How to make a hearty German sauerkraut soup with potatoes and authentic spices.
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Sauerkrautsuppe – a favorite of a Nation
While sauerkraut in general and soups featuring it as the main ingredient are popular across Eastern Europe and Russia, in Germany they are held in especially high esteem.
Of all the different preparation styles we’ve tried during our travels over the years, this recipe is our favorite. It’s hearty, yet not too filling, it combines the unique mild tanginess of German kraut with the very compatible flavors of caraway, paprika and smoked sausage.
Most German lagers go well with it, but we particularly like to enjoy it with a Munich Helles.
While there are many regional variations, the key to all authentic German sauerkraut soup recipes is of course to use high-quality traditional ingredients.
- Cooking oil. To saute the onions. A traditional alternative is bacon grease from speck. See Variations below.
- Onion. To help form the savory base. Sometimes the onions are cooked until caramelized, with a bit of sugar, but most frequently they are only sauteed until translucent.
- Sauerkraut. Use naturally fermented, mild flavored German sauerkraut – today most well stocked grocery stores will carry it. Drain and rinse it before adding it.
- Bay leaf & caraway. In Germany both are traditionally used in combination with sauerkraut. A single bay leaf is enough to flavor the soup. Grind or at least lightly crush the caraway seeds to release more of their unique earthiness.
- Chicken stock. As rich and flavorful as you can find. We like to use homemade when we have it.
- Paprika. You can use either sweet or smoked paprika or both. It creates a beautiful color for the soup, adds a balancing earthy sweetness and if smoked – its distinctive aroma.
- Salt & pepper. To taste, to season the soup.
- Potatoes. Use a starchy or all-purpose variety such as Russet or Yukon Gold. Peel, dice and rinse before adding to soup. The starch released during simmering will naturally thicken the soup.
- Cream. Optional. Use heavy cream if you do add it. You can also substitute with crème fraîche or full fat natural sour cream.
- Sausage. Use lightly smoked Frankfurter hot dogs (Frankfurter Würstchen) or something similar. Their flavor ties perfectly with the hearty soup.
How to Make Traditional German Sauerkraut Soup
- Start by heating the oil in a soup pot and sauté the onions until they just begin to brown. Add the sauerkraut and the bay leaf and sauté briefly.
- Next add the chicken stock, potatoes, seasonings and bring to a gentle boil. Lower the heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender.
- Stir in the cream in the end and keep warm while you brown the smoked sausage. Serve with a small heap of sausage bites and garnish with a pinch of paprika and some parsley.
This is just one way to make a German sauerkraut soup, common in the South. Overall numerous recipes exist – some soups are clear, some thicker, some without the potatoes, some without the sausage.
Here are a few popular ways to customize our basic recipe.
- Bacon – Use about 1/2 cup of thick cut smoked bacon, cut into strips. Render the fat in the soup pot, then saute the onion in it (bacon bits stay) and proceed with the recipe. Omit the sausage.
- Tomato sauce/paste – add before the chicken stock to create Rote Sauerkrautsuppe (red sauerkraut soup). About 1/2 cup sauce or 2 tbsp paste.
- Skip the potatoes – for a less filling version simply do not add the potatoes. You may increase the quantity of sauerkraut to 3 cups.
- Skip the cream – if you do not add heavy cream at the end the soup will have a relatively clear broth, especially if you also skip the potatoes. A dollop of crème fraîche or sour cream with each serving is recommended.
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- 2 tbsp olive or vegetable oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced
- 2 cups drained and rinsed sauerkraut*
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 1 tbsp paprika**
- 1/2 tsp caraway seed, lightly crushed
- 1/4 cup heavy cream***
- 2 Frankfurters (lightly smoked hot dogs), chopped
- parsley, for garnish
1. In a soup pot over medium heat sauté the diced onions in the oil until they just start to brown. Add the sauerkraut and the bay leaf, stir and sauté for about 30 seconds.
2. Add the chicken stock, the diced potatoes, paprika, caraway, salt and pepper. Stir and bring to a gentle boil. Lower the heat, cover and simmer until the potatoes are tender (about 20-25 minutes).
3. Stir in the heavy cream*** in the end and keep warm while you brown the smoked sausage in a skillet. Serve topped with sausage and garnish with parsley and a pinch of paprika.
* German, naturally fermented. If using the milder Bavarian style sauerkraut typically packed with caraway seed you may reduce the caraway seed or leave it out. Do not use American vinegar soured sauerkraut - it's harsh flavor will alter how the soup tastes.
**Sweet paprika - you may increase the quantity if you like it. If using smoked paprika you may reduce the quantity as it tends to be a bit strong for some tastes.
***You may leave it out or substitute with crème fraîche or sour cream. Alternatively you could leave it out and serve with a generous dollop of crème fraîche/sour cream for diners to stir in themselves. Finally, if you don't have heavy cream handy you can use whole milk, half and half or regular light cream. In order for it not to curdle due to its lower fat content (compared to heavy cream) first add a bit of soup broth to it to temper it and then gradually stir it into the soup.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 293Total Fat: 17gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 36mgSodium: 1799mgCarbohydrates: 28gFiber: 6gSugar: 6gProtein: 9g