Croatian Bean Soup (Grah i Varivah)

Croatian Bean Soup (Grah i Varivah)

The Spruce / Karen Hibbard

Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 3 hrs
Soak Time: 8 hrs
Total: 11 hrs 5 mins
Servings: 8 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
307 Calories
18g Fat
19g Carbs
20g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 8
Amount per serving
Calories 307
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 18g 23%
Saturated Fat 6g 29%
Cholesterol 47mg 16%
Sodium 1312mg 57%
Total Carbohydrate 19g 7%
Dietary Fiber 3g 9%
Total Sugars 6g
Protein 20g
Vitamin C 2mg 8%
Calcium 49mg 4%
Iron 1mg 7%
Potassium 527mg 11%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

This Croatian bean soup recipe makes such a thick end-product, it's more like stew, and that's why it's known as grah i varivah (literally "beans and stews") in Croatian. It can be eaten as a main meal, but many people eat it as a hearty soup and then dive into the main course.

Any type of smoked meat or sausage will do, but smoked rib meat is traditional and yields the best flavor. Also, try using a combination of dried beans, but pinto, cranberry, or kidney beans ​typically are used.

Serve with hearty bread and you have a filling meal, especially welcome when there's a nip in the air. The beans must be soaked overnight, so plan accordingly.


  • 1 pound dried beans, rinsed, picked over, and soaked overnight

  • 12 to 15 cups cups cold water

  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

  • 1 large onion, chopped

  • 1 pound smoked sausage, Croatian, such as kranjska, kobasice, or smoked Polish sausage, such as kiełbasa krajanacut into 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces

  • 1 pound smoked ribs, or meaty smoked ham hocks

  • 1 bay leaf

  • Salt, to taste

  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  • Vegeta, to taste

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Croatian Bean Soup (Grah i Varivah) ingredients

    The Spruce / Karen Hibbard

  2. Drain the soaked beans, rinse them, and drain again.

    beans in a colander

    The Spruce / Karen Hibbard

  3. Place in a large pot and add 12 cups fresh cold water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and skim off any foam that rises to the surface.

    skim the foam of the water the beans were cooked in

    The Spruce / Karen Hibbard

  4. Add garlic, onion, smoked sausage of choice, smoked ribs or meaty smoked ham hocks, bay leaf, salt, pepper and Vegeta seasoning powder to taste.

    Add garlic, onion, smoked sausage of choice, smoked ribs , bay leaf, salt, pepper and Vegeta to the beans in the pot

    The Spruce / Karen Hibbard

  5. Return to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, partially covered, for 2 to 3 hours or until beans and meat are tender. Add water as needed, while cooking, stirring occasionally.

    bean soup cooking in a pot

    The Spruce / Karen Hibbard

  6. Remove bay leaf and discard. Remove bones from rib meat or hocks and return meat to the pot. If soup isn't thick enough, continue to simmer until desired consistency is achieved.

    Croatian Bean Soup (Grah i Varivah), remove bones from hocks

    The Spruce / Karen Hibbard

Soaking Beans

Rinse the beans and pick them over to remove shriveled beans, bits of rock, and any other matter. Place in a large bowl or pot and add cool water to come about 3 inches above the beans. Cover and soak overnight at room temperature. Alternatively, use the quick soak method.

About Vegeta Seasoning

Vegeta is made in Croatia by the Podravka company, which describes it as an "all-purpose seasoning made from a special blend of the finest vegetables, herbs, spices and select natural ingredients."

It is the go-to seasoning in Balkan and Slavic Eastern European countries used to flavor foods from soups to veggies to meats and poultry. For some, the problem lies in one of its ingredients—MSG, which can pose a real problem to people allergic to it. Now, the company makes a No-MSG-Added Vegeta, but it still contains loads of sodium.

Homemade sodium-free, MSG-free Vegeta is very similar to the one manufactured by Podravka without all the salt. Real veggies are roasted until dehydrated and then whizzed into a powder. The resulting mixture is stored in a screw-top jar in a cool, dry place.