Hello everyone! Today, I'm here with the best recipe for a traditional Czech cabbage soup (zelňačka), which is very popular in my home country.
This cabbage soup is hearty and rich on flavours. Best enjoyed in winter!
The soup is very filling and nutritious and therefore often served as a main meal.
In the Czech Republic, you would find it on most restaurants' menus, but also in cafes and at refreshments points near tourist attractions, including the mountains.
Needles to say, this soup makes an awesome weeknight dinner for the whole family!
What do you need to make the best cabbage soup?
Cabbage soup can be cooked from fresh white cabbage or sauerkraut (fermented cabbage).
I like to use sauerkraut for this soup, as it gives it a strong sharp taste.
Shredded sauerkraut in a jar (or one in a bag) also saves you some prep time - you don't have to shred the cabbage yourself.
However, I do recommend going over the already shredded cabbage slightly on a cutting board. Cut the shreds shorter, so that the soup is easier to eat.
Also, sauerkraut is known for many of its health benefits. It is rich on vitamins, minerals and probiotic cultures. Look for it in the chilled section of your supermarket to get the most of these.
Sauerkraut is usually available in Polish or German shops. They also have it in the Polish/European section in bigger stores here in the UK. Please check international and/or Eastern European food shops in your area if you're based elsewhere.
What to add for even more flavour?
This cabbage soup tastes the best with smoked meat. I use smoked sausage (kielbasa), but feel free to use ham or bacon instead.
Alternatively, skip the meat completely if you fancy just a vegetarian meal.
Mushrooms are a wonderful addition to this soup. They add a nice texture and more umami flavour to it.
I use chestnut mushrooms, but you can swap them for dried wild or porcini mushrooms.
Cook the potatoes separately
Potatoes are another typical ingredient in Czech cabbage soup.
Remember to cook them separately! If you add them straight to the stockpot with the fermented cabbage, they won't cook through and will stay raw.
This is due to a chemical reaction when the acids from the sauerkraut prevent the potatoes from being cooked.
So, this is not the time to take shortcuts!
How can you store this soup?
This cabbage soup will stay fresh for up to 3 days. Leave it to cool down and then keep it in an airtight container in the fridge.
The soup always tastes better the next day, as its rich flavours settle overnight.
It is not suitable for freezing.
The best cabbage soup recipe (Czech zelňačka)
- 500 g sauerkraut (fermented cabbage) net weight
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 large potatoes
- 250 g chestnut mushrooms or 50g dried wild or porcini mushrooms, these need to be soaked in water 2hrs in advance
- 2 tablespoon sunflower or vegetable oil
- 1 onion
- 150 g smoked sausage (kielbasa) or bacon
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon marjoram
- 2 tablespoon plain flour
- 8 tablespoon low-fat cream for serving, optional
- 3 sprigs fresh parsley for serving
- Drain the sauerkraut using a sieve.
- Chop the cabbage roughly on a chopping board, so the slices are shorter and easier to eat.
- Place the cabbage into a large stock pot, cover with water and set on high heat. Add the bay leaf and bring to boil. Once bubbling, lower the heat to medium and leave to simmer for about 30 mins.
- In the meantime, prepare the potatoes: Peel them, wash and cut into small dices (about 1cm thick). Cook the potatoes in a separate pot (sauce pan) for only about 7-10 mins, depending on the size. They need to be just soft, but not too soft. It’s important to cook them separately, as the acids from the sauerkraut would prevent them from cooking (they would stay raw!).
- Wash and slice the mushrooms. If using dried ones, remember to soak the in advance, drain them. Add the mushrooms to the soup.
- Keep checking the water level of the soup, so there is enough to cover the cabbage. Add more water if needed and stir occasionally so it doesn’t burn from the bottom.
- Chop the onion and cut the sausage into thin slices.
- Add the oil into a frying pan and bring to medium-high heat. When hot, add the sausage bits and fry for a couple of minutes from both sides until brown. Add the chopped onion, toss and fry for about 3-4 mins or until the onion is soft and glossy.
- Add the fried sausage and onion into the soup and stir.
- Add the cooked potatoes and season with paprika and marjoram.
- In a mug, mix the flour with 150ml of water. Using a fork, stir the mixture until smooth.
- Turn the heat up and bring the soup to boil. Add the flour and water mix the soup, whilst stirring. This will make it nice and thick. Lower the heat again and leave to simmer for 5 mins, stirring occasionally.
- Serve with a handful chopped parsley, a slice of sourdough bread and a spoonful of cream if you like. Enjoy!
Nutritional Information (Estimate Only)
This blog post was originally published in July 2020 and was updated in February 2021 for a better user experience.