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In Prague, local legend has it that Česnečka, or Czech garlic soup, is a cure for everything from the common cold or flu to a hangover. With two full heads of garlic, potato, rich chicken stock, crispy rye bread croutons, and a simple seasoning blend, it’s a delicious meal that’s worth eating whether or not it’s a panacea!

table spread with bowls of Česnečka croutons and cheese

In addition to Nakládaný Hermelín, this soup was another delight I had the pleasure of trying in Prague. You can find this simple soup on the menu at pretty much every pub. And I finally got around to making it at home! There’s nothing like chilly winter weather to inspire you to make soup, right?

Czech garlic soup is touted as a culinary cure-all that’s effective on everything from the sniffles to a hangover! I can’t speak to its efficacy, but I do know that garlic is a powerhouse of nutrition. It’s renowned for its antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-fungal properties. (We’ll talk more about garlic’s health benefits later in this article.)

front view of traditional czech soup

And Česnečka is delicious! It’s a brothy soup that’s manages to perfectly walk the line between light and hearty. Its richness comes from beef tallow (or more traditionally, lard), flavorful chicken stock, and taking the time to sauté the potato in fat to let it take on a little color instead of just boiling it. And don’t forget the classic Czech seasonings, marjoram and caraway seeds, to give this soup traditional flavor.

I know what you’re thinking: is the garlic overpowering?! With two full heads of garlic in this soup, that is a fair question, friends. But I assure you, the flavor of garlic is not at all overwhelming here. This is because garlic mellows as it cooks (just be careful not to brown the garlic because it can turn bitter!). You’re left with what can almost be described as rich flavor with subtle sweet, nutty notes.

traditional czech soup recipe with potato

Česnečka (Czech Garlic Soup) Ingredients and Substitutions

Ingredients Explained

In this section I explain the ingredients and give substitution ideas where applicable. For the full recipe (including the ingredient amounts), see the recipe card below.

Česnečka ingredients

Rye Bread Croutons Ingredients

  • Stale rye bread – In Prague, this soup was served with rye croutons, so that’s how I make it at home. However, any kind of stale bread you have on hand will work well.
  • Beef tallow – Instead of beef tallow, you can use bacon drippings (or lard, aka rendered pork fat), duck fat, chicken fat (aka schmaltz), oil, or butter.
  • Salt and black pepper – These simple spices are all we need to season our croutons.

Czech Garlic Soup (aka Hangover Soup) Ingredients

  • Beef tallow – Instead of beef tallow, you can use bacon drippings (or lard, aka rendered pork fat), duck fat, chicken fat (aka schmaltz), vegetable oil, or a combination of half butter and half oil. Lard is commonly used in Czechia for traditional Czech soups; I opt for beef tallow because I don’t eat pork. Beef tallow is rendered fat from beef, and it lends a delicious rich, savory flavor to the broth.
  • Yellow potatoes – I like to use thin-skinned yellow potatoes so I can leave the peel on. (Potato skin holds a lot of nutrition!) However, other types of potato will also work well, such as red potato or white potato, just peel them first. I steer clear of starchy potatoes (such as Russet) for this dish because they tend to water-log and disintegrate in soup.
  • Onion – Traditional Česnečka doesn’t contain onion, so you can feel free to omit it if you prefer. I add onion to bump up the nutrition and because I love the flavors of onion and garlic together.
  • Garlic – As anticipated, garlic is the star of the show here! We use about 2 full heads of garlic. Most of the garlic is thinly sliced and briefly sautéed before adding the chicken stock to the soup. However, some of the garlic is crushed and added at the end to keep it raw for the health benefits of raw garlic.
  • Chicken stock – I love the richness that chicken stock lends this soup; however, you can use vegetable stock if you prefer.
  • Dried crushed marjoram leaves – Just like caraway seed, this herb is popular in Czech cuisine. Marjoram has a pungent woody and sweet citrusy flavor. If you can’t find it, I’ve heard that oregano is a good substitute, but personally I prefer thyme as a substitute. (But if possible, I highly encourage you to use marjoram to get the flavor of classic Česnečka!)
  • Caraway seeds – If you enjoy the flavor of caraway seed, you’ll probably love Czech cuisine! A ton of traditional Czech recipes use this spice.
  • Salt and black pepper – These pantry-staple seasonings make sure our soup isn’t bland.
  • Bay leaf – Bay leaf is a classic addition to Czech garlic soup.
  • Parsley – We add a little fresh minced parsley at the end for a pop of color.
  • Parmesan cheese – In Prague, you’ll find garlic soup frequently served with a dish of cheese on the side to add to the soup. You can use any type of hard cheese you like; parmesan is my favorite here, but sharp white cheddar or gruyère are equally delicious.

How to Make Hangover Soup

Make the Croutons

making croutons for soup

Preheat the oven to 350F. Toss together the cubed bread, melted beef tallow, salt, and black pepper on a baking tray. Bake until the croutons are crisp and light golden, about 10 minutes, tossing once halfway through.

If you’re short on time or if you don’t have stale bread on hand, you can use store-bought croutons.

Prep the Garlic

how to cut garlic for cesnecka

For classic Česnečka flavor, I recommend using 2 heads of garlic to make this soup. That’s about 20 large garlic cloves total (10 from each head). To start, peel all the garlic.

  1. Crush 2 cloves of garlic (about 1 tablespoon crushed). We add this to the soup at the end of the cooking process to keep it raw.
  2. Thinly slice 18 cloves of garlic (around 1/2 cup thinly sliced).

Make the Soup

how to make cesnecka

While the croutons cook, start the soup.

  1. Add the beef tallow to a 5-quart pot over medium heat. Once hot, add the potatoes, spreading them out in an even layer. Cook until the potatoes take on a little color, about 5 minutes, stirring frequently so they don’t stick.
  2. Stir in the onion and cook for 1 minute, stirring occasionally.
  3. Stir in the 18 cloves sliced garlic (about 1/2 cup) and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Make sure you don’t let the garlic brown, or you run the risk of it turning bitter.
  4. Stir in the chicken stock, marjoram, caraway, salt, black pepper, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then cover the pot, reduce the heat slightly, and cook until the potatoes are tender but not mushy, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in the 2 cloves crushed garlic and the parsley.

Serve

hand ladling czech garlic soup out of dutch oven

Serve the soup topped with croutons, parmesan cheese, and more fresh parsley.

Storage

Once it cools, store this soup in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. It reheats well in the microwave or on the stovetop. Wait to add the garnishes (croutons, parmesan, and parsley) until right before serving.

Variations

  • Vegetarian version: Use butter or oil instead of beef tallow, and vegetable stock instead of chicken stock.
  • Bump up the protein: You might be surprised that each serving has 24 grams of protein! But if you want to increase the protein, at the end of the cooking process, you can add up to 3 cups of cooked chopped or shredded chicken. Or you can cook up to 2 pounds of stew beef until tender and add that.
  • The economical vegetarian way to increase the protein (egg!): You can find this soup served in Prague with egg added. It’s similar to Chinese egg drop soup with egg ribbons running through it. The method is simple: you whisk beaten egg into the simmering soup at the end right before serving. If you want to add egg, you can whisk up to 3 beaten eggs into this soup at the end of step 4 in the recipe card below.
top view of 2 bowls of hangover soup

Česnečka FAQs

Does Hangover Soup Really Work?

That really is the million dollar question, isn’t it, friends?!

Dehydration is a common symptom of a hangover, which of course can lead to headaches and nausea. As we all know, when you’re dehydrated, drink water or other fluids to replenish! And to take it one step further, drink water with electrolytes (such as sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium) to help you replenish lost nutrients and rehydrate faster. (You can read more about hangover cures on Everyday Health and Harvard Health Publishing.)

So maybe instead of reaching for a Gatorade next time you have a hangover, whip up a pot of this traditional Czech soup. It’s easy to make and ready in just over 30 minutes!

rustic table with czech garlic soup in stoneware bowls

Is Garlic Soup Good For You?

Yes! Garlic in general has immune-boosting properties and several health benefits, including cardiac health benefits, reduced risk of cancer, and reduced risk of infections.

Here’s what WebMD says about garlic reducing the risk of infection:

Garlic is widely recognized for its ability to fight bacteria, viruses, fungi, and even parasites. One study found that allicin, an active component of freshly crushed garlic, had antiviral properties and was also effective against a broad range of bacteria, including multidrug-resistant strains of E. coli.

It also found that allicin had antifungal properties, including against Candida albicans, which causes yeast infections. Its antiparasitic action helps fight major intestinal parasites, including Giardia. Other studies have also shown that allicin can help inhibit the growth of the bacteria methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

WebMD

You can read more about the potential health benefits of garlic on National Library of Medicine.

dish of czech garlic soup topped with cheese

Can You Put Raw Garlic in Soup?

Yes! But how much raw garlic is the question.

We use two full heads of garlic for this soup. Most of the garlic is thinly sliced, sautéed, and then boiled with the broth. As garlic cooks, it mellows and takes a sweet, rich flavor, which results in an intensely flavorful soup.

Additionally, we crush two cloves of garlic and add it at the end of cooking to keep it raw. This not only gives us the sharp pungency flavor of raw garlic, but it also lends the nutritional benefits of raw garlic. (You can read about the health benefits of raw garlic vs. cooked garlic on Healthline.)

More Delicious Slavic Soup Recipes to Try

stoneware bowls of cesnecka soup topped with croutons and cheese

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Česnečka (Czech Garlic Soup or Hangover Soup)

Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time25 minutes
Yields: 4 servings
In Prague, local legend has it that Česnečka, or Czech garlic soup, is a cure for everything from the common cold or flu to a hangover. With two full heads of garlic, potato, rich chicken stock, crispy rye bread croutons, and a simple seasoning blend, it’s a delicious meal that’s worth eating whether or not it’s a panacea!

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Ingredients
 

Croutons:

  • 2 cups 1/2-inch cubed stale rye bread or any kind of bread you like
  • 2 teaspoons beef tallow melted (see Notes)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Soup:

  • 4 tablespoons beef tallow
  • 1 pound yellow potatoes cut into 1/2-inch cubes (I use yellow potatoes so I can leave the peel on because they have thin skin)
  • 1 small-medium yellow onion chopped small (about 3/4 cup)
  • 20 large cloves garlic divided into 18 cloves thinly sliced and 2 cloves crushed (about 1/2 cup of thinly sliced garlic and 1 tablespoon of crushed garlic)
  • 4 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock
  • 1 teaspoon dried crushed marjoram leaves
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seeds lightly crushed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley plus more for garnish
  • 1/2 cup shaved parmesan cheese for garnish

Instructions
 

For the Croutons:

  • Preheat the oven to 350F. Toss together the cubed bread, melted beef tallow, salt, and black pepper on a baking tray. Bake until the croutons are crisp and light golden, about 10 minutes, tossing once halfway through.

For the Soup:

  • While the croutons cook, start the soup.
  • Add the beef tallow to a 5-quart pot over medium heat. Once hot, add the potatoes, spreading them out in an even layer. Cook until the potatoes take on a little color, about 5 minutes, stirring frequently so they don’t stick.
  • Stir in the onion and cook for 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Stir in the 18 cloves sliced garlic (about 1/2 cup) and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
  • Stir in the chicken stock, marjoram, caraway, salt, black pepper, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then cover the pot, reduce the heat slightly, and cook until the potatoes are tender but not mushy, about 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat. Stir in the 2 cloves crushed garlic and the parsley.

To Serve:

  • Serve the soup topped with croutons, parmesan cheese, and more fresh parsley.

Video

Notes

  • Beef Tallow: Instead of beef tallow, you can use bacon drippings, duck fat, or a combination of half butter and half oil.
  • How Much Garlic to Use: I use about 2 heads of garlic for this recipe. Each head of garlic has around 10 cloves. Once the garlic cloves are peeled and thinly sliced, you should end up with about 1/2 cup. You can cut this amount in half or double it based on your personal preference. I know it seems like a lot of garlic, but the flavor mellows significantly once cooked and it’s not at all overwhelming.

Nutrition

Calories: 709kcal | Carbohydrates: 94g | Protein: 24g | Fat: 26g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 11g | Cholesterol: 31mg | Sodium: 2019mg | Potassium: 1060mg | Fiber: 10g | Sugar: 11g | Vitamin A: 293IU | Vitamin C: 33mg | Calcium: 297mg | Iron: 5mg

Nutritional information is automatically calculated and should be used as an approximate.

Course: Soup
Cuisine: Czech
Keyword: Česnečka, Czech Garlic Soup, Garlic Soup, Garlic Soup Recipe, Hangover Soup, Hangover Soup Recipe

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Faith, author of An Edible Mosaic.
About Faith

I’m the writer, recipe developer, photographer, and food stylist behind this blog. I love finding the human connection through something we all do every day: eat! Food is a common ground that we can all relate to, and our tables tell a story. It’s my goal to inspire you to get in the kitchen, try something new, and find a favorite you didn’t know you had.

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