Kyselica (kyselice) is a traditional sauerkraut soup from the historic Wallachian region in the Czech Republic. It translates as sauerkraut soup. It is a thick soup consisting of potatoes, sauerkraut and smoked meat that dates back several centuries. Kyselica has its origins in the word kysely, a Czech word that means “sour”.
Forest workers traditionally ate kyselica as a breakfast meal. It was said that the soup was so hearty that you would not need lunch. Comprising of inexpensive ingredients that were available in abundance, the nutritious soup would prepare the workers for long days in the outdoors. It was especially eaten during the winter months.
There are many variants of the soup, and no one can claim to know what exactly the original recipe was. It is thought that the dish originated form Romania, sometime between the 14th and 17th centuries. Romanian shepherds migrated to the area and it is believed that was when the first kyselica recipe was introduced to the Czech Republic.
Originally, the soup didn’t contain meat, but over the years, various smoked meats have been added to the dish, most commonly smoked sausage and bacon.
Because kyselica dates back many centuries, there are lots of variations of this hearty soup across both the Czech Republic and Northern and Central Europe. Eggs and mushrooms are added to some of the regional variations of kyselica and caraway seeds are added to the aromatics.
In Poland, rye is a traditional ingredient, in their variant called zur, or zurek, and when wheat is used, it is called barszcz bialy (white borscht). Across the border in Slovakia, paprika is added to the soup and this red colored soup is called kapustnica.
Czech cuisine has a long standing tradition of soups. Along with kyselica, other popular soups include kyselo and kulajda. Kyselo is made from sourdough and has a mushroom base. Kulajda is made with potatoes, cream and mushrooms and uses vinegar and dill as its aromatics.
Sauerkraut is a finely cut cabbage that has been fermented by lactic acid. Fermenting the cabbage means that it has a long shelf life and it has a distinctive sour taste. Sauerkraut is a German word translates to “sour herb” or “sour cabbage”. The process of making sauerkraut is similar to how kimchi is made. Cabbage is finely shredded, layered with salt and stored for a minimum of three days. The natural juices released from the cabbage cause the fermentation process. Sauerkraut is more nutritious than the original cabbage, it is rich in vitamins B, C and K, is low in calories and is a good source of calcium, magnesium and dietary fibers. Sauerkraut is a popular ingredient across northern and central Europe, including Germany, Poland and Ukraine.
Kyselica is prepared in a similar way to other soups. The base ingredients (in this case the potatoes and sauerkraut) are boiled together until soft, and the onions and meats are fried until cooked through. The meat and onion are combined with the potato and sauerkraut and cooked together. Sour cream is stirred in once the soup is ready to create a creamy texture. Like other soups, large batches can be made at a time and refrigerated in an air tight container for three or four days. Alternatively, portions can be frozen and then reheated as required.
Kyselica is served as a main meal and often accompanied with fresh bread such as sourdough. In restaurants, smaller portions can be served as an appetizer. In modern times, it is sometimes served in a bread bowl. Kyselica is a thick and creamy soup with a slight sour taste to it, which comes from the sauerkraut base.
This recipe is validated by our culinary expert in Czech cuisine, Kristyna Montano. You can find Kristyna on her food blog CzechCookbook.com.
Kyselica is a deliciously thick traditional soup from the Czech Republic consisting of potatoes, sauerkraut and smoked meat.
- 1 cup sour cream
- 12 oz. white potatoes , peeled and diced
- 5 oz. bacon , cut into cubes
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 2 onions , thinly sliced
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 lb sauerkraut
- 5 oz. large sausages , sliced
- ¼ cup whole milk
- 1-½ cup water
- 4 whole allspice berries (nové koření)
- 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
- 2 bay leaves
In a saucepan, boil ¾ cup of water and add the sauerkraut. Cook on medium / low heat for 15 minutes.
At the same time, in a large pot, boil the potatoes in the remaining ¾ cup of water. Season with salt and pepper and add the caraway seeds, bay leaves and whole allspice berries. Cook for 30 minutes over medium heat.
Once the potatoes are almost cooked, add the sauerkraut and cooking water and simmer over very low heat.
In a frying pan, melt the butter and brown the onions for two minutes. Add the bacon and sausage. Mix well and cook on medium heat for 5 minutes. Set aside.
Gently heat the milk, add the flour, whisk and pour the mixture into the pot and stir well.
Add the fried onion, sausage and bacon. Increase the heat to medium and cook for 15 minutes without stirring.
Turn off the heat and stir in the sour cream. Season with salt and pepper again.
Serve hot with bread.