Hungarian Cauliflower Soup ~ Karfiolleves

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.

Two mugs of Hungarian cauliflower soup with two spoons beside them.

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

Hungarian Cauliflower Soup | Karfiolleves

  • Quick Glance
  • (5)
  • 25 M
  • 45 M
  • Serves 4 to 8
5/5 - 5 reviews
Print RecipeBuy the Saveur: The New Classics Cookbook cookbook

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  • For the dumplings (optional)
  • For the Hungarian cauliflower soup


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. Originally published January 24, 2017.

Print RecipeBuy the Saveur: The New Classics Cookbook cookbook

Want it? Click it.

    *What You Need To Know About What Kind Of Paprika You Should Use For This Hungarian Cauliflower Soup

    • This 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.


    #leitesculinaria on Instagram If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.


    1. I can’t believe it on a couple of levels. The first is that I cooked something vegetarian for once – not the first time, but it is a rarity – and it turned out to be a favourite. The second is that I am not too familiar with cooking soup either. That latter point would have me need to retrace and open up the world of cooking soups, particularly as winter months approach*.

      Once again, the journey of learning to cook has you thinking “why didn’t I try this before”? Needed to get a cauliflower out of the fridge and used it; I got it while it was cheap, and didn’t get or seize an opportunity to use it until now. This recipe was hanging in the tab for a couple of weeks. That worked out so well, and it is another layer into knowing an under-rated cuisine – Hungarian.

      It was a night that I generally go out to do some charity work, so it was on the stove while I was away. Heated a little bit of it up, and that alone showed the beauty of soup recipes. Reheating does not ruin them too much, and they are usually so simple to make. Build that repertoire up, and never cease with it.

      * To avoid confusion, I live in the southern hemisphere.

      1. Excellent points, Mikey. Likely part of the reason why every cuisine has some soup that it’s known for. I’m so pleased you gave this a try and enjoyed it.

    2. This soup is delicious! I used regular paprika and whoever wanted extra spice added their own. I did not make the dumplings so I added a handful of orrechiette at the end and it was perfect. My toddler could not get enough and had multiple servings! This is easily one of the simplest yet tastiest soups I’ve made and will add to my go-to list of recipes. 🙂

    3. A tip for making the dumplings is to dip the small spoon in the soup after every second dumpling, then they fall off easier. Sometimes my Hungarian Italian grandmother would have hot Italian sausage in it, boiling first then using the broth for the soup. So good in the winter

      1. Thanks, Michelle. Great tip! And I really love the suggestion about the sausage as well.

    4. A question about the “1 tablespoons large egg” in the ingredient list.. Should we use 1 tablespoon lightly beaten egg for the dumplings or 1 large egg? I’m guessing that it might be the former since several comments mention that the dough is quite wet.

      1. Apologies, Rita! That was a typo. It should just read 1 large egg. Thank you for catching that!

    5. I made this soup years ago when it appeared in the Saveur website. I use sweet smoked paprika for two reasons. It is not hot and it imparts a wonderful meaty flavor. The dumplings are a must.

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