Slovak Sauerkraut Soup (Kapustnica)

by Jan Vasil
Slovak Sauerkraut Soup (Kapustnica)

Sauerkraut, a fermented cabbage delight, has found its way into the culinary hearts of many European cultures. However, nowhere does it shine brighter than in the traditional Slovak sauerkraut soup, Kapustnica.

A bowl of this hearty soup encapsulates the essence of Slovak traditions, bringing warmth to cold winter nights and gathering families around the dining table.

Sauerkraut Soup for Christmas Eve

Kapustnica holds a special place on the Slovak Christmas Eve dinner table. The festive version often excludes meat, aligning with the Christian tradition of fasting before the Christmas feast. Instead, it’s enriched with dried mushrooms and sometimes dried plums, offering a unique depth of flavor.

This meatless variant is not just a nod to tradition, but also a testament to the versatility of this beloved dish.

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Difference between Slovak Sauerkraut Soup and Polish Kapuśniak

While both soups celebrate the tangy goodness of sauerkraut, there are distinct differences:

  1. Occasion: Kapustnica often stars in the Slovak Christmas Eve feast, especially in its meatless form. Kapusniak in Poland doesn’t have as strong a connection to Christmas Eve.
  2. Ingredients: Slovak Kapustnica can include dried mushrooms, dried plums, and sometimes even wine, while the Polish Kapusniak is more focused on meats and sauerkraut, often with a tomato base.
  3. Meat Varieties: The Slovak version frequently features smoked sausage, while the Polish one might include pork or even ribs.
  4. Texture: Kapustnica tends to be a bit thicker and heartier, with a complex layering of flavors, while Kapusniak is often lighter, leaning on the simplicity of its ingredients.

Slovak Sauerkraut Soup (Kapustnica)

5 from 4 votes
Recipe by Jan Vasil Course: Main CourseCuisine: SlovakDifficulty: Easy


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    • 1000 g 1000 (about 2 lb) sauerkraut, drained

    • 400 g 400 (7 oz) smoked sausage or klobasa, sliced

    • 500 g 500 pork meat (pork shoulder)

    • 100 g 100 (3.5 oz) dried mushrooms

    • 1 large 1 onion, finely chopped

    • 3 3 garlic cloves, minced

    • 1 tsp 1 paprika

    • 1/4 tsp 1/4 black pepper

    • 1/2 tsp 1/2 caraway seeds

    • 2 2 bay leaves

    • 1 tbsp 1 oil or lard

    • 2 liters 2 (about 8 cups) beef or vegetable broth

    • 100 ml 100 (about 1/2 cup) sour cream (optional)

    • Salt, to taste


    • Preparation of Mushrooms
    • Soak the dried mushrooms in warm water for about an hour. After they’re rehydrated, drain and chop them.
    • Sautéing Base
    • In a large pot, heat the oil or lard over medium heat. Add the finely chopped onions and sauté until translucent. Add the minced garlic and sauté for another minute.
    • Adding Sausage
    • Add the sliced smoked sausage or klobasa, and roughly chopped pork shoulder to the pot and let it brown lightly. The meat should be “closed” from all sides.
    • Spices
    • Sprinkle in the paprika, black pepper, caraway seeds, and bay leaves. Stir well to coat the sausage the meat, and onions.
    • Sauerkraut and Mushrooms
    • Add the drained sauerkraut and chopped mushrooms to the pot. Mix well.
    • Broth
    • Pour the beef or vegetable broth into the pot. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, letting it simmer for about 30-40 minutes.
    • Seasoning
    • Taste the soup and adjust the salt as needed. Kapustnica should have a pleasant balance of sourness from the sauerkraut and smokiness from the sausage.
    • Serving
    • Swirl in some sour cream just before serving (optional) for a creamy touch. Serve the soup hot, ideally with a slice of hearty rye bread on the side.


    • Some variations of this recipe include adding dried plums or potatoes for added texture and flavor. You can also find versions with pork or other meats.

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    Can I use fresh cabbage instead of sauerkraut in Kapustnica?

    While sauerkraut is traditional, fresh cabbage can be used as a substitute, though it will lack the distinct tangy flavor.

    How long can I store Kapustnica in the refrigerator?

    The soup can be refrigerated for up to 4-5 days. In fact, its flavors often deepen and improve after a day or two.

    Can I freeze Kapustnica?

    Yes, Kapustnica freezes well. Store it in an airtight container and consume within 2-3 months for the best flavor.

    Is there a vegetarian version of Kapustnica?

    Absolutely! The Christmas Eve version is traditionally meat-free, focusing on mushrooms and other vegetables.

    How do I balance the sourness of the sauerkraut?

    If you find the soup too sour, you can add a pinch of sugar or a splash of water to mellow it out. Some also add a touch of cream for a richer taste.

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    A Christmas around the World - Bellbird Baked Goods November 20, 2023 - 3:39 am

    […] Christmas Eve and so the dinner on the 24th is our most important meal. Our table would always have kapustnica (sauerkraut soup) and fried fish with potato salad as a main course. Other parts of Slovakia have […]

    Judith Busek February 25, 2024 - 2:18 am

    Very good info on a family favorite! Ours is the Slovak type & many non-Slovak friends also love it !

    Jan Vasil February 28, 2024 - 1:04 pm

    As a Slovak born I am thrilled to hear that 🙂 What other Slovak recipe do you like? Thank you, Jan


    Leave a Comment

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