veselkas-cabbage-soup Recipes

veselka’s cabbage soup

Shuna introduced me to this soup. I think it was July 2007 and she’d gathered a bunch of food bloggers at Veselka, a Ukranian diner in the East Village famous for serving awesome beer-blotting food like borsht, stuffed cabbage and pierogis around the clock. It was hot and humid out, however, so the thought of anything besides a grilled kielbasa, pickles and a cold beer seemed insane, and yet there was our host, ordering cabbage soup.

sauerkraut

I thought this Eggbeater was insane. Who eats soup in the summer? But Shuna insisted I try at least a spoonful, and that sip did me in. I spent the rest of July craving move and finally caved in August, sitting in that cafe eating steaming hot soup on a steaming hot day because it was the best thing, ever.

soup, pre-skim

This is no flat but earnest cabbage soup. It is cooked with a mix of chicken broth and cubes of fatty pork, then not just cabbage, but sauerkraut and then extra “juice” at the end to punch it up. It’s the kind of thing you’d eat every day of the shivery winter, if Veselka weren’t a cruel 1.7 miles across and then downtown, which feels even longer the colder it gets.

So you can imagine how out of my mind overjoyed I was when New York Magazine ran Veselka’s recipe for cabbage soup — that cabbage soup — a couple weeks ago. And although I considered not posting today at all — on this last day of November — just to be a punk, the fact is, this is what we had for dinner (and a batch of this) and I aim to share. You know, right before I take a nap for all of December.

veselka's cabbage soup

One year ago: Fennel Ice Cream

Veselka’s Cabbage Soup
Courtesy of NYMag

Serves 6 to 8

1 pound pork butt, cut into small cubes
1 1/2 quarts chicken stock
4 cups water
3 allspice berries
3 bay leaves
1 tablespoon dried marjoram
1 cup sauerkraut, plus around 4 tablespoons juice
1 large potato, peeled and diced
2 carrots, minced
3 stalks celery, minced
1 small onion, diced
2 cups fresh cabbage, shredded thin

Place the pork in a medium stockpot with the chicken stock, water, allspice, bay leaves, and marjoram. Bring to a boil and then simmer on low heat for about 2 hours. Remove the pork and set aside on a plate to cool. Skim fat from stock, leaving a few “eyes” of fat for flavor.

Add sauerkraut and simmer for 20 minutes. Add potato and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the carrots, celery, onion, and cabbage and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the pork and simmer for 10 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add sauerkraut juice.

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114 comments on veselka’s cabbage soup

  1. wow, Veselka’s was my favourite food place in NYC when I visited a couple of years ago. Just two blocks from where I was staying, I spent a lot of time there eating and people watching. Will have to make your soup!

  2. The pierogis are delicious but i think the soups are really where it’s at when it comes to veselka. their split pea is great as is the borscht. How i’ve never tried the cabbage soup is beyond me–i love all things cabbage. Think I might have to take a detour there some time this week….

  3. Becky

    I have to say, I am very said November is over. I looked quite forward to opening google reader to see Smitten Kitchen’s newest post. I had a tonsillectomy 10 days ago and have been living off apple sauce and mashed potatoes since then (when I’m not bleeding, you know) and my only saving grace has been marking down all my favourite recipes on your websites that I plan to make and eat all of, when I can finally eat something that is more substantial than puree. Thank you for all the unbelievably delicious recipes you’ve posted with pictures that certainly do not hurt the cause…

  4. Wendy

    My heart jumped a little when I pulled up your page and saw Veselka in the title of the post. Just last week I searched the web over for a recipe for their awesome borscht. Sadly, I couldn’t find one, but I am sure this is fabulous. I just wish the borscht recipe were out in print, too!

  5. Susan

    I have a Russian Cabbage Soup recipe that I love which is beef broth based with bits of brisket in it and a few raisins for the occasional sweet note against the savory. I’ve wanted a chicken broth based cabbage soup with some special kick as well. Sauerkraut added to this one for a tangy note sounds like a combo I would love. Thanks, I’m look forward to trying this soon!

  6. Sarah

    You made it through NaBloPoMo like a champ! Congratulations! I think we’ve all been completely spoiled by this past month. Even though you’re probably wiped out enough from daily posting to nap through December, I (for one) can’t wait to read your next post, whenever you’re able to muster the energy to cook/post/photograph again. Thank you!

  7. Margaret

    I, too, loved all the November postings. I wish NaBloPoMo was NaBloPoYear! But that’d probably be hell. Anyway, I’m delurking to ask if I might be able to make this soup with beef and beef broth. Would it overpower the flavor of other things? And if it would work, what sort of cut of beef should I use? Many thanks!!

  8. I found the name Veselka very funny:). I am originally from former Yugoslavia, and there is such a name reserved only for 100+ years old grannies:) I didn’t hear it for ages:)…
    The soup is, no doubt, very tasty (I like such a kind of food).

  9. Tad

    My heritage is Polish but when we visited NYC (from Sydney) on our honeymoon we were drawn to Veselka as an option for a jetlagged very early breakfast. I had the beetroot soup at 7am then but this option looks just as good. Can’t wait to try it in our miniscule kitchen… :)

  10. I have taken the day off work with a horrible cold and cough, wish someone would deliver a bowl of this to me across the Atlantic! Congratulations on finishing NaBloPoMo, I managed but only just so your dedication will be my model next year.

  11. My Baba used to make this soup – so yummy! It’s the Ukranian version of hot and sour soup if you think about it.

    My baba’s trick was to make hers with homemade sauerkraut (kapusta in Ukranian), too.

  12. Sue

    Your daily posts will be missed!
    If I can get away from work to pick up the missing ingredients I will make this for supper for tonight. It sounds wonderful right now as it is something like 17 degrees here this morning!

  13. I’m so glad you posted this recipe. I will soon be moving to Pennsylvania and will miss my visits to Veselka’s. I’m taking this recipe with me. I adore the Bigos there also. Thanks for sharing.

  14. I just spent all Thanksgiving weekend eating tons of my grandma’s cabbage and noodles, so while everyone else is turkeyed out, I’m cabbaged out! :) Congrats on a great Nov – your post were amazing!!

  15. We just finished a pot of kapusta soup (european name) When mine is cooked, I add some sour cream to which I’ve added a couple spoons of browned flour. Just delicious.

  16. Sauerkraut…what a great way to add not only veggies, but a lot of zing! I often struggle to find decent ingredients to add a touch of acidity to my soups, and plain old vinegar just isn’t doing it for me any more.

  17. MMM! This sounds divine. It’s hard for me to cook meat since my live-in bf is a veg, but this might be too good to pass up. Am sure it wouldn’t be the same w/o the pork butt, am I right? (Please correct me if I’m wrong!)
    Also, when I go in to a butcher or store to buy pork butt, is that how I ask for it?

  18. don

    Sounds like a meal at the Ukrainian Reading Hall here. Southern Manitoba is strongly Ukrainian and when their comunity centre does a celebratory feast it’s a wonder to behold.

  19. Carrie

    This looks delicious! I would brown the meat before adding the broth and other ingredients for extra flavor. Yum! I heard December is the new NaBloPoMo, by the way, so I hope we’ll continue to hear from you daily!

  20. Felicity

    Once again you’ve read my mind – I googled “cabbage soup recipe” just last week. How fortuitous that all the results were cabbage soup diet recipes so the massive cabbage remains in the fridge untouched. I hope it hasn’t wilted to a rotten lump behind the huge pot full of turkey carcass and stock!

  21. chixmom

    I love your blog! I’ve sent it to my daughters, because I get such a kick out of the way you write, and of course for the recipes.

    Enjoyed your NaBloPoMo in November. Been lurking here for over a year, and can’t believe it!

    Anyhoo, do you think that turkey could be used in this recipe instead of pork? I seem to have some around…;-)

  22. Wow, this sounds wonderful, Deb. Perfect timing too—it’s snowy and cold in Chicago. I’m wondering if browning the pork a little—and maybe the onion, celery and carrots in the resulting fat—might even up the soup’s stick-to-your-ribs quality a little.

  23. SoCalLynn

    This looks wonderful.

    Susan, I have been looking for a Russian Cabbage soup recipe ever since I worked in a department store where the restaurant served it. Would you mind sharing? lynns at dslextreme dot com

    Lynn

  24. Paula

    I make a quick version of this using beef polska kielbasa instead of the pork butt. I also add a can of diced tomatoes, and one of cannelini beans. Delish.

  25. tonya

    Cabbage soup… yum. I also made some sauerkraut this fall when the cabbage was fresh from the farmer. This will be another good use for the kraut- perfect!

  26. I’m giving this a try today. Smells wonderful. But just to digress, what about Leshko’s, on the corner of 7th and Ave. A? I loved the Polish waitresses there back in the 80’s. Brillo-y yellow hair. Blue eyeshadow and weird plastic shoes. “Hey, I like your shoes? Whereja get ’em?” Deadpan reply: “Een Poland.” I’d order the pierogi. Blue eyeshadow would show its full glory as she would cast her eyes toward the order pad. “You vant dat boilt or friet?”

  27. mindy

    I can remember spending many a frigid weekend afternoon eating soup and challah at Veselka and the Ukrainian Diner down the street. (Are the foul-mouthed and foul-tempered waitresses still there–they certainly made for an interesting dining experience!) I am looking forward to trying this recipe, and while it doesn’t often get all that “frigid” out here on the West Coast, I may just throw the bowls down on the table and shout out some expletives while we eat…just for old times’ sake.

  28. Barbara

    I made a version of this tonight with what I had on hand: bacon, sauerkraut but no cabbage, and white beans. It was delicious! Thanks for the inspiration!

  29. Whenever I see cabbage soup or boiled cabbage I think back to the days when cabbage was boiled to the point of bland, limp and lifeless leaves. I’m slowing starting to like cabbage again, when cooked properly.

  30. This looks absolutely wonderful! My hubby doesn’t eat sauerkraut, but if I hide it in soup like this he may give it a try.

    I can’t wait to make this!

  31. Dania

    Deb, do you think it’s worth the attempt of trying to make it vegetarian (w/veg stock) or it would totally miss out the point/flavor of the soup?
    I love veselka and love cabbage soup but I’m afraid that the role of the pork is too central in this recipe and I’ll be disappointed.
    Thanks

  32. Katie

    I made this the other night and can’t stop with the leftovers! So delicious! I’ve never been one for soups/soup making (never even tried this soup at Veselka!) but the recipe looked so good I couldn’t resist. And how can anyone say no sauerkraut?! So perfect for the increasingly bone chilling weather here in NYC.

  33. margot

    used a 2 3/4 lb shoulder roast, so nearly tripled the recipe. as terry b. suggested, i browned the pork, sauteed the aromatics in the fat (with an extra splash of veg. oil), and simmered them all in the broth. added the sauerkraut an hour before serving, the potato and cabbage both a half hour before serving, and the sauerkraut juice just before serving. it’s a great soup. dunno why someone would want to throw away precious pork fat, especially in these lean times. surely they use it for something else at veselka?

  34. Sally

    Oh, that sounds so good! I have a recipe for a cabbage and potato soup that is similar. It’s one of my favorite soups.

    I eat soup almost daily all year!

  35. as i was seasoning the final batch i was thinking, “this soup doesn’t at all present itself as something overly delicious, nor does it really taste all that exciting. i’m surprised there’s not more sautéing and seasoning of vegetables involved.”

    and then i scooped myself out a bowl. there’s something amazingly addicting about this soup, and while it may not seem impressive with one spoonful, it seemed to get better and better each time some went in my mouth. now i’m staring at the rest of the pot, wondering if i should just down it all now, or at least attempt to save some for the rest of the week….

  36. Sue

    I made this soup and it is wonderful. We added a little salt at the table. I used homemade chicken stock that I had in the freezer and I must have taken it easy on the salt when I made it. Great soup for a cold winter day!

  37. Jenny

    I finally got around to making this soup. It is fantastic. You are right, it is not your ordinary cabbage soup. It is bright and flavorful and awesome. I am going to get some salted rye rolls and have them with the soup tonight. The downside of cabbage soup is that the house smells like my gym bag!!! Thanks for sharing the recipe.

  38. Sarah

    I have made several of your recipes but I have yet to post. I made this on Sunday and it has been great. It was better yesterday than on Sunday and it is perfect for all of the snow that we are getting here in New Mexico.

  39. I’ll have to try this soon. Last week I blogged about two soups I made with leftovers and pantry items. I added a little lacto-fermented sauerkraut (which is worlds better than the vinegar pickled stuff) and it just made both soups pop. It just brightened all the other ingredients and added such a great crunch. Can’t wait to make this.

  40. hillarybug

    This is delish! I must have been a little spacey when I made it, because I made two mistakes. First, I forgot to remove the pork and just left it in the pot the entire time. It totally fell apart in the soup, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Second, I accidentally added way too much cabbage. I caught myself and removed some, but still ended up with much more than 2 cups. The soup was still fantastic. I love recipes that I can totally mess up and still taste great! This one is definitely a keeper. My husband raved about it. Thanks for another fabulous recipe. I’m going to use the leftover sauerkraut for bratwurst with sauerkraut, apples, and onions (from epicurious- another fantastic recipe I’ve made many times).

  41. stephanie

    Ok…so this might be more along the lines of fan mail rather than a comment…but who cares. I am addicted to your site. This isn’t an exaggeration! I check it everyday for new posts, and I think I’ve gone through all the old ones. I just made this soup last night (DELICIOUS, and super comforting!) with some no-knead bread! I’ve made the chili (oh my lord), the bretzel rolls (I am now making double batches to keep up with demand!), the brown butter cookies, the Russian appetizer spread, the mussels…and this is just recently. You’re an inspiration, don’t stop blogging EVER.
    Oh god, I’m a super fan.

  42. Dream

    I made this over the weekend and it’s a winner. As luck would have it I wound up getting sick so it really hit the spot. I didn’t season the pork butt though and next time I will. I love your blog and have tried a couple of your recipes. I hope to do a lot more cooking and experimenting this year and am looking forward to what you’ll be making. You’ve definitely got skillz!

  43. thriftydame

    it’s 86 F here in Iowa. i just made this perfect slurpy soup. it was divine. made more delicious with a sprinkle of diced apple. :-)

  44. Melinda

    Hi! I’ve never been to Veselka, but this super-tasty soup was warming to body and soul on a gray, cold Wisconsin day recently. Thanks! I just thought you’d like to know about a recent New york Times article on Veselka (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/06/dining/06soup.html?pagewanted=2&sq=veselka&st=cse&scp=1), with links to a few different recipes on there, including a Christmas version of the borscht that other posters seem to be so fond of. What makes it Christmasy? Who knows? I’ve never even had the original :(. But it looks delicious!

  45. K

    I was in NYC this weekend (visiting from the West coast) and we tried to go to Veselka for lunch. I had this uncanny feeling/hope of running into you there, Deb, but alas, after the New York Times write-up it looked like a movie premiere outside that place! So we went to the other little Ukrainian place next door, the one that looks like a community center. Also quite tasty.

  46. jumoke

    I’ve never been to Veselka’s… but gosh this soup is good! I am cooking half way around the world in Sydney so don’t like my chances of getting to Veselka’s anytime soon. This was my first try at a recipe from your awesome blog and I’m hooked…. What to try next??? So many options

  47. deb

    Hi Deb,
    Recently made my first trek to Veselka (Christmas Borscht = vegetarian heaven) and was wondering about making this cabbage soup recipe meat-free. I have good stock to substitute but wonder what to do about the no-pork factor. Just leave it out? What about replacing the fat? Any suggestions so appreciated! Would love to try this given that winter has firmly arrived here in the northeast!
    Thanks! -deb

  48. Chell

    I love your web site. This is my first post, but I’ve been enjoying your blog for quite some time now. I made this soup tonight – Awsome. Great for a cold day in the midwest. My husband is standing over the stove now wanting more…..

  49. Katie P

    Wow, this is really F-ing good! Is that “smitten kitchen” appropriate to say? I cannot wait for my (Ukranian) husband to try this!

  50. Jean Marie

    I had dinner at Veselka last Friday and everything was awesomely good. We’re (finally) getting snow here in D.C. and I’ve got a pot of cabbage soup going for dinner. If only I had some pierogis too.

  51. Leslie

    I’ve been dying to try Veselka’s ever since I saw it in Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Since I’m in San Francisco, this proves difficult. This weekend, I had an insatiable craving for cabbage soup and as I’m 14 weeks prego, when I want something, there’s very little that can actually keep me from it (short of another, stronger craving). So in this recipe, I had the opportunity to kill to birds with one stone. perfect.

    So I made it. I followed each direction to the letter – it was phenomenal. So savory, so balanced and full. I tried a little taste before adding the saurkrout juice and the juice REALLY rounds it out and kicks it up.

    Even the hubby LOVED it and he’s, for the most part, a little over my incessant soup-making.

  52. Steffany

    Veselka’s is my FAVORITE restaurant in that area !! My boyfriend & I both come from Russian/Ukrainian families, and when we visit NYC, we always make sure to stop there. YUM.

  53. Jenny

    Hi Deb! I’ve been an avid reader of your blog; it’s always my go-to site when I want to make something new and delicious. I’ve just moved to Ukraine (I’m in the Peace Corps, and will be here for two years) and have been skimming Smitten Kitchen to find recipes to utilize all that Ukrainian summer has to offer (strawberries were here for a full two weeks, and I’ve never tasted anything like them in the US), cabbage included. And look! A Ukrainian recipe on my favorite food blog! It’s just too perfect. And, having lived three months with a host family, I can say that this looks pretty authentic. Thanks!

  54. Nom

    Made without pork, sautéed vegetables first, used an embarrassingly small amount of pork stock for the huge amount of vegetables. It’s delicious.

  55. Just made this today. I spent a year and a half in Ukraine and this brought back good memories. I made it with stew meat (since that is what I had on hand) and added a dollop of homemade cultured cream. It was awesome. Thanks again!

  56. Mara

    Straight out of the pot, meh. Reheated the next day, YUM. Reminds me of a Latvian soup, Skabenu Zupa, Sorrel Soup, that I love. We add a dollop of sour cream if we feel like it, too.

  57. Sally

    I came to this recipe because of a comment to the chicken noodle soup recipe. I don’t know how I missed this, but it’s on my short list of things to make.

  58. Jennifer

    Regarding one of the earlier questions, yes, I always make this with a pound of boneless, skinless chicken thighs instead of pork. Several people have said it’s the best “chicken soup” they ever had. I brown the chicken thighs and leave whole for the two hours’ simmering time. Then plate to coo and shred before adding back to the pot.

  59. Delicious! I made this over the course of two days (how you cook so much with a toddler underfoot is beyond me!) and my husband, 16-month old, and I ate two generous servings each tonight for dinner. Loved it. I did add another half cup or so of sauerkraut and some extra juice at the end. We dig tanginess. :)
    Thanks for the great recipe, as always! Really looking forward to getting your book in the mail!

  60. M

    i come from a background rich in russian/ukranian fare, and though i sadly didn’t pay enough attention to my mother’s recipes, i sometimes long for a little taste of home. so, thank you for this wonderful recipe! in true russian/ukranian style: do you have any recipe ideas for the skimmed-off fat? i’d hate to waste all that flavour!

  61. philosophotarian

    Wow. This is easily one of the best soups I have ever made (and I do make a lot of soup!). The closest grocery stores were out (?!) of pork shoulder, so I made do with boneless pork ribs. They came through for me. I made homemade smoked turkey stock the other day with this year’s Thanksgiving turkey frame, and this soup was a wonderful way to use some of it up. I didn’t skim any fat; I actually added some fat (from the turkey stock), and the soup didn’t end up extra fatty at all. Amazing, addictive soup. I’ll be making this one again (but with more sauerkraut juice next time).

  62. Jude

    Hi Miss Deb, I was just wondering if it was possible to substitute the pork in this recipe with beef or lamb et al. And if it is, would this equal longer cooking time? Thank you for all incoming help. :D

  63. Jude

    I did not read the comment guidelines before posting (sorry) so I now see it can be done with chicken. Don’t mind the previous one. Thank you for the recipe though! :)

  64. tyralyn

    i’ve been making your recipes for a long time, but i never got around to posting! they’re all great, and definitely doable for a college student! this one is great, as well. i omitted the celery, marjoram, and allspice (college student lacking in funds) and used some leftover broth from an asian recipe, and the soup is great. thank you so much for posting all of these awesome recipes!

  65. Ben

    Made this the other night– so delicious! Couple things…
    -With two hours of simmering with no lid, I found I needed to add another 2c liquid
    -Why not sear off the pork and/or sweat the mirepoix? This would add depth of flavor, no? The order of these steps seemed so weird to me for some reason!

  66. Maro

    yet another recipe that has turned into a new favorite — this is a crave-worthy soup for sure!

    the things i would do next time:

    – leave a little more of the fat “eyes” than i did — i would have liked it just a bit richer than i ended up with.
    – reserve some of the marjoram for after the skimming step, since i skimmed off most of it with the fat — it floats, too :(
    – add a bit more liquid — we’re not done with the pot, but i suspect we will run out of broth before we run out of solid goodies– this is probably my own fault since i added almost a whole head of cabbage rather than just 2 cups.
    – add salt a bit sooner to allow it to meld with the flavors (though i supposed that could be dangerous depending on how salty one’s sauerkraut brine is…

    I also wondered, as did Ben in 105, why the mirepoix doesn’t get sauteed/sweated, but the flavor is great so i’m not “sweating” that one!

  67. Barbara

    I am making this right now (just started, in fact) and my mouth is already watering. I lived in the East Village in the 1980’s, and don’t remember Veselka’s, but absolutely remember Leshko’s! Their cabbage soup, pierogis, and challah bread were the mainstays of my diet for many years. I always suspected that the basic stock for their cabbage soup had been on the stove for generations … how else could they achieve such savory deliciousness? Thank you so much for this recipe!

  68. lisa

    i used celery root instead of celery and found that worked really well. i aslo had the heat on really low for the 2 hours of cooking the meat, it was below a simmer, more like steaming, for most of the 2 hours, and i found that my meat, cut into slightly larger chunks out of laziness (300 grams into 8 to 10 pieces) were still pink on the instead and incredibly tender. i attribute that to the meat being more or less poached instead of cooked.. anyway, really tasty

  69. Teresa

    My husband and I just made this together for our soup lunches of the week, and it is AMAZING! It is now my favorite soup. Thank you for introducing this soup to your readers and thank you for being awesome!