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Cabbage Soup

posted in Soups, Salads, Sides and Sauces by Kathy Maister
difficulty rating

This soup is thick, hearty, full of flavor, and perfect for the beginner cook. It was taught to me by my Dad, who did not cook very often but who had a few specialties that were his “signature dishes.” Cabbage soup was one of his best! He always made it as part of a traditional Polish Christmas Eve celebration dinner. I like making his recipe as soon as the weather turns cold. Be sure to pick up a loaf of (Polish) rye bread at the grocery store – it is perfect with this soup!

You might already have most of the ingredients for this soup in your kitchen. Onion, celery, carrot, olive oil and chicken or vegetable broth are the basic ingredients. Add a bag of dry yellow split peasand a bag of sauerkraut and the list is complete! (Sauerkraut is fermented cabbage.)

Let’s startcooking!

One medium onion needs to get peeled and chopped.
(Check out my video for a quick review on How to Chop an Onion)

Dice one stalk of celery. Cut the stalk in half, and then in strips. From there it is really simple to dice the celery.

Do the same for the carrot – cut it in half, then strips, then into a dice. (My Dad never put carrots in his cabbage soup, but I like to start with a combination of carrots, celery and onions for almost all the soups I make.)

Dried split peas that have been mechanically split along a natural seam, so that they cook faster. You can buy either green or yellow split peas. It is not necessary to soak split peas, but they do require rinsing and sorting.

(Note: Do not soak the split peas in water before cooking. Be sure to check out my post How to: Beans, Split Peas and Lentils which is a great primer on “pulses”.)

Variety of Dried Beans, Split Peas and Lentils

Now back to the cabbage soup…

Put the dry yellow split peas into a colander and sort them. That just means to look though them to make sure there are no tiny stones that ended up in the peas. Sometimes you will see a green split pea mixed in with the yellow ones – you can leave it in or take it out!

Now rinse the peas under cold running water.

As always, it is really important to get all your ingredients prepared in advance.

Heat the oil in a large (6 quart) pot, on medium heat, until it shimmers.

Add the chopped onions…

…and the diced celery…

…and the diced carrot.

Stir the vegetables.

Then let them cook for about 5 minutes, or until they are soft.

Add the rinsed peas to the soup pot…

…and the broth. You can use either chicken or vegetable broth.

Bring the soup to a boil.

Turn the stove down to simmer and cover the pot.

Simmer the soup for about one hour, giving it an occasional stir.

This soup gets VERY thick. You can add up to 2 cups of water (or even more!) to thin down the soup.

My Dad always used sauerkraut from a bag rather than buying it in a tin can. The sauerkraut from the tin can always tasted a bit “tinny.” You can find bagged sauerkraut in the “refrigerated pre-package deli meat section” of the grocery store.

Put the sauerkraut into a colander. Drain and rinse it under running cold water. Sauerkraut can be very tart. Rinsing it removes some of the tartness. (You can drain it in a bowl and save some of the juice. Then after the soup is cooked you can adjust the flavor by adding some of it back into the soup. This will add a bit of tanginess to the soup.)

Add the sauerkraut to the soup.

Stir everything together. You can see how really thick this soup is. At this point I have already added about 1 and 1/2 cups of water. I think I do need to add a bit more!

Season the soup with some salt…

…and freshly ground black pepper.

Serve the soup with some nice Polish rye bread.


This soup tastes even better a day or two after it is made! When you take the soup out of the refrigerator to reheat it, it will have become very thick. Gently reheat it, stirring it often. You may have to add a bit more liquid to this soup if it has gotten too thick. It also freezes beautifully!

If you are a fan of split-pea soup you might also want to try my Green Split Pea Soup which has chunks of turkey kielbasa in it.

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Chris said:

The recipe is very interesting. I would call it “Kapusniak” – which is Ukrainian for Cabbage soup. Christmas Eve is one of the holiest of days. Slavs (especially Orthodox Christians) serve an entirely meatless meal on this day as well as the Lenten period that precedes it. Christmas Day is the Feast Day.

I’ll bet the rye bread that was served had caraway seeds in it.

On non Lenten days I serve a soup not unlike yours. I use pork riblets (browned) as a base then proceed with the veggies as you do. However, instead of split peas I use diced potatoes. I totally agree that canned sauerkraut would not do justice to the soup. I live in an area where the locals (German extraction) make the very best ‘kraut. It is sold in cartons (like milk cartons). I don’t wash my ‘kraut, in fact I strain it saving the juice. Then when the soup is done, chances are that it simply isn’t tart enough for me so I start adding the juice into the mix until it has the right sharpness. You would not want to do with canned ‘kraut!!

I use a few caraway seeds as well and often the soup gets a good dollop of sour cream when it is served. This dish is a full meal but obviously not Lenten. Since I observe 4 Lenten periods throughout the year I know I will be satisfying my taste for sauerkraut with your recipe (veggie broth). Thanks so much for sharing it.

maria said:

Wonderfully presented. I hope it tastes as good as it looks. Will try during the winter months.


Kathy Maister said:

Hi Maria, as you might imagine, this is a true family favorite! I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Kathy Maister said:

Hi Chris,
Many thanks for sharing your experience with Cabbage Soup! I love the taste of caraway seed and never actually thought of adding it to the soup! The seeds, along with a dollop of sour cream sounds really fantastic! Fresh sauerkraut must add a whole new dimension to this soup.

Chris, Does your tradition also include mushroom soup? I would love to find a really good mushroom soup recipe!


Chris said:

Hi Kathy,
Mushrooms were a treat when I was growing up. My Mom and Dad loved them but they were not available commercially as they are today so we had to go out and pick them. I was never happy about this springtime excursion as there was always the expectation that you actually had to find them. (I was about 8.) They were a type of field mushroom – called “pidpenky” or “hryby” in Ukrainian. They were sort of like the small white button mushrooms we now buy. On occasion if we happened to be in a woodsy area Mom would go looking for morels. If she found a clump or two she’d become ecstatic! The next job was even worse than the actually picking. It was a very tedious job to clean those wild mushrooms. Insects loved them as much as Mom and Dad did. There was much trimming to be done! Mom would preserve them in some fashion as they also played a part in our Lenten Christmas Eve meal. Dried mushrooms were treasured like gold.

We rarely had mushroom soup, but when we did it was a thinner version of the mushroom sauce that often graced a special meal. The technique I use is straightforward. One might say it is a cream sauce or brown sauce with mushrooms and thinned to the consistency of soup.

If I were to make it today I would likely:

Saute, in about 1/4 cup butter or fat of your choosing, in a large heavy based pan (a wok is great!) a finely chopped onion with a rib of finely chopped celery and then add at least 4 cloves of chopped garlic, (a small bay leaf adds flavour as does a pinch of thyme). (Roasted garlic is terrific – I should tell you how I do mine.) {If I had rendered chicken or pork fat I would use it.) When all is very soft, add about a pound of cleaned sliced mushrooms and saute (medium heat) until the moisture has evaporated. Add about 3-4 T of flour to make a roux – adding more butter (fat) if necessary. I would add about 1/4 c of dry (white) vermouth to deglaze the pan and then add about 1-2 cups of really rich chicken broth. Since I have not yet added salt, I would not hesitate to add several chicken bouillon cubes. If I have no chicken stock on hand I would use more cubes and just use water. (Save potato water and use it for extra flavour). If I have dried mushrooms available (about 2 ounces) I would soak them for at least half an hour and strain the liquid through a coffee filter. (They can leave quite a residue!) Add the strained mushroom liquor to the pot and then the dried mushrooms – chopped up a bit. Dried mushrooms add so much flavour! Add freshly ground pepper and taste for salt. The final flavouring agents are 2 T chopped fresh dill and some chopped parsley and about 1/2 cup of sour cream or whipping cream and just bring to a boil. So that is the sauce! If I were to make soup, I would use more chicken stock or thin with milk before the addition of the herbs and cream to achieve the desired consistency.
If cream or milk are not desired (as in my Lenten version – which, by the way, means vegan all the way) I might saute a small carrot, diced, with the onion and celery, just to add a bit more substance and flavour and I definitely use potato water for the liquid. When making this version I cook potatoes (for another purpose) in lots of water and save the potato broth.
This is not likely how you hoped to get a recipe. I do go on…and on…and….

It is obvious that some things can be omitted and others added. I do a lot of tasting before I serve anything so I might need to perk the soup up with a hint of cayenne or add more herbs. If I think I want it thicker because this may be the “main course” I may add a handful of frozen peas and maybe some leftover chicken bits before the final addition of cream.

Of course a can of sliced mushrooms instead of fresh is always a possibility. I used to use them before fresh mushrooms were affordable. I did use the liquid from the can but I prefer my potato water.

By the way, I too graduated with a BSc in Household Economics with a food major (many many years ago – I am almost 73!). It was my mother’s dream to be a home ec. teacher (she taught grade 2) and so hoped I would follow that path. I ended up doing an internship in dietetics and became a dietitian. I worked in that field for a couple of years until I began my family. I now live alone but I still cook daily for myself and the odd friend or two.

I do enjoy your Blog. Of course I am not in need of basic instruction but I can still learn many things. A friend recently said she wanted a recipe for “fried rice”. Off the top of my head I said how I might go about it. Then I thought, why don’t I find a recipe that this relatively inexperienced cook might use. That is how I found your Blog and was delighted to find our techniques and ingredients were the same! So, I will be checking in frequently just to make sure I am doing things right.
Keep up the excellent work. You ARE the Home Ec. teacher you were in a classroom!

Chris Ulan

Kathy Maister said:

I LOVE your mushroom picking story! As a child our family would go off blueberry picking. I have one brother who always hid under a blueberry bush eating the berries instead of picking them! Of course the best part was my mom’s home made blueberry pie!

Your mushroom sauce sounds fantastic! Many thanks for sharing the recipe. What type of mushroom are in the sauce?

I am so flattered that someone as experienced as you would take the time to visit my site. I thank you for all your kind words.


Cynthia said:

Hi Kathy,

Thanks for another great one from you!! I think I have asked you this before…is there a place on the site where I can say all my favorite recipies?


Kathy Maister said:

Hi Cynthia,

Great idea but unfortunately we do not have that feature yet!

I think your best option is to just bookmark the page on your own computer.

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as my family does!

Chris said:


I thought I had responded to your mushroom question….I hope this isn’t a repeat.

My favourite mushroom for most uses, but especially for sauces is the “cremini”. It is a brown mushroom that when it gets really big is called a “portobello”. It has more flavour than a white button type.


Kathy Maister said:

Thanks Chris!

MaryJane said:

I’ve really enjoyed reading these posts as I grew up mushroom picking in Southern Illinois! My Lithuanian grandparents cooked a saurerkraut soup using chicken, omitting the split peas and adding diced potatoes. Since I’m one of only two people in the world (I’m told) who does not like chicken, I use left-over pork roast or pork chops. And since my Husband is the only other person who doesn’t like chicken, he loves my version of this soup :-) However, I live in South Carolina now and have no idea where to get the saurerkraut that y’all have mentioned, but I get a jarred kraut that works pretty well for us. m.j.

startcooking said:

It sounds like a perfect soup (and a perfect marriage!).

Chris said:

I was so happy to see this recipe again. I forgot about it! I must now buy some of my great ‘kraut and split peas. Our weather may hamper shopping but before January 6th (my Nativity eve) I must try it!!!

Thanks for posting it again. When I get my act together I will tell you of my results. I am now really looking forward to it!


Chris said:

Dear Kathy, This is going to be a long post. Please edit as you see fit!! First I have to say that the soup, as I made it, is delicious. I made some small additions to suit my taste and style but I don’t believe that the original was lacking. My second comment is to say that if anyone is turned off by the ‘kraut, they should make the soup without it. It is a superb vegan soup…ever so tasty. It is like a French Canadian Pea soup without the ham. I cooked my base longer and with the sauerkraut added it was a total of about 3 hours. (I have checked out your dry split green bean soup and the comments re addition of salt can make a difference to cooking times.) The pea base was so good that before I added the “kraut I set a container aside for freezing just as it was! I used a commercial vegetable broth but it was ever so salty so I didn’t add any more salt. (That may have been the reason for my longer cooking time.) But I love pepper so I added lots more than the recipe calls for. Taste….up to the cook. I used at least twice the onion/celery/carrot. I also added 6 cloves of garlic; a bay leaf and about 2 tsp. caraway seed and a bit of dry thyme. I had a sweet red pepper that was no longer looking very good so I cut it up and added it to the base along with the garlic. This means that your recipe is great but you can add other ingredients as you see fit. When it was time to add the ‘kraut I truthfully didn’t want to add it as the soup was sooooo good as it was. I have great fresh ‘kraut available to me. As you suggest, your readers should try to buy the best ‘kraut available. I don’t know how I would feel about the kind in a jar and definitely not canned. The kind you use Kathy (in a bag) found in the refrigerated meat section sounds like the best choice for those who don’t have access to a German community, as I do, who make really good sauerkraut. I drained the kraut well but didn’t rinse it. I knew I would want some of the liquid and I did add about 1/2 cup at the end of cooking. I like “tart”. My biggest disappointment was with the shreds of my ‘kraut. They were very long. Had I thought about it in advance I would have cut them up into about 2 inch pieces. In fact, the eating was so awkward, that I took a pair of shears to the pot and proceeded to snip. Now that I look back on your pics, I can see that the bagged variety is has just the right length. I encourage everyone to explore a new taste. Do try the recipe. I totally agree, the flavour will develop on standing over night. Thanks Kathy! I am so happy to know that the soup freezes well. I choose to eat many vegan meals and this will be a great healthy addition to my diet for many days. It is a winner. I will be forwarding the recipe to my kids. If they don’t try it… their loss. Cheers!. Chris

startcooking said:

Thanks Chris for all the great suggestions!
I have never had a problem with the cabbage being too long and stringy, but I can see how that would be a problem.
It is a pity that so many people turn their noses up just mentioning cabbage. It is such a versatile vegetable!


tafkajp said:

Cynthia, I save recipes that I find on the web in google documents, you can use whatever online storage site you like. zoho and evernote come to mind. Most food blogs have a print recipe option, I click on it the copy/ paste it into my new google document. But I also want to remember where I got the recipe so I also copy/paste the url of the recipe at the end of my document. This has saved me many times at the grocery store because I am able to pull up my favorite recipes on my phone. no more forgetting that one ingredient.

startcooking said:

BTW -All of my recipes are only from very trustworthy sources. (Joy of cooking, Cooks Illustrated, Barefoot Contessa, Alton Brown, and my sister Marie, just to name a few!)

I test all the recipes when I work at “startcooking-izing” them. Many are way too complicated for beginner cooks. I try to re-interpret them is such a way for all new cooks to understand and not feel intimidated about trying something new. Many times that just means breaking down the steps of a recipe for a beginner cook to be able to better understand. For a new cook, a picture is worth a thousand words!


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