Zelnečka: Czech Cabbage Soup (with Vegan option)

by Spicie Foodie on January 8, 2014

Zelnečka: Czech Cabbage Soup by @SpicieFoodie | #zelnecka #cabbage #soup #Czech #kielbasa

Seriously, what is going on with the weather all over the world? If it isn’t habitable land turning into arctic tundra, it’s sweltering heat, or colossal waves and record setting rainfall causing “state of emergency” flooding. I know, as someone who lives in the Tropics I shouldn’t be complaining about the weather. Though we’ve had too much rain, cloudy and cooler days, it’s nothing at all like so many of you in North and South America, Australia and England have been experiencing. So I won’t complain and instead I’ll share a recipe to keep, those of you currently experiencing the arctic tundra, warm. If you are melting in the summer heat make sure to check out my archives for cooling recipes.

Zelnečka is a his hearty cabbage soup that comes from Czech Republic. This is my husband’s favourite Czech soup and my second favourite, after bramboračka. Don’t think because it is made out of cabbage that it isn’t a tasty soup, it’s delicious! The cabbage that is used is actually fermented cabbage or sauerkraut, this gives the soup it’s slight tangy taste that is quite unique. The red colour comes from the klobasa, or sausage, as well as the paprika that is used to spice the soup. To make the soup even heartier, potatoes are also added. The result is a soup made with humble ingredient that tastes a tad tangy, smokey, paprika-ey, and right down scrumptious; It will surely keep you warm this winter.

My recipe is a general recipe that many people follow. I, of course, added a tad of spiciness that you can completely omit if you want to make a very authentic Czech soup recipe. If Czech klobasa is not available where you live try to find a paprika spiced pork sausage. If you still cannot find the paprika spiced sausage then use regular kielbasa and add extra, about another tablespoon, of paprika.

Zelnečka: Czech Cabbage Soup by @SpicieFoodie | #zelnecka #cabbage #soup #Czech #kielbasa

Though a meaty soup zelnečka can also be made vegan, please check the “Notes” section in the recipe below. Okay, let’s get the soup pot going.

5.0 from 4 reviews
Zelnečka: Czech Cabbage Soup (with Vegan option)
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
This hearty Czech soup will keep you warm all winter long. It tastes smokey, paprika, tangy and just plain scrumptious! For a vegan version check the "Notes" section.
Recipe type: soup, stew,
Cuisine: Czech, European
Serves: 4-6
  • One 500 g or 1 lb. package of sauerkraut (jarred may also be used)
  • 2 klobasa sausages, cut into bite-size slices or pieces*
  • 1 extra large potato, peeled and cubed or cut into even-sized pieces
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp olive or vegetable oil
  • 1 large dried bay leaf
  • 2 tbsp sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp whole caraway seed
  • ¼ tsp ground black pepper
  • large pinch of ground cayenne pepper, optional
  • 1 liter or 4 cups of water**
  • smetana or sour cream to top soup
  1. Drain the sauerkraut, then place in a large bowl and cover with water, set aside. In a large pot heat the oil, add the onion and potatoes and saute until the potatoes are soft and onion translucent. Next add the sausage and garlic, cook for another 3 minutes. If the sausage releases a lot of oil drain most of it out. Add the bay leaf and caraway seed to the pot, cook for 2 minutes. Next add the smoked paprika, cayenne, black pepper and water, give the ingredients a stir.
  2. Drain the sauerkraut and add to the pot -- gently to prevent splashing. Cover and simmer the soup for 45 minutes or as long as desired. Allow to cool for 15 minutes before serving. Serve with a dollop of sour cream.
*If Czech klobasa is not available, then substitute with other paprika spiced sausage or Polish kielbasa. If a paprika based sausage is not available, please add one more tablespoon of paprika to the pot.

**Instead of water you may use either vegetable or chicken broth for more flavour.

!Make it vegan:
To make this soup vegan/vegetarian replace the klobasa with a vegetarian sausage. You will also need to add the extra tablespoon of paprika, in total using three tablespoons. Instead of sour cream you can use a vegetarian cream or yogurt.


Zelnečka: Czech Cabbage Soup by @SpicieFoodie | #zelnecka #cabbage #soup #Czech #kielbasa

The soup may be served as a starter or as a main. This time I served it as a main meal, and to make it a more authentic Czech experience I served it alongside potato pancakes and Becherovka, which is a special liqueur that tastes like cloves and some other magical ingredients. Before you ask, I’m still working on perfecting the potato pancake recipe and will share it as soon as I’m satisfied. In the meantime I hope you make yourself a big pot of zelnečka to keep you warm.

As they say in the Czechlands, “Dobrou chut’! or bon appetit or enjoy your meal!


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in European,Soups/Stews

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