Zalewajka – Polish Fasting Soup Recipe

Soup Zalewajka in a white cup.

Similar to the zurek and barscz bialy but 100% vegan, the zalewajka is a Polish fasting soup. Made with a rye flour starter, this potato and veg soup keeps you full for a long time!

What Is Zalewajka? Where Did Zalewajka Originate?

Polish vegan zurek in a white bowl.
Polish zalewajka is also called vegan zurek!

Zalewajka originated in the central regions of Poland in the 19th century, most probably in Lodz. Some also say it originated in Świętokrzyska or Radomsko. 

Traditionally made by farmers as a meal to eat while doing work in their fields, the main ingredients were mushrooms and potatoes.

Zalewać means “to flood”. You need to flood the potatoes and other veggies with a fermented rye flour starter. This rye starter that is used to ferment the soup is called Zakwas zytni na zurek. 

Other vegetables such as carrots and celery and spices such as bay leaves, allspice, or marjoram are added for more flavor.

Over time this soup became popular all over Poland and was added as a regular feature to household menus. The specific ingredients vary from region to region, and even from home to home.

Zalewajka is sometimes also referred to as the vegan zurek recipe. 

What Is This Difference Between This Zalewajka Recipe and Zurek or Barszcz Bialy?

Soup Zalewajka in a white cup.
Zalewajka Soup

There are 3 soups in Poland that look almost the same: żurek, barszcz bialy, and zalewajka. There’s also an Easter version of the barszcz bialy of white borscht that is similar.

Even many Poles have a problem with identifying the difference between these 3 soups. That’s why it’s quite often that you’ll find the recipes for these soups are interchanged online.

But if you want to know the real differences between these soups, here they are:

  • Barszcz bialy (white borscht) is made with fermented wheat flour starter
  • Zurek is made with fermented rye flour starter
  • Zalewajka is also made with fermented rye flour starter, but is usually meatless

The difference between zalewajka and zurek is simple. Żurek must include meat (sausage, pork ribs, etc.), while zalewajka is a meatless, fasting soup. Some people add bacon or other meat to zalewajka, but the basic recipe is 100% vegan.

Tips For Preparing This Zalewajka – Vegan Zurek Recipe

zalewajka soup in a bowl.
Zalewajka soup is eaten while fasting!
  • You can also add celery or mushrooms if you want. 
  • If you want meat, add some diced smoked bacon or kielbasa while frying the onions. 
  • You can buy Zurek in most stores. Check it out on Amazon.
  • After the soup is cooked, if you want it smoother you can puree it while it’s still hot!
  • Top with more fried onions or parsley, and season with salt and pepper.
  • This soup is dairy-free, vegetarian, and vegan!

Frequently Asked Questions About This Zalewajka Recipe

Does Zalewajka Need To Be Vegetarian?

Zalewajka is a vegetarian or vegan soup that’s often had during the Lenten fast. So it’s vegetarian by tradition. But if you want to, you can add chopped smoked bacon or sausages to it. 

What To Serve With the Zalewajka?

Serve the zalewajka with toasted bread or kopytka dumplings.

Is This Soup Gluten-Free?

We wish it was. But no, this zalewajka soup contains rye starter. Rye contains a gluten protein named secalin and hence is not gluten-free.

Although it contains lesser gluten than wheat, it still contains gluten. And hence is not gluten-free.

What Can I Substitute Marjoram?

You can replace marjoram with oregano, but use it in a smaller quantity. 

How Long Can Zalewajka Be Stored?

Leftover Zalewajka soup can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Since it does not contain any dairy products, it can also be stored in the freezer in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Thaw at room temperature and reheat before serving. 

Zalewajka – Polish Fasting Soup Recipe

Zalewajka - Polish Fasting Soup Recipe

Soup Zalewajka in a white cup.

Similar to the zurek and barscz bialy, the zalewajka is a Polish fasting soup. Made with a rye flour starter, this potato and veggie soup is perfect for vegans too!

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes

Ingredients

  • 5 potatoes
  • 1 onion
  • 1 carrot (optional)
  • 10 cups of water (or both)
  • 2 cups of fermented rye starter (zakwas zytni na zurek)
  • 2-3 tbsps of oil
  • 5 allspice berries
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp of dried marjoram (optional)
  • salt, pepper
  • 9 oz / 250g of bacon (not necessary!)

Instructions

  1. Peel and dice the potatoes and a carrot.
  2. Cover the veggies with water, add spices, and cook.
  3. In the meantime, peel and dice the onion. If you are adding bacon, dice it as well.
  4. Fry the onion on oil (or onion with bacon).
  5. When the veggies are soft (or almost soft), reduce the heat.
  6. Start pouring the fermented rye flour starter VERY slowly, stirring all the time.
  7. Add fried onion (with or without bacon).
  8. Cook for another 5-10 minutes.
  9. Season with salt and pepper.

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