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 granules or vegetable bouillon cube. Add 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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Here are some additional soup recipes you might enjoy!
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).
- 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.