Pork, Bean & Sauerkraut Soup (Istrian Jota)

A hearty soup or stew of Istrian origins enjoyed in Italy, Croatia, and Slovenia. The jota has many variations, but three ingredients are necessary to make it jota and not something else: pork, beans, and sauerkraut make up the base of this delicious smoky and sour soup.

A bowl of Istrian jota soup or stew full of ham, beans, sauerkraut, bacon, and other vegetables.

The origins of jota are in the Istrian peninsula of the Adriatic, and although it started as a winter soup (or stew, depending on thickness), it is now enjoyed year-round and often served alongside polenta or crusty sourdough bread.

If you love traditional soups and stews made with sauerkraut like this, try my recipe for Segedínský guláš, a traditional pork and sauerkraut stew. Or my German sauerkraut soup made with meatballs.

And you will LOVE a traditional bratwurst and sauerkraut skillet for dinner.

And if you love cabbage in general, try my red cabbage soup or braised red cabbage rotkohl.

Ingredient Notes, Variations, & Substitutions

The quantities of each ingredient are listed in the printable recipe card below; this section will help you make the best authentic jota soup with your ingredients.

All of the ingredients needed to make jota stew or soup.
  • Pork | You do not want fresh pork. I’m using leftover ham from a roast, but smoked dried pork ribs (like the type used in Croatian grah) are a phenomenal addition, as are smoked hocks or even just sausage.
  • Bacon | Thick, smoky bacon is preferred, but use whatever you have. Salt pork is another option.
  • Sauerkraut | Canned sauerkraut is perfect, but you can use your homemade sauerkraut too! Fermented turnips can also be used instead, and I’m betting other fermented or pickled root vegetables (even fermented greens) might be lovely to use instead of or even in addition to.
  • Beans | Dried beans or canned beans. Borlotti beans and cranberry beans are divine! I’m using canned Great Northern beans, as you can see in the photos. Although not traditional, jota is a great way to use the multi-bean mixes like 5-bean soup or 13-bean soup you find in grocery stores.
  • Garlic | The primary seasoning used in jota is garlic.
  • Salt & Pepper | To taste. Remember that cured meats and sauerkraut are already salty and your bone broth might be too. Wait until the end to add salt especially.
  • Carrots, Parsley, & Onion | Aromatics that add even more flavor while bulking up the soup with delicious vegetables too.
  • Potatoes | You can omit potatoes, but I love the additional hearty and comforting taste. You can also experiment with additional root vegetables and the taste will be great.
  • Olive Oil | The best oil to flavor this soup and soften the aromatics, you can use butter/ghee or any other fat or oil you prefer.
  • Liquid | You can use water or broth/stock. I prefer chicken bone broth, but beef, chicken feet, vegetable, Etc. also work. If you’re using water, you might like to add a stock cube.

Jota Instructions (Step-by-Step With Photos)

Diced vegetables on a wooden cutting board.

Step 1: Prep all of your vegetables. Strain your sauerkraut but do not rinse it. Dice carrots, onions, and potatoes. Mince garlic, bacon, and whatever other meat you’re using.

Diced bacon rendering in hot pot.

Step 2: Render bacon over low heat in a heavy stock pot until it is half finished.

Diced vegetables cooking in hot pot.

Step 3: Add the diced onions and carrots and continue cooking until the onions are translucent and the carrots are beginning to soften. Add garlic and bay leaf, a pinch of black pepper, and stir for 30 seconds.

Potatoes and saurekraut added to pot with stock.

Step 4: Add the drained sauerkraut and diced potatoes. Add the stock/bone broth or water until everything is covered. You can add more or less liquid as you prefer.

Bring to a boil before immediately lowering the heat to a gentle simmer. Cover pot and cook until potatoes have softened — about 20 minutes.

Leftover ham added with canned beans.

Step 5: Uncover the pot and taste for salt and pepper. Adjust as necessary. Check the potatoes for doneness.

Add the leftover ham (or sausage) and the canned beans, and allow the soup to simmer for 5 more minutes uncovered.

Finished jota soup in soup ladle.

Step 6: Taste one final time for salt and seasonings and make any adjustments.

Serve the jota hot alongside polenta or fresh bread, garnished with fresh parsley if you prefer.

Hint: You can adjust the liquid depending on whether you want a thick and hearty jota stew or a thinner, more liquidy soup instead. If you add more broth or stock and it is unsalted, always taste for salt before adding any more.

A bowl of Istrian jota soup or stew full of ham, beans, sauerkraut, bacon, and other vegetables.

Top Tips

  • If using dried beans: soak beans in water for 8-12 hours and then simmer them in the stock or water for 2-3 hours until tender. Add the sauerkraut and potatoes for the last 20 minutes of cooking time and keep the soup covered until the end.
  • Dried beans are perfect for cooking alongside dried smoked pork (like ribs or hocks) as they require the same lengthy simmering time to fully soften.
  • A leftover ham bone can also be used to make a delicious stock (with water) at the same time as the dry beans cook. Great use for that leftover.
  • A great soup or stew to make with those 15-bean soup mix and 13-bean soup mix packages! Just don’t use any artificial flavor packets that might come with it.
How To Store, Freeze, & Reheat Jota

Jota will last up to 5 days in the refrigerator and should be stored in a covered container. Reheat it gently on the stovetop over low heat, and add a splash of water or stock to the pot if necessary.

It will last up to 3 months in the freezer. Let it thaw in the refrigerator, and then gently reheat it.

Looking for other recipes like this? Try these:

A bowl of Istrian jota soup or stew full of ham, beans, sauerkraut, bacon, and other vegetables.

Pork, Bean & Sauerkraut Soup (Istrian Jota)

Pork, beans, and sauerkraut make up the base of this delicious smoky and sour soup.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Course: Soups
Cuisine: Mediterranean
Servings: 4
Calories: 751kcal
Author: Jana Dziak

Ingredients

  • 4 Tablespoons Olive Oil Or Butter
  • 1 Cup Smoky Bacon Diced
  • 1 Cup Leftover Ham Or Sausage
  • 4-6 Cups Chicken Bone Broth Or Water
  • 2 Cups Plain Sauerkraut Drained
  • 1 15 oz Canned White Beans
  • 2 Large Onions Diced
  • 2 Carrots Diced
  • 2 Large Starchy Potatoes Diced
  • 4 Cloves Fresh Garlic Minced
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • ½ Cup Chopped Parsley For Garnish, Optional
  • Salt + Pepper To Taste

Instructions

  • Prep all of your vegetables. Strain your sauerkraut but do not rinse it. Dice carrots, onions, and potatoes. Mince garlic, bacon, and whatever other meat you're using.
  • Heat up olive oil. Render bacon over low heat in a heavy stock pot until it is half finished.
  • Add the diced onions and carrots and continue cooking until the onions are translucent and the carrots are beginning to soften. 
  • Add garlic and bay leaf, a pinch of black pepper, and stir for 30 seconds.
  • Add the drained sauerkraut and diced potatoes. Add the stock/bone broth or water until everything is covered. 
  • Bring to a boil before immediately lowering the heat to a gentle simmer. Cover pot and cook until potatoes have softened — about 20 minutes.
  • Uncover the pot and taste for salt and pepper. Adjust as necessary. Check the potatoes for doneness.
  • Add the leftover ham (or sausage) and the canned beans, and allow the soup to simmer for 5 more minutes uncovered.
  • Taste one final time for salt and seasonings and make any adjustments.
  • Serve the jota hot alongside polenta or fresh bread, garnished with fresh parsley if you prefer.

Notes

Hint: You can adjust the liquid depending on whether you want a thick and hearty jota stew or a thinner, more liquidy soup instead. If you add more broth or stock and it is unsalted, always taste for salt before adding any more.
Top Tips
  1. If using dried beans: soak beans in water for 8-12 hours and then simmer them in the stock or water for 2-3 hours until tender. Add the sauerkraut and potatoes for the last 20 minutes of cooking time and keep the soup covered until the end.
  2. Dried beans are perfect for cooking alongside dried smoked pork (like ribs or hocks) as they require the same lengthy simmering time to fully soften.
  3. A leftover ham bone can also be used to make a delicious stock (with water) at the same time as the dry beans cook. Great use for that leftover.
  4. A great soup or stew to make with those 15-bean soup mix and 13-bean soup mix packages! Just don’t use any artificial flavor packets that might come with it.
Jota will last up to 5 days in the refrigerator and should be stored in a covered container. Reheat it gently on the stovetop over low heat, and add a splash of water or stock to the pot if necessary.
It will last up to 3 months in the freezer. Let it thaw in the refrigerator, and then gently reheat it.

Nutrition

Calories: 751kcal | Carbohydrates: 57g | Protein: 27g | Fat: 47g | Saturated Fat: 13g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 7g | Monounsaturated Fat: 25g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 68mg | Sodium: 1658mg | Potassium: 1621mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 11g | Vitamin A: 5774IU | Vitamin C: 40mg | Calcium: 102mg | Iron: 5mg
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating