Shchi (Russian Cabbage Soup) With Meatballs

One day, a long time ago, when we still lived in Belarus, my Mom was trying to cook up a pot of soup very quickly and stumbled upon a genius idea.

In Belarus, twenty years ago, there was no such thing as the luxury of store bought chicken broth. If you wanted to make soup, you made it from scratch, broth and all. Most soups started with cooking a large pot of bones and meat for a long time to get a rich and flavorful broth, and then you added all the other components to it. With five little kiddos under the age of six, you can imagine that my Mom was a very busy woman. She was a superwoman and kept up with housekeeping, cooking and taking care of us, and that’s probably why she was such a pro at coming up with awesome shortcuts.

Russian Shchi is a classic cabbage soup, that any Slavic housewife masters if she’s worth her salt. It’s full of nutrients and is very soothing and filling, especially appreciated during the long, cold winter months. Instead of cooking this soup for hours, she made Shchi with meatballs, adding meatiness and protein to the soup in a very quick and convenient way.

This soup is chock full of vegetables, and all those aromatics infuse the Shchi with so much depth of flavor, but is still so light and extremely healthy. I like using chicken meatballs, but you can certainly make meatballs from any other ground meat. In half an hour, you’ve got yourself a pot of soup brimming with healthiness, lots of bright colors and cute shapes. Let’s not forget how amazingly delicious it is, which is, after all, most important of all. 

Ingredients:

10-12 cups water

3 potatoes, peeled and chopped (about 2 1/2 cups)

1/2 cabbage head, shredded

1/2 – 1 Tablespoon butter

1 large onion, chopped

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

2 celery stalks, sliced

2 garlic cloves, minced

3 tomatoes, seeded and chopped

1 medium bell pepper, or 1/2 of a large bell pepper, julienne

Meatballs:

1 lb ground chicken (or ground turkey, ground pork, ground beef)

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

1/4-1/3 cup milk

1 1/2 Tablespoons sour cream

1/2 small onion, grated

1 garlic clove, grated, optional (you can use 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder instead)

3/4 teaspoon salt, ground black pepper

To Serve:

fresh herbs, minced (dill, parsley, green onions)

sour cream (to serve with the soup, optional)

Instructions:

Pour the water into a large pot and bring it to a boil. Add the potatoes and cabbage to the boiling water. Season with salt and pepper. File0436 (500x334)

File0437 (500x334)Meanwhile, in a skillet, melt the butter and add the onion, carrots, celery and garlic. Season with salt and pepper, and cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes, until vegetables are tender. File0443 (500x334)Add the tomatoes and pepper. Season with salt and pepper again and cook for another 3 minutes. File0444 (500x334)

File0448 (500x334)Add the vegetables to the soup. Cook the soup at a simmer for about 20 minutes total, until the potatoes are tender. File0450 (500x334)

File0452 (500x334)Make the meatballs while the soup is cooking. Mix all the ingredients together, the ground meat, breadcrumbs soaked in milk, sour cream, grated onion, garlic, if using, salt and ground black pepper. The meatball mixture will be very soft. That’s normal and will make the meatballs super juicy and tender.

File0455 (500x334)

File0457 (500x334)Form small meatballs using damp hands and drop them into the simmering soup. File0458 (500x334)Cook for another 5-7 minutes, until the meatballs have cooked through. File0462 (500x334)Take the soup off the heat and garnish with fresh herbs, such as dill, parsley and green onions. Serve with a dollop of sour cream.

Fresh Shchi With Meatballs
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Soups
Serves: 8-10
Ingredients
  • 10 - 12 cups water
  • 3 potatoes, peeled and chopped (about 2½ cups)
  • ½ cabbage head, shredded
  • ½ - 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 1 medium bell pepper, or ½ of a large bell pepper, julienne
Meatballs:
  • 1 lb ground chicken (or ground turkey, ground pork, ground beef)
  • ½ cup panko bread crumbs
  • ¼-1/3 cup milk
  • 1½ Tablespoons sour cream
  • ½ small onion, grated
  • 1 garlic clove, grated, optional (you can use ½ teaspoon of garlic powder instead)
  • ¾ teaspoon salt, ground black pepper
To Serve:
  • fresh herbs, minced (dill, parsley, green onions)
  • sour cream (to serve with the soup, optional)
Instructions
  1. Pour the water into a large pot and bring it to a boil.
  2. Add the potatoes and cabbage to the boiling water. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Meanwhile, in a skillet, melt the butter and add the onion, carrots, celery and garlic. Season with salt and pepper, and cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes, until vegetables are tender.
  4. Add the tomatoes and pepper. Season with salt and pepper again and cook for another 3 minutes. Add the vegetables to the soup.
  5. Cook the soup at a simmer for about 20 minutes total, until the potatoes are tender.
  6. Make the meatballs while the soup is cooking.
  7. Mix all the ingredients together, the ground meat, breadcrumbs soaked in milk, sour cream, grated onion, garlic, if using, salt and ground black pepper. The meatball mixture will be very soft. That's normal and will make the meatballs super juicy and tender.
  8. Form small meatballs using damp hands and drop them into the simmering soup.
  9. Cook for another 5-7 minutes, until the meatballs have cooked through.
  10. Take the soup off the heat and garnish with fresh herbs, such as dill, parsley and green onions. Serve with a dollop of sour cream.

36 Comments

  • Anna @ Happy Medley

    Olga this is a great idea! My mom always added 1/2 sauerkraut and 1/2 fresh cabbage… It gives it a little bit of tang and more ! flavor

    happymedley.blogspot.com

  • Natalie

    Yum – this looks so good! Since my boys LOVE soup, I am giving this a try tomorrow! Every one of your recipes that I have tried never failed me 🙂 So I am sure this one will be a hit too! Thanks for sharing 🙂 Hope you are enjoying time with your new family addition – he is adorable! God bless you guys!

  • Natalya Wilson

    Made the shchi few days ago, but I had some small ribs, so I made with ribs…. What a hit!!! Everyone loved it, even kids!!!! Mike told me that I need to do more of Russians soups and other Russian meals… Thank you for the recipes!!!

  • yana

    Hi Olga!! I just made this soup, followed the recipie exactly and our family had it for lunch…YUMMY..it is sooo good..thank you so much for your recipies!!

  • Liza

    This is almost exactly how I make shchi! The only difference is the garlic and celery, because my husband doesn’t like celery very much and cannot eat garlic. I think one of the best things about shchi is its versatility! You can add and take away many things (I often add mushrooms!) and it’ll be amazing if you make sure to salt and pepper generously throughout the process. I also love the clean taste of the broth! Such a comfort food for me! 🙂 Thank you for sharing!

  • Liza

    Oops I pushed reply a little too soon… anyway, I made it this evening with your meatballs (I’ve never made it with chicken meatballs) and it was amazing! 🙂 I’ll definitely make it with the chicken meatballs again and again!

    • olgak7

      I agree with you, Liza, that Shchi is so versatile and easy to adjust to your flavor preference. I’m glad to hear that you enjoyed the meatballs made with chicken. Chicken is my favorite meat to use for meatballs, especially for soup. Thanks for taking the time to write.

    • olgak7

      I cook a lot, so chopping is second hand to me. Mandolines are really great tools to use if you want to have very neat and finely sliced vegetables. Here’s the one I use.

  • Olga I

    It’s very delicious! My family absolutely loves it! I have to retire my recipe. Thank you, Olga. It’s so chilly in Tampa Bay Area, so it was perfect comfort food for dinner.

    • olgak7

      It IS cold, isn’t it, Olga? I’m glad to meet a fellow Floridian. We had to bundle up to go out this evening. Warm, comforting soup really hits the spot on days like this.

  • Shelly

    Olga, I love your recipes, especially the Russian ones. Reminds me of my childhood.
    We don’t mix milk and meat. Is there any way to make the meatballs recipe without milk? And perhaps without the bread? Perhaps breadcrumbs? Milk alternative? Your suggestions would be most appreciated.

  • Julia

    Hi Olga! My 8 year made this soup last night for her school lunches and it turned out delicious :)) I love that it’s full of veggies and chicken and is like a whole meal. Healthy and tasty. Thank you!

  • Arlene

    this soup is so similar to the one my mom used to make. Her parents came from Latvia and I guess the recipe was handed down through the family. Can’t wait to make a big pot to conquer this cold winter! Thanks for the recipe!

  • Tatiana

    Olga, I just wanted to say you are an amazing cook! The more recepes I try from your blog, the more You are appreciated as a cook in my eyes! I get a lot of inspiration to cook from your blog n love trying out your recepes! Thanks for your work n blessings!

  • Tanya

    Hi Olga,
    I pre-made the meatballs and froze them. Can I put frozen meatballs in the soup or is it better to thaw them out? I like to make a big batch of meatballs, freeze it and then use it as needed. Thank you for all your work!

  • Tanya

    Hi Olga,
    I pre-made the meatballs and froze them. Can I put frozen meatballs in the soup or is it better to thaw them out? I like to make a big batch of meatballs, freeze it and then use it as needed. Thank you for all your work and great recipes!

    • olgak7

      You can put the frozen meatballs in the soup, you’ll just have to cook them longer, Tanya. I like freezing meatballs too; it’s such a timesaver later.

  • Tatyana

    Olga thank you so much for sharing this recipe! I made it so many times now and it never fails. My whole family absolutely loves it! I like how it’s kind of combination of soup and borsch in one, and that it’s so refreshing.

  • Kristina

    Olga,
    I lost my recipe from my cousins in Rostov when we moved. Thank you for this!!! Can I make this soup the day before and reheat, or will it be soggy? I plan to make it for Easter! Thanks!

  • Mike Johnson

    Hello Olga!

    This may be a bit different from what you typically get for comments, but I thought I would let you know what else your recipe is involved with. I am a WWI historian/presenter and I do talks for local schools and organizations on the war, taking the history down to the individual soldier level. I have food/rations displays for all the major armies involved, using fake food made for me by a couple individuals. My Imperial Russian Army display includes a mess kit full of Shchi (not as fancy as yours, due to the lack of certain food types from time to time). I always got questions as to recipes for the stuff, so I have started handing out recipes at my talks. Yours is one I pass on for the Shchi (hope you don’t mind). I like it VERY much!

    My Best to you!

    Mike J.

    • olgak7

      Thank you for sharing my Shchi recipe, Mike.
      I loved reading your comment. I think it’s wonderful that you love history and share it with others.Thank you for taking the time to write.

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