This Russian cabbage soup recipe makes shchi (Щи), the most Russian of soups. If my baboushka wasn’t making borscht, she was cooking a big pot of shchi. Long eaten by nobles and peasants alike, the rich included meat in their shchi, while the poor made a vegetarian soup, shchi vegetarianskiye. Skip the sour cream (not something I could do!) and you have a vegan shchi recipe.
My easy Russian cabbage soup recipe will make you an aromatic pot of shchi (Щи), perhaps the most Russian of soups. While you might have thought that borscht was the quintessential Russian soup, the beetroot-based meat and vegetable broth is one of the most popular and best-known Russian soups, but its origin in much-contested and claimed by the Ukrainians. Shchi is resolutely Russian and so beloved by Russians that the Moscow Times called it a “national treasure”.
Shchi is an old Russian dish dating to the 9th century, when cabbage arrived in ‘the Land of the Rus’ from Byzantium. Eaten ever since by Russian peasants and nobles alike, a bowl of shchi typically included meat when cooked for the rich, while the poor made a simple vegetarian broth (shchi vegetarianskiye). To make this a vegan dish, you only need to skip the sour cream.
If you’re arriving here for the first time or you’re a regular visitor dropping by (no, we haven’t pivoted to a Russian food blog), we took a break from testing Cambodian recipes for our cookbook over the holidays, which is when I usually cook Russian food and reminisce while rolling out dough. This year, we thought we’d share my Russian family recipes for dishes such as savoury pirozhki (hand pies), stuffed cabbage rolls, kotleti (chicken meat patties), beetroot potato salad, potato vareniki, pelmeni, and pan-fried Russian dumplings.
I’ll tell you more about my Russian cabbage soup recipe in a moment, but first, can I ask a favour? If you’ve cooked any of our recipes from Russia or beyond and you’ve liked them, please consider supporting Grantourismo so we can continue publishing recipes and food stories. This post lists ways to support Grantourismo but here are a few suggestions…
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Easy Russian Cabbage Soup Recipe for Shchi, The Most Russian of Soups – And Vegan!
Russians love their comforting soups and my family was no exception. If baboushka wasn’t making borscht, she was cooking a big pot of shchi. While Russians make warming soups for the winter, and cold soups for summer, my baboushka made borsht and shchi year-around, even in the scorching Australian summers.
My Russian cabbage soup recipe for shchi is one that is very similar to the soup I remember my baboushka making but with just a few tweaks. Baba always included some sort of meat in her soups – beef, oxtail, pork, or chicken. However, I’ve opted to share the vegetarian version called shchi vegetarianskiye – although it’s a vegan shchi recipe if you give the sour cream a miss – and not just because it’s Veganuary. I think this has so much flavour as it is.
I’m pretty sure that baba included carrots and, from memory, sometimes celery, which are in most (though not all) traditional Russian shchi recipes. I’ll need to consult my mum or check baboushka’s hand-written recipes when I’m back in Australia. I’ve also include an additional two ingredients – a tablespoon of olive oil to make up for not using a meat-based stock, and turmeric, for its earthy flavours as much as its colour and nutritional value.
This is a super easy Russian cabbage soup recipe – easier than borscht as there’s no beetroot to fiddle around with and no meat stock to make. If you cooked this on high heat so it reduced faster, you could be eating this in 30 minutes, but the longer you simmer it the better it tastes. I like to leave it on the stove for hours. And it’s even better the next day!
Russian Cabbage Soup Recipe for Shchi
- neutral cooking oil
- 1 onion finely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves finely chopped
- 1 head cabbage roughly shredded
- 1 large carrot grated (optional)
- 550 g potatoes cut into cubes
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 litres water
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 2 tsp sea salt or to taste
- 2 tsp black pepper or to taste
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tbsp virgin olive oil
- Fresh dill handful roughly chopped
- Fresh curly-leaf parsley handful roughly chopped
- Sour cream optional
- Fresh dill roughly chopped
- Peel and chop the onions and garlic cloves finely, shred or chop the cabbage roughly (avoid fine shredding as you want the texture of wider pieces), grate the carrot if using, and peel and cut potatoes into cubes.
- In a large fry pan, skillet or Dutch oven, fry the finely chopped onion in a neutral cooking oil until soft, then add the finely chopped garlic cloves, and continue frying until the onion is translucent, taking care not to burn the garlic. Transfer to a large soup pot.
- Fry the roughly shredded cabbage with bay leaves in neutral cooking oil until soft. If using carrot, add this now also. When soft, transfer to the soup pot.
- Add the potatoes and 2 litres of water to the soup pot, along with the tomato paste, turmeric, salt, pepper, sugar, and extra virgin olive oil, and stir. Turn to high heat to bring to a boil, then turn down to medium to allow to simmer for an hour. Add another litre of water; feel free to add more if needed.
- At around 30 minutes, add the rest of the water, taste the soup, season with additional salt and pepper if needed.
- When the soup is done to your liking (feel free to simmer for more than an hour if you like; the longer the broth simmers the better it tastes), add the chopped fresh dill and curly-leaf parsley and combine well so that it doesn’t clump together.
- Ladle out the cabbage soup into bowls and (if you’re not vegan) plop a dollop of sour cream into each bowl and sprinkle on more dill and parsley. Provide additional bowls of sour cream and dill on the table for guests to help themselves.
Do let us know if you make our easy Russian cabbage soup recipe for shchi as we’d love to know how it turns out for you. Leave a comment below, email or connect with us on social media (links below).