Russian Cabbage Soup, also called Shchi, with savory beef ribs, hearty potatoes and fresh cabbage (or sauerkraut) is the perfect flavor balance of sweet, sour and salty flavors! Topped with yogurt and fresh dill it’s a satisfying one pot dinner.

As a Ukrainian household we absolutely love to cook with cabbage – unstuffed cabbage rolls, Instant Pot cabbage rolls or even cabbage roll casserole. Definitely no rolling! 🙂

Russian cabbage soup in a bowl with fresh dill and a roll in background

Cabbage soup also known as Russian shchi is basically, a tomato less version of famous borscht. This cabbage soup recipe uses simple ingredients like potatoes, cabbage and possibly sauerkraut because that is what Eastern Europeans managed to store in the cellar during winter; meat was often a luxury.

This beef cabbage soup is supposed to be sour and a bit salty, so don’t skimp on salt. Flavor is built on cabbage or sauerkraut, veggies and meat, and then fresh dill and sour cream (or yogurt) “help out” at the end; it’s easy, cheap and the best!

Why Make Beef Cabbage Soup Recipe?

  • Immunity boosting: Cabbage is high in vitamin C plus iron, carrots in vitamin A, potatoes are a great source of fiber and homemade bone broth is high in collagen! 
  • Balanced: One pot meal of protein, fat, fiber and carbohydrates!
  • Flavorful: Sweet, salty and sour all make the tastebuds dance.
  • Budget friendly: Nothing fancy here except hearty, low cost vegetables and you can use soup bones of choice, or omit for vegetarian cabbage shchi. 
  • Versatile: There are many versions of shchi from a hearty meat based stew in the winter to lighter spring varieties!
  • Expand your culinary tastes: Humble cabbage soup is considered one of the national dishes in Russia and a popular folk saying says it best “shchi and kasha are our food”. Enjoy! 

Other favorite “stick to your ribs” beef soup recipes we enjoy during winter months are this easy beef barley soup and stuffed pepper soup recipe.

Close up of Russian shchi soup with potatoes in red pot garnished with dill.

Ingredients for Shchi

  • Beef or soup bones: Plus water, peppercorns and bay leaves, this is for making a homemade soup bone broth, don’t skip this as this will be the foundation of your soup!
  • Veggies: Carrots, onion, potatoes and cabbage all add flavor plus heartiness to Russian soup recipe. Love veggies and cabbage? Make cabbage stir fry next!
  • Tomato paste: Concentrated paste for best flavor.
  • Salt and pepper: You will need two teaspoons of salt and don’t reduce it!
  • Vinegar: Use apple cider or white vinegar, this will contribute the ‘sour’ taste to the soup.
  • Dill: Fresh herbs finish the soup, dill is our preference but parsley could be used.

Russian cabbage soup builds on a base of sweet, salty and sour flavors – which all come together in harmony when used together! Sweet veggies balance the added salt and sour vinegar perfectly for a taste sensation that creates amazing layers of flavor.

Beef ribs, cabbage, onion, carrots, potatoes, dill, vinegar and seasonings.

How to Make Russian Cabbage Soup

If you have electric pressure cooker, you can also make this cabbage soup by following Instant Pot borscht recipe instructions.

  • Prep: Most prep for healthy cabbage soup is chopping veggies. I usually do so while stock is coming to the boil and then cooking in next 2 steps. Beef cabbage soup is a layering process.
  • Make broth: Bring beef bones with cold water and bay leaves to a boil. Once liquid starts boiling, skim foam with a fine mesh strainer until broth is clear. Then add peppercorns and let it simmer for half an hour.
  • Saute veggies: While beef broth is simmering away, first cook the onion, then shredded carrots and cook for a few minutes each. At the end stir in tomato paste and turn off the heat. “Zazharka” is ready.

What is Zazharka? It is a mixture of vegetables similar to mirepoix that is cooked low and slow and used to deepen the flavor profile of the dish, in this case shchi soup recipe!

  • Cook soup: Add cabbage, potatoes, sauteed veggies, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and cover to cook for 15 minutes.
  • Chop meat and season soup: Remove bones to a cutting board and let cool for 5 minutes. Discard bay leaves and peppercorns. Then chop meat using fork and a knife and return it to the pot, along with bones if you have bone lovers. Add vinegar and dill. That’s it!

Optional Add-In’s and Variations

  • Vegan: You can make vegan cabbage soup by omitting meat and using mushroom stock.
  • Other meat: Chicken drumsticks or thighs or pork with bones like fresh or leftover ribs can be used. Bones and dark meat add flavor.
  • Other root vegetables: Instead of potatoes, parsnips, turnips or rutabaga could be used.
  • Fresh tomato: Instead of tomato paste, you can use diced small tomato. It is all mostly for colour, anyways.
  • Mushrooms: If you have dried or fresh flavorful wild or at least brown mushrooms, saute a handful after carrots. This would add nice flavour to vegan soup especially.
  • Green shchi: A springtime version of cabbage soup, made with sorrel or chard or spinach.
  • Pickle juice: One reader was out of vinegar and dill so she used pickle juice!
  • Fresh herbs: Parsley could be used instead of dill.
  • Instant Pot: Reduce water to 8 cups or even less not to go over 2/3 full mark. Also use less salt to taste. Add all ingredients to the pot and cook on High Pressure for 10 minutes, then wait 15 minutes before releasing remaining pressure (prevents splatters). You do not have to saute veggies as they come out more flavorful in a pressure cooker, but if you wish you can do so right in Instant Pot first. Also check out this Instant Pot corned beef and cabbage.
  • Slow cooker: Saute veggies, then add all ingredients to large slow cooker and cook for 4 hours on High or 8 hours on Low.
Russian cabbage soup in a large red pot with ladle.

Tips for Best Results

  • Use what you have: Shchi can have many variations, passed down from family to family and also dependent on what they had on hand at the time. Beef bones, chicken bones, pork bones, a variety of vegetables, cabbage, fermented or not etc. Use this recipe as a jumping off point to your own version of Russian soup with cabbage. 
  • Sauerkraut: Often Russian cabbage soup is made with all or at least half sauerkraut for ‘sour shchi’. To do so, I recommend to rinse and drain at least some to reduce sodium content. Also skip salt and vinegar for now, adjust at the end. Add sauerkraut to broth after you skimmed the foam. You can also season soup with some of sauerkraut juice at the end.
  • Build layers of flavor: Make homemade broth, add aromatics, add vegetables for ‘Zazharka’ flavor base and serve with sour cream, fresh dill and rye bread! 

FAQs

Is cabbage soup healthy?

Yes! While the cabbage soup diet may have become a popular fad diet in the 50’s, in the case of Russian soup with cabbage, we have known it to be healthy for a long time before that. Cabbage is full of fiber and vitamins, combine that with additional vegetables and a flavorful broth and this soup is boasting with nutrients!

Where did cabbage stew originate?

Cabbage soup is one of the national dishes of Russia. It is said to have become popular around the 10th century as Orthodox Christianity spread across Europe as well as the influence of Greek culture which included food such as onions, garlic, peppercorns and cabbage. This combined with the fact that cabbage was an easy ingredient for winter storage in Russia, made shchi a popular dish to make.

What is the name of the most famous Russian soup?

It is Shchi, and that is what we are making here today!

Can I make meatless shchi?

Yes! A vegetarian shchi is a popular dish to make, and instead of a beef broth, a mushroom broth is used.

How to Serve Shchi?

In Russia and Ukraine, cabbage and beef soup is usually served with sour cream, rye bread and more dill. We, personally, like no sour cream and appreciate the sourness of this soup. Here are some additional items to serve with your shchi:

How to Store Beef Cabbage Soup?

Storing: Refrigerate cabbage soup in a pot you cooked it in (if you have room) or airtight container for up to 5 days. Because it consists mostly of sturdy veggies and meat, no ingredients will get soggy here.

Reheating: Reheat by simmering on low in small pot only amount you are planning to consume.

Freezing: Freeze in an airtight glass container for up to 3 months. Then thaw on a counter overnight and reheat.

More Favorite Soup Recipes

Russian cabbage soup with beef, cabbage and potatoes in large red pot.
cabbage soup russian shchi

Russian Cabbage Soup (Shchi)

Russian Cabbage Soup, also called Shchi, with savory beef ribs, hearty potatoes and fresh cabbage (or sauerkraut) is the perfect flavor balance of sweet, sour and salty flavors! Topped with yogurt and fresh dill it's a satisfying one pot dinner.
5 from 5 votes
Servings 8 servings
Calories 239
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes

Ingredients 
 

  • 2 lbs beef ribs or soup bones
  • 12 cups cold water
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 5 peppercorns
  • 1 large onion finely chopped
  • 2 large carrots shredded
  • 1.5 lbs 5 cups shredded cabbage
  • 1 lb 4 large potatoes, diced
  • 1 tbsp oil for frying
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste low sodium
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 3 tbsp white or apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tbsp fresh dill finely chopped
  • Sour cream or yogurt for serving (optional)

Instructions 

  • In a large pot (I use 6 quart Dutch oven), add beef, water, bay leaves and bring to a boil.
  • In the meanwhile, begin to wash, peel and cut vegetables.
  • Once broth is boiling, start skimming the foam with mesh strainer until clear. Reduce heat to low, add peppercorns, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
  • In the meanwhile, preheat large skillet on medium heat and swirl 1 tbsp of oil to coat. Add onion and saute for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add carrots and saute for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add tomato paste, stir until combined and turn off heat.
  • Transfer sauteed veggies to a pot along with cabbage, potatoes, tomato paste, salt and pepper. Cover, bring to a boil and cook on low heat for 15 minutes.
  • Turn off heat, remove beef bones on a cutting board and let cool for 5 minutes.
  • Discard bay leaves and peppercorns. Add vinegar, dill and stir.
  • Remove meat from bones, chop (I usually use fork and a knife) and return to the pot (along with bones, if you wish). Adjust any seasonings to taste, if necessary.
  • Serve hot with a dollop of yogurt or sour cream, if you wish. More dill in bowls is great too.

Video

Notes

  • Store: Covered in refrigerator up to 5 days. Reheat by simmering on low in small pot only amount you are planning to consume.
  • Freeze: In an airtight glass container for up to 3 months. Thaw on a counter overnight and reheat.
  • Vegan: You can make vegan cabbage soup by omitting meat and using mushroom stock.
  • Sauerkraut: To do so, I recommend to rinse and drain at least some to reduce sodium content. Also skip salt and vinegar for now, adjust at the end. Add sauerkraut to broth after you skimmed the foam. You can also season soup with some of sauerkraut juice at the end.
  • Instant Pot: Reduce water to 8 cups or even less not to go over 2/3 full mark. Also use less salt to taste. Add all ingredients to the pot and cook on High Pressure for 10 minutes, then wait 15 minutes before releasing remaining pressure (prevents splatters). You do not have to saute veggies as they come out more flavorful in a pressure cooker, but if you wish you can do so right in Instant Pot first. It is definitely convenient to walk away and don’t have to skim foam and add ingredients in stages.
  • Slow cooker: Saute veggies, then add all ingredients to large slow cooker and cook for 4 hours on High or 8 hours on Low.
See recipe post for more tips and FAQs.

Nutrition

Calories: 239kcal | Carbohydrates: 18g | Protein: 18g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 49mg | Sodium: 681mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 5g
Course: Soup and Stew
Cuisine: Russian
Author: Olena Osipov
Did you make this recipe?Mention @ifoodreal or tag #ifoodreal!

5 Secrets to Easy Healthy Dinners

Plus sign up for weekly emails with recipes to make your cooking stress free, delicious and healthy.

About Olena

Welcome! I grew up in Ukraine watching my grandma cook with simple ingredients. I have spent the last 11 years making it my mission to help you cook quick and easy meals for your family!

Pin this recipe now to save it for later

Pin Recipe

You may also like

Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Delicious! My family loved this. I did not have dill or vinegar so I used dill pickle juice. I look forward to making it again with the original ingredients and maybe try 1/2 sauerkraut/ cabbage.

  2. 5 stars
    We really enjoyed the soup. One Question though. When making it in the Instant Pot, do you recommend reducing the amount of water. I was only able to get 8 cups water in before my pot was to it’s limit and I have the middle size. Seemed like there was plenty of liquid when done. Great recipe though! Thanks.

    1. Yes, I completely forgot about less water. Will fix that, sorry! 8 cups is the right amount. You can add less if you would like thicker soup. And probably less salt as well.

  3. 5 stars
    Made this soup this morning, so easy quick, once the cabbage was shredded.
    I Love this soup!! So healthy and delicious, kids love it as well.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Recipe Rating




This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.