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Russian Monday: Cabbage Soup – Shchi

Last Sunday, at bloggers conference in Orlando, when people were finding out I was born in Russia they have been asking if I have any recipes of Russian cuisine on my blog. Apparently, I had none. I just thought that on the internet there are plenty of recipes of cabbage soup (pronounced as “sch-ee”), cabbage rolls (“go-lub-tsy”) and perogys (“pee-ro-gee”). There are tons of these things around I would not dare to say final products look really attractive. On the way home I have been thinking about all of this, about my hometown of St. Petersburg, about my mom’s home cooking and the fact that I have graduated from the Culinary Arts Institute years ago particularly in my hometown and not at any other place. I would love to stay close to my roots and I feel that my cultural background comes out anyways in all of my creations – recipes, photos, and illustrations.

My blog is a collection of all kinds of recipes, images of beautifully served dishes, and the main purpose is to serve as a source of inspiration for anyone interested in the culture of cooking and serving food. I have decided to start a new section dedicated to Russian cuisine. Since I am also an artist I will be able to present Russian dishes served in the most aesthetically pleasing ways. I will also write about the history of various recipes, the history of my hometown and traditions I remember from childhood.

Today, we start with the very traditional dish – cabbage soup, or “Shchi”. This is something my mom used to cook and I love this soup till this day and cook it for my kids. Generally speaking, shchi is a cabbage soup with a meat broth base. There are many recipes for it, two common variations use either raw or sauerkraut. Other veggies typically used in shchi are carrots, onions, tomatoes for color and taste as well as greens. Potatoes, turnips, and spinach are used quite often as well. Soup is served with pumpernickel bread, sour cream and greens.

History of Russian shchi is counted in centuries. It is a commonly accepted fact that shchi has emerged in national Russian cuisine in the 9th century when cabbage has been brought for the first time from Byzantium. The poor population had the luxury of eating meat only on very rare occasions if ever and hence the custom of adding pork lard to the cabbage soup has emerged. However, often people had to manage only with cabbage and onions. In spring dried mushrooms were often used as another substantial ingredient. Rye flour was used to add more density to the soup. Potatoes found their way into shchi in the 17th century while turnips were used for hundreds of years prior.

Shchi is considered a national Russian dish and there are many proverbs and sayings where shchi is mentioned. Shchi was something to invite guests for; it was a sign of hospitality. One of the major merits of shchi besides the taste is the fact that they are hard to get used to and I can’t imagine any of my compatriots who would never have shchi in his life.

For more Russian recipes, visit Russian Cuisine page.

Cabbage, carrots, tomatoes, onions, thyme in metal basket

Cabbage Soup - Shchi

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  • For the stock:
  • about 6 cups water for broth 
  • 1 1/2 lb. beef, cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 fresh thyme spring
  • For the soup:
  • 1/2 medium head fresh cabbage, finely chopped or shredded
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot shredded
  • 1-2 medium tomato, peeled, seeded and chopped or 1 cup can diced tomatoes
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh dill, chopped
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • chopped fresh chives, to garnish



Put about 2 pints/5 cups of water and the meat in a large pan with the onions, garlic, bay leaf, clove and spring of thyme. Bring to the boil, lower the heat and simmer for about 1 hour, skimming as necessary, until the beef is tender. Remove the beef from stock. Strain the broth through a fine-mesh sieve lined with a paper towel or cheesecloth, then return to the soup pan together with beef.


Melt the butter in a large, heavy pan. Add the diced onions and carrots, cook over low heat for about 10 minutes, or until lightly browned.


Add shredded cabbage to the stock, bring to boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add onion-carrot mixture, and cubed tomatoes. Season the soup with salt and black pepper to taste. Simmer for about 7-8 minutes more. Add fresh dill.


Ladle the soup into warmed soup bowls and serve with chopped chives and sour cream.

Cabbage soup with sour cream

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  • Reply
    Rosa's Yummy Yums
    May 27, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    Yes, I'd really be happy to see more russian recipes on your blog. This healthy and colorful soup looks delicious.



  • Reply
    La Table De Nana
    May 27, 2013 at 1:49 pm

    Me too..not familiar with Russina food so thie will be lovely..Great pics Yelena..
    When I was working I had clients that were Russian..Etkaterina was her beautiful !

  • Reply
    La Table De Nana
    May 27, 2013 at 1:50 pm

    I meant Ekaterina:)

  • Reply
    Eric Pepple
    May 27, 2013 at 7:48 pm

    Sounds delicious! Definitely has a lot of flavor 🙂

    Happy Blogging!
    Happy Valley Chow

  • Reply
    May 27, 2013 at 11:28 pm

    Oh we used to have a lot of this when I was a kid, I guess every eatery used to have it for lunch 😀

  • Reply
    May 28, 2013 at 10:19 am

    You'll have to make a recipe of sour shchi someday 🙂

  • Reply
    May 28, 2013 at 12:08 pm

    Love the pictures and I am so glad you have started this series with Russian recipes. I am going to try this soup soon as I loved the recipe. I have never heard of shchi before. Thanks for sharing the history Yelena – it was a nice read!
    Shema | LifeScoops

  • Reply
    May 28, 2013 at 3:29 pm

    Thank you my dear readers and friends, your comments mean a lot to me. I am so glad that you found of my new Russian chapter. If you like to see any particular recipe from Russian cuisine please let me know!

  • Reply
    Spicie Foodie
    May 28, 2013 at 7:45 pm

    Yelena I am thrilled that you will now be sharing Russian recipes. I love your countries cuisine and really want to learn how to make many dishes. This soup looks delicious!

  • Reply
    May 29, 2013 at 3:28 pm

    I have been to Russia 2 times and make several Russian dishes regularly. There are other dishes that I enjoyed there but do not know how to make and would love to learn. I would be thrilled to find them on your blog!

  • Reply
    Kankana Saxena
    May 29, 2013 at 6:13 pm

    I never used cabbage in soup. Do you think we could red cabbage too or you think only green would taste good? This looks very comforting and would love to give a try. Looking forward for more Russian recipes from you 🙂

  • Reply
    May 29, 2013 at 8:13 pm

    Kankana Saxena, you can use red cabbage in your soup, but the broth is going to be darker. I like it with green cabbage as a tradition. Red cabbage is better for salads.

  • Reply
    Nami | Just One Cookbook
    May 31, 2013 at 4:34 am

    Beautiful and nutritious soup, Yelena! I like that you brought your traditional soup to your blog. Always fun to see new food/recipes that I still haven't discovered. 🙂

  • Reply
    June 16, 2013 at 12:26 am

    I love shchi! I've been converting all of my coworkers to Russian food fans and I start them with shchi since it's so easy but so flexible.

    I'd love a recipe for a tvorog pie – my host mother in Russia made one every week (she called it tsarskaya pekanka), but I've never been able to reproduce it. I don't know if it's the fat content in the dairy that I can get in the US or if I've just completely forgotten how to make it.

  • Reply
    February 16, 2014 at 7:24 pm

    Great post! Watching the Olympics and had to learn more about your cuisine. Enjoyed reading about shchi here. Thank you!

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