Our Russian barley pickle soup recipe for rassolnik made with chicken and vegetables makes a healthy, hearty Russian soup or stew, depending on how dense you like this beloved Russian dish. While borscht might be the best known Russian soup, rassolnik has a special place in people’s hearts and stomachs.
My Russian barley pickle soup recipe for rassolnik with chicken and vegetables makes a very old Russian dish that in its early form was far less dense and less like a stew and more like a consommé from what I understand.
As I don’t recall eating this in Russia – I was too obsessed with sampling the many different regional variations of borscht – I’m not sure if rassolnik started out as a hearty broth or thickened up in the post-Soviet years or in the Russian diaspora.
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Russian Barley Pickle Soup Recipe for Rassolnik with Chicken and Vegetables
My Russian barley pickle soup recipe for rassolnik with chicken and vegetables could be made with beef, veal, lamb, pork, or offal, all of which are in fact more traditional. But my family’s preference was always chicken for rassolnik and borscht was made with beef.
Whatever you use, pearl barley is essential. Rassolnik is pickle soup for many and it’s true that pickles are a key ingredient, but for me it’s always been about the pickles and pearl barley. Rice just won’t do.
While onions, carrots, potatoes, and cabbage are quintessential Russian ingredients that appear in so many Russian soups and stews – and I personally don’t like to stray far from these – I’ve seen fennel used and even pumpkin.
Gherkins or dill pickles, which are simply cucumbers pickled with dill, are important, so don’t skip those. When making this soup for myself, I actually add more dill pickles and more pickle brine (ie. the juice in your gherkin jar) than my recipe calls for.
However, I noted during research that there’s some resistance to dill pickles and a lot of people seem to think pickles are a strange inclusion until they actually make and try the soup.
Start off with my suggested amounts, however, if you’re a dill pickle lover, by all means add more pickles and more brine. Just make sure you leave enough brine in the jar to ensure your gherkins are completely covered.
I only have a few tips for making this Russian barley pickle soup recipe for rassolnik with chicken and vegetables.
Tips to Making this Russian Barley Pickle Soup Recipe for Rassolnik with Chicken and Vegetables
Just a few tips for making this Russian barley pickle soup recipe for rassolnik with chicken and vegetables. Just as with rice, rinsing the pearl barley in a fine mesh sieve under running water until the water is clear is a must.
You could soak your pearl barley overnight, but I don’t see the point when you can be boiling it as you’re prepping the rest of the ingredients, but that’s up to you. If you want to save on gas or electricity then by all means soak it overnight.
However, I don’t recommend cooking the pearl barley in the soup from the start as pearl barley soaks up water, so that will slow down the cooking process of the other ingredients and mess things up.
My times below are based on our gas stove, but make sure you check in on your soup as you don’t want your potatoes too soft so that they turn to mash.
I’m a lover of fresh dill, as regular readers would know, but I’m not a fan of parsley, but it works in rassolnik. Most Russians are sour cream (smetana) lovers – and I add a dollop to every Russian soup – but skip it if you’re not.
This makes a good size batch of rassolnik and it freezes well, so I recommend popping any leftovers in an air-tight container and freezing the soup rather than reducing the amount that you make.
Russian Barley Pickle Soup Recipe for Rassolnik with Chicken
- 1 cup pearl barley
- 3 cups water
- 400 g chicken pieces of your preference - we like thighs
- 2 tbsp cooking oil
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 onion - finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves - finely diced
- 1 large carrot - peeled, grated
- 2 litres water
- half white cabbage - grated
- 1 potato - peeled, diced (2cm cubes)
- 1 small carrot - sliced (1cm diameter)
- 200 g mushrooms - sliced
- 2 gherkins - pickled cucumbers, finely diced
- 1 tsp salt or to taste
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp sugar
- 3 bay leaves
- ¼ tsp turmeric
- ½ tsp paprika
- 2 tbsp parsley - finely chopped
- 2 tbsp fresh dill - finely chopped
- 4 tbsp pickled cucumber brine
- 4 tbsp sour cream
- Rinse one cup of pearl barley in a fine mesh sieve under running water until the water is clear, then transfer to a medium sized pot, along with three cups of water, and boil for 30 minutes or as per the instructions on the packet.
- While the barley is cooking, sear the chicken pieces in a little oil in a round-bottomed wok or frying pan until the skin is brown then set aside.
- Heat the cooking oil and butter the same wok or pan then add the onion, garlic and grated carrot and sauté on low heat until the onion is translucent and garlic fragrant, taking care to brown but not burn the garlic.
- Transfer the fried onion, garlic and carrot to your favourite soup or stew pot, then add the water, cabbage, potato, sliced carrot, mushrooms, gherkins, seasoning and spices, and simmer on low heat for 20 minutes.
- Add the gherkin brine, chicken pieces and pearl barley, simmer for another 10 minutes or so. The barley will continue to expand, so add more water if necessary, then taste, and adjust the seasoning and spices to suit your palate.
- Just before serving, add a tablespoon each of fresh parsley and fresh dill, stir, then distribute between bowls, garnishing with a dollop of sour cream and the remainder of the fresh herbs.
Please do let us know in the comments below if you make our Russian barley pickle soup recipe for rassolnik made with chicken and vegetables as we’d love to know how it turns out for you.