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  • Writer's pictureIldiko

Hungarian Bean Soup with Smoked Hocks

This delicious Hungarian bean soup is also known as 'Jókai Bab Leves' in the Hungarian world (Bean Soup a la Jókai). It is named after a very famous and prolific Hungarian novelist from the 19th century, named 'Jókai Mór' (b. 1825, d. 1904), who frequented a town, called Balatonfüred, along the shores of Lake Balaton and indulged in this hearty soup. Rumor has it, however, that the original version of the soup that Jókai so loved did not contain any vegetables, noodles, and sour cream. It consisted simply of beans, hocks, and a roux with paprika. The restaurant named the bean soup after him, and from there the recipe propagated under his name. The bean soup that is associated with Jókai's name was first published in a cookbook in 1937 and interestingly INCLUDED vegetables, noodles, and sour cream. It's unclear when this modification occurred and who is responsible. Cookbooks, today, may have their own versions of this recipe as it succumbed to subtle modifications over the years.

Made from just a few simple ingredients, the marquee role, outside of the beans, of course, is played by SMOKED meat. Usually, this is in the form of smoked ham hocks but could be smoked ribs, smoked sausage, or a ham bone. A few added vegetables like carrots, onion, parsnips, and celery will result in a delicious soup! Often, Hungarians finish off this soup with some delicate 'csipetke' meaning 'pinched noodles', more commonly known as spaetzle. Add the customary 'Hungarian dollop' of sour cream on top, slice yourself a generous piece of warm, crusty bread and you will have yourself a hearty MEAL!

'Jokai' Hungarian Bean Soup Recipe


1 bag of dry pinto beans (16-20 oz bag)

4 small ham hocks

3-4 bay leaves

2 small onions

2 cloves of garlic

2-3 sticks of celery

1/2 tsp ground caraway seed

salt & pepper, to taste

water, about 10 cups

6-8 small carrots, sliced into 1/4 " slices

2 medium parsnips, sliced into 1/4" slices

1 ham steak, cut into 1/2" cubes


3 Tbsp of oil

2Tbsp of flour

2 tsp paprika

broth from soup until smooth

Csipetke (spaetzle):

1 whole egg, beaten

1/2 cup flour

1 tsp oil

1/2 tsp salt

bit of water until obtain batter consistency

1. Soak pinto beans in salty water overnight

2. Next day, place ham hocks in a pot and cover them with cold water. bring to boil and then turn down the heat to simmer on low for about 1.5 hours, until hocks are fork-tender.

3. Then drain and rinse the pinto beans and add them to the ham hocks. Add the bay leaves, the peeled onions, celery, garlic cloves, ground caraway seeds, salt, and pepper. Add additional cold water, about 10 cups. Bring to boil, then let simmer on low until beans are tender, about 40 minutes.

4. Once the beans are nearly done, add the sliced carrots and parsnips and the cubed ham pieces. Continue to cook on a low simmer for about 20 minutes until carrots and parsnips are tender.

5. Remove the ham hocks onto a cutting board. Let cool until able to handle. Separate out the meat chunks from the hocks and re-add the meat to the soup. Discard skin and bones, or gift to a lucky dog.

6. Remove and discard the onions, celery, bay leaves, and garlic cloves.

7. Make a roux by placing 3 Tbsp of oil into a small saucepan. Heat up oil. Add the 2 Tbsp of flour stir constantly over heat. Remove from heat and add 2 tsp of sweet Hungarian paprika. Keep stirring. The roux shouldn't be too thin or too thick. It should spread out in your saucepan and bubble a bit. Then add broth from the soup until the roux is thinner and smooth. Once the mixture is smooth return it back to the pot and bring the soup to a low boil. This will then thicken the soup a bit.

8. Make csipetke (or spaetzle) batter by mixing 1 whole egg with flour, oil, salt, and a bit of water. Mix with a wooden spoon until obtaining a nice batter consistency. With the soup at a low boil, drop the csipetke pieces into the soup individually with a spoon, or pour the batter into a spaetzle maker and let the batter pieces drop into the boiling soup. Let the csipetke cook for 5-10 minutes, then done!

9. Serve in a rimmed bowl. Can garnish with slices of tomato, thinned sour cream, and a sprig of fresh parsley.

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This soup is Hungarian comfort food at its best! It is rich and filling and perfect for the cool winter months. In addition to the CLASSIC Chicken Paprikás and Hungarian Goulash, Bean Soup a la Jókai is yet another emblematic dish of the Hungarian kitchen. Not surprisingly, common ingredients in all three of them are sweet Hungarian paprika and cool sour cream. Hungarians just LOVE these two ingredients and you will find them in MANY Hungarian dishes. Give this delicious soup a try. Like Jókai, I bet you, too, will love it!

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