Hungarian cauliflower soup with dumplings, also known as karfiolleves, is a quick, easy, frugal, pantry-friendly soup that’s simple to make but complex in taste. It’s made with lotsa spice and, quite frankly, is unlike any other soup you’ve experienced.
After reading about this Hungarian cauliflower soup and what the editors of Saveur Magazine originally said about it, we’re nostalgic for a place we’ve never been. Has that ever happened to you? And after tasting it, we understand even better that homesickness. Here’s what the magazine has to say about it:
“In Hungary, the soup course is a point of national pride. Hungarian cooks have developed a whole battery of soup-making techniques unknown in other European cooking traditions. One secret behind karfiolleves, a warming, brick-red cauliflower soup, is the handling of the paprika, a spice introduced by occupying Turks in the 16th century and thereafter embraced by Hungarians as their own. Paprika is fat-soluble, so it makes sense to begin by cooking it in butter, but it also releases its flavor quickly and scorches easily, so broth is added to the pot soon after. Whereas cooks elsewhere rely on rich meat or vegetable broths as building blocks of flavor, Hungarians tend to use very light broths or even water. In a soup like this one, the idea is to let the pure flavor of the vegetables shine through.”–Renee Schettler Rossi
Hungarian Cauliflower Soup ~ Karfiolleves
For the dumplings (optional)
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons (1 oz) cold unsalted butter cut into small cubes
- 1 large egg
For the Hungarian cauliflower soup
- 4 tablespoons (2 oz) unsalted butter cold
- 1 1/2 tablespoons Hungarian paprika* (see *Note below; if you can't find Hungarian paprika or you prefer things less fiery, use regular paprika and add a pinch or more of cayenne pepper to taste)
- 1 large yellow onion finely chopped (1 cup)
- 6 cups homemade vegetable stock or canned vegetable broth (or substitute 4 cups stock and 2 cups water)
- 1 small head cauliflower cored and cut into bite size (about 1-inch [25-mm]) florets
- 1 medium carrot peeled and finely chopped (about 2/3 cup)
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt plus more to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- A few sprigs flat-leaf parsley stemmed and finely chopped, for garnish (about 2 tablespoons)
- Sour cream or crème fraîche (optional but strongly encouraged!)
Make the dumplings (optional)
- In a bowl, stir together the flour and salt. Add the butter and, using your fingers, rub it into the flour until pea-size crumbles form. Add the egg and stir until a somewhat wet, soft, sticky dough forms. (Don't worry. It will firm.) Cover and refrigerate the dumpling dough for at least 30 minutes or until ready to use.
Make the Hungarian cauliflower soup
- In a 6-quart saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the paprika and onion and cook, stirring, until the onion is softened, about 5 minutes.
- Add the stock, cauliflower, and carrot, season with salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.
- When the vegetables are tender, using a 1/2-teaspoon measuring spoon, portion out and drop all the dumpling dough into the simmering soup. Cover the pot and cook, without stirring, until the dumplings expand slightly, float to the surface, and are cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes.
Serve the Hungarian cauliflower soup
- Season the soup with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup and dumplings, if using, into bowls and garnish with parsley and, if desired, a dollop of sour cream or crème fraîche.
*What You Need To Know About What Kind Of Paprika You Should Use For This Hungarian Cauliflower SoupThis recipe calls for paprika. But which kind of paprika? Hungarian? Sweet? Hot? Smoked? Spanish? Confusingly, paprika can be labeled any number of things, and although one would assume that something labeled “Hungarian Sweet Paprika” would be perfect for a recipe labeled “Hungarian Cauliflower Soup,” be aware that paprika can vary rather dramatically in taste and heat from one brand or type to the next. And don’t be tricked by that innocent sounds of “Hungarian Sweet Paprika”—this particular paprika can be fiery. Based on our experience, consider first making this recipe with half Hungarian paprika and half regular paprika. This is what many of our recipe testers tried. Then you can get a feel for the exact amount of heat you desire next time you make the soup. (And trust us, you will want there to be a next time.) And if you can’t get your hands on a tin of Hungarian paprika but want to experience it, you can substitute regular paprika and simply add anywhere from a pinch to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne to the recipe. You may also want to read what The Kitchn has to say on the many different sorts of paprika.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
We loved this cauliflower soup recipe. No, really, this one got handwritten into a cookbook because we love it that much. It’s basically beginner-proof.
A couple quick notes, though. I had to go to the specialty spice store to locate the Hungarian hot paprika, which was labeled Hungarian sweet paprika, apparently not to be confused with Spanish sweet or Spanish hot paprika. I stared at the paprika with a confused look long enough that the nice spice lady helped confirm that the “Hungarian sweet” was in fact the “hot” I was searching for (there’s no doubt once you try it—it’s hot).
The dumpling batter is very wet, although it comes together after you cool it for about 20 minutes in the fridge. The dough yields 15 little 1/2-teaspoon balls of dumpling. Don’t worry, they expand. As a newbie cook, I had no idea how to tell when dumplings are ready. The answer is simple—they float. And they float fast—even 2 minutes is generous.
I made the soup twice (because we loved it!), and the second time, I made the soup with regular paprika and 1/2 teaspoon cayenne. It’s basically the same amount of heat and a very similar taste, so if you don’t have the Hungarian stuff, don’t fear!
Nom nom. The only way we could think of to improve it was maybe adding some chicken.
This Hungarian cauliflower soup is unlike any soup I’ve made before and is definitely a new way to enjoy cauliflower, which plays so nicely with paprika.
Speaking of spice, using all hot paprika was a bit intense for us and dolloping it with sour cream was a creamy relief. (I recommend the sour cream even if you don’t make the soup spicy!) Next time I’ll use 1/2 of the hot stuff and 1/2 sweet or smoked paprika.
Don’t be afraid of making dumplings! Making them very small seemed silly and I grumbled a little. (Full disclosure: It was a Tuesday, and I was a little grumpy.) Worth it! Just wait for that perfect bite—the combination of the spicy broth, soft cauliflower florets, and spongy dumpling is a sensation. It turned my Tuesday right around!
I only had an extra-large egg, and the dumplings had too much liquid in them, so I needed an additional 1 tablespoon flour. I suspect even using the correct-size eggs could create a dough that’s too wet. I used 4 cups broth and 2 cups water and the soup was still very flavorful.
To anyone making this for the first time, underseasoning this soup would be a disservice—cauliflower needs salt. My personal preference is to use 3/4 teaspoon salt, but we like things on the salty side. Stirring while cooking the dumplings is the wrong thing to do—you don’t want to break them all up. Just cover and give them their 2 to 3 minutes. Garnish with parsley and a dollop of sour cream!
The leftovers held well—they even microwaved well without the cauliflower getting mushy.
Warning: If the entire amount of hot paprika is used in this recipe, it will be spicy, fiery, killer hot! I used the entire 1 1/2 tablespoons hot paprika and loved it, but as I was getting to end of my soup, my throat began to protest.
It took about 10 minutes to chop everything (my cauliflower was a little bigger than bite-size) and another 5 to sauté the butter, paprika, and onion before the vegetables began to blacken a touch. It took about 2 minutes to crumble the butter with the flour for the dumpling batter and about 3 minutes to measure out the 1/2 teaspoon-size dumplings, which were wonderful.
The dumplings were a nice counterpart to the spiciness of the broth. This is a great dinner for a meatless Monday or a busy weeknight. While I like spicy dishes, this one pushed me to my limit. When I make it again I will use 3/4 tablespoon hot paprika and 3/4 tablespoon smoked or sweet paprika. This way, I’ll still get the beautiful color of the soup but tone down the heat a bit.
How awesome is this Hungarian cauliflower soup? Totally awesome! I had expected this to be spicy, and what I found instead was that it was warm and comforting—a real keeper for my soup repertoire.
This soup comes together very quickly and the ingredients are easy to find. These are not your typical North American biscuit-type dumplings but a European type called knödel, which is denser in texture. I used 5 cups vegetable broth and 1 cup water, as that was all the broth I had on hand. The dumplings took closer to 5 minutes to cook through, but that may be due to the fact that I made them a bit larger. I didn’t see the need to use a teaspoon measure, so I just used a small spoon to measure the dumpling dough.
My testers all loved the soup. Although one taster didn’t care for the dumplings, my husband said they reminded him of the soups he had as a boy in Germany. We found this pot made 4 generous dinner servings, and enough was left over for 1 lunch, so we figured 6 average-size servings. We all thought this would be nice with a dollop of crème fraiche or sour cream in addition to the parsley.
Super spicy and a new flavor for cauliflower as a main course—even a dumpling-virgin could have fun with this recipe. Use a wide Dutch oven and you will have no problem stirring the paprika and onions so that the spice doesn’t scorch. It is a surprising soup—even though the broth is on the thin side, the simple list of ingredients create a complex broth with just the right amount of heat.
I was a bit cautious and used 1 tablespoon hot paprika and 1/2 tablespoon medium paprika. I would say start there, and if you find you still want more heat, then go with all hot paprika. I used a mixture of chicken and vegetable broth. I actually think it would benefit from all chicken broth, so I’ll be doing that next time.
My last carrot was a bit small, so I peeled and diced 2 small golden beets to make up the “carrot” volume. I would make it exactly that way again. If you’re serving it all at once, the other benefit in using a really wide (shallow) soup pot (rather than a tall narrow one) is that it allows plenty of space for the small spoonfuls of dumpling to cook.
The dumpling dough benefits from resting in the refrigerator. You could even make the soup earlier in the day and reheat when it comes time to serve, adding the dumpling dough at the last few minutes.
This soup was satisfying and deceptively easy for such an interesting soup, and I can see playing with it, maybe using green or Romanesco cauliflower for contrast. You certainly could do this recipe in a half amount—other than dividing the egg, it’s straightforward, but it may be difficult to work with such a small amount of dough. I preferred to have it available for a second or even third meal since I usually make a full batch of most soups. It keeps fine in the refrigerator for a couple days without the dumplings.
This Hungarian cauliflower soup looks exactly like the photo! Such a beautiful color. I was really excited to use the paprika I bought in Budapest for this recipe. We loved this light and tasty soup.
I had never made dumplings like this before and they were great. The cauliflower florets were small but not itty-bitty as you don’t want them to become mush. I think this is a nice soup to serve to guests as it’s quite stunning and tastes wonderful.
This Hungarian cauliflower soup came together without much fuss. I tend to get a little worried when flour comes into the picture during a weeknight meal, but don’t worry, making the dumplings took nearly no effort nor was there any mess involved.
I let the dough sit in the fridge for about 15 minutes as I breezed through chopping the vegetables and trimming the cauliflower into bite-size florets. Once the onion was softened and the paprika bloomed in the butter, I was ready to deglaze the pan with my good-quality vegetable stock. Keep the stock close by just in case the paprika threatens to burn.
I added the remaining vegetables and reduced the heat after it came to a boil and let the soup simmer for 15 minutes. Once the carrots had softened, I started dropping 1/2-teaspoon portions of dumpling batter into the vibrant red soup. To my surprise, one by one they began floating back to the surface only to look like wee matzo balls. It couldn’t be! I couldn’t wait—I tasted one, and YES, wee matzo ball dumplings! Delicious! What a surprise.
After all the dough was portioned into the soup, I simmered it for 3 minutes to cook the last dumpling. The soup served 4 generously. I would like my cauliflower a little more al dente next time, so I will add the carrots 5 minutes ahead of the florets. The total time I think the cauliflower should cook is really no more than 15 minutes, including the dumpling step.
I was drawn to this Hungarian cauliflower soup recipe by the big dose of paprika, a spice that often sits neglected in my cupboard or is used in only very dainty sprinkles. I went out for a new jar to make sure I didn’t shortchange the recipe because the paprika is the star of the show here. If you’re the sort of person who owns paprika that didn’t expire in 2011, then this is an even easier recipe to pull together—quick prep and many ingredients you’re likely to have on hand already.
The cauliflower soup came together easily and didn’t cause me any recipe-following anxiety, despite it being different from any cauliflower soup recipe I’d seen in the past. The dumpling dough came together in no time and sat happily in the fridge for about 45 minutes until I was ready for it. Dropped in tiny spoonfuls into the soup, the dumpling dough puffed into tiny clouds that looked exactly like the bite-sized cauliflower florets. That, combined with the vibrant red broth, made this much more visually interesting than you expect soup to be—it was gorgeous!
The smokiness of the soup was fantastic, my only quibble is that it was so smoky the other ingredients got a bit lost. The cauliflower and dumplings basically just delivered texture, which was nice, but I missed being able to enjoy their full flavors.
I would definitely make this again but serve it in much smaller portions—the recipe says it serves 4, but I think it could stretch to 8 and be served before or alongside other things as the flavor is great as an accent. I don’t think it works as a complete meal in a bowl because of the assertiveness of the paprika. I kept thinking that a dollop of sour cream on top along with the parsley might be nice.
I haven’t used this much paprika in a while, but this Hungarian cauliflower soup does make for a pretty colored soup that provides warm flavor undertones. This is a straightforward recipe that only calls for few ingredients.
I’m on the fence about the inclusion of the dumplings. It seemed like a lot of butter and egg for just 1/3 cup flour but it worked. I think because the cauliflower was so soft and white, you really didn’t notice the dumplings. The recipe makes 4 generous helpings.
I think this Hungarian cauliflower soup was just a bit too hot for me to enjoy, although those who like things spicy may think otherwise. Overall it had a dense, rich flavor that I liked. It was a wonderful use of cauliflower with paprika, which I would have never thought to do.
I also loved the dumplings and wished I had more. Next time, I’ll make a double batch of the dumpling dough. I will make this soup again, but on the cooler side of the scale—regular paprika, here I come!
My mouth is till tingling from the heat of the paprika. I measured exactly 1 1/2 tablespoons, but I used authentic hot Hungarian paprika from Hungary that was brought back from a trip. I have a suspicion that the paprika we used may be hotter than other brands found in grocery stores in Canada. All the same, the soup was warming and surprisingly delicious. It was definitely a hit with my partner. I thought it would be since he’s a paprika enthusiast and would put paprika on everything if he could. I think we’ll just need to adjust the quantity of paprika next time.
When making the dumpling dough, I wasn’t sure what to expect the dumplings to look like. In fact, I initially thought that I’d perhaps measured the flour wrong as the dough was rather wet, soft, and sticky after adding the egg, but since it was supposed to rest in the fridge, I thought it might firm up a bit—and it did. (Mine was in the refrigerator for 40 minutes.)
The process of making the soup was simple and straightforward. I used a homemade stock instead of store-bought and cut my florets into bite-size pieces. When measuring out the dumplings, instead of using a measuring spoon, I used a demitasse spoon and that rendered bite-size buttery dumplings that were a nice surprise amongst the cauliflower. I found it could easily serve 6 for a light lunch and 8 if serving this soup as an appetizer. It’s definitely a soup that I will add to my cooking repertoire, especially on colder days.
This Hungarian cauliflower soup with paprika was tasty and easy to make. It was yummy with a nice color. The recipe is pretty straightforward.
The only thing I had to change was to add 2 more tablespoons flour to the dumpling mixture. Next time I’d also add some nutmeg. This soup is a keeper.
This Hungarian cauliflower soup most definitely fits the description before the recipe. I made a couple batches—one with Hungarian sweet paprika and the other with Pimentón de la Vera (smoked sweet paprika from Spain) and I liked the taste of the second one better.
Originally published January 27, 2021