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. As far as I know, and I am Hungarian, real Hungarian Cauliflower soup is NOT made with paprika. It is certainly not red…ever.

      1. Thanks, Andras. Looking at many recipes for Hungarian cauliflower soup, most do contain some paprika. I’d expect, as with many traditional recipes, that the ingredients and amounts vary slightly from region to region. This particular version calls for quite a bit of paprika, but that can always be adjusted to preference, and the amount you use will certainly affect the color of the broth.

    2. Has anyone made this with spaetzle instead of this recipe for dumplings? It seems like it would work… I’m planning to make a giant batch (5 gallons) and it would be much easier to use a spaetzle gadget than forming individual dumplings.

    3. I can’t stop eating this soup! Such a hearty soup with just a few ingredients. I used 1 tbsp paprika and a tsp Hungarian hot paprika and it had enough heat to light up the back of my throat and complement the carrot and cauliflower. I used 4 cups of homemade chicken stock and some additional water but the real surprise was how easy the dumplings were and how creamy/buttery they made the soup. Also added the dollop of sour cream and some parsley (for some reason the sour cream didn’t blend in but looked like it curdled? Maybe I added it to the soup when it was too hot?). Definitely making this again.

      1. Love this worked out so well, Marilyn! I think your heat level sounds perfect. As for the sour cream seeming curdled, yes, the warmth of the soup could definitely do that, it was pretty warm still when we tried it, but perhaps let it rest just a little longer next time? Greatly appreciate you taking the time to let us know how well it worked out for you…!

    4. Those carrots in photo don’t look “finely chopped” to me? I’m intrigued by this recipe and am 1/4 Hungarian on Dad’s side. Sort of spaetzle like dumplings it seems. Interesting. This will be dinner tonight!

    5. As a Hungarian, believe me that there’s no such thing as “regular” paprika. It’s either Hungarian or Spanish. Hungarian can be sweet or hot – that’s it. Here in North America, it gets confusing, though, as it’s not clearly labeled in many cases. When it doesn’t say Hungarian on it, it’s Spanish. Not even sure where the smoked variety came from, though it’s yummy!

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