Garbure Soup

You know, I really thought I was done with soup for a while. The weather has been nice and warm down here in the Florida panhandle, balmy in just the right way – never so cold that a light jacket won’t do the trick, and never too hot for pants. But then last week I visited my old stomping grounds in Maryland, and the weather was distinctly cooler; in other words, it was soup weather.

Garbure is a peasant’s soup originally from the Aquitaine (southwest) region of France; its defining ingredients include cabbage, meat (typically ham or duck), and seasonal vegetables like beans or peas. The consistency of the soup varies – some are nice and thick thanks to copious beans or chunks of bread (a good Garbure, I’ve read, should allow to spoon to stick up on its own), while others let cabbage provide the soup’s body.

My recipe takes cues from the second idea of Garbure, partly because I don’t typically cook with beans or chunks of delicious French bread (yep, there are definitely drawbacks to a Paleo-minded lifestyle), but also because I really enjoy cabbage soup.

Garbure Soup (Gluten-free, Perfect Health Diet, Paleo, Primal)

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy

2 tbsp butter or ghee, divided
1 lb bacon or ham, cut into 1″ thick strips
1 onion, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp black pepper, more to taste
1/4 tsp ground fennel
2 carrots, coarsely chopped
2 waxy potatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 head green cabbage, coarsely chopped
salt to taste
1 cup frozen peas
1 small handful fresh parsley, chopped

1. Warm 1 tbsp of the butter in a skillet over med/low heat, then add the bacon or ham strips. Brown the pork, about 4 minutes per side, then set aside to cool, about 5 minutes. Once cool, cut into bite-sized chunks and set aside.

2. While to pork cools, warm the other 1 tbsp of butter in a stockpot over medium heat, then add the chopped onion. Sauté until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, thyme, pepper, and fennel and sauté until aromatic, about 1 minute. Add the carrots, potatoes, bacon or ham chunks, and chicken stock; bring to a boil then reduce to med/low and simmer for 10 minutes.

3. Add the cabbage and simmer until all of the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed. Add the frozen peas and simmer until bright green, about 2 minutes; remove from heat, stir in the parsley, and serve.

22 thoughts on “Garbure Soup

  1. 2 thoughts : the name is not gabure but garbure, and your photo doesn’t look like garbure at all . I grew up in the South West and ate garbures thousands times . Even if each woman had her own trick I never saw a “garbure” looking like the one you show …


    1. Thanks for the catch on the spelling, I fixed the typo in the recipe. I’m curious as to how my photo isn’t what you expected – could you please specify how my presentation differs from what you define as Garbure?


      1. Yes . All the garbures I ate everyday, from my grandmother, my grand-aunts, their neighbours, in local rural restaurants etc…were thick but liquid soups . All the elements were swimming inside the thick liquid, whether pieces of meat, chiken legs, duck necks, or any seasonable vegetable .
        On your photo we see meat and vegetables in a pile above the liquid, which is a thing I never saw in any garbure of my life .
        Women used to leave the soup on a corner of the stove all day long and go away to work, adding some water if needed when they came back into the kitchen . This way everything melted, hence the sometimes more-than-thick “liquid” .
        Even now when nobody has time to cook real garbure like that, the liquid is less thick but I never encountered a pale liquid surmounted by a pile of stuff like you show . A garbure is literally a melting-pot, in which elements become less and less identifiable, but anyway always dived inside the liquid .


        1. Thanks for the clarification. Based on my research, Garbure seemed to be presented as both a stew and a soup, but judging from your experience it looks like I should have gone the stew route versus the soup above. I’ll definitely try it again at some point, with the suggestions you mentioned – thanks again!


          1. We called it a soup anyway, although it could have been considered by ‘Aliens’ from other parts of France as a complete meal by itself . As a kid I sometimes noticed my spoon could stand vertically in the soup so thick the so-called liquid was .
            The popular and common expression for eating lunch or dinner in the South-West was “manger la soupe” . “Je vais manger ma soupe”, “Tu as mangé ta soupe?” were used for “I’m gonna have my dinner” or ” Did you have your lunch ?” . No lunch or dinner ever existed without garbure for a starter, so much that when I discovered Barbarian places in the center or the east of France I couldn’t believe they ate some appetizers and no soup ! And I was shocked by what they called soups in those unfortunate lost lands : some water vaguely perfumed by things inside ha ha !


  2. This looks delicious! I like that there are various interpretations to a dish that can result in such different presentations. This is perfect for the late-season cold snap we’re having in Denver.


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