Creamy Karelian Salmon Soup; a Kind of Magical Russian Soup

Russia is rich with traditional cuisine. Its very vast territory gathers the abundance by nature that makes the national food could be so various with ingredients starting from fruits, fish, all kinds of meat, dairy products, and many more. One of the most common traditional foods from Russia is soup – many kinds of it. This is because the Russians believe that the digestion system will work better after getting warmed up by a bowl of warm soup. One of the popular soups in Russia is called lohikeitto. It is a creamy salmon soup originally from Karelia.

Where is Karelia?

The Republic of Karelia is located in Northern Europe, in the northwestern part of Russia, washed by the White Sea in the northeast. Petrozavodsk is the capital of Karelia, which is located on the coast of Lake Onega. From the west, Karelia borders with Finland, from the north with Murmansk, from the east with Arkhangelsk, and from the south with Leningrad regions. Karelia is often called the “country of forests and lakes” and this is true. There are about 60,000 lakes and 27,000 rivers in the republic, and the forest area is almost 15 million hectares.

Salmon in Karelia

The most popular place to catch salmon in Karelia is Lake Onega. It is for the salmon that fishermen from all over Russia come to the lake. Here are another good fishing spots in the region:

  • Lake Ladoga
  • White Sea
  • Middle Kuito
  • Nuke

Salmon in Karelia can be caught in rivers. It is found in almost all rivers that flow into the White Sea such as Lake Ladoga (northern and northeastern coast), as well as Lake Onega (western and northwestern coast). But the salmon only enters the rivers during spawning, and fishing at this time is always prohibited. However, even after spawning, it is sometimes possible to catch salmon in the rivers.

It can also be found in some other internal lakes of the Republic of Karelia, for example, Yanisyarvi, Sandal and others, but the success rate of catching salmon is quite low. For example, if you visit the sites of recreation centers on Yanisyarvi, you will be told that there is salmon in the lake, whereas if you read the reviews of fishermen, it is completely the opposite, so you might want to check the reviews first before fishing in several places in Karelia. The best place for salmon fishing in Karelia is without a doubt Lake Onega.

Karelian Traditional Dishes

Traditional Karelian cuisine has evolved over many centuries. From the earliest of time, the basis of the diet of the Karelians has been lake fish; they used it not only in fresh form, but also in salted and dried forms. In the Karelian kitchen there is no concept of “fry”, everything is baked or boiled. And, guess what, the most favorite dish in the region is fish soup. This should come naturally since the water area in the region is vast.

The geographical location and nature of Karelia left a big imprint on the culinary traditions of its local people. Karelian national cuisine offers a wide selection of dishes from fish, mushrooms, wild berries, rye and barley flour. At the source of culinary traditions, the cuisines of Karelians, Izhors, Vepsians interwoven. Cooking methods are close to Old Russian, so many recipes require baking in the oven.


A huge variety of dishes prepared from fish. They use flour from fish bones for food, scales are used for cooking jellied meat, fish caviar is baked in the oven. The fish that required to be fried would be put in a large amount of oil in a pan. The dishes are usually liberally flavored with a mixture of milk and sour cream. Milk is consumed often. It gets cooked, frozen, made as butter and cottage cheese, also prepared as yogurt – which is generally mixed with berries.

The Creamy Karelian Salmon Soup

Imagine delicious pieces of salmon and simple boiled potatoes bathed in creamy soup, with a little butter and fragrant fresh dill, with a slice of fresh warm bread on the side. So delicious! You can almost taste it as an ultimate comfort food.

Here’s the recipe for the traditional soup. The cooking time is around 30 minutes and the measurement should be enough for four people.

Ingredients:

  • Salmon    300 g
  • Potatoes   3 pcs
  • Carrot       1 pc
  • Onion        1 pc
  • 20% cream   100 ml
  • Flour         1 tbsp
  • Fresh thyme  3 branches
  • Salt    1 pinch
  • black pepper    1 pinch

How to cook:

1. In 1.5 liters of water, make the broth from the skin, head, and fins of the fish, and then strain.

2. Add diced potatoes and onions, also grated carrots to the strained broth. Cook for 5 minutes, then add the salmon fillet, cut into small pieces. Cook for another 5 minutes.

3. Season with salt and black pepper. In a bowl, add flour to the cream and mix well. Pour the mixture into the soup while stirring constantly until it is brought to a boil. Add fresh thyme for flavor.

4. Let the soup brew for a day (recommended, but not necessary). Or you can just eat it right away. Serve garnished with a sprig of thyme and sprinkled with freshly ground black pepper.

5. Rye bread would make a perfect companion for this soup.

As you can see, this is a very simple soup to make and the ingredients are not too difficult to find even outside of Russia. You just want to make sure that the type of salmon you use is from a good quality. The cream can be replaced with whole milk, by the way. So, are you ready to cook this magical soup for dinner tonight?

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