Sauerkraut soup (Korhelyleves)

Hungarians traditionally eat this winter soup as a hangover cure following a nocturnal debauch. Bright-tasting sauerkraut, crispy sausages, and a flavorful broth laden with sour cream are meant to soothe the stomach and mitigate the headache.


Yield: 4-6 servings; Total time: 1 hour

  • 200 grams (½ pound) smoked pork belly or bacon, cut into small cubes, about 1 cm (½ inch) long. Remove skin if using pork belly.

  • 300 grams (⅔ pound) smoked sausage, sliced thin

  • 500 grams (1 pound) sauerkraut, rinsed and drained

  • 1 onion, minced

  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

  • 1 tablespoon Hungarian sweet paprika

  • 1 teaspoon ground caraway seeds

  • Salt to taste

  • Pinch of pepper

  • 2 bay leaves

  • 2 liters (2.1 quarts) water

  • 200 grams (¾ cup) sour cream

  • 1 tablespoon flour

  • Slices of crusty bread


  • Step 1: Add the bits of pork belly (or bacon) and smoked sausage into a large pot and turn heat to medium-high. After 3-4 minutes, add also the minced onion and sauté until translucent, about 6-8 minutes. Pork belly should be golden-brown and the sausages nicely crisped-up.

  • Step 2: Lower heat to medium-low and stir in paprika, freshly ground pepper, caraway seeds, minced garlic, and bay leaves. Don’t season with salt at this point. Then add drained sauerkraut and combine (if the sauerkraut is very salty, first rinse in a few changes of cold water and drain). Cover with 2 liters (2.1 quarts) of water, place lid on pot and let it simmer until sauerkraut has softened but still a bit crunchy, about 45 minutes.

  • Step 3: In a medium bowl, mix together 3 tablespoons sour cream and flour. Add a couple of ladles of the hot soup from the pot into the sour cream mixture and stir to combine. 

  • Step 4: Turn off heat and add sour cream mixture to the pot. Then turn the heat back on and stir at a low simmer for 2-3 minutes (soup will start to thicken).

  • Step 5: Taste and add salt if needed. Serve in soup bowls, garnishing each plate with a dollop of sour cream on top. Add slices of crusty bread on the side.

Words of advice

Be careful not to oversalt. Both the sauerkraut and the smoked meats are already salty so you may only need to add a little.

I created these recipes with the help of nearly a dozen historical Hungarian cookbooks, adjusting ingredients, cooking times, and methods to reflect my own preferences and tastes of the current day.