Okroshka close-up

Okroshka – The Most Bizarre Russian Soup

Everybody knows gazpacho. But people, who eat herring under the fur coat, meat jelly and other bizarre food are bound to have the most weird summer soup in the world, right? Right. We do have such soup. It is called Okroshka and I am going to tell you about it now.

What Is Okroshka?

Imagine you decided to make a soup of Coca Cola! What would you add to Coca Cola in such an unlikely event? Maybe some Russian salad? That is the closest description of Okroshka. And, yes, we find it very tasty and eat a lot of this soup in Summer!

Kvas Is What We Use in Okroshka Instead of Coca Cola

Kvas is an amazing non-alcoholic beverage, invented about a thousand years ago. It is a fermented beverage, made of rye bread. Since it is a fermented beverage, it has traces of alcohol (about 1%), but you cannot really get drunk on kvas. Kvas is a natural and very healthy food – it is great for metabolism, cardiovascular system, hair and skin. It is also a fantastic thirst quenching beverage for a hot weather.

In old times people typically produced kvas at home, in Soviet times it was produced industrially, but was not bottled. If you wanted to buy kvas, you bought it from a street vendor, huge cistern on wheels. You could drink it on spot, from a provided glass mug, but you needed your own reservoir to carry it home. Typical reservoir was a metal one, called “bidon”. Now there are plenty brands of Kvas sold in supermarkets – in bottles and cans.

Recipe of Okroshka

  • Cucumbers
  • radish
  • minced cooked meat or kolbasa (bologna kind sausage)
  • boiled eggs
  • scallion
  • dill
  • boiled potatoes (optional)

Chop all ingredients until you have a fine-cut salad as seen in the video. Put the salad in a soup bowl, pour kvas over, add a dollop of sour cream, stir and enjoy the soup! Yes, kvas is a bit sweet, but it does not spoil the taste. If you want to make it a bit more spicy, you either add more onions or you add a bit of horseradish (now in Moscow we have a special variety of Kvas for okroshka, which already has the horseradish added.

I found this video, it is in English and it illustrates how to make Okroshka quite well:

How To Make Kvas At Home

I never made kvas myself, it is available in any grocery store in Russia and is available in most Russian grocery stores abroad. But for those of you who do not have a Russian grocery store nearby – here is a brief recipe of bread kvas:

  • Cut rye bread in small chunks, toast it in the oven until bread turns dark brown
  • Take a glass jar, put 2-3 handfuls of bread chunks in the jar, add 2 table spoons of sugar, pour over boiling water so that bread is covered and let the mix cool down until it is warm, but not hot (you will add yeast, they will die if the mix is too hot)
  • Add a pack of dried yeast, stir and leave in the warm room for 2 days (fermentation process is always not pretty, but remember – it is just bread and yeast, so it is good even if it looks a bit strange)
  • Take a big glass jar, put the rest of bread, more sugar (2-3 tablespoons) and pour boiling water over bread (carefully! so that the jar does not splinter. Let it cool down and add the leaven (filtered water from the bread mix from a small jar). You may also add raisins. Keep the mix in a warm room for another 24 hours
  • Filter.  Kvas is ready to serve.

Making kvas from bread is the most traditional recipe, but people also make kvas of bread and beets. I found this video about making beets kvas, check it out:

Coca Cola Eyes Up Kvas

Of course, such company as Coca Cola does not miss great marketing opportunities. See the video below, talking about Coca Cola preparing to produce kvas:

Coca Cola started to produce kvas in Russia in 2012. Since that time both drinks co-exist at the Russian market. I had both Coca Cola and Kvas at home today, so I did what I always wanted to do – look if one can distinguish Coca Cola from Kvas without trying the drink. See for yourself:

Coca-Cola and Kvas

Coca-Cola and Kvas

Leave a Reply

  • Anonymous - 5 years ago

    Mmm, Kvas, I’ll try to give it a try =)

  • kathy - 4 years ago

    My mother makes this….minus the meat stuff
    what about plo (a rice and raison dish) I loved the stuff, haven’t had it for awhile. I loved the combination but always picked out the cooked raison. The crusty outer parts were always the best. and Laupsha a noodle water butter dish that I absolutely hated. Except for the next day when the leftovers were made into Laupshewniek…sorta a noddle egg cake. Usually at family gatherings my aunt (now deceased) always made a roaster of nalesnikie a cottage cheese stuffed crepe then rolled like a log. Do you have anything similar

    • Tanya Golubeva - 4 years ago

      Plov is a popular dish here. Originally it is not Russian, it came from Southern Republics of the Soviet Union (Uzbekistan and others). Best plov is cooked in a special pot, named “kazan”, it looks similar to wok, but from a thick metal and is usually many times bigger. Of course most people do not have kazan at home, so for home cooking we use regular pots and pans (but in the restaurants they cook in kazan in the special type of oven). Plov typically has meat – lamb, sometimes beef. It may or may not have raisins. Usually the type that has raisins is a fiesta plov, plov for special occasions and the regular one will just have meat + some diced onions and carrots. Both varieties will have barberries in it for flavor. Traditionally plov is to be eaten with hands (no fork or spoon), but Russian people do not do that. A lot of people like to cook an easy home-made variety of plov – either with meat or without.
      I never tried Lapshevnik, but heard about this dish! In my family lapsha (the noodles) was most often used for a chicken soup. In the families of my friends I tried milk lapsha soup and also mushroom soup with lapsha.
      Stuffed pancakes is a very typical dish and we love it!!! Most common fillings are meat, cottage cheese (sweetened) and cabbage. We roll them like a log and then fold the ends. It is very convenient – you can cook a lot of them and use them next day for breakfast – re-heat them with some butter and they taste great and have crust! I have a post about pancakes – blinis and the photos in that post are the photos of pancakes I made in my kitchen for that post :-)

  • kathy - 4 years ago

    I’ve always heard of this soup thing as being called Kvas. Never heard of it called Okroshka. Usually was made on especially hot summer days. When no one wanted to turn on the stove. But had all the ingredients already made ahead. Surprisingly I’ve never tasted Kvas that I can remember. It’s just what everyone in my family calls the soup. Im going to have to make a batch. Fermented drinks are popular with my daughters, they usually buy different flavours at the health food store.

    • Tanya Golubeva - 4 years ago

      We call Kvas the drink that you use for Okroshka. Kvas is a great drink – natural, healthy and best if you are thirsty. I am sure that you can find kvas in Russian (or Ukrainian or Polish) grocery stores in Canada. If there will be several brands – try them. The best brand in Russia in my opinion is Очаковский (Ochakovsky) kvas, but I am not sure if it is exported abroad.
      We also like Okroshka because we do not need to turn on the stove for cooking it. And now stores in Moscow sell pre-made filling for okroshka and I use that a lot. It is so easy – you buy that package, a bottle of kvas and some sour cream and your soup is ready in 1 min. They usually sell 3 varieties – okroshka salad with sausage, with meat or a vegetarian one.

  • Kathy - 4 years ago

    Not only did my ancestors refuse to take up arms for the czar but were vegetarian as well. My grandparents were all four vegetarians but my parents …not so much. Except for the traditional food my mother cooked was all vegetarians. I grew up in a community with imigrant Italians and Portuguese and Russians. ..they were all very garden proud. Everyone has one . I grew up with cabbage borscht. Not beet.,although there was a small one usually shredded into the pot. But cabbage potatoes canned tomato carrots tons of butter and piles of dill. I look at beet borscht with kind of gag reflex…can’t imagine how awful it must be. I like beets but can’t imagine beet soup blek. Here its more of a ukarainian thing.
    When borscht is made on my family it’s usually in a huge canner pot then transfered to mason jars for later use. Day old or week old is far superior.
    The only really good fresh borscht is called wedding or funeral borscht. That’s when a huge community feast is prepared with many hands to help. But now there are so many intermarriage that borscht usually isn’t expected at the meal.
    Sorry this got so long.
    I’ll send you a pic of my attempts at it. Somehow it always tastes better the bigger the batch that is made. Of coarse my mothers is the best and when any of us come to visit she always makes a batch ahead of time or brings it with her when she comes …we live 7 hrs away. And we kinda expect it.

    • Tanya Golubeva - 4 years ago

      I plan to write a post about being vegetarian in Russia, since it is a question I get very often. I think that being vegetarian in Russia is not easy. Most dishes have meat.
      Borsch is really more tasty 1-2 days after it has been cooked. We call a cabbage soup that does not have beet – “Schi”. I personally think that borsch is more tasty. Maybe you haven’t tried a good borsch with beets and trying one will change your opinion. But maybe you just do not like cooked beets in a soup.(like a lot of people do not like carrots in their soup).
      Our mom’s dishes are always the best! To this day my most favorite dish (and comfort food) is minced chicken cutlets with mashed potatoes. That is what my mom cooked for me when I was a little girl)) And I still love when she cooks that dish for me!))

  • Vera - 2 years ago

    A little trick for Okroshka that makes a big difference in a taste: start by mincing scallions, salt them and jam it (или какое слово лучше использовать для “перетереть”?) with horseradish, so that mix becomes juicy, and after that add the rest to that base. Way more tasty!