If you’re looking for a Christmas-worthy soup that is both more impressive AND easier than the classic Red Borscht – let me introduce you to this Polish Mushroom Soup (‘Grzybowa’, pron.: gzhe-bova; also known as… ‘Mushroom Borscht’).
For the full list of ingredients & detailed instructions, please see the recipe card at the end of this post. But before you scroll, there’s important stuff to know below.
Following the tradition, this festive Mushroom Soup is completely meat-free. Instead, it’s brewed on dried mushrooms (soaked the night before) and an array of root vegetables.
Most of the old recipes for this soup are very similar. None of them include any dairy (no cream, no milk), as it wasn’t allowed on the days of religious fast.
But what they all have in common the key ingredients: boletes and/or bay boletes. They lend richness and that characteristic savoury, earthy aroma.
For more of the Polish festive delicacies, have a look at this Christmas recipe collection.
Do you need any special ingredients or equipment to make this Polish Christmas Mushroom Soup?
Yes, I’m afraid so. And unless you’re a mushroom-picker yourself, it can get a bit pricey.
🇵🇱 In Poland, mushroom foraging is a bit of a sport. It’s exciting, like a treasure hunt.
Even if you don’t take part – there’s always an auntie, a colleague or a neighbour who does. And more often than not, they’re willing to share.
In fall, freshly picked mushrooms are available at farmer’s markets and produce stalls. Before Christmas, most supermarkets are well stocked with a selection of dried and frozen wild mushrooms.
🌍 Internationally, mushrooms tend to be tricker to pick up. Many forests are private – or with significant restrictions. The mushrooms differ geographically as well, what grows in Poland won’t necessarily grow elsewhere.
Luckily, dried mushrooms show up online from time to time (here’s a pack from Amazon). You can also ask in specialty stores or at a Polish deli. You can try experimenting with your local mushrooms as well.
How should you serve this Polish Mushroom Soup?
On Christmas Eve, Mushroom Soup is often served with ‘łazanki’ – square shaped noodles. They’re similar in appearance to the Italian quadretti pasta. You could also serve it with kluski noodles (warning: eggs in this recipe), little ‘uszka’ dumplings or another noodle of your choice.
‘Grzybowa’ acts as a starter and therefore it’s served on its own, without any sides. Otherwise, you would spoil your appetite; and there are plenty of other dishes to try later on.
If you’re cooking the soup on another day and wish for a more filling meal, a few slices of fresh bread compliment it well. Drink-wise, this Mushroom Soup pairs nicely with earthy red wine (dry or semi-dry).
Can you make this Christmas Mushroom Soup another way?
Yes. Here’s what you could do differently:
- If you don’t follow a meat-free diet, feel free to add some poultry (legs, wings, carcasses) and/or beef (e.g ribs) to the mushrooms and cook it all together. I tried it with smoked ham hocks once, it was delicious.
- To make the soup more creamy, you can add a dollop of sour cream at the very end. Warning: that’s dairy, so it’s not Christmas Eve-friendly.
What diets is this Polish Mushroom Soup suitable for?
This soup is suitable for a vegan diet. Just like all of the recipes for a Polish Christmas Eve, this recipe is free of meat, dairy and eggs.
The soup itself is gluten-free, but you’ll have to swap the classic noodles for a gluten-free version.
How long can you keep this Christmas Mushroom Soup in the fridge?
This Polish Mushroom Soup tastes best when hot. Once it’s served, ideally you should eat it within 3-4 hours.
To store any leftovers, refrigerate it in a container with a lid. You can keep it in the fridge for around 3 days or so.
Can I freeze this Polish Mushroom Soup?
Yes, this recipe can be frozen. Move the soup into a freezer-friendly container and freeze it as soon as it’s cold enough to do so. Remember to label the box with a description and a date.
How do I reheat this Christmas Mushroom Soup?
From chilled: Place the soup in a microwave-friendly container and cover loosely with a lid. Heat for 4to 7 minutes until hot throughout.
From frozen: Allow to thaw first. Heat in the microwave(covered) for 3 to 5 minutes, then open and stir. Careful, it’s going to be hot! Next, continue cooking for another 5 minutes until hot throughout.
- 3-4 oz (85-110 g) dried wild mushrooms (boletus/porcini, bay bolete, and other)
- 2 quarts (1.9 litres) water
- 2 large carrots
- 2 large parsley roots
- 1/2 celery root
- 1 leek (the green part)
- 10 black peppercorns
- 2 tbsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- Salt, to taste
- Black pepper, ground, to taste
- Łazanki noodles, dry, to serve - can substitute for Italian quadretti
- 2 tbsp fresh parsley leaves, chopped (optional)
- [The night before] To get rid of dirt and impurities, rinse dried mushrooms briefly in cold water. Then, place them in a bowl and cover with fresh water - just enough so they float freely. Set aside overnight. If you’re worried that a bowl might attract some unwanted attention (from bugs, cats etc.), cover the bowl with cloth or a plate.
- Once you’re ready to cook, prepare a cooking pot (ideally sized at 2.5 quarts or more).
- Move soaked mushrooms to the pot, keep the soaking water.
- Grab the bowl with remaining soaking water. Try separating the water from the sediment formed at the bottom. Move the water to the pot and get rid of the residue.
- Top the pot up to 2 liquid quarts (1.9 - 2 litres) of water. Cover with a lid and cook on the lowest heat for 25 minutes, until the mushrooms start to turn soft.
- As the mushrooms cook, peel all the vegetables and chop them roughly.
- Once the time is up on the mushrooms, add in all the vegetable chunks and peppercorns. Continue cooking for another 30 minutes, but follow the next step 15 minutes in.
- With 15 minutes left till the end of cooking - let’s cook ‘łazanki’ noodles. Grab another cooking pot, fill it with water and bring to boil. Drop the pasta in, and just follow the directions on the pack - in my case that’s 10 minutes of cooking time.
- Using a slotted spoon, carefully remove the mushrooms and veggies from the stock and set them aside.
- Using an extra fine sieve, strain the stock multiple times, until it’s clear and not foggy. If you don’t have a fine sieve, line a regular sieve lined with a cloth instead (cheesecloth, a piece of muslin square or similar).
- Let’s balance the flavours now - add 2 generous pinches of salt and a solid pinch of ground black pepper.
- Add a tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice and blend everything together with a spoon. Have a taste - does the soup need more kick? I usually add one more tablespoon of lemon juice (so two in total).
- Slice the mushrooms into stripes, small ones can be kept whole.
- The vegetables gave their all, there isn’t much flavour left. But if you wish, you can reuse them to bulk up pâtés, pierogi fillings etc. I usually reuse some carrots, cubed, for serving.
- Arrange the mushroom slices in the individual soup plates. Add 'łazanki' pasta and pour the soup over it. Garnish each plate with chopped parsley (optional)
This recipe is based on the book by Maria Lemnis and Henryk Vitry called “W Staropolskiej Kuchni i Przy Polskim Stole” (published in 1979, “Old Polish Traditions in the Kitchen and at the Table”).
I’ve upped the mushroom & veggie content to make the soup richer.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 75Total Fat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 120mgCarbohydrates: 16gFiber: 4gSugar: 2gProtein: 3g
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