Enjoy the simplicity and heartiness of this Polish sour pickle soup, a fuss-free recipe designed for delicious results, broth or no broth.
Recipe At a Glance
- Simple but Tasty: The first time I made this soup, I was quite pleased with myself. Then my wife commented, “No offense to your cooking skills, but it’s really hard to mess this one up.” That essentially sums up this Polish pickle soup: easy to prepare and delicious. Perfect for the fall and winter months.
- No Broth Required: This soup is an excellent choice if you don’t have broth available. The combination of potatoes, parsley root, carrot, bay leaf, allspice berries, and salt creates a decent broth-like base, so using water won’t significantly alter the flavor. Mixing broth with water is also a viable option.
- Uses Sour Pickles: In Poland, sour pickles (fermented cucumbers) are used for this soup, not the “regular” dill pickles (those submerged in a vinegar-and-salt brine) commonly found in the US. For an authentic Polish taste, opt for “Polish-style” or “Sour” pickles.
If you’re making Polish Pickled Cucumber Soup for the first time, read the ingredients notes, step-by-step instructions, and tips. If you’re a veteran, feel free to jump to the recipe card.
Ingredients Notes and Substitutes
- Potatoes: Use any variety of potatoes you have.
- Parsley root: Optional if you’re using broth (but still highly recommended), but pretty much necessary if you’re using water.
- Polish-style pickles (or sour pickles): The signature flavor of this soup comes from Polish-style sour pickles, where the cucumbers are naturally fermented in salty water instead of being immersed in a vinegar-based brine. If you use regular dill pickles, the flavor won’t quite be the same.
- Broth or water: You can use chicken broth, vegetable broth, watered-down stock, or plain water. The soup tastes better with broth, of course, but it’s not necessary.
- Bay leaf and allspice berries: This is the classic Polish combination. We also use both when making Polish goulash.
- Heavy cream: You can substitute half and half. Using sour cream to whiten the soup is another option, but heavy cream or half and half does a much better job as it counters the sour flavor of the pickles.
How to Make Polish Sour Pickle Soup
- Veggie Prep: Peel and dice the potatoes. Thinly slice the carrot and parsley root. If the carrot or parsley root is thick, cut it in half lengthwise first. Alternatively, dice everything if preferred.
- Prep the Pot: Place the cut veggies in a pot and pour enough water or broth over the veggies in the pot to cover them, approximately 3 cups for the base version of the recipe. If you prefer thinner soups or plan to add pasta or rice later, add an extra cup or two of liquid. Add the bay leaf, allspice berries, and a teaspoon of salt if using water (don’t add salt if using broth).
- Start Cooking: Place the covered pot on high heat and bring the contents to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for 30 to 40 minutes. The goal is to cook until the potatoes are very soft, potentially falling apart.
- Grate the Pickles: While the vegetables are cooking, grate the sour pickles using the large holes of a grater or dice them.
- Add the Cucumbers: After 40 minutes of cooking, when the potatoes are fall-apart-in-your-mouth soft, add the pickles (along with the liquid left after grating them) to the pot. Let it cook for 5 minutes.
- Taste-Test: After those 5 minutes, taste the soup. If it’s not sour enough, grate in another small pickle (or half of a large one). If the soup lacks taste, add a little salt (about 1/4 teaspoon). Avoid adding the pickles and salt simultaneously, as the pickles bring their own saltiness. Instead, add pickles, cook the soup for 2 minutes, and taste again.
- Simmer: Let the soup simmer for about 15 minutes.
- Add Heavy Cream: Turn off the heat and stir in the heavy cream. If you’re concerned about curdling, temper it first. You can do this by pouring the cream into a small cup and warming it up in the microwave (at 50% power) or stirring in hot soup. If using the latter method, add a few tablespoons of hot soup, stir the cream, and repeat a few times until the cup starts getting warm. If using sour cream, definitely temper the cream.
- Remove Bay Leaves and Allspice Berries: Remove the bay leaves and allspice berries from the pot. If they are difficult to find, you can leave them in and instruct diners to watch out for them. Cracking an allspice berry in your mouth is not a pleasant experience.
Here are a few tips for making the soup:
- Rinse Pickles: If your pickles are very salty or sour, rinse them under running water before grating to reduce the intensity of the flavor. Discard the liquid left after grating if you want to add even more pickles to the soup.
- Cook Potatoes Thoroughly: Cook the potatoes for 30-40 minutes until they’re fall-apart-in-your-mouth soft. This results in a better consistency and flavor than just cooked-through potatoes.
- Don’t Add Cucumbers Early: Make sure the potatoes are fully cooked and soft before adding the cucumbers. Adding cucumbers too early can prevent the potatoes from softening. Cook all other vegetables until they are soft before introducing pickles to the soup.
This recipe is a simple version of sour pickle soup, but you can customize it:
- Add Extra Veggies: Leek, green onion, celery, or celeriac are good options for bulking up the soup. Limit the amount to 1-2 cups of sliced veggies to avoid overpowering the soup.
- Add Pasta or Rice: Cook pasta or rice as per the instructions on the label, transfer them to the plate, and pour hot soup over them. Use extra broth or water if adding pasta or rice.
- Add Cooked Meat or Kielbasa: For extra protein, add cooked meat (such as from chicken broth) or kielbasa. Cut the meat into small pieces or kielbasa into slices, and add it to the pot 5 minutes before finishing cooking.
Combine all three variations if you like.
How to Serve Polish Pickle Soup
This classic soup is perfect as the first course of a two-course meal. It’s light, tangy, and sets the stage for the main dish to come.
If you go with a thinner version of the soup (i.e., lots of liquid), you can serve it with a couple of slices of bread or crusty baguette on the side. Both provide a delightful crunch and can help the eaters soak up the flavorful broth.
Here’s how you store Polish Pickled Cucumber Soup:
- Cool at Room Temperature: First, let your freshly made soup cool down. Leave it uncovered at room temperature for about an hour to an hour and a half. You want the soup to cool as much as it can before refrigeration.
- Transfer to a Container: Once the soup has cooled, you can either keep it in the pot (if it’s suitable for storage) or divide the soup into smaller containers. Go with what’s more convenient.
- Seal and Refrigerate: Cover the pot or seal the containers tightly with their lids and transfer them to the fridge, where you can keep the soup for 3 to 4 days.
How to Reheat
To reheat the soup, put it on the stove on medium heat and bring it to a boil while stirring it every couple of minutes. Once the pickle soup reaches a boil, turn the heat down and let it simmer for a minute or two to make sure it’s safe to eat.
(Stirring helps prevent the veggies from burning and is especially important if you add lots of extra veg.)
Polish Sour Pickle Soup (Ogórkowa)
- 4-5 potatoes medium
- 1 carrot medium or 2 small ones
- 1 parsley root medium or small
- 2 Polish-style sour pickles large
- 3 cups broth or water up to 5 cups if you like thin soups
- 1 bay leaf dried
- 3 allspice berries dried
- 1 tsp salt if using water (plus more to taste)
- 1/4 cups heavy cream up to 1/2 cup if using water
- Veggie Prep: Peel and dice potatoes, thinly slice carrots and parsley root. Cut larger pieces in half lengthwise if needed.
- Pot Assembly: Add cut veggies to a pot, cover with 3 cups of water or broth, and throw in a bay leaf, allspice berries, and a teaspoon of salt (skip salt if using broth).
- Cooking Time: Bring pot to a boil, then simmer on low heat for 30-40 minutes until potatoes are very soft.
- Pickle Prep: Grate or dice sour pickles while veggies cook.
- Add Pickles: Once potatoes are soft, add grated pickles and their juice to the pot, cooking for an additional 5 minutes.
- Taste & Adjust: Taste the soup, adding a grated pickle for sourness or a pinch of salt for flavor if needed.
- Final Simmer: Let the soup simmer for about 15 minutes to blend flavors.
- Creamy Finish: Turn off heat and stir in heavy cream, tempering it first if necessary to prevent curdling.
- Clean-up Herbs: Remove bay leaves and allspice berries from the soup before serving.
- Serve: Dish out the soup and enjoy!
If you’re a soup lover always on the lookout for new recipes, check out the following:
- Polish Tomato Soup. A super simple tomato soup you can have ready in 15 minutes. All you need is broth, tomato paste, and heavy cream.
- Polish Sauerkraut Soup. This soup is also pretty simple, but prep takes quite a while due to the number of ingredients. Great option for the weekend and making enough for a few days.