Bosnian Bean Soup {Grah}

Just when I thought the winter has lost its grip on us, it’s snowing again and it’s bitter cold outside. I guess I’ll have to patiently wait for the spring.. In the meantime I decided to cure the winter blues with a cup of familiar, good Bosnian Bean Soup. In Bosnia and the regions of Balkan, this soup has been around for hundreds of years. It is simply called “beans” (grah) and when you say “grah” everyone knows what you’re talking about. Most families have their own, family recipe which they swear to be the best one around. I think my recipe is pretty darn good too! ๐Ÿ™‚ This flavorful, hearty soup is made from dried beans, so it takes a while to be done, but I’ll tell you the wait is absolutely worth it. If you would find yourself in a conversation with an older Bosnian lady and if you (Godย forbid) mentioned that you have used canned beans to make grah, she would be seriously mad (if not offended) and she would use all of her powers of persuasion to change your mind and to point you in the right direction when it comes to preparing grah. ๐Ÿ™‚

Although I am not going to be mad if you use canned beans, I would strongly suggest – don’t. I am speaking from my own experience here. Take the time and make this soup the proper way and you will be rewarded with a best cup of bean soup you ever had.

Since I don’t have a way to get the real Bosnian beans here in the US, I tried substituting them with pinto beans, black eyed peas and kidney beans. None of these have worked too well. Recently I foundย peruano beansย which are just perfect for this soup and if not the same, then they are very similar to my favorite Bosnian beans.

As we (Bosnians) are pretty serious meat eaters, we like to add some nice smoked meat to the soup. I usually add authentic Bosnian smoked beef, but smoked pork ribs or similar will also give it a great flavor. Smoked meat from Balkans would require a whole new post, so I will just say that if you would really like to have some, try any store with products from Balkan.ย Serve the soup with some good, crusty bread. This is essential because you will be dipping that bread into soup and using it to pick up the last drops from your cup! In the winter time we also might serve this soup with pickled vegetables such as pickles, pickled peppers, sarena salata (a mix of various pickled veggies), pickled peppers stuffed with sauerkraut, etc.)

Bosnian Bean Soup (Grah)

Bosnian Bean Soup (Grah)

{print recipe}

Ingredients:

  • 500 g (17 oz) dry peruano beans
  • 1-2 l water
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 medium carrot
  • 1/4 of a green bell pepper
  • 250 g (9 oz) smoked beef (cubed)
  • 1 TSP salt
  • 1 TSP vegeta
  • 1/4 ย TSP fresh ground black pepper
  • Bay leaf (optional)
  • 1 TBSP tomato paste
  • 2 TBSP cooking oil
  • 3-4 garlic cloves (finely chopped)
  • 2 TBSP flour
  • 1 TSP ground paprika

Preparation:

*** Soaking the beans in cold water over night will reduce the cooking time.

  • If you have pre-soaked the beans, rinse them, place in a large cooking pot and go to number 1.
  • If you didnโ€™t soak the beans, place them in a cooking pot, add water and let it boil for a few minutes, rinse and add fresh water.
  1. Finely chop onion, carrot and the bell pepper. Add it to the beans and let it boil. Reduce the temperature to medium, cover the pot slightly and let it cook for about 1 hour. Occasionally check if water level has decreased, add additional water to always keep the same level of liquid in the pot.
  2. After 1 hour add all spices and cubed smoked meat (polish sausage or similar can be used too, but then you will add them at the last half hour of cooking time). Cook for another 1 to 1.5 hours. To check if beans are ready take a few out of the pot and squeeze them between your thumb and index finger. If they are soft and creamy, and the peel comes off they are ready. The soup will look thick and it will smell wonderfully.
  3. Now add tomato paste and let it incorporate well into the soup.
  4. It is time now to make the roux to thicken the soup.
  5. Peel and finely chop 3-4 garlic cloves. Using medium setting, heat 2 TBSP oil in a small frying pan. Toss the chopped garlic in oil just until fragrant.
  6. Add flour and mix it with a wooden spoon until all crumbs disappear and flour starts changing its color to a very light brown. Now add paprika and again mix well. Pour the roux into the soup. This might produce a lively reaction. Give it a nice stir, reduce the heat and cook for another 5 minutes. Taste and add more salt if needed.
  7. Serve warm with a slice of a nice, crusty bread.
  8. This soup freezes well and keeps well in the fridge for at least 3-4 days.
Smoked beef meat
Smoked beef meat
Steps of making roux
Steps of making roux

Bosnian Bean Soup (Grah)

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51 thoughts on “Bosnian Bean Soup {Grah}

  1. Sibella this looks like a beautiful hearty soup. I love the beans the spices and the smoked beef it looks like something I would want to warm my soul on a cold winters day. Can you do me a favor, I am having a difficult time leaving comments on everyone’s site. It either goes immediately to spam or is not going through. I am going to leave 3 messages for you. The first one is from my old wordpress account and then I will try to comment with my new site and then from facebook. Can you let me know if any of them go through and do they go directly to spam. Thanks a bunch. BAM

  2. It is now working I am so happy and here is one from my facebook account.. You know I really love your soup. Feel free to delete these comments used for a testing purpose. Take care, BAM

  3. Sibella, your soup sounds delicious and I would love to have some right now because we, too, are having a very, very chilly day in the NY State Fingerlakes area. I checked our local supermarket’s website and no peruano beans or Bosnian beans. Then, because peruano beans are supposed to be Mexican, I searched for Mexican beans but all that came up was beans for Mexican coffee. Oh, well, I can dream.

  4. It seems I am having the same problem as Bam as my comments aren’t going through. I decided to on another day. Your soup looks delicious and would be perfect for our snowy weather.

    1. Hi Karen! Yes, comments are going through! Thanks for stopping by and commenting! As I write this it’s snowing outside, again… One good thing is that last few days I can hear birds chirping every morning I wake up and that can mean only one thing: spring is just around the corner! ๐Ÿ™‚ Have a great day Karen!

  5. Very nice,Sibella! I did a blog on beans as well.I am unfamiliar with either ‘Bosnian’ beans or peruano beans.You are right, beans are often NOT interchangeable! Kidney, black, pinto, etc. all have unique flavors. I will have to look for peruanos.Thanks for the tip!

  6. I was surfing around looking for different from-scratch grah recipes (while eating one I just made with canned beans and a packet of grah flavor mix–don’t kill me!). So glad to find your site! If any of your readers are in the Boston area, the little Bosnian market on Ferry Street in Everett carries the real Bosnian beans. They also have the smoked beef, as does the huge Market Basket in Chelsea.

    1. Hello Jen! I am glad you’ve stopped by! ๐Ÿ™‚ I am curious about how did you get familiar with Bosnian food? I have a one good fellow blogger who lives in Boston area and I will make sure to tell her about the Bosnian goodies places.
      Thanks again Jen!
      Sibella

      1. I picked it up from many friends here in Boston and in-laws. =) The store is Elma Market at 44 Ferry Street. Your reader would know the Market Basket chain. In the Chelsea location they actually have a named Bosnian Food aisle! There’s yet another ex-Yugo market on Broadway in Revere (https://www.facebook.com/fivestarmarket). These 3 stores are all near each other. Lots of BiH-ers around here.

      1. I am yet to attempt Sarma and burek – they both seem daunting! My mother-in-law makes it seem easy! ๐Ÿ™‚

        1. I usually make sarma when its cold outside. That’s our comfort food. I make burek at least once a month. My recipe is at the bottom of the Recipe Index page under HOME MADE PHYLLO DOUGH. It’s not that hard once you make it a few times! ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. I am so glad to have found your recipe. We just ate at a little Bosnian restaurant in Houston, Texas and stumbled over the Grah. As soon as I got home, I had to look up a recipe for my husband… and voila, found your recipe! I’ll be working on learning to make this in the near future! ๐Ÿ™‚

    THANK YOU!

    1. I am so glad you liked my recipe! It takes some practice, and especially time. Bosnian cuisine uses very simple ingredients and spices, but preparing process and its length result in a superb taste. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving your comment! Please do come back again! ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Sta ima Sibella! I hope you and family are well. I have not been on your site for a while. Lots going on- my hubby and I are expecting twins & have been unable to cook much or even look at food ๐Ÿ˜ฆ but back in the kitchen now! Grah is a saver as usual, no luck with Pita. I am hoping to try a few more dishes like Sarma and Kvrgusa. Do you have receipes for these?

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