Rassolnik – soup with pickles and barley

Here it is, Rassolnik – soup with pickles. Yep, your eyes are not lying to you. We almost never eat soups (so you won’t see many of them here), but this one is a rare exception. I eat rassolnik all my life and love it. It proudly shares my heart with borscht.

Rassolnik in bowls

Bring in your cucumbers in brine

Soups with brine (rassol in Russian) and pickles are known for a long time. It was made with meat, fish and even mushrooms. With time this dish evolved and now practically all people in ex-USSR know and enjoy this soup.

There are a lot of recipes for Rassolnik. They vary regionally and from cook to cook. I do my version based on how it was cooked at my home. Of course, I could change some things but, well, for me this soup is about the family, childhood, home, the whole nine. It brings me comfort, especially now when I’m so far from home.
For this soup, you have to use picked cucumbers, no vinegar. This is what gives Rassolnik its unique taste.
By the way, brine is well-known hangover cure in Eastern Europe.

I should say, pickles are not only for burgers or this soup. T love beef stew with pickles too and one my favorites salad also has them. Not to mention that I can eat good pickles just like that, right from the jar. Here in Texas, I don’t make my own for now but it was part of our harvest preserve back in Belarus.

Girl eating Rassolnik

My way to cook Rassolnik

Many traditional recipes contain kidneys or using beef broth as a base. Neither I nor my husband eats kidneys so I never use them. I go with beef during cold winter days or chicken during warm times. For this recipe, I used chicken thigh as meat. You can use good quality store-bought stock if you like. For me the most important thing in this soup with pickles is brine. This is the final thing I add to my soup and then I live it to mature and balance for a night in a fridge. Of course, you can serve it right away but Rassolnik would be much better the next day.

In everything else, this soup with pickles is pretty straightforward. Cook barley and veggies in stock (or broth), add pickles, brine and aromatic herbs, wait, enjoy!

Rassolnik - soup with pickles and barley

My version of rich and delicious Rassolnik - traditional Russian soup with pickled cucumbers and barley. An unusual taste will pleasantly surprise your taste buds.
Course: Soup
Cuisine: Eastern European
Servings: 8 portions as main course
Author: Katia White


For the stock

  • 2 chicken thighs boneless and skinless, whole
  • 1 yellow onion medium, halved
  • 1 carrot medium, halved
  • 6 Black peppercorns whole
  • 2 allspice whole
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt

For the soup

  • 1/4 cup barley raw, rinsed
  • 2 potatoes (I prefer Yukon gold) medium, thick julienne
  • 1 yellow onion medium, diced
  • 1 carrot medium, grated
  • 5-7 pickels medium, diced or thin julienne
  • Brine
  • Parsley fresh, italian
  • Dill fresh
  • Sour cream for the serving


For the stock

  • Put chicken thighs in a pot and cover with water (I use about 4 quarts/liters). Bring to a boil, skim off the foam forming on a surface. Add salt, halved onion and carrot. Put your aromatics (except bay leaf) into a  seasoning mesh and submerged into future stock. Set the heat on low and let the stock simmer for about an hour.
  • Add bay leaf and simmer 10 minutes more. Remove aromatics, veggies, and meat from the stock. Discard everything except the poultry. Pull the meat on desired chunks. I do it with two forks. 

For the soup

  • Add barley into the stock and let it cook for about 20 minutes. Add potatoes. 
  • In a separate skillet heat about a tablespoon of avocado oil (or other cooking oil you want to use) and sautee diced onion and grated carrot until soft and slightly caramelized. Add pickles, a bit of stock and let it simmer on low heat for about 10 minutes.
  • When potatoes are done add skillet mixture into the pot, add the brine. Taste your soup and add more brine if you wish, season if you need. Don't add too much brine, the taste would be subtle but will mature with time. Add chicken chunks, bring to a boil. Add chopped herbs, cover the lid and take the soup off the heat. 
  • I recommend to cool to room temperature and let mature for a night in a fridge. But you can serve it right away with a dollop of sour cream and some additional herbs if you like.

If you tried a recipe let me know by comment, e-mail or by sharing your results. Tag me on Instagram @katia_white_foodphoto and use a #lets_eattogether hashtag so I could see your image.

I’d love to hear from you!

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