We came across this thick smoky bean soup (grah i varivah) while traveling through Croatia. Grah translates literally to “bean” which is the principle ingredient. The Croatian Bean Soup (or stew – varivah) gets its rich flavor from smoked meat and paprika, along with a favorite spice blend used in Croatia called Vegeta.
Vegeta is made with dehydrated vegetables and spices. It is very similar to a granulated vegetable bouillon. You can substitute 1 teaspoon of vegeta with a teaspoon of vegetable bouillon or a vegetable bouillon cube and a pinch of garlic powder and sugar for each teaspoon used.
It’s important for the overall flavor of the soup that the sausage be a smoked variety, such as Kielbasa.
Grah can be made in about 40 minutes by using pre-cooked beans, as I did in this recipe. The consistency is meant to be thick and rich. While often eaten as a starter in Croatia, Grah is hearty enough for a main dish.
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Visit our food finds/recipes section to view our full collection of recipes inspired by our travels around the world. If you find you like cooking with paprika, you might like our sausage and potato soup or chicken paprikash recipes inspired by our time in Hungary. Delicious!
- 2 Smoked Sausage Links (6 ounces or 170g)
- 3.5 Ounces (100g) diced Pancetta
- 1 Medium Sized White Sweet Onion - diced
- 2 Medium Carrots - peeled and diced
- 4 Cloves Garlic - minced
- 1 15 Ounce Can (425g) Cannellini Beans, drained
- 1 15 Ounce Can (425g) Pinto Beans, drained
- 4 Tablespoons (56g) Tomato Paste
- 1 Tablespoon (6.9g) Sweet Paprika
- 1 Teaspoon (2.3g) Hot Paprika, optional
- 1 Teaspoon (2g) Vegeta, Croatian Spice *
- 2 Cups (475ml) low salt Stock or Water
- Parsley as a garnish
- Slice the sausage into rounds. Add to a frying pan over medium heat and cook for about 5 minutes. Then add the pancetta. Continue to cook until both are browned. Set aside and remove most of the oil from the pan.
- Return the pan to medium heat and add the onions and carrots. Cook for about 3 minutes, then add the garlic. Continue to cook until the onions are translucent.
- Place all of the ingredients in a stock pot and bring it to a boil. Make sure that the beans are fully covered by the water. If not, add more.
- Once the soup is boiling, reduce the heat and allow to simmer for 20 minutes.
- At this point taste the soup to adjust the flavor. Since sausage is flavored differently, salt may or may not be needed. For a smokier flavor, add 1 teaspoon of hot paprika. For a richer flavor and more salt, consider adding some bouillon or stock, or Vegeta.
- After the flavor is adjusted, allow the pot to simmer another 10 minutes.
- Garnish with parsley and serve with your favorite hot sauce.
*Vegeta is a spice blend made with dehydrated carrots, turmeric, garlic powder, salt and sugar. It can be substituted with dehydrated vegetable soup mix, granulated vegetable bouillon or 1 bouillon cube and a pinch of garlic and sugar for each teaspoon used.
Planning a visit to visit to Croatia? Here are a few articles to help you plan a visit (including enjoying some amazing Croatian Cuisine to sample during your visit).