Buckwheat Meat Patties Recipe – Hearty meat and grain patties
- Chebureki (Russian Fried Dumplings) – Ground meat and onion stuffed dumplings
- Vegetable Zucchini Spread (aka Ikra) – Bright and savory veggie spread
- 8 lb lean pork or beef
- 1 cup water
- 6 dry bay leaves
- 2 tbsp black pepper
- 9 garlic cloves
- 2 tbsp salt adjust to taste
- Using a sharp knife, trim any excess fat off the meat. Cut it into one-inch cubes.
- In a Dutch oven, season meat with salt, pepper, bay leaves, and garlic cloves. Pop the lid on and bake at 250°F for 4 hours if using pork and for 6 hours if using beef.
- In the last 30 or so minutes of cooking, turn your attention to prepping the jars for canning. To sterilize the jars, wash them thoroughly with soap and hot water. Place them in the oven next to the Dutch oven for about 15 minutes, or until they're completely dry. Remove the Dutch oven and jars from the oven. Carefully fill each jar with the meat mixture.
- While the meat is still hot, use an oven mitt or kitchen towel to protect your hands and close all lids really tight. To seal the jars, flip them upside down for several hours.
- Store tushonka in the refrigerator for up to three months. Enjoy with toasted bread or added to your favorite pasta or grain dishes!
I understand this is just for short time use. For long time use it is better to use pressure canner to avoid the botulism.
Hi Inna - Thanks for your feedback! You're right - these are just for short term use and you can definitely use a pressure canner to keep them on hand for months/years. Hope this helps!
where I can by that
Hey Liza, if you mean where you can buy Tushonka, it is sold in many Eastern European stores.
What type of cut of beef would you recommend? And what kind of cut for pork?
A roast would work really well here but really any cut would work.
:)Made it with beef. And added 1 tbsp onion and garlic powder each. Its amazing! Tastes so good! Thank you so much for the recipe! I also have a question: Want to try, making chicken long would i need to cook it?
Hey Luba, thank you for sharing. I think the cooking time for chicken would be shorter but I haven't made it with chicken before so I can't give you an exact timeline. I think keeping an eye on it would be a good idea.
Natalya, what kind of cut of pork meat do you use and for the chicken, do you use just use the whole chicken?
For the chicken, I use dark meat and move skin and bones. For pork, I use any cut that is great for a roast. Bone is fine, it can give it more flavor.
How long can this be stored for unrefrigerated, but kept out of sunlight?
For safety reasons we keep it in a fridge or a garage during winter months. It can stay there for a few months.
For how long can it actually be stored for?
When refrigerated, up to 3 months.
Another question, how can i do it in an instant pot?
Yes, I am not 100% sure how long it will take. At least 35 minutes on high pressure.
Is it really 2 tbs not 2 tsp of pepper?? And about how much salt do you put?
2 tbsp for 8 lb of meat. Salt is hard to suggest because each brand of slat can be different. I would say season generously, about 2-3 tbsp.
The Master Food Preserver in me is saying "Please, please, please pressure can this."
Oh lol. 🙂 very good idea!
Hello you have listed water as an ingredient in your ingredients list. Where do you use water in this recipe!?
Into a pot with meat. Thanks for pointing that out.
Are you supposed to take out the garlic cloves before you put everything in the cans?
Yes and bay leaves. Only put meat into jars.
Natasha, just wanted to say thank you for such an easy and delicious tushonka... I made it yesterday and today used it in potato babka. Super delicious. ?
Thanks you! So awesome that you loved it! Now tell me what is potato babka?
just made it.... it is so good.
So awesome! I think the lunch menu reminded you guys of this recipe 🙂
Hello Natasha. This looks awesome. My mom-in-law makes canned meat but she places her meat in the glass cans and then cooks it in the oven for 4-6 hours. Have you ever tried doing that?
I have tried that many years ago. For some reason I stick to the old fashion way, using one pot 🙂
Can I make it in the kazanok? How different is it from the dutch oven?
Isn't it made from iron? Dutch oven is also made out of iron. You can use anything you wish, just depending on the pot that's how long it would cook.
Do you know how much salt is needed for this ?
It's about 1.5 tablespoon.
you can also use this:
Thanks for sharing this. One day when I have a bigger kitchen 🙂 My pantry and kitchen is very small, I have a very limited amount of supplies 🙂
I need to go buy myself a dutch oven. My sister made this recipe and my husband loved it. Thanks for the recipe Natalya.
That is great to hear. 🙂 You can cook it in a slow cooker or low heat on a stove top.
How long and on what heat can this be cooked in the slow cooker?
You can cook it on high for the same amount but you can check sometimes to see if it's cooked.
I think that would work on a very low heat, hardly simmering. You may need to add a little bit of water to it.
Ok.. what if I don't have a dutch oven, can I make this on stove top.?
I am sure that the process is very similar. The cooking time may need to be longer in a slow cooker.
Hey.. this is a great recipe. Will make it soon. Have you heard of this being done but in slow cooker? I went to school with a guy who's wife made really good tushonka. I know he said it was slow cooked. Wish I got the recipe then.