Looking for a recipe that carries the soul of Transylvania? Make this Transylvanian Green Beans Soup with Smoked Ham, a comforting and delicious dish you can enjoy any time of the year.
This recipe is part of my collection of Soup Recipes, but it is also part of my Romanian/Transylvanian Recipes I grew up with, like this Hungarian Goulash, Traditional Saxon Potato Tarragon Soup , Garlic Green Beans Salad or this Walnut Cake with Egg Yolk Glaze.
Transylvania is a region in the heart of Romania that might be famous for its connection to Dracula and breathtaking Carpathian Mountains, but it is also legendary for its culinary richness.
Surrounded by beautiful landscapes and a fusion of Romanian, German, and Hungarian cultures, Transylvania is a beautiful place worth visiting.
However, the cuisine of Transylvania is a blend of these three different communities and it could be defined by the taste of smoked, salty, spicy, and sour-sweet.
You will see lots of soups, cheese, smoked pork, schnitzels, apple strudels, and cabbage, just to mention a few of them.
Maybe it is not the healthiest diet, but definitely, it is one of the tastiest.
The combination of Romanian, German, and Hungarian cuisines has given birth to this hearty Green Beans Soup.
It features green beans, lots of vegetables and smoky ham seasoned with herbs and garlic. The soup is soured with a little bit of vinegar and served with sour cream.
Why I like this recipe
Authenticity: This soup provides a genuine taste of Transylvanian cuisine, rich in flavor and tradition. The combination of green beans, smoked meat, and fresh vegetables creates a comforting dish that's representative of the region's culinary heritage.
Versatility: Whether you have fresh or frozen green beans, prefer more or less sourness, or want to make a vegetarian version, this recipe allows for easy adjustments and substitutions.
Nutrient-Rich: It is packed with vegetables, herbs, protein and offers a balanced and nutritious meal. It is also relatively low in calories and satisfies both the taste buds and nutritional needs. It is perfect for family dinners.
Green beans: Any green beans available are perfectly fine to use. There are many types out there: String Beans, Haricots Verts (French green beans), long beans, purple beans, Romano beans (Italian variety which is flat), or wax beans. Any of them can be used for this soup, fresh or frozen.
Onions: I am notorious for using any onions I have available, with great success. Nobody ever complains that I used red onions instead of white. I love cooking with green onions as well, especially in the summer when there is an abundance of them. You can also replace the onion with leeks.
Garlic cloves: I like using fresh one here. however, garlic powder or minced garlic can be used as an alternative.
Ham or any smoked meat: Offers a salty and smoky taste. I like regular ham, but I made this soup many times with smoked ham hock. For a vegetarian version, skip the meat entirely.
Vegetable oil: it is used for sautéing; olive oil, butter, or any preferred cooking oil can be used instead.
Carrots: Add sweetness and color; you can also add parsnips or turnips for more flavor.
Red pepper: Gives a mild sweet and spicy flavor; green or yellow bell pepper can be used instead.
Celery: Enhances flavor with its earthy note; celeriac might be a suitable substitution.
Potato: Adds creaminess and body to the soup.
Tomatoes: Fresh tomatoes or canned are used based on the season and availability. Sometimes a fresh, juicy diced tomato is all you need in the summer.
Otherwise, use a small can of diced tomatoes, tomato sauce or even paste, can be used as needed.
Paprika: Provides smokiness and color. Smoked paprika can be used but I would not skip it, as it is part of this traditional soup.
Salt, ground pepper: Seasoning is important, so please don't skimp on them.
Thyme: Pork goes very well with thyme, which gives a subtle, earthy flavor. I always use dried thyme, but you can replace it with oregano.
Water: This is the liquid base for the soup. Low sodium chicken or vegetable stock can be used, but make sure you reduce the amount of salt from the recipe. Sometimes these products are very salty.
Herbs: I use either fresh or dried dill and parsley. It all depends on what I have available.
Vinegar: This soup is sour, and I know it is intriguing.
In general, the use of vinegar in American soups might be less common compared to other cuisines, especially Eastern European and Asian cuisines where vinegar is more frequently used to balance flavors.
You can skip it if you dislike vinegar, if not, please use it, as it adds more depth and flavor to this already awesome soup.
Sour Cream: Again, sour cream is a must in traditional Transylvanian soups. The sour cream comes at the end, when the soups are served. You can also use plain yogurt for a lighter version.
How to make this soup
Step 1. Ham, onion and garlic.
Heat up the oil in a soup pot and add ham, onion and garlic. Sauté them on medium heat for about 3-4 minutes, or until the onion looks translucent.
Step 2. Vegetables.
Add the chopped vegetables: carrots, pepper, celery and potato. Keep sautéing until the vegetables are softer and develop their flavor.
Step 3. Green beans and seasoning.
Add the cleaned and trimmed fresh green beans or frozen ones, the paprika, salt, pepper and dried thyme. Mix everything and keep sautéing for another minute.
Step 4. Tomato sauce.
Add the tomato sauce or the fresh diced tomatoes. Mix everything well.
Step 5. Water or chicken/vegetable broth.
Add water and allow it to simmer for 20-25 minutes, so the green beans get tender. Taste and season if necessary.
Step 6. Vinegar.
Add vinegar little by little to make the soup a little bit sour, but taste the soup to know when to stop. Some people like it to be more sour.
Step 7. Parsley and dill.
Stop the heat and sprinkle chopped parsley and dill over the soup.
Step 8. Serve.
Serve hot with a dollop of sour cream on top.
- Use fresh green beans if available, as they provide a more vibrant flavor.
- Adjust the sourness with vinegar to your taste. Start with a small amount and gradually add more as you taste.
- Fresh herbs such as dill and parsley add a delightful freshness to the soup. Don't hesitate to use them if you have them on hand.
How to store this soup
Refrigerator: Allow the soup to come to room temperature. Transfer the soup into an airtight container. The soup should be enjoyed within 3-4 days.
To reheat, place it in a saucepan and heat it on the stove until warmed through, or place the bowl of soup in the microwave.
Freezer: Cool the soup to room temperature, place it in freezer-safe containers. Leave some space at the top of the container as the soup will expand as it freezes.
Label it with the date and name and freeze it for up to 4-6 months.
When ready to serve, thaw it overnight in the refrigerator or use the defrost function on your microwave. Heat it in a saucepan on the stove.
Note: Do not add sour cream to the entire quantity of soup if you plan to freeze it. Dairy can sometimes separate or change texture when frozen. Add fresh sour cream when you are ready to serve the soup.
Absolutely! Just omit the ham or smoked meat, and you'll still have a flavorful and comforting meal.
Yes, this soup is authentic and traditional to the region.
Crusty bread, a simple green salad, or pickled vegetables would complement the rich flavors of the soup.
Embrace the flavors of Transylvania with this comforting Ham and Green Beans Soup.
It's a warm and satisfying dish that pays homage to a region with a rich culinary history. Whether you're new to Romanian cuisine or a longtime fan, this soup is sure to please. Enjoy!
More Romanian Recipes
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Transylvanian Green Bean Soup (With Smoked Ham)
- 1 large onion diced
- 4-5 garlic cloves diced
- 1 pound ham or any smoked meat cubed
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 pounds green beans fresh or frozen, cut in bite size pieces
- 2 large carrots diced
- 1 red pepper diced
- 1 celery stalk diced
- 1 potato small, diced
- 4-5 tablespoons tomato sauce or 2 medium chopped tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground pepper
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- 8 cups water
- 1 teaspoon dried dill or a small bunch of fresh dill, chopped
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley or a small bunch of fresh parsley, chopped
- 2-3 tablespoons vinegar or to your taste
- sour cream for serving
- Heat up the oil in a soup pot and add ham, onion and garlic. Sauté them on medium heat for about 3-4 minutes, or until the onion looks translucent.
- Add the chopped vegetables: carrots, pepper, celery and potato. Keep sautéing until the vegetables are softer and develop their flavor.
- Add the cleaned and trimmed fresh green beans or frozen ones), the paprika, salt, pepper and dried thyme. Mix everything and keep sautéing for another minute.
- Add the tomato sauce or the fresh diced tomatoes. Mix everything well.
- Add water and allow it to simmer for 20-25 minutes, so the green beans get tender.
- Taste and season if necessary.
- Add vinegar little by little to make the soup a little bit sour, but taste the soup to know when to stop. Some people like it to be more sour.
- Stop the heat and sprinkle chopped parsley and dill over the soup.
- Serve hot with a dollop of sour cream on top.