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White Barszcz Zurek (Sour Bread Soup)

This Polish soup is a traditional Easter dish. Instead of a broth, the soup uses zakwas as a base, a fermented blend of rye bread and water that is related to the starter used for sourdough bread. The soup can be made thin and delicate, or stuffed with hearty ingredients like bacon and potatoes. In Easter preparations, biała kielbasa, or “spicy white sausage,” similar to bratwurst, is traditionally added. The soup contains many ingredients found in traditional Polish Easter baskets, a forerunner of the modern tradition observed in the United States. In Poland, the tradition of carrying baskets to church on Holy Saturday dates to the 15th century. The baskets contained foods representing the bounty of life and were brought for blessings in the coming year. Typical contents included bacon, Easter bread, cheese or butter, hard-boiled eggs, ham, sausage links, horseradish, and salt. This soup is enjoyed by families with Polish heritage on both sides of the Atlantic.

Recipe Servings: 4

Prep Time
20 minutes
+ 96 hours resting
Cook Time
1 hour
Total Time
97 hours 20 minutes
Gluten Free
Dairy Free


  • ½ cup rye flour
  • 1–2 crusts from rye bread
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 2 large onions, peeled, one halved and one coarsely chopped
  • 1 large carrot, trimmed and peeled
  • 1 large parsnip, trimmed and peeled
  • ½ celery root, peeled
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • ¼ lb bacon (3–4 strips), chopped
  • 2¼ lbs white sausage, cut into chunks
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 allspice berries
  • 1 Tbsp dried marjoram
  • 6 black peppercorns
  • ¼ cup white horseradish, grated
  • ½ cup light cream
  • Crusty brown bread, as needed for serving (optional)


    For Zakwas:
  1. Combine the rye flour, rye bread crusts, garlic and warm water in a 1 quart storage jar, and close to tightly seal.
  2. Let the jar sit in a warm place for 4–5 days.
  3. Open the jar, remove any mold, and strain. The remaining sour, fermented liquid is the zakwas. You will have about 2 cups for the soup. Set aside.
  4. For Soup:
  5. Heat the sliced onion halves, carrot, parsnip, celery root and 6 cups of water in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat.
  6. Simmer, uncovered, for about 40 minutes.
  7. Strain the broth and discard the vegetables.
  8. Place the chopped onion, garlic, bacon, and sausage in a soup pot and fry over medium-high heat until the ingredients are lightly browned.
  9. Add the strained broth, bay leaf, allspice berries, marjoram, peppercorns, and horseradish.
  10. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and then simmer, uncovered, for about 20 minutes.
  11. Stir in the reserved zakwas, add the cream, and return mixture to a boil.
  12. Remove the bay leaf and serve with crusty brown bread on the side, if using.

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