Sorrel Soup, French Style

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French sorrel soup recipe in a bowl
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

One of the first things I did when I moved to California was plant sorrel in my backyard. It is my kind of veggie: Tart, tender, drought-resistant, indestructible. Ignore it and sorrel thrives. Stomp on it and it comes back stronger. And it’s green almost all year long.

Sorrel soup is a classic. It is a harbinger of spring all over Europe, and several versions of it exist from Scotland to France to Russia.

Sorrel, like many early-spring greens, is a tonic after so many months of eating roots and preserved meats. It is very high in Vitamin C and reasonably high in iron. It’s tang — I call it “lemonade in a leaf” — comes from oxalic acid, the same thing that make its cousin rhubarb taste the way it does.

Sorrel is exceptional paired with seafood or chicken, and I often make a simple sorrel sauce whenever I have some trout or salmon or pheasant around.

Everything about sorrel soup sounded wonderful, save one: For whatever reason, sorrel turns olive green almost the second it touches the heat. Sorrel looks like overcooked collard greens even before it’s fully wilted. And I have a thing about overcooked greens, although I am trying to get over it. I want my greens to shine like emeralds, not look like the side of an Army truck.

sorrel leaves in the garden
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

I stood in my yard, staring at my gigantic sorrel patch. Would another year pass without me making sorrel soup? I got out my scissors. No, I’d suck it up and deal with the drab.

You don’t have to garden to enjoy sorrel. I happen to grow the common garden sorrel that was developed in France centuries ago, but there are several wild sorrel species that live in North America.

Most common are the oxalis family, of which there are scores. Chief among this clan is creeping wood sorrel, Oxalis corniculata, which looks like shamrocks with little yellow flowers. It turns bronze in cold weather and often infiltrates your lawn. There is another sorrel that lives in the West Coast, Oxalis albicans. It too has shamrocks, only they’re larger and the yellow flowers are the color of saffron-and-cream. You see this sorrel a lot in the Bay Area.

In the woods you will find sheep sorrel, Rumex acetosella. It has tiny, arrow-shaped leaves and grows in a little rosette. Sheep sorrel can carpet the forest floor. My garden sorrel is a relative of this one.

Closeup of the sorrel soup recipe
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Since the French really pioneered the cultivation of sorrel, I decided to make my sorrel soup a French one. There are scores of recipes for this soup, but if you want to make a classic French dish you go to the classic French cookbook: Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. My version of this recipe differs from Julia’s only in that I used wild onions instead of regular onions, and I used more sorrel. Other than that, it is an homage to a master.

As you might expect from a vegetable whose chief attribute is tartness, this soup would be inedible without the cream and eggs to temper it. With them, however, it becomes a bright, smooth wake-up call from a long winter. All it needed for total balance was a good loaf of bread and a crisp white wine. Enjoy!

French sorrel soup recipe
4.88 from 33 votes

Sorrel Soup, French Style

You will need a fair bit of sorrel to make this recipe, as it cooks down into a puree alarmingly fast. You can buy sorrel at some fancy supermarkets, a lot of farmer's markets in the spring -- or you can garden your own or forage for it. (If you want to plant it in your garden, you can buy sorrel seed online.) If you can't find it, substitute watercress and use sour cream instead of regular cream.
Course: Main Course, Soup
Cuisine: French
Servings: 4 people
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes

Ingredients 

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions, ramps or other wild onion
  • 4-6 cups of chopped sorrel, packed
  • Salt
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 quart chicken stock or vegetable stock
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup cream

Instructions 

  • Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the green onions or ramps and turn the heat to medium-low. Cover the pot and cook gently for 10 minutes.
  • While the onions are cooking, pour the stock into another pot and bring to a simmer.
  • Turn the heat up, add the sorrel leaves and a healthy pinch of salt to the pot with the onions and stir well. When the sorrel is mostly wilted, turn the heat back to medium-low, cover and cook 10 minutes. Stir occasionally. Mix in the flour and cook over medium heat for 3 minutes.
  • Whisk in the hot stock, stirring constantly. Bring this to a simmer.
  • To finish the soup, whisk together the egg yolks and cream. Temper the mixture by ladling a little soup into it with one hand, while you whisk the egg-cream mix with the other. Repeat this three times. (You are doing this to prevent the eggs from scrambling) Now start whisking the soup. Pour the hot egg-cream-soup mixture into the pot with the soup, whisking all the way. Add the final tablespoon of butter. Let this cook -- below a simmer -- for 5 minutes. Do not let it boil or the soup will break. Serve at once.

Notes

Serve this with bread and a nice white wine, or a floral beer like a Belgian.

Nutrition

Calories: 306kcal | Carbohydrates: 10g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 27g | Saturated Fat: 15g | Cholesterol: 169mg | Sodium: 92mg | Potassium: 270mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 2242IU | Vitamin C: 26mg | Calcium: 53mg | Iron: 2mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe? Tag me today!Mention @huntgathercook or tag #hankshaw!

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About Hank Shaw

Hey there. Welcome to Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, the internet’s largest source of recipes and know-how for wild foods. I am a chef, author, and yes, hunter, angler, gardener, forager and cook. Follow me on Instagram and on Facebook.

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76 Comments

  1. I’ve been making this soup for many years, originally following the same Julia Childs recipe that inspired Hank. I generally skip the egg yolks unless I’m serving it hot on the same day I make it. With cream alone, though, it is excellent cold (I prefer it cold over hot) and freezes quite well.
    As for growing it, I’ve done so in various climates. Here in Southern Oregon we get down into the teens (F) most every winter, and it doesn’t really phase the sorrel. Given sufficient water it grows like crazy from about February to November and yields an abundant supply of tender leaves. Fertilize once or twice a year with something like worm tea or fish fertilizer. It grows so densely that the liquid fertilizer works best.

  2. Would this be good served chilled, warm, or room temp? I’m thinking about bringing this to a wild foraging potluck event and heating it would not be possible. Also, how long will it last in the frig.?

    1. Elaine: I am not sure it would be good cold because of the egg liaison. Maybe if you skipped that and just added cream it would work better. It should keep in the fridge a couple days.

  3. This soup is wonderful. I have found it to be unpleasantly fibrous and added a step of blending and straining it before adding the cream and egg, which solves the problem. Maybe I need to be more careful to remove the ribs and stems as some have suggested.

  4. I have a large sorrel plot in my garden and have made lots of different Sorrel soups. Your recipe had the best balance of flavors and was delicious. Thank you for sharing.

  5. I received a large bunch of Sorrel and two bunches of ramps in my CSA box this week.….. I made ramp butter and then this soup. Just delicious on the 50 degree late May Sunday afternoon!
    I will file this for my annual receiving Sorrel! Thank you!

  6. I love this recipe, thank you! And Sorrel is so hardy it just grows all around the year in Florida here. I don’t do the last step of adding the egg and cream, and it still delicious. Also, that way I can freeze it without it spoiling.

  7. Now I just need to plant sorrel in my garden- I grew up eating this style of soup— however I didn’t know the English name til recently- can’t wait to try this recipe as I’ve been missing this childhood favorite.

  8. I had cut back my sorrel midsummer and it came back strong! As the weather got cooler, I didn’t feel like salads and wanted to find another use for these greens, this soup was perfect! It really has a refined delicacy that made me feel fancy just eating it. I added some spinach that had been suffering the same “salads, eh” fate, and they blended well together. Thanks for the inspiration!

  9. Hi Hank,
    Great recipe, thank you. Have you tried making a big batch and freezing some? I made this and it tasted great at the time but I froze the rest and found it tasted different upon thawing. You mentioned your sorrel sauce doesn’t freeze well and I’m wondering if this is the same? Thanks!

      1. Martin: I generally don’t use the stems, no. But they aren’t harmful.

  10. I highly recommend this recipe. I’ve made it a few times now and don’t alter or substitute anything except to occasionally use leeks. Sorrel is common here in Russia, ramps less so. In the past I would make sorrel soup with potato, but never again! One thing I’ve learned is that sorrel stalk can be horribly fibrous and nearly ruin a soup, so now I’m careful to discard all of the stalk before chopping the leaves.

  11. This is a lovely recipe that I have used a number of times. Just one correction. For those from West Virginia, Gallo hearty burgundy is the ideal wine pairing. LOL.

    1. Hi Hank, I read somewhere that if you puree raw sorrel with butter, somehow when you add it to soup, it will maintain the Emerald green jewel tone you desire. From what I recall the source was Patricia Wells Provence cookbook. If I try it, I’ll let you know if it works!

  12. Thank you for your recipe. We have sorrel growing in our herb garden, and aside from serving it as part of a salad, I was not sure what else to do with it. I know that the French have incorporated sorrel in their cuisine for many years. We have not tried this soup yet, but I am sure it will be delicious when we do.
    :0)

  13. well what better place to land as we (in NZ) are at the end our second week of COVID -19 lock down ( 2 of 4) – lots of sorrel in my late summer/autumn and this was fabulous I am so enjoying a back to basics approach to cooking

  14. Fantastic recipe! This has become an immediate favorite. Try adding the barest hint of cayenne for a little added pizzazz.

  15. This was my favorite new recipe of last year. I ended up using scapes in place of onions and it was lovely. I can’t wait to make it again this weekend with ramps. Thanks so much for sharing a great recipe!

  16. This soup sounds amazing! I recently inherited a community garden and the prior owners of my plot have a huge amount of red-veined sorrel growing in it. I’m so excited to use it in recipes. Will this soup work just as good with red-veined sorrel?

  17. Wonderful! There was a freak snow storm in NYC in November, so I harvested all of my remaining sorrel and made this soup. It was a perfect transition from the fruits of summer to the threshold of winter. Normally, saying good-bye to the garden at the end of the season is depressing, but this soup was a ray of sunshine in a bowl. Thanks!