Shchi is one of the most popular Russian soups, made with sauerkraut, cabbage and potatoes. It’s so hearty, tart and savory and the creamy sour cream and fresh herbs brings all these flavors together in the most perfect combination of flavors.
As early as the 9th century, Shchi has been a staple on the Russian table. Russians have a proverb that states “Щи да каша – пища наша.” (Shchi da kasha – pishcha nasha “Shchi and kasha are our staples”).
Not only does it have the sour taste that Russians love from the sauerkraut, but the ingredients of the soup are perfect for the long Russian winters. Cabbage, sauerkraut and potatoes are all ingredients that could be grown in Russia even with the short summer season and then stored throughout the long winter in the cellar.
Dry mushrooms were also used in many different ways and I absolutely love them in this soup. They add such an incredible depth and amazing flavor to the soup. You can use any kind of meat in shchi or even make a vegetarian version by omitting the meat and using vegetable broth.
Ingredients For Shchi
The main ingredients in this soup are sauerkraut, cabbage, potatoes and dry mushrooms.
The onion and carrots add more flavor to the soup and the fresh herbs are added at the end for a touch of fresh flavor.
I use both sauerkraut and fresh cabbage because it makes a nice combination of flavor and texture. The fresh cabbage dilutes the tart sauerkraut flavor a bit and adds a more mild and has a more tender texture.
What Type of Mushrooms Should Be Used in Shchi?
My favorite dry mushrooms to use in this soup are porcini mushrooms, but you can use any type of mushrooms that you like. I also like dry chanterelle mushrooms. Dry mushrooms have a completely different flavor and texture than fresh mushrooms, but you can use them as well. You can also omit the mushrooms if you prefer.
Chicken Broth For Shchi
I often have chicken broth in my freezer, so that’s what I use it for the soup. You can use any chicken broth or vegetable broth for Shchi. You can also start the soup by making the chicken broth from scratch.
Chicken drumsticks are perfect to make broth, but you can use any chicken pieces for the broth. Cook the broth at a low simmer, with some whole black peppercorns, a few dry bay leaves and salt to taste, for 35-45 minutes.
Remove the chicken from the broth, take the meat off the both and cut it into bite sized pieces. Set aside to be added to the soup later.
Strain the broth through a fine mesh sieve lined with a paper towel or cheesecloth. Take the chicken off the bone, and use a fork or knife to shred it into bite sized pieces.
In a large pot or dutch oven, sauté the onion and carrot on medium heat for about 5 minutes until they are tender.
It is important to rehydrate dry mushrooms in boiling water before adding them to the soup. While the vegetables are cooking, place the dry mushrooms into a bowl and pour boiling water over the mushrooms. Set aside for about 5 minutes.
Remove the mushrooms with a fork, leaving behind the soot in the bottom of the bowl. Wash the mushrooms throughly before adding them to the soup. Strain the mushroom liquid through a fine mesh sieve lined with a coffee filter or a paper towel. Add the mushroom liquid and the chicken broth the soup, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes.
Add the potatoes, cabbage and sauerkraut to the soup and continue cooking until the vegetables are soft and tender, 30-45 minutes. Add the water, making it as thick or thin as you like. Season with more salt and ground black pepper to taste, if needed.
Add the chicken to the soup at the end, just enough time to heat it through. You can omit the chicken and make it vegetarian too by using vegetable broth.
Serving Shchi, Leftovers, How to Reheat
Garnish the soup with fresh herbs and sour cream when serving. Shchi is amazing with some Black Bread.
Shchi is excellent as a leftover, so I always make a big batch. You can easily halve the recipe. Reheat on the stovetop or microwave.
1 cup cooked chicken, cut or shredded into bite sized pieces
salt, ground black pepper, to taste
1 Tablespoon each, fresh dill and green onions, finely chopped, for garnishing
sour cream, for garnishing
If you have Chicken Broth, use it. If not, place a few chicken drumsticks (or any other chicken pieces – chicken wings, chicken breast, chicken thighs) in a large pot with some whole black peppercorns, a few dry bay leaves, fill with water and cook for 35-45 minutes. Season to taste with salt. Strain the broth through a fine mesh sieve lined with a paper towel or a paper towel. Take the chicken meat off the bone, cut or shred into bite sized pieces, set aside to be add to the soup at the end.
Heat the butter or oil in a large pot or dutch oven and add the chopped onion and grated carrots. Season with salt and ground black pepper to taste. Sauté the vegetables on medium heat for about 5 minutes until they are tender.
Meanwhile, rehydrate the dry mushrooms by pouring boiling water over them and setting aside until they get soft. Wash them really well, add the mushrooms to the soup pot. Strain the mushroom liquid through a fine mesh sieve lined with a coffee filter or paper towel and add it to the soup along with the chicken broth. Bring the soup to a boil, season with salt, if it needs it. Reduce the heat to simmer, cover and cook for about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, prep the rest of the vegetables – peel and chop the potatoes, shred the cabbage and chop the fresh herbs.
Add the potatoes, cabbage and sauerkraut to the broth. Add them to the soup and add water to the soup to make it the consistently that you like. Cook the soup at a simmer, covered, until the potatoes and cabbage are tender, another 30 – 45 minutes.
Add the cooked chicken to the soup at the very end, giving it just enough time to heat through.
When the soup is cooked, garnish with fresh herbs and serve with a dollop of sour cream in each bowl.
Keywords: Shchi, cabbage soup, sauerkraut soup, Russian cabbage soup, cabbage and potato soup, cabbage and mushroom soup, dry mushroom soup
This recipe was first published on September 28, 2012. I updated the photos and clarified and updated the instructions to make it even better. This soup is a family favorite that we’ve been enjoying for generations. I hope you enjoy it too.