Traditional Polish Sour Rye Zurek Soup Recipe

Zurek Soup is one of our favourite Eastern European soups to cook at home.

Our authentic Polish Sour Rye Zurek Soup recipe is quick and easy to make, ready to serve in under an hour.

You’ll love spooning through a bowl of homemade Polish Sour Rye Soup featuring flavourful rye sourdough starter, garlic, onions, smoked bacon and kielbasa sausage.

If you’re a bread baker and looking for a new tasty sourdough discard recipe to try, Zurek features “zakwas,” a rye sourdough starter. If you have never made a sourdough starter before, please be aware that it takes approximately 4-5 days to care for before sufficiently active.

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What Is Soup?

Soup is a liquid food, generally served warm or hot (but can also be served cold like gazpacho), that is prepared by combining meat or vegetables with stock or water.

Hot soups are additionally characterized by boiling solid ingredients in liquids in a pot until the flavours are extracted, creating a rich broth.

Soups are similar to stews, and in some cases there may not be a clear distinction between the two. Soups generally have more liquid (broth) than chunkier and heartier stews.

In traditional French cuisine, soups are classified into two groups: clear soups (bouillon and consomme) and thick soups (purees, bisques, veloutes).

Purées are vegetable soups thickened with starch; bisques are made from puréed shellfish or vegetables thickened with cream; cream soups may be thickened with béchamel sauce; and veloutés are thickened with eggs, butter, and cream.

Ingredients you'll need to make homemade Polish Zurek Soup.
Ingredients you’ll need to make homemade Polish Zurek Soup.

History of Soup

Evidence of the existence of soup can be found as far back as about 20,000 BC. Boiling was not a common cooking technique until the invention of waterproof containers, such as clay pots. To boil the water hot rocks were used.

The word soup comes from French soupe (broth), which comes through Vulgar Latin suppa (“bread soaked in broth”) from a Germanic source, from which also comes the word “sop”, a piece of bread used to soak up soup or a thick stew.

The word restaurant (meaning “restoring”) was first used in France in the 16th century, to refer to a highly concentrated, inexpensive soup, sold by street vendors, that was advertised as a cure to physical exhaustion. In 1765, a Parisian entrepreneur opened a shop specializing in such soups. This prompted the use of the modern word restaurant for eating establishments.

In America, the first colonial cookbook was published by William Parks in Williamsburg, Virginia, in 1742, based on Eliza Smith’s The Compleat Housewife; or Accomplished Gentlewoman’s Companion, and it included several recipes for soups and bisques.

English cooking dominated early colonial cooking; but as new immigrants arrived from other countries, other national soups gained popularity. In particular, German immigrants living in Pennsylvania were famous for their potato soups. In 1794, Jean Baptiste Gilbert Payplat dis Julien, a refugee from the French Revolution, opened an eating establishment in Massachusetts called The Restorator, and became known as the “Prince of Soups”.

Start preparing the Zurek Soup by dicing smoked bacon and chopping vegetables.
Start preparing the Zurek Soup by dicing smoked bacon and chopping vegetables.

Travel to Poland by Cooking Zurek Soup at Home

I love traveling to Europe.

As a professional food and travel journalist, I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy amazing meals in Europe, from traditional markets to award winning restaurants.

For over ten years, I’ve been on the hunt for the best Sour Rye Zurek Soup. I’ve embarked on culinary adventures at Eastern European restaurants in Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Bosnia, Estonia, Latvia and Russia.

In Poland, I slurped hot bowls of Zurek Soup in Krakow’s finest restaurants including the dining rooms at Sheraton Grand Krakow and Hotel Kanonicza 22.

After you’ve enjoyed your first few sips, you’ll realize why Zurek Soup is a must-try taste in Poland!

Fry smoked bacon, garlic and onions in a skillet.
Fry smoked bacon, garlic and onions in a skillet.

Where To Eat Authentic Polish Zurek Soup

If you live in a large city in Canada or America you’ll likely have access to a local Polish restaurant that serves a traditional Zurek Soup.

Haven’t traveled to the Poland before? It may be helpful to first sample Sour Rye Polish Soup at a local restaurant to better understand how the soup is served. You’ll get an idea of how much kielbasa to add to each bowl and the desired sour flavour. You’ll also find inspiration on what to pair with homemade Zurek Soup including cabbage rolls, bigos, roasted beets, plump pierogi and Mizeria Creamy Polish Cucumber Salad.

In Toronto, popular Eastern European restaurants that may serve a traditional Sour Rye Zurek Soup include Cafe Polonez, Wvrst, Country Style Hungarian, Tennessee Tavern, Amber European and Chopin.

Many of the best Ukrainian/Polish restaurants in the city are located in Roncesvalles Village, located between The Junction and Parkdale. Visit in the Fall for Roncesvalles Polish Fest to enjoy a fabulous taste of Polish culture.

Add zakwas spiced Polish rye sourdough starter to flavour and thicken the soup.
Add zakwas spiced Polish rye sourdough starter to flavour and thicken the soup.

My Family Loves Zurek Soup

My family has a tradition of eating soup and salad for lunch on Sunday’s after getting home from church. Soup is such an simple and brainless meal to serve a busy family with kids.

My dad would often make cream of tomato soup and serve a bowl with grilled cheese sandwiches and pickles. Our family also loved slurping through bowls of Butternut Squash Soup, French Onion Soup and Chicken Noodle Soup.

Some of the fondest memories of my childhood spent in Toronto, Markham, Oakville and Muskoka are cozying up to a bowl of homemade soup with gourmet crackers, artisanal cheese and sourdough bread.

During October in Ontario we’d often visit popular Fall Fairs in Norfolk County, Niagara and Prince Edward County to go on fun rides, run through corn mazes and purchase fresh local fruits and vegetables at the peak of harvest season.

Onions, carrots and parsnips are available in abundance year round in Canada but we especially love to serve this savoury soup during Thanksgiving and the chilly winter season.

Zurek Soup tastes rich and is uniquely soured with “Zakwas,” fermented rye sourdough starter. Polish families traditionally serve hot bowls of homemade Zurek during the Easter holidays, but you can order in in restaurants across Poland year round.

Zurek is also hilariously referred to by locals as Polish Hangover Soup. The hearty sausage and bacon-filled soup is a popular late night remedy after drinking too many Pilsner Urquell.

Slice Polish sausage and ladle into soup bowls.
Slice Polish sausage and ladle into soup bowls.

Zurek Soup Health Benefits

Our homemade Sour Zurek Soup recipe is packed full of healthy ingredients!

Onions are a humble vegetable packed with vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. Regular consumption of leeks can help boost digestive health and reduce the risk of developing heart disease.

It is only recently that scientists have begun to identify the components responsible for garlic’s myriad health benefits. Rich in phytochemicals and potassium, garlic helps boost your immune system, fight cancer and protect your heart.

An excellent source of vitamin A and the phytochemical beta-carotene, carrots help keep your eyes and bones healthy, and may help protect against several types of cancer.

Eggs contain two vital nutrients that are not present in many foods: iodine and vitamin D. Eggs are also rich in tissue-building protein and vitamin B12, which helps your body manufacture blood cells.

Packed with calcium and friendly probiotic bacteria, sour cream and yogurt help keep your bones strong and your gut healthy. Yogurt may also help reduce the risk of obesity, diabetes and some types of cancer. 

An excellent source of vitamin K, as well as vitamin C, folate, and iron, parsley helps keep your bones and blood healthy, and protects your skin from damage by free radicals.

Serve Polish Rye Sour Zurek Soup with pierogies, cabbage rolls, horseradish and pickles.
Serve Polish Rye Sour Zurek Soup with pierogies, cabbage rolls, horseradish and pickles.

Zurek SoupTips

This healthy homemade soup is quick and easy to make at home. We’ve included a few tips for first time soup makers!

  • Use a large cast iron dutch oven with a high rim to reduce splatter when cooking and pureeing the vegetables.
  • We suggest using a high quality rubber spatula spoon when making soup so you can easily stir, scrape down the side of the pot and sip to check if it needs to be seasoned further with more salt before spooning into bowls.
  • If you want a super sour soup feel free to add additional zakwas sourdough starter before serving.
  • If you can’t find raw white Polish sausage at the grocery store substitute for German bratwurst.
  • Regional varieties for Zurek can be served with potatoes, parsley root or celery root.
  • In Polish restaurants, Zurek soup is traditionally served in a rye bread bowl. Feel free to serve in your favourite soup bowl with a slice of sourdough bread.
Zurek Soup is traditionally served in a bread bowl at restaurants in Poland.
Zurek Soup is traditionally served in a bread bowl at restaurants in Poland.

What To Serve with Our Zurek Soup Recipe

There’s nothing more comforting on a cold day then cozying up to a bowl of soup with a fresh salad, gourmet crackers, artisanal cheeses, sourdough bread, savoury muffins and homemade pickles.

If you’re hosting a large dinner party you might want to serve our Sour Polish Soup as an appetizer before serving heartier mains. We love serving this soup with Osaka Okonomayaki, Calgary Ginger Beef, Keto Jalapeno Poppers, Instant Pot Short Rib Ragu, Cheesy Polenta, Vegetarian Roti Canai Curry, Gruyere Grilled Cheese Sandwich, Old School Cheese and Onion Pie, Green Onion Cake, Baked Mediterranean Chicken Thighs, Baked Chicken Cracklings, Homemade Savoury Pickle Pie, Indian Crepes, Vietnamese Crepe Bánh Xèo, Tartiflette Reblochon or Ricotta Gnocchi.

After dinner why not dazzle your guests with one of our popular desserts such as Oat Flour Cookies with Chocolate Chips, Dark Chocolate Lindt Lindor Cookies, Maraschino Cherry Cupcakes Recipe or Cinnamon Babka For Chocolate Lovers.

Garnish Zurek with parsley, hard boiled egg, sour cream and chopped dill pickles.
Garnish Zurek with parsley, hard boiled egg, sour cream and chopped dill pickles.

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We love cooking homemade Zurek Soup on a cold Fall or Winter day.
We love cooking homemade Zurek Soup on a cold Fall or Winter day.

Storing Polish Zurek Soup

If you have leftover Cream of Shrimp Soup you can store it in the fridge in an airtight container for up to a week. To reheat simply zap it in the microwave or simmer in a small saucepan on the stove.

We love doubling our soup recipes so can store leftovers in the freezer and save time on cooking in the kitchen. We suggest storing leftover soup in Pyrex freezer safe containers that have a snug lid so there’s not spilling. My mother often uses old glass pasta sauce jars to store soup in the freezer.

Be sure to let your soup reach room temperature before storing it in the freezer. If you add a hot jar of soup to a cold freezer it will significantly reduce the interior temperature and potentially spoil your food.

Store leftover Zurek Soup for up to a week in the fridge or 3 months in the freezer.
Store leftover Zurek Soup for up to a week in the fridge or 3 months in the freezer.

How To Make Polish Sour Zurek Soup

Print Recipe
5 from 2 votes

Polish Sour Rye Zurek Soup

Learn how to make the best homemade Zurek Soup. Our traditional & authentic sour rye Polish soup features bacon, kielbasa and sour cream.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time45 mins
Total Time1 hr
Course: Appetizer, Soup
Cuisine: Polish
Keyword: Polish Soup, Sour Rye Soup, Zurek Soup
Servings: 8
Calories: 392kcal

Equipment

  • Dutch Oven or Large Pot
  • Spatula or Wooden Spoon
  • measuring cups
  • measuring spoons
  • French knife
  • Skillet

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Active Rye Sourdough Starter
  • 4 Bay Leaf
  • 5 All-Spice Berries
  • 5 Black Peppercorns
  • 2 litres Beef Stock
  • 7 oz Smoked bacon
  • 1 White onion chopped
  • 2 Carrots chopped
  • 2 Parsnips chopped
  • 500 g Kielbasa Sausage
  • 1 Garlic clove
  • 3 tbsp Whipping cream
  • 1 tbsp Dried Marjoram
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 4 Boiled eggs garnish
  • Parsley garnish
  • Horseradish garnish
  • Sour cream garnish
  • Dill Pickles garnish

Instructions

  • In a large pot or dutch oven, pour in beef stock and simmer over medium heat.
  • Add bacon to a skillet and fry over medium heat for 5-7 minutes.
  • Once the bacon fat has rendered, add the onion pieces and continue frying until both ingredients turn golden brown.
  • Pour the bacon and onion mixture into the dutch oven with beef stock. Add carrots and parsnip.
  • Add white kiełbasa (uncut, whole links) and continue cooking for 30-40 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, boil the eggs. Once cooked allow them to cool to room temperature.
  • Add 1⅓ cups of zakwas spiced Polish rye sourdough starter for a mild Zurek, or up to 2 cups for a more sour tasting soup.
  • Add dried marjoram and chopped garlic, cook for another 4-5 minutes.
  • Take the pot off the heat. Remove the sausage with slotted spoon, slice and return to the pot.
  • Slowly pour whipping cream into the pot. Have a taste and adjust seasoning with salt & pepper.
  • Serve Zurek soup in large bowls and top with dollop of sour cream, sliced dill pickles, chopped parsley, spoonful of horseradish and sliced hard boiled egg.

Nutrition

Calories: 392kcal | Carbohydrates: 7.9g | Protein: 25.9g | Fat: 28.6g | Saturated Fat: 10.4g | Cholesterol: 172mg | Sodium: 2303mg | Potassium: 400mg | Fiber: 1.2g | Sugar: 1.6g | Calcium: 48mg | Iron: 3mg

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