Authentic Bosnian Grah Recipe {Bean Soup}

An authentic Bosnian grah recipe. This traditional and popular Balkan peasant soup or stew has many variations, but it always includes beans, vegetables, and smoked beef.

A large bowl full of Bosnian bean soup grah with a spoon in it. The soup is very thick and full of beans and other vegetables.

Enjoy this hearty Bosnian bean soup all through the autumn and winter season with rustic sourdough bread for dipping.

Grah is a well-loved traditional dish of beans (grah literally means beans), smoked meats, and vegetables eaten across the Balkans. Every family will have their version.

The most significant difference will be the choice of meat: Catholic and Orthodox Christians typically use dried smoked pork, while Muslims use dried smoked beef.

This Bosnian recipe for grah was inspired by my old family recipe for Croatian grah, which is made similarly but uses smoked dried pork ribs instead of the beef sausage I use here in the Bosnian version.

Beans must be soaked overnight, so start this recipe the day before you plan to cook it.

Equipment

  • Bowls
  • A heavy stock pot
  • Small frying pan or pot

Ingredients

All of the ingredients needed to make this delicious Bosnian bean soup. You will find any notes regarding substitutions and other pertinent information here.

All of the ingredients needed to make Bosnian bean soup grah.
  • Dry Beans | dried borlotti beans or any dried white beans you have. You can also try peruano beans, navy beans, cannellini beans, or great northern beans. Beans must be soaked for 8-12 hours. I do not recommend using canned beans.
  • Water
  • Smoked All-Beef Sausages | I’m using beef sausage, but you can also use smoked dry beef. Popular cuts for grah are ribs and necks.
  • Fresh Garlic
  • Onion
  • Celery
  • Carrots
  • Parsnips | They add an earthy sweetness to the grah, but you can omit them if you can’t find any.
  • Green Bell Pepper
  • Potato
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Ground Sweet Paprika
  • Bay Leaf
  • Tomato Paste
  • All-Purpose Flour
    This is to make the roux. You can also make a gluten-free roux, and I have those instructions in the recipe card.
  • Beef Tallow
    | Beef tallow is a beautiful fat to use to make the roux, but you can use whatever fat or oil you prefer.

❁ You’ll find the exact amount of each ingredient below in the recipe card. Make sure to select ‘cook mode’ to keep your screen from turning off as you make it. You can also print the recipe.

Instructions (Step-by-Step)

Beans soaking in large pot of salted water.

Step 1: To prepare dried beans, soak them in salted water for approximately 8 hours. Avoid over-soaking, as it can negatively impact the texture.

Plan your cooking accordingly and start your grah the evening before. Cover beans with water in a large bowl, and stir in a tablespoon of salt.

When ready to cook, drain and rinse the beans. Add beans to a large stock pot and cover them with water (an inch above them is fine).

Turn the heat to high and let the water come to a boil. Lower heat and simmer beans for 5 minutes.

Drain beans, discard the water, and run them under cool water. Set aside.

Diced and prepped vegetables on a wooden board.

Diced potatoes on wooden board.

Step 2: Prep all of your ingredients.

Get the vegetables washed, diced, chopped, and placed within easy reach.

Clean as you go and make the process easier.

A wooden spoon full of diced vegetables being sauteed in a large stew pot.

Step 3: Into a large, heavy-bottomed, pot add the onion, celery, green pepper, and carrots.

Cook the vegetables until the onions become translucent and light golden and everything softens.

As the vegetables cook, allow them to brown without burning and add more fat or water if they begin to stick. Scrape the fond from the bottom, taking care not to rush this step.

Minced garlic in small bowl being added to large pot full of diced, hot vegetables.

Step 4: Add the garlic and stir for a minute as the garlic becomes fragrant.

Diced vegetables and other ingredients being cooked down in large pot.

Step 5: Add the tomato paste and cook for a minute, stirring, until the paste deepens in color.

Add the paprika and stir thoroughly.

A bowl of parsnips being added to the pot along with potatoes.

All the vegetables swimming in water with a bay leaf floating in he middle.

Step 6: Add the drained beans, the potatoes, the parsnips, and cover with water so that the ingredients are fully submerged by about 2 inches.

Add a big pinch of salt, black pepper, and bay leaf.

Turn the heat to high and allow the mixture to boil before immediately turning it down to a simmer on low.

Partially cover the pot and let it simmer for 2 hours, checking every half hour.

Stir occasionally and add water if it becomes too reduced. 

Thinly sliced smoked beef sausage being added to big pot of grah that is cooking.

Step 7: Add the beef sausage to the pot, partially cover, and allow to simmer for another 30 minutes.

Make the roux about 15 minutes after adding the sausage to the pot.

A roux being made in a dark black pan.

Step 8: Add the fat and flour to a small pot or pan on medium-low heat, and constantly stir the fat and flour until it turns a medium golden blonde color.

Do not let the flour burn, or you will have to make the roux again.

Add the roux into the stew slowly, stirring gently the entire time — be careful that it does not splatter or splash back on you.

The roux will thicken the stew and add another depth of flavor.

Let the soup simmer on low, uncovered, for 5-10 minutes longer after adding the roux.

Taste and adjust the salt to your preference. Add a generous sprinkling of pepper — or to taste.

Serve hot with rustic sourdough bread. Grah is made for dipping and wiping bowls clean.

Hint: If you’re looking for an even MORE budget-friendly version of Grah, then try the version that uses only fat-flour roux and has no meat at all. This is the grah that the peasants made during the hardest times. To get the maximum flavor out of this version, make a deep brown roux which may take about 20 minutes in total.

A large bowl full of Bosnian bean soup grah with a spoon in it. The soup is very thick and full of beans and other vegetables.

Substitutions & Variations

  • Gluten-free | Instead of wheat flour, make a gluten-free roux using 1 cup of oil/fat or ghee and 1 cup of Bob’s Redmill Cassava Flour or other gluten-free flour.
  • Smoked Pork | Croatian and Serbian grah (the Serbs call it Pasulj) is made typically with smoked dried pork. Try my recipe for Croatian grah made with lard and smoked pork ribs.
  • Pašta Fažol (Pasta and Bean Soup) | A variation of grah popular in Croatia’s Dalmatian coast adds pasta (typically macaroni) into the stew alongside the beans. It is often made lighter.
  • Canned Beans | Dried and soaked beans are best, but adjust the cooking time if you want to use canned beans. Canned beans don’t require a longer cooking time, and you can add them after the water boils at the same time as you add the sausage.

Storage, Freezing, & Reheating

Grah tastes even better when eaten as leftovers the next day. To store it, cover it and keep it in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. When reheating, just add the desired amount to a pot and heat it on low. If the grah has thickened too much while refrigerated, add some water to achieve the desired consistency.

You can freeze grah for 3 months, and this is a great freezer meal.

Looking for other recipes like this Bosnian grah? Try these:

More Balkan Recipes

A large bowl full of Bosnian bean soup grah with a spoon in it. The soup is very thick and full of beans and other vegetables.

Authentic Bosnian Grah Recipe {Bean Soup}

This traditional and popular Bosnian peasant soup includes beans, vegetables, and smoked beef.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Dry Bean Soaking Time:: 8 hours
Total Time: 10 hours 50 minutes
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: European
Servings: 8
Calories: 547kcal
Author: Jana Dziak

Ingredients

  • 1.5 lbs Dried Beans dried borlotti beans or any dried white beans you have. You can also try peruano beans, navy beans, cannellini beans, or great northern beans.
  • 1 Quart Water or more, as needed.
  • 3 Smoked Beef Sausages sliced thinly on an angle. You can also use smoked dry beef. Popular cuts for grah are ribs and necks.
  • 4 Cloves Fresh Garlic minced
  • 1 Large Onion diced
  • 2 Medium Carrots diced
  • 2 Ribs Celery diced
  • 2 Small Parsnips diced
  • 1 Large Green Bell Pepper diced
  • 2 Large Potatoes small diced
  • 1 Teaspoon Sea Salt plus more or less to taste
  • ½ Teaspoon Fresh Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 Teaspoon Ground Sweet Paprika
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 2 Tablespoons Tomato Paste
  • 2 Tablespoons All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 Tablespoons Beef Tallow or other fat/oil of choice, plus more as needed.

Instructions

  • To prepare dried beans, soak them in salted water for approximately 8 hours. Avoid over-soaking, as it can negatively impact the texture.
  • Plan your cooking accordingly and start your grah the evening before. Cover beans with water in a large bowl, and stir in a tablespoon of salt.
  • Plan your cooking accordingly and start your grah the evening before. Cover beans with water in a large bowl, and stir in a tablespoon of salt.
  • Turn the heat to high and let the water come to a boil. Lower heat and simmer beans for 5 minutes.
  • Drain beans, discard the water, and run them under cool water. Set aside.
  • Prep all of your ingredients: Get the vegetables washed, diced, and chopped.
  • Into a large, heavy-bottomed pot with some hot melted fat, add the onion, celery, green pepper, and carrots.
  • Cook the vegetables until the onions become translucent and light golden and everything softens.
  • As the vegetables cook, allow them to brown without burning and add more fat or water if they begin to stick. Scrape the fond from the bottom, taking care not to rush this step.
  • Add the garlic and stir for a minute as the garlic becomes fragrant.
  • Add the tomato paste and cook for a minute, stirring, until the paste deepens in color.
  • Add the paprika and stir thoroughly.
  • Add the drained beans, the potatoes, the parsnips, and cover with water so that the ingredients are fully submerged by about 2 inches.
  • Add the salt, black pepper, and bay leaf.
  • Turn the heat to high and allow the mixture to boil before immediately turning it down to a simmer on low.
  • Partially cover the pot and let it simmer for 2 hours, checking every half hour.
  • Stir occasionally and add water if it becomes too reduced. 
  • Add the beef sausage to the pot, partially cover, and allow to simmer for another 30 minutes.
  • Make the roux about 15 minutes after adding the sausage to the pot.
  • How to make a roux: Add the fat and flour to a small pot or pan on medium-low heat, and constantly stir the fat and flour until it turns a medium golden blonde color. Do not let the flour burn, or you will have to make the roux again.
  • Add the roux into the stew slowly, stirring gently the entire time — be careful that it does not splatter or splash back on you.
  • Let the soup simmer on low, uncovered, for 5-10 minutes longer.
  • Taste and adjust the salt to your preference.
  • Serve hot with rustic sourdough bread. Grah is made for dipping and wiping bowls clean.

Notes

Substitutions & Variations
  • Gluten-free | Instead of wheat flour, make a gluten-free roux using 1 cup of oil/fat or ghee and 1 cup of Bob’s Redmill Cassava Flour or other gluten-free flour.
    Smoked Pork | Croatian and Serbian grah (the Serbs call it Pasulj) is made typically with smoked dried pork. Try my recipe for Croatian grah made with lard and smoked pork ribs.
  • Dried Beef | Used dried smoked beef necks, ribs, or shanks instead of sausage.
  • Pašta Fažol (Pasta and Bean Soup) | A variation of grah popular in Croatia’s Dalmatian coast adds pasta (typically macaroni) into the stew alongside the beans. It is often made lighter.
  • Canned Beans | Dried and soaked beans are best, but adjust the cooking time if you want to use canned beans. Canned beans don’t require a longer cooking time, and you can add them after the water boils at the same time as you add the sausage.
Storage, Freezing, & Reheating
Grah tastes even better when eaten as leftovers the next day. To store it, cover it and keep it in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. When reheating, add the desired amount to a pot and heat it on low. If the grah has thickened too much while refrigerated, add some water to achieve the desired consistency.
You can freeze grah for 3 months, and this is a great freezer meal.
Hint: If you’re looking for an even MORE budget-friendly version of Grah, try the version that uses only fat-flour roux and has no meat. This is the grah that the peasants made during the most challenging times. To get the maximum flavor out of this version, make a deep brown roux, which may take about 20 minutes in total.

Nutrition

Calories: 547kcal | Carbohydrates: 83g | Protein: 27g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 23mg | Sodium: 716mg | Potassium: 1961mg | Fiber: 18g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 2880IU | Vitamin C: 49mg | Calcium: 123mg | Iron: 7mg
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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