russian cabbage soup

Cabbage Soup

You probably want me to write about cookies and such, it being the holiday season. And trust me, I would much rather tell you about cookies, and I will. This month will be very much about cookies. I can’t even wait to begin, but first, I have to just share this recipe for Russian cabbage soup with you because even though this is the official cookie season (aka Christmas), man (or woman) cannot live by cookies alone. It’s cold outside and I bet you would just love something that will warm you up. Why not cabbage soup?

I know that soup isn’t considered hip. Especially cabbage soup, which has Eastern Europe stamped all over it. But I love soup so unabashedly, that I’m not ashamed to admit that I practically live off it in the winter. And yes, in case you were wondering, I get teased a lot for my love of soup because it has got to be one of the most old-people meals around. I might as well puree my vegetables while I’m at it and take my dinner at five o’clock in the evening. Strained peas, anyone?

Cabbage Soup

Look, for all the horrible stereotypes about Eastern Europe and cabbage, this is one hell of a winter food. If this doesn’t defrost you and bring you back to life, I don’t know what will. It’s hearty, it’s intensely rich and it’s filling. This isn’t just one of the courses of a meal – it’s a meal in and of itself.

Now I know a few of you don’t eat meat or only eat chicken, and before you get discouraged and see beef in the recipes, know this – you can make this vegetarian or you can make it with chicken. Beef is more traditional, however, what I think is key to this soup in its flavoring is the use of sauerkraut as well as cabbage. I added tomatoes to mine because as long as I remember that’s how my mom made this soup and the woman is famous for her soup-making skills. So, authentic or not – this is from the family files!

Cabbage Soup

I make a lot of this soup and then freeze it in batches, so that when it’s truly dead cold outside, I have it on hand. A bowl of hot soup filled with beef, cabbage and a nourishing broth, brings me back to life and makes for a delicious supper.

Russian Cabbage Soup

1 teaspoon sunflower or olive oil
1 pound bone-in stew meat (I use beef, but traditionalists will insist on pork)
1 clove garlic, minced
3 cups shredded cabbage
4 cups beef stock
12 ounces sauerkraut
1 (12-ounce) jar chopped stewed tomatoes
2 dried bay leaves
6 peppercorns
2 medium potatoes, scrubbed, peeled, and diced
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste


In a large stockpot, heat the oil and when ready, sear the meat until nicely browned. Remove from the pot and set aside.

Lower the heat to low and saute the garlic for 1 minute and then add the cabbage. Cook the cabbage, stirring frequently, until slightly wilted.

Add the stock along with 4 cups water the remaining ingredients up to potatoes and the seasonings. Bring the soup to a boil, remove any scum that rises to the top, decrease the heat to love, and then simmer for about 30 minutes. Add salt to taste, and simmer the soup for another 1 hour, or until it is slightly reduced and has a deep, brothy flavor. Add the potatoes and the black pepper and cook for another 20 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked through.

Serves 8.


  • ann

    I just saw the pictures for this on flikr and it made me so hungry. I love cabbage soup, and especially cabbage soup with sauerkraut. Bestill my beating heart! All soups should have multiple forms of cabbage in them. All I’m going to be able to do now is dream about lunch at Veselka all day. Thanks :-)

  • yulinka

    First NY Mag ran a recipe for Veselka’s cabbage soup, then Smitten Kitchen blogged it, then I blogged that, and now here’s your cabbage soup. Three is a trend–yay for cabbage!

  • radish

    What’s funny is that Deb and I made it on the same day! Clearly, cold, rainy days call for a hearty soup, and I was craving this one.

  • Masha

    Sounds so yummy and comforting! I love how universal sour cabbage is – whether sauerkraut or kimchee. Still remembering that delectable mushroom soup you made and our discussion or a proper size of sour cream “dollop” for soup. :)

  • Chris

    I love soup this time of year, too. I have been know to make two soups in one day (my last blog post is about two soups I made for lunch last week). Besides being warm and comforting, soup is such a great way to make the most of leftovers. I’ve been using my own lacto-fermented sauerkraut in soups recently and have been so pleased with how much it brightens the flavors of the other ingredients and adds its own wonderful crunch when added just before serving.
    I found your blog on the Bon Appetit Blog Envy Slideshow. I’ll be back!

  • barbara

    I made a pot of cabbge soup too.
    Omi’s Kraut Suppe
    1 medium thinly shredded cabbage
    1 chopped onion
    1/2 cup double smoked bacon
    3 large carrots, sliced into coins
    1 cup sauerkraut, drained, not rinsed
    2 tablespoons dried dill
    1 tablespoon (or more) chopped fresh parsley
    3 cups chopped peeled potatoes
    Pepper to taste.
    2 large boullion cubes
    Sautee the onion with the medium chopped bacon. When the bacon begins to crisp, add the cabbage, sauerkraut, carrots and seasoning. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Add boullion. Turn heat down to simmer and out a lid on it.
    After an hour, add the meat. Leave the lid off. Inhale deeply and smile. Check occasionally on the water level and give it a good stir. Smile again. The scent really is that good.
    If you like, you can add about 2 cups of leftover mashed potatoes about 15 minutes before serving. Lightly use a potato masher on the other vegetables then stir in the mashed potatoes and cover till heated. The sausage won’t mash down. This makes a thick, creamy soup. Top with grated cheddar if you want.
    When it’s really cold, I leave out the mashed potatoes. I make small potato dumplings. For these, I add more water to the soup. When it comes back to a medium heat, I slide in the dumplings and cover for about 15 minutes.
    My German grandmother always started with double-smoked bacon, She lived in Germany all her life (where this stuff is readily available.) I finally managed to track this elusive smoked meat down at the online German Deli. The flavor imparted brings to mind wood smoke, near-silence in the crisp cold air, the snow crunching beneath the feet, the deepening sky a dark periwinkle.
    I use chicken boullion cubes in lieu of beef. After the soup has simmered about an hour, I slice a smoked sausage such as Kielbasi or Nathan’s-quality hot dogs into it. The soup then merrily simmers away for another hour or so.
    I serve this with a hearty rye bread. I add leftover mashed potatos to the bread dough
    along with dill SEED (not weed) and some caraway or anise seed. I made some tart plum jam last summer. A tablespoon on this bread ties the meal together.
    This heats your insides like love.

  • The Librarian

    I just wanted to tell you that I’ve made your cabbage soup twice, and I LOVE it! The second time I made it for my vegetarian daughter and omitted the beef. I also diced an onion and lots of garlic and sauteed them before adding the cabbage and other ingredients. I liked it even better without the meat.I also used a can of regular undrained tomatoes rather than stewed because that’s all I had in the pantry. My mother’s family was Russian Jewish so this must be a genetic thing! Thanks so much for a wonderful recipe and a great blog (which I found out about through Bon Appetit)!