Thursday, July 11, 2013

Solyanka Soup

Solyanka is rich Eastern European soup especially adored by meat lovers as includes several types of meat, and a lot of it! Really, carnivore's haven :)

Blog's Category: International, USSR-era Recipes



In any restaurant on a territory of former USSR, you, most likely, will find solyanka on a menu. I'm not the biggest fan of this dish (geee..I'm vegetarian..) but can totally understand why people love it - there is abundance of meat in it, meat of any sorts - classic version of  solyanka even includes kidneys as one of the elements. The recipe below doesn't have kidneys but is the most popular type of solyanka - with smoked meat, pork and salami as a meat components.
But the most distinguished feature of solyanka is its sour base achieved by adding pickles, capers and olives to the soup and finished up with a slice of lemon as a garnish and additional element.
If to think about it, it's actually very balanced soup, rich and heavy meats are stabilized by sour nature of the soup. But no worries, this sourness equalized with some sugar added in a process and freshened up with fresh herbs.

What is it?

A lot of meats, one of which has to be smoked, cooked up together; pickles, capers, olives and tomato paste are added then to the stock. Soup finished up with sour cream, fresh herbs and slice of lemon.

Taste Description

Meaty, rich flavors married happily with a concentrated sweet and sour taste of a soup base. Magically, flavors, taste and textures are joint all together into smoky-pickly-herby luscious symphony of sensations. But don't overindulge yourself, this rich in all its meanings soup has to be consumed in moderation. As my dad was always saying - it ain't tasty anymore if you have ample of it.

How to Serve

Serve in a small bowls, piping hot, with "the must" garnishes - fresh herbs (dill or parsley), dollop of sour cream and thin slice of lemon.

  • 1-2 small pieces of smoked meat (any type - from pork shouder to turkey drumstick)
  • 1 lb of pork, beef, chicken or all together
  • 1/3 lb salami, diced
  • 1/3 lb ham, diced
  • 3 tbs olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 2 tbs tomato paste
  • 2 5" pickles, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup capers, roughly smashed (or pulsed in a processor)
  • 1.5 cup olives (any type)
  • fresh parsley or dill, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • black pepper to taste
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tbs sugar
  • some lemon slices for garnish
  • some sour cream to serve

- In a large pot, cook smoked and raw meat until fully cooked and falling apart. Fish out meat pieces from a broth and set aside to cool it down a bit then separate meat from a bones and tear  or cut it a small pieces. Set aside.

- Meanwhile, prepare tomato sauce - in skillet, cook onion and garlic in olive oil until soft. Add tomato paste, black pepper and cup or two of water. Simmer for a couple minutes until it's smooth.

- Return chopped meat back in a pot with a stock, add diced salami, ham, pickles, capers, olives, tomato sauce, salt, sugar and couple bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then turn heat down and simmer for about 40-60 minutes until all flavors are incorporated.

- Taste, adjust salt and sugar. Don't be afraid to add sugar - you may need to add it more to balance acidity level to your liking.

- Serve with sour cream, fresh herbs and lemon. And Enjoy!


- Sometimes I end up with a way too fatty soup. In this case, in addition to skimming some fat off the surface during cooking, I remove solidified fat from a top after soup will rest in a fridge for some time. You can lighten up the soup this way too - your body will thank you later;)


Add bay leaves now or later - they will give a great base flavor to your stock.

Use good quality ham, not chopped-all-together-unknown-parts type.

..almost done...


  1. This is a great recipe and some wonderful pictures, I have bookmarked this and will be referring to it often. Living in eastern europe I regularly see this recipe in the restaurants, it has always been a firm favourite of mine. Now I am cooking a batch for myself and all I would add is a teaspoon of dried red paprika and extra puree, although I am not sure how many servings this recipe is for? And I am sure it depends on how spicy you like your soup.
    Currently -15c outside and the wind is howling around the house, whipping up the snow into drifts feels like -23c, so you can imagine this soup (or Zupa in Polish) needs to be very hot and warming as the family return home.
    Great post shared and enjoyed :)

    1. Isn't it perfect soup for a such a nasty winter - rich, with a bold flavors going on.. I'm glad you liked it. My bad - I didn't mention exact size of a pot and how much water was used. It's eye-balled, approximately 5 liter pot filled almost to the top.. I bet paprika and extra puree made your soup even more flavorful (I'm wondering if there is such a thing as too much flavor :)) . Keep yourself warm and toasty in this freeze, cheers!

  2. Hmm. You're vegetarian and you cook soup with meat and such big amounts of it. Kinda weird if you can't even taste your dish. Also, so many kinds of animals gave their lifes for this pot. I searched for interesting vegan options of solyanka but found this. Even this soup can be veganized and taste similar to original. Fake meats, smoked tofu, tempeh - they're all here. And the salty-sour base makes this soup stand out, not the meat I think. And skimming some fat at the surface won't make this soup healthier I guess. Sorry if this sounds bitchy.

    1. Nope, I'm not considering it's bitchy :). I just appreciate your honesty. Yes, it sounds weird being vegetarian and cook such a meaty dishes. But I do it indeed. It is because I have a carnivorous family and I think have no rights to force them into vegetarianism unless that would be their own decision. And I still have to cook for them because I care. Also, it's not quite accurate that I'm not tasting a dish. While cooking meat based dishes I can taste soup's liquid or sauce to get an idea about seasoning and flavor. Final review I'm usually getting from a family which allows me to judge how successful a recipe was. My long cooking experience helps as well, including that I acquired many years ago being meat-eater. Regarding skimming, I just made a point that, IMHO, removing some impurities and extra fat from a surface will make this soup lighter for digestion. Also, I won't go into a deep woods of discussing vegan-ism versus animal-eating as it is very complex subject and, after all, matter of personal choice. Thanks for vising my blog though!


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