Shchi- Russian Cabbage Soup (Щи)

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

Ingredients for Shchi Russian Cabbage and Sauerkraut Soup with potatoes and dry mushrooms.

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

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.

Preparing Shchi

  • 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.

Russian Shchi made with cabbage, sauerkraut, potatoes, carrots and onions served with sour cream and fresh herbs.
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Shchi – Russian Cabbage Soup

  • Author: Olga’s Flavor Factory
  • Prep Time: 20 mins
  • Cook Time: 1 hour 30 mins
  • Total Time: 1 hour 50 minutes
  • Yield: 8 1x
  • Category: Soup

Scale

Ingredients

8 cups chicken broth

2 cups water, more or less depending on how thick you want the soup

1 Tablespoon butter or oil

1 large onion, chopped

1 carrot, grated

1/2 cup dry mushrooms, porcini

3 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped

2 cups sauerkraut

1 cup fresh cabbage, finely chopped or shredded

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


Instructions

  1. 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. 
  2. 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. 
  3. 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. 
  4. Meanwhile, prep the rest of the vegetables – peel and chop the potatoes, shred the cabbage and chop the fresh herbs. 
  5. 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.
  6. Add the cooked chicken to the soup at the very end, giving it just enough time to heat through.
  7. 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.

33 Comments

  • Marina

    I have never tried this dish. It’s not something I would normally eat but my taste buds have drastically changed (aged? matured?) over the years and I find myself longing to try a cabbage soup. And with mushrooms in it? Sold.

  • Adi

    Hi Olga,
    I just wanted to stop by and say how much I enjoy reading your blog. Great job! I’m from Eastern Europe and our cuisines are so much alike. Thank you so much!
    P.S. I’ll make the soup tonight 🙂 with sour cream of course! I can eat sour cream with almost everything.

    • olgak7

      Oksana, If you use fresh mushrooms, the taste will be completely different. If you don’t want to use dry mushrooms, you can just omit them completely.

    • olgak7

      That’s a great question, Debbie. Dry mushrooms tend to have a lot of grit on them. I wash them really thoroughly before I add them to the soup.If you don’t wash the mushrooms and then strain the liquid the soup will be very gritty. The liquid in which the mushrooms steep is very flavorful so I add it back to the soup. It’s optional though, you can discard the porcini liquid, but I think it gives a really rich, savory taste to the soup.

    • olgak7

      Sorry, Olga!
      I’ll fix it. I usually put in about 1/4 -1/3 cup of dried mushrooms. It’s really up to you and how much you want to use. I like a lot of mushrooms, so I put in quite a bit.

  • Hannah

    I studied abroad in St. Petersburg some years ago and found myself missing my hostess’s shchi. This was just as good if not better than what I remembered from one of my favorite dinners while I was in Russia. Thank you for sharing this.

  • Soumen Banerjee

    I see that you have “1 cup cooked chicken, cut or shredded into bite sized pieces” in the list of ingredients but I don’t see them being used anywhere. When. where and how are you using them in this recipe?

    • olgak7

      You need to add it to the soup at the end of cooking, just long enough to reheat. I’m sorry I wasn’t more clear in the instructions.

  • Marjorie

    Olga, this shchi seems wonderful, but compared with other recipes it has less cabbage (1 cup). Would it still work with, say, 3 or 4 cups of shredded cabbage? Or is that a “no-no” for this type of soup?

    Thank you,
    mlb

  • Amy Nova

    OMG, I give this 11/10 stars!! I made this and followed your recipe exactly except that I used homemade Russian sauerkraut instead of canned. EVERYONE loved it even my boyfriend and his mother who think that Eastern Euro food is “too weird” for their American tastes. My Russian father made very good cabbage soup but this perfection..(Sorry dad!) It is my new all time favorite soup..(sorry potato leek soup). Thank you for this simple but excellent soup, Olga. 😀

  • Gloria

    Hi Olga, I had this soup tonight and it was truly wonderful… ! I also have the Rassoulnik a lot as well. I’m from the UK but LOVE eastern european food. My friends think my taste buds are weird. But I like to think I’m more refined ! I made the veggie version as I’m a vegan and happily I managed to find soya based sour cream which really finishes it off perfectly 😃 Thank You, I’m working my way through all your recipes XxX

    • olgak7

      I’m so happy to hear that you enjoyed it, Gloria. It’s on my menu for this week too:). European taste buds can be interesting, lol. My sister and her family are vegan, so I have some practice converting recipes to vegan. I LOVE the vegan sour cream from Whole Foods.

    • olgak7

      Yes, the mushrooms should be soft and tender, Katie. The time depends on what kind of dry mushrooms you are using. I buy porcini mushrooms from nuts.com and they get really soft and tender in about 30 minutes, but I’ve used other porcini mushrooms that I bought from other grocery stores and they took much longer to cook and still don’t get as tender as the nuts.com mushrooms – not an advertisement:). I’m just a happy customer.

  • Duncan

    Hi Olga,
    Our recipe is from here:
    “Molokan Favorites”

    UNITED MOLOKAN CHRISTIAN ASSOCIATION LADIES AUXILIARY
    1963
    SALANKA #2 page 74
    3 lbs. Lamb shoulder, cut up
    1 onion sliced
    ½ tsp. salt
    Pepper to taste
    1 qt. Sauerkraut (homemade)

    Wash lamb, and put in a 4 qt. Pot.
    Cover and simmer for 1 hour. Add
    4 c. boiling water, continue cooking
    for another ½ hour. Add 1 qt. sauer-
    kraut (homemade) or 1 large can of sauer-
    kraut and 1 small head of shredded
    cabbage. Cook 1 hour. Serves six.

    We use short ribs instead of lamb.
    Duncan

    • olgak7

      I use garlic in the chicken broth, so it has garlic flavor, but as I said in the recipe instructions, you can certainly add it if you would like.

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