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Polish Recipes Newsletter

White Borscht Soup Recipe (Zurek)

Polish soups are some of the best in the world, with a wide variety of recipes to enjoy.  Below we feature a popular Polish soup recipe usually made during Easter, called Zurek.  What makes this zurek recipe (pronounced "zhurek") so exotic is that zakwas is used for the soup base.   Zakwas is made from fermenting rye flour and water.   In fact, the name “żurek” traditionally refers to the soup made with a sour rye starter.  You can find it at some ethnic stores, but here we made it ourselves.  Just give yourself plenty of time, up to five days, to really make sure the rye flour properly ferments to bring out all the flavor.  Zurek can be prepared with white sausage, but here we made it vegetarian.

White Borscht Soup Recipe (Zurek)

Sour Rye Starter (Zakwas):Zurek recipe

  • 2 cups rye flour
  • 5 cups warm water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced
  • Large glass jar with cloth to cover


  • 1/2 pound peeled & chopped soup vegetables (carrots, parsnips, leek, onion, parsley, celery root)
  • 6 cups waters
  • 1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 3 cups Zakwas (above) or more if needed
  • 3-4 bay leaves
  • 6 dried wild mushrooms, rinsed and soaked for 30 minutes
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1-2 chopped garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon marjoram
  • 1 teaspoon horseradish (optional)
  • plenty of salt and ground pepper to taste
  • Grilled white sausage chopped (optional)
  • sour cream (optional) 
  • Topping: fresh parsley, hard boiled egg



1.  Sour Rye Starter (Zakwas): use the largest sterilized jar you have or glass bowl you can cover.  Add rye flour.  Boil the water to kill all bacteria and let it cool to lukewarm, then add to flour and stir.  Add rest of ingredients, cover, and let sit for 4-5 days in a warm dark location (18 and 22 degrees centigrade).  Stir daily with a clean spoon. You will know it is done by the sour taste and acid smell.  Note:  some recipes call for adding rye crust to your starter.  However, you have to find rye bread without any softeners, or you can spoil your zakwas.  May be safer to leave out.  Also, the four to water ratio is not too strict, just make sure you give it plenty of time to ferment.

2.  Zurek: Next you want to make the broth. In a large soup pot, bring soup pot to boil with all the vegetables and about 6 cups water.  Simmer for 30 minutes or until all flavor is out of veggies and strain (remove cooked vegetables).  Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer till potatoes are tender.  Make sure to add the water with the mushrooms since it has all the flavor.  When adding the rye starter, some recipes suggest to just use the liquid part of the zakwas, and some use all of it (i.e. rye flour and water).  It depends on how thick you want your soup and the strength of the sour taste.  I used the entire mixture because I had extra water in my pot from all the veggies and it turned out better than just using a few cups of zakwas. Plus, we like a more hearty soup.  I also doubled all the seasonings.  The flavor really came out on the second day too, after letting the soup sit in the refrigerator. 

Zurek White Borscht recipe

3.  Make hard boiled eggs: use one hard boil egg per serving, so make enough eggs for how ever many bowls of soup you will need. (Boil eggs for ten minutes, drain and cool).

4.  Serve.  The best way to serve Zurek is on shallow soup bowls so they you can easily cut up the egg with your spoon.  Cut a hard boiled egg in half and lay it on top of the soup.  Garnish with fresh parsley or dill.  (Can serve with sour cream).

This sounds like an

This sounds like an absolutely yummy soup. I hope it tastes like the soup I remember Busia made when I was a kid. Now, I'm going to omit the mushrooms as I have an allergy to it. Thank you for this recipe! Laura

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