Zelnečka: Czech Cabbage Soup (with Vegan option)

This hearty Czech soup will keep you warm all winter long. It tastes smokey, paprika, tangy and just plain scrumptious! For a vegan version check the “Notes” section.
Serves: 4-6


  • 1 lb. package of sauerkraut (jarred may also be used)
  • 2 klobasa sausages, cut into bite-size slices or pieces*
  • 1 extra large potato, peeled and cubed or cut into even-sized pieces
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp olive or vegetable oil
  • 1 large dried bay leaf
  • 2 tbsp sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp whole caraway seed
  • ¼ tsp ground black pepper
  • large pinch of ground cayenne pepper, optional
  • 4 cups of water**
  • sour cream to top soup


1.    Drain the sauerkraut, then place in a large bowl and cover with water, set aside. In a large pot heat the oil, add the onion and potatoes and saute until the potatoes are soft and onion translucent. Next add the sausage and garlic, cook for another 3 minutes. If the sausage releases a lot of oil drain most of it out. Add the bay leaf and caraway seed to the pot, cook for 2 minutes. Next add the smoked paprika, cayenne, black pepper and water, give the ingredients a stir.
2.    Drain the sauerkraut and add to the pot — gently to prevent splashing. Cover and simmer the soup for 45 minutes or as long as desired. Allow to cool for 15 minutes before serving. Serve with a dollop of sour cream.


*If Czech klobasa is not available, then substitute with other paprika spiced sausage or Polish kielbasa. If a paprika based sausage is not available, please add one more tablespoon of paprika to the pot.
**Instead of water you may use either vegetable or chicken broth for more flavor.

!Make it vegan:

To make this soup vegan/vegetarian replace the klobasa with a vegetarian/vegan sausage. You will also need to add the extra tablespoon of paprika and 1 tablespoon of smoked  in total using three tablespoons. Instead of sour cream you can use a vegetarian/vegan cream or yogurt.