Soups in Poland are really plentiful. If you don’t count the zupa and skip the a, we have soups for most of the letters of the alphabet, from barszcz to zurek. Polish sour soups are a sub-category of Polish soups that have that distinct acidic taste to them.
The acidity in a Polish sour soup can come from soured milk, soured rye starters, or even sour cream, and elevates the soup to another level! If you’re headed to Poland for a visit, or to a Polish restaurant near you and want to try a Polish sour soup, here’s a list of the must-have sour soups!
1. Kapuśniak – Sauerkraut Soup
Kapuśniak is a soup made of sauerkraut, potatoes, carrots, parsley roots, and spices along with smoked bacon or pork ribs. Sometimes diced kielbasa sausages are also added. It’s not as salty as sauerkraut itself, but pretty salty.
Sauerkraut soup is popular in other Central European countries too, but different slightly with the ingredients. The Polish version of sauerkraut soup features marjoram and allspice berries. You can easily make kapuśniak at home using this traditional recipe.
2. Kwaśnica – Sauerkraut Soup From The Tatra Mountains
Kwaśnica soup is a version of the kapusniak soup that’s specific to the Tatra Mountains of Poland. These people only used cabbage, meats, potatoes, and other ingredients that were easily available in their diet. So instead of pork that’s added to the kapusniak soup, the kwaśnica is made with mutton.
Kwasnica is also richer in fat and heartier than the kapusniak soup, and is often served with bread slices or prazoki. This slow-cooked highland soup is the perfect filling meal for cold autumns and winters.
3. Zurek – White Soup Made With Rye Dough Starter
This Polish sour soup may be the sourest of the lot. Zurek is made by fermenting rye flour or stale rye bread and using it along with onions, potatoes, boiled eggs, and diced meat such as kielbasa sausages, bacon, ham.
Depending on the region, you might also find parsnips, celery, mushrooms, or garlic added to the żurek soup. You’ll often find the zurek soup served in bread bowls made by carving out sourdough bread.
4. Barszcz Biały – White Borscht Soup Made With Wheat Starter
Although it looks similar to the zurek, the barszcz bialy white borscht soup is different. It’s made using a wheat starter instead of the rye flour used in zurek. Barszcz biały has a different type of sourness compared to zurek because in zurek the sourness is from the rye bread, but in white borscht, the sourness is from the zurek. Another difference from zurek is that it uses white sausages.
Barszcz biały is a must-have dish for the Easter morning breakfast in most Polish homes. It can be served topped with hard-boiled eggs, sour cream, boiled potatoes, smoked bacon, parsley, or sometimes horseradish.
5. Zalewajka – Fasting White Soup Made With Rye Starter
Zalewajka is a fasting Polish soup that’s eaten during the Lenten season, so it’s vegetarian and can be vegan too.
The soup originated in Lodz, Poland where poor 19th-century farmers would add the rye flour starter to a pot of boiling potatoes and other veggies. This simple soup was seasoned with marjoram, bay leaves, and other herbs and served.
It’s easy to think of the Polish sour soup zalewajka as a vegan zurek!
6. Ogórkowa – Dill Pickle Soup
When you have extra dill pickles, the zupa ogórkowa is the perfect soup to make. A complete meal in itself, the soup is made by adding cooked rice to a simmering blend of parsley root, onions, grated carrots, and grated pickles.
7. Szczawiowa – Sorrel Leaf Soup
Another Polish sour soup that you must try is the zupa szczawiowa made with sorrel leaves. Tangy in a good sort of way, this Polish sorrel leaves soup can be made at any time of the year because it’s a perennial herb.
Sometimes called the Green Borscht, the creamy and rich zupa szczawiowa is usually topped with boiled potatoes or hard-boiled eggs before serving!
8. Barszcz Czerwony – Red Borscht Made With Beetroot Starter
This Polish sour soup is the easiest to identify. Made with a beetroot starter called zakwas buraczany, the red borscht is characteristically red in color, and has a mix of sweet, sour, and tangy flavors.
To be considered a good soup, the red borscht must be clear enough to see through. Techniques passed down from Polish mothers to daughters for making clear soups involve straining the soup multiple times, or even adding a bit of vinegar.
Zakwas buraczany is one of the 12 dishes served for Christmas Eve dinner. At that time the soup is filled with little ear-shaped dumplings called uszka.
Eaten since the 16th century or even before that, whether you eat the clear red borscht or the less sour red borscht with cream, you’ll keep asking for more!
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So these are the most popular Polish sour soups that you must try. Have you tried any of them? Comment and let us know!