Knoephla Soup

4.88 from 8 votes
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When life gives you birds from North Dakota, make knoephla soup.

What, you may ask, is that? Well, it’s a NoDak thing, and it’s literally a bowl of warmth. Knoephla is actually the term for the dumplings in the soup as much as it is the soup itself; you can also eat knoephla without a soup, sautéed with butter and caramelized onions.

A bowl of knoephla soup
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

The genesis of my decision to make knoephla soup started with a hunting trip to North Dakota with my friend Tyler Webster, who lives there. I’d had Tyler on my podcast to do an episode about Hungarian partridge, and he said I needed to make the journey out there.

So I did, braving the wilds in the Time of Miss ‘Rona, and we had a blast. Literally. We got lots of both partridges and sharp-tailed grouse. I brought a bunch home to play with in the kitchen, and I ended up smoking several sharpies, using my recipe for smoked pheasant.

Well, when you smoke birds, you tend to slightly undercook the legs and wings, rendering them not so edible. But, if you then take that breast-less carcass and use it as the base of a soup stock, it transforms into something more than wonderful.

I’ve done this with smoke duck, and my smoked duck soup with reibele dumplings is something I’ve pretty proud of. My knoephla soup is like a kicked up version of that. It starts with a broth made from two smoked sharpie carcasses, and goes from there to add all the traditional fixins’, like carrots, celery, and of course the dumplings themselves.

Closeup of a bowl of knoephla soup
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Potatoes are also traditional, although I left them out here. If you want to add potatoes, add 2 or 3 Yukon gold or other waxy potatoes, peeled and diced.

Knoephla, pronounced “nip-flah,” are super easy to make. Flour, an egg, milk, a little salt. Make a dough, roll it into a thin log, slice off little dumplings. Boil either in the soup, or separately, which is what I did. I also added a little rye flour to my knoephla because, well, it makes sense for North Dakota.

Don’t worry if you don’t have a smoked bird carcass lying around. Use the carcass from a roast chicken or any other bird, or just some spare poultry meat you happen to have. I will tell you that this soup is better made with a broth from a smoked or roasted bird, though.

Knoephla soup will keep a few days in the fridge, but be sure to reheat it slowly or the cream could break. Also, if you plan on freezing or pressure canning it, leave out the dairy and add it when you are ready to eat.

Closeup of a bowl of knoephla soup
4.88 from 8 votes

Knoephla Soup

This is my take on the classic North Dakota knoephla dumplings soup. I make it with sharp-tailed grouse, but any poultry or rabbit will work, too.
Course: lunch, Main Course, Soup
Cuisine: American, German
Servings: 6
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
For the Broth: 2 hours
Total Time: 3 hours



  • 2 carcasses of smoked birds, grouse or pheasant or chicken
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 3 quarts water
  • salt


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup rye, spelt, barley or whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground mace or nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 6 tablespoons milk


  • 2 tablespoons butter or bacon fat
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 cups chopped white or yellow onion
  • 1/2 to 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons chopped parsley



  • Break or chop up the carcasses of the chicken, grouse, pheasant or whatever into large pieces. Put in a large pot, add the water and bay leaves, cover and bring to a simmer. Simmer gently for 2 hours, or until the meat on the legs and wings wants to fall off the bone.
  • Remove the carcasses and pick off all the meat. Reserve this. Strain the broth. You'll need at least 1 quart. Set that aside, too.


  • Get a large pot of water boiling. Add a healthy pinch of salt.
  • Put the flours, salt, spices and baking powder in a bowl and mix well. Add the egg and milk, mix well until you get a shaggy dough. Knead this until it all comes together, then roll it out into a log about the width of your pinkie finger.
  • Slice off little dumplings and drop them into the boiling water. It will drop to a simmer. This is what you want, not a rolling boil, so adjust the heat. Let the knoephla cook until they bob on the surface, then 1 minute more. Remove them and lay them out on a baking sheet. Toss with a little oil if you want to prevent them from sticking each other.


  • Heat the butter or bacon fat in a soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions, carrots and celery and sauté for about 5 minutes; you want everything to soften, but not brown.
  • Add the picked meat, as much of the broth as you want -- I use a bit more than a quart -- and let this simmer until all the vegetables are nicely cooked, about 15 minutes. Add the dumplings and cream and cook gently for another 5 minutes. Stir in the parsley, some black pepper and serve.


Calories: 257kcal | Carbohydrates: 29g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Cholesterol: 60mg | Sodium: 267mg | Potassium: 248mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 3921IU | Vitamin C: 6mg | Calcium: 83mg | 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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Recipe Rating


  1. I’ve made this knoephla recipe a few times and look forward to it every time I smoke a chicken. It’s so simple and supremely satisfying. Ideal comfort food.

  2. can’t wait to try this, -6 here in NY today would be a good recipe for tomorrow. any tips on smoking the birds, I have a Traeger, don’t want to ruin the birds before putting them in the soup

    1. Ryan: Just salt and smoke for a couple hours. You might want to try 3 hours in such cold weather though. I’ve never tried to smoke something in such cold conditions!

  3. Great info, though I don’t think you need to cook the dumplings separately. Instead, drop them in the soup at the very end and let them simmer for about 15 minutes.

  4. I had to laugh at your instruction of making dough “the width of your pinkie finger.”! I imagine you must be a large man, and I’m a 100-lb female. I think *my* pinkie is not the same as your pinkie… 🙂
    P.S. wish I had this recipe two weeks ago when I had a smoked turkey carcass laying around… Smoked bird soup is really delicious, but I did not think to make dumplings with it.

  5. My Norwegian grandmother made these dumplings quite frequently. So easy and good added to any kind of soup. She called them a “stretcher”, to stretch out the amount of food, and with 11 children, she knew all about that! This sounds delicious, I’m going to try it with smoked chicken.