Żurek na Zakwasie

Żurek: Polish Sour Rye Soup

“With its distinctive sour flavour and hearty ingredients, this soup embodies the essence of Polish comfort food. Made with fermented rye flour and enriched with kiełbasa and aromatic spices, it’s a culinary delight worth exploring. Can’t travel to Poland right now? Make it at home — here’s how.”

How to pronounce it?
jour-eck / zhu-reck
‘Play’ to hear:

Żurek: Polish Sour Rye Bread soup in a bowl

In my mind, there’s nothing more Polish than Żurek – A rich soup soured with fermented rye starter, served with a boiled egg – halved – and a meaty white kiełbasa. 

Żurek is packed with that sought-after umami flavour. It hits the back of your throat and leaves you craving more.

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.

Every respectable restaurant serving Polish cuisine has Żurek on their menu. And that’s not only for Easter – for the whole year round. There are many regional varieties, so it’s worth having a taste wherever you go. Sour Rye Soups are present at Slovakian, Czech and Belarusian tables as well.

Do you need any special ingredients or equipment?

Yes, there’s a key ingredient that cannot be easily replaced – Fermented Rye Flour Starter, or what we call ‘Zakwas Żytni’. 

Homemade rye flour starter for a Polish Żurek soup

It’s unlikely you’ll find it available outside of Poland, although you could try asking in a Polish Deli.

Luckily, it’s easy to make at home. Here’s a detailed recipe for a homemade Sour Rye ‘Zakwas’ (👈 click for a recipe).

Another ingredient that will require a bit of effort to source is Biała Kiełbasa (Polish-style white sausage). It’s fresh, uncooked and non-smoked sausage, therefore it cannot be eaten raw.

Ask about it in a Polish Deli. You could try making White Sausage yourself. Sorry, I’ve never made a sausage myself before, therefore I cannot recommend a trusted recipe. 

If there’s no way for you to get that sausage – don’t worry. Żurek will still taste great without it!

How to serve it?

In this recipe, Żurek is served very traditionally – with boiled egg, white kiełbasa and a touch of fresh marjoram as a garnish. 

In the regional variations, Żurek can be served with potatoes (chopped or mashed), cooked root vegetables (parsley, carrot, celery root) and/or smoked bacon (chopped or in slices).

But there are plenty of other ideas, I’ve seen it with poached egg, sunny side up, served with croutons or in a bread bowl.

What should you serve with it?

Żurek is a very rich and filling soup, therefore it’s usually served on its own. Serve it with fresh sliced bread on the side.

Can you make it another way?

Not really. There are many regional Żurek recipes which add some ingredients and skip others, but the core method remains the same.

How do you know when it is cooked?

You’ll know that your Żurek is cooked when the white sausage is cooked throughout. If you’re not sure, just remove the kiełbasa from the pot, make a cut and investigate. 

What diet is it suitable for?

Historically, Żurek is a prime example of the ‘cuisine of the poor’, served in peasant homes. The soup was meat-free and therefore very fitting for those days of religious fasting (including Lent). I hope to try a vegan Żurek recipe very soon.

If you follow a gluten-free diet, swap Sour Rye Starter for a Buckwheat Starter. It’s done the same way, using the rule “one part of cereal to three parts of water, plus garlic”. There’s a downside to this method though – buckwheat ferments longer, it takes 2 weeks. Worth the wait.

How long can you keep it in the fridge?

Once the soup is served, ideally it should be eaten within 2-3 hours.

If you allow any leftovers to cool, make sure to refrigerate them in a container with a lid (or in a cooking pot with a lid). You can keep Żurek leftovers in the fridge for up to 2 days. If you skip the sour cream, the soup will last a day longer.

Can I freeze it?

Yes, you can freeze Żurek, although it’s best to do so without an egg. If you want to freeze it together with white kiełbasa, it should be sliced first. That way the soup will thaw more evenly later on.

Once the soup has cooled, pour it into a freezer-friendly container and label the lid – describing the contents and the date. It’s best to eat it within 2 months. 

How do I reheat it?

From chilled

Pour Żurek over into a cooking pot and reheat slowly (on ‘low’) until hot. Don’t use a microwave, it kills all the healthy probiotics in the soup.

From frozen

Allow to defrost, and reheat on the stove, cooking on low heat until Żurek becomes hot throughout.

Żurek: Polish Sour Rye Bread soup in a bowl
Yield: 6-8

Żurek: Classic Polish Sour Rye Soup

Żurek: Polish Sour Rye Bread soup in a bowl

Prep Time 5 days
Cook Time 50 minutes
Total Time 5 days 50 minutes


  • 8.5 cups (2 litres, 0.5 gallon) meat stock (chicken, mixed-meat, rosół works great too)
  • 7 oz (200g) unsliced bacon
  • 1 (200g, 7 oz) medium white onion
  • 2 medium carrots (roughly 4.2 oz, 120g)
  • 2 parsley roots (roughly 4.2 oz, 120g) - can be substituted for a celery root)
  • 4 links (500g, 1.1 lb) white kiełbasa sausage (fresh, uncooked)
  • 2 ¼ cups (500ml) Sour Rye Flour Starter (link to a recipe in the notes)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 3 tbsp whipping cream (optional, 30-36% fat)
  • 1 tbsp dried marjoram
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper (freshly ground) to taste

If using a homemade 'zakwas' fermented without spices:

  • 4 bay leaves
  • 5 all-spice berries
  • 5 black peppercorns

To serve:

  • 4 boiled eggs, halved
  • Fresh marjoram to garnish


    1. Get a cooking pot. Pour in the stock and start heating it up (on a medium heat).
    2. Chop bacon and onion into small cubes. Using a frying pan, fry up the bacon first. There is need to add any additional frying fat, bacon will release plenty of its own.
    3. Once the bacon fat has rendered, add the onion pieces and continue frying until both ingredients turn golden.
    4. Move the contents of the frying pan into the pot with cooking stock. If your ‘zakwas’ starter was fermented without spices (that is: bay leaves, all-spice berries and peppercorns), it’s a good moment to add them directly into the soup. I place them inside a mesh spice bag/stock sachet, so that I don't have to struggle fishing them out later.
    5. Peel carrots and parsley roots, drop them whole into the stock.
    6. Add white kiełbasa (uncut, whole links) as well and continue cooking for 30-40 minutes, until the stock becomes meaty in aroma and flavour (you’ll have to test that empirically).
    7. If you haven’t boiled the eggs already, now is a good moment to do so. Once cooked, allow them to cool down.
    8. The next step would be to remove the spices. If you used the spice bag, just take it out. Otherwise, you can fish them out manually with a spoon, or get rid of them using a sieve - and return the soup into the pot.
    9. Now it’s time to add rye 'zakwas' starter. Add 1⅓ cup (300ml) of zakwas for a mild Żurek, up to 2 cups (or more; roughly 500ml) for a more sour result. If you’re not sure how much you should add, just pour it over gradually, tasting along the way.

      There are two ways to do it:

      • Mix the contents of the jar/bottle, so that the liquid part blends with the floury part,
      • Or start by adding the liquid only, topping with the muddy floury part later on - spoonful by spoonful, until you reach the desired thickness. That’s how I do it.
    10. Add 1 tablespoon of dried marjoram and one garlic clove (crushed or roughly chopped), cook for another 4-5 minutes.
    11. Remove the pot from heat. Remove the sausage and vegetables with a slotted spoon, slice them all and return to the pot. You can also leave the sausage unsliced - that’s up to you.
    12. Adding cream is optional, but it balances the flavours very nicely. Place 3 tablespoons of whipping cream into a cup or a small bowl. Add in a tablespoon of Żurek, mix well with a fork. And another spoonful of soup and mix again. Repeat with 2 more tablespoons of Żurek. Pour the mixture into the pot.
    13. Have a taste. Does it need any more salt or a pinch of pepper? If so, add some to taste. Garnish with fresh marjoram or chopped parsley and serve with boiled egg halves.
    14. Smacznego!


  1. Here's a link to homemade rye zakwas. Remember, that it takes 5 days to ferment.
  2. To add some extra spice, try adding a tablespoon of horseradish (freshly grated or from a jar) just before serving. If you add it too early on, during cooking, horseradish would lose its strength. 

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 458Total Fat: 22gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 138mgSodium: 934mgCarbohydrates: 45gFiber: 8gSugar: 12gProtein: 22g

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Recipe Information

Filed under:

Alternative traditional/regional names:
Żur, Żurfiks, Barszcz Biały
Also known / Misspelt internationally as:
Zurek, Polish Rye Soup, Sour Bread Soup, Hangover Soup

Tested by:

First published on:
April 28, 2019
Recipe by / Adapted from:

Story by:

Bibliography / References:

Test Kitchen‘s recipes come from diverse Polish publications, authored by chefs, home cooks, recipe developers, and bulletin subscribers.

Tested with pleasure in Warsaw, Poland, we offer an honest review of each recipe alongside additional guidance, cooking tips and serving suggestions.

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