Bowl of rassolnik - pickle soup - shown with buttered black bread and pickles.

Rassolnik: Russian pickle soup recipe

A quintessential and much-loved Russian soup, rassolnik is a pickle soup, with barley, beef and potatoes – and lots of pickles and pickle-juice. It’s long been a staple of Russian households and survived through the Soviet era, to be brought over with Soviet-Jewish immigrants going back to the 1970s.

Traditionally made with beef and pork kidneys, I make mine with beef brisket bones and, occasionally, short ribs. Like all Russian soups, ingredients for rassolnik are easily available, and infinitely adaptable to the vagaries of fridge space, schedules and food availability.

I’ve taught this soup in a cooking class, and thought I’d share the recipe on my site.

A note about stock and Russian soup-making techniques
Russian soups typically start with cooking the meat in water — effectively making the stock while cooking the meat, giving you a richer, more flavourful soup, with more tender meat. This is how I generally make my Russian soups, but it does require extra preparation time. As in, a couple hours. So I sometimes prep the stock on a weekend, cooking the meat and setting it aside until I’m ready to make the soup on a weeknight. You can also use premade stock (from your freezer or purchased), or even water, and just add the meat into the soup to cook while the soup is cooking. It makes for slightly less tender meat and less rich stock, but a significantly faster soup.

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Bowl of rassolnik - pickle soup - shown with buttered black bread and pickles.

Rassolnik: Russian Pickle Soup Recipe

  • Author: Lea Zeltserman


  • 10 cups water or beef stock (depending on the method you choose, as I outlined above)*
  • Stock ingredients (optional) – carrot, onion, salt, peppercorns, bay leaf
  • 11.5 lbs brisket or beef piece with bone (beef short ribs also work well)
  • ½ cup barley
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, sliced or diced
  • 1 potato, cut into small pieces
  • 23 pickles, diced
  • 1 cup pickle brine (or more, to taste)
  • 12 tbsp olive oil (or other cooking oil)
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • pepper
  • dill (optional – for serving)


Place the meat and stock ingredients (carrot, onion, salt, peppercorns, bay leaf) into a pot. Add 10 cups water. Bring to a boil, skim the foam, turn down and simmer for 1 – 1.5 hours. Remove vegetables and discard. Remove meat, cut into small (bite-size) pieces and set aside. Then start your soup at step 1, but skip step 2.

  1. Prepare your vegetables — chop onion and carrot; peel and dice potato. Dice the pickles. Rinse the barley.
  2. Cut your cooked meat into smaller, bite-size pieces
  3. Pour water or stock into soup pot. Add meat and barley, and bring to a boil. Add salt, turn down heat and simmer for 30 minutes, covered.
    1. Keep an eye on your soup pot. When the water boils, you’ll need to skim the foam off the top before you turn it down.
  4. Heat the oil in a separate frying pan. Once heated, add the onion and carrot. Season with salt and pepper, and fry on low heat until softened.
  5. After 30 minutes, add the potatoes, fried onions/carrots, pickles and brine to the soup.
  6. Simmer for another 15 minutes. Check that the barley and potatoes are cooked through. Add more salt if needed.
  7. To serve, sprinkle with fresh dill (flat-leaf parsley also works). You can also add a few spoonfuls of pickle brine, to taste.


  • Stock — if you’re using premade stock, you may need to reduce the salt.
  • Barley — be careful of over-adding barley, as it will absorb all the water, especially after the first day.
  • To “refresh” soup after the first day, add a bit of water and more pickle brine.
  • Pickles — traditional Russian pickles are salt-brined (full-sours or half-sours). These are the best pickles to use. Standard kosher dills also work well. Avoid sweeter pickles, such as bread-and-butter pickles or sweetened gherkins. Many people grate their pickles but I find it’s too messy and you lose a lot of pickle juice. But this is personal preference and either option is really fine.
  • Pro tip – save your pickle juice by popping it into the freezer, so you always have plenty on-hand.
  • Vegetarian variation — simply omit the meat, and use water or a vegetable stock. You may also add some mushrooms for additional vegetables. Parsnip is another common Russian soup vegetable.
  • Category: soup
  • Cuisine: Russian
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