Learn how to make a vegetarian version of this classic, Czech sauerkraut soup, called zelňačka. It’s a light-bodied, refreshing soup, and you’ll only need five simple ingredients.
The sauerkraut and sour cream bring a pleasant, tangy taste to the soup, the potatoes add a starchy texture and subtle sweetness, and the egg gives it a pretty color.
I grew up in the Czech countryside where it was a popular soup. Both my mom and my grandma made it regularly for lunch.
Ingredients you’ll need to make this sauerkraut soup:
There are no ingredient surprises on the list. There are a few of them and you’re probably familiar with all of them:
- SAUERKRAUT – the star ingredient. See below for more information and my favorite way to make it.
- POTATOES – pretty much any type of potato works in this recipe: Yellow, Red, Russet, Yukon, except for yams or sweet potatoes (too sweet for this recipe). Here’s a great potato guide from Jessica Gavin.
- SOUR CREAM – it adds body to the soup as well as creaminess. And it ups the acidity, too.
- EGGS – you’ll beat one raw egg and stir it into the soup—it creates pretty, yellow streaks in the soup and adds extra texture. You can serve the soup with a soft-boiled egg—scroll down for an easy cooking method.
- ALL-PURPOSE FLOUR – you’ll stir it into the sour cream and it will thicken the soup. You can use gluten-free flour if you have gluten intolerance.
- SUGAR – it’s optional and depends on how sour you want your soup to be. My mom always adds a tablespoon of sugar to give it a sweet note.
What is sauerkraut and how do you make it?
The word sauerkraut is German and translates as “sour cabbage”. In its simplest form, sauerkraut is made by mixing grated cabbage (green or red) with salt, and allowing it to ferment.
Sometimes spices, herbs, or other vegetables are added as well. Sauerkraut is a healthy, probiotic, raw vegan product, and a great source of vitamin C.
I love it raw straight from the jar, mixed into chopped salads (nice crunch!), as a side with steamed vegetables, or in soups like this Czech zelňačka. Sauerkraut is very popular in Central and Eastern Europe, and it is featured in many of the region’s recipes.
You might think sauerkraut is a German invention—it’s definitely popular there—, but it actually comes from China. It was a common thing the Chinese workers ate while building the Great Wall of China, going back about 2000 years.
Can you make sauerkraut at home?
Yes you can and yes, you should! Not only is it very easy to make—you just need cabbage, salt, a sharp knife, and a jar—but you’ll also save tons of money. Also, store-bought sauerkraut tends to be expensive, and unreliable in taste and texture.
My friend Holly Howe is a sauerkraut and fermentation expert, and a founder of Make Sauerkraut.
I use her fool-proof Bare-Naked Sauerkraut recipe when I make sauerkraut at home. Check out Holly’s scientific, tested method and start making your own sauerkraut in your kitchen.
How to make vegetarian sauerkraut soup
You’ll make everything in one pot and the steps are easy-breezy:
- Cook sauerkraut in water.
- Add potatoes and cook until soft.
- Add sour cream mixed with flour, and cook until slightly thickened.
- Stir in egg. Adjust seasoning and serve.
How do you serve the Czech sauerkraut soup?
You can eat it as is, but it’s excellent (and looks so pretty) with a halved, soft-boiled egg, a.k.a. the 6-minute egg. It’s one of my staples and very easy to make. Here’s a visual:
The easy way to cook a 6-minute egg:
- Bring a small pot of water to a boil over high heat (use bigger pot than pictured if cooking more than one egg).
- Carefully add an egg.
- Lower the heat to medium-low, and set a timer for 6 minutes.
- Immediately, place the pot with the egg under cold running water, to stop the cooking (you can also create an ice bath and place the egg in it).
- When cool enough to handle, peel the egg.
- It is now ready to use. You can store unpeeled soft-boiled eggs in the fridge for up to two days.
If you have fresh herbs lying around—parsley, basil, thyme and cilantro come to mind—chop them up and throw them into the soup.
More Soups and Other Czech recipes:
Czech Potato Soup (Bramboračka)
Czech Potato Pancakes (Bramboráky)
Cheesy Egg Nests
Sweet and Sour One-Pot Green Lentils
New Year’s Day Good Luck Green Lentil Soup
Linzer Cookies With Raspberry Jam
Roasted Fruit Tea (Berry & Tropical)
Have you made this Czech Vegetarian Sauerkraut Soup (Zelňačka). Do you need help pronouncing Zelňačka? It’s a little tongue twister! And do you make your own sauerkraut?
Tell me in the comments.Print
Czech Vegetarian Sauerkraut Soup (Zelňačka)
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 20 minutes
- Total Time: 30 minutes
- Yield: Serves $
- Category: Soup
- Cuisine: Czech
Vegetarian version of a classic, Czech sauerkraut soup, called zelňačka. It’s a light-bodied, refreshing soup, and you’ll only need five simple ingredients.
- 1½ cups (145 g) strained, roughly chopped sauerkraut
- 7 cups cold water
- 2 cups (280 g) diced potatoes, skin-on or peeled, about 1/2-inch dice (yellow, russet, or red potatoes)
- 1 cup (227 g) sour cream
- 2 tablespoons (22 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1 tablespoon (15 g) sugar (optional)
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste (optional)
- Soft-boiled, 6-minute egg (optional)
- Combine the sauerkraut with the water in a medium-size pot, and bring to a boil over high heat.
- Lower the heat, add the potatoes, and cook until soft, 12–15 minutes.
- Mix the sour cream with the flour in a small bowl, and stir it into the soup. Add the salt. Cook, stirring occasionally until the soup thickens slightly, about 3 minutes.
- Stir in the egg and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the sugar and black pepper, if using .
- Ladle the soup into a bowl and serve with a soft-boiled egg (optional).
- Store the soup, covered, in the refrigerator, for up to 3 days. Don’t freeze—the soup would separate and become grainy.
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