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Jordan Bryant recently graduated from Harvard University with a BA in Slavic Languages & Literatures. She has previously spent two summers studying abroad in St. Petersburg and one in Prauge. She is currently participating in SRAS’s Home and Abroad Program in Vladivostok, Russia.

This article was published as part of SRAS's free monthly newsletter. Want the newsletter?

Харчо, национальный грузинский суп из говядины, приправленный ароматными травами, пользуется популярностью на всей территории бывшего Советского Союза и по всему миру!
Photo source:

Beef It Up!
By Jordan Bryant

Jump to: recipes; videos; study abroad!

For those of us who have had the singular pleasure of being seated behind a hefty bowl of харчо (kharcho), it is hard to describe exactly how delicious this Georgian delicacy really is. It is also, interestingly enough, hard to describe what it actually is, as there is rather heated disagreement about several of the ingredients central to the recipe. All recipes agree, however, that харчо is a hearty meat and rice soup, distinguished most by the flavor kick of its characteristic walnuts and sour(ish) plum component. While it is undeniably a dish native to Georgia, it is, like nearly all Georgian foods, enjoyed across the entirety of the former USSR.

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Почему носит такое название?

The name of the soup, xарчо, is derived from the dish's actual Georgian appelation: дзерохис хорци харшот (dzerokhis khortsi kharshot), which, in Georgian, means simply "beef soup." While other meats (especially lamb), are sometimes used, many purists refuse to make харчо with anything but beef, citing the improbability of making, for example, beef soup from lamb.

Как правильно есть харчо?

Харчо, like many Georgian foods that have found a most appreciative home in Russia, requires no special occasion to be devoured; the love for the dish is too great to restrict its ingestion! In the soup’s native land, as well, харчо is extremely common.

Как правильно готовить харчо?

The most complex aspect of харчо is most definitely what to put in it! As mentioned above, there are various disagreements regarding the components of the soup. Absolute purists will not call a soup харчо if it is not made using the following trinity of ingredients: beef, grated walnuts, and ткали (tkhali) - a dried puree of cherry plums. Many, however, call it fair play to either replace these ingredients with others (as is the case with both the beef and ткали) or to leave them out altogether (a most common occurrence with the walnuts). The traditional beef in the recipe is most commonly switched out for lamb, but there are pork, chicken and even goose variants on the харчо theme. The soup’s base, ткали, is now often replaced with fresh cherry plums, a popular Georgian sauce made from these plums called ткемали (tkhemali), tomatoes and/or tomato paste, or even pomegranate juice.

lamb kharcho
«Харчо» на грузинском языке означает «говяжий
суп». Тогда «харчо из баранины» можно перевести
как «говяжий суп из баранины». Многие утверждают,
что если главной мясной составляющей является не
говядина, суп не должен называться «харчо»


While pre-prepared ткали is a rarity in both America and in Russia, ткемали can be purchased easily online. You might also check at your local grocery story to inquire if they might have cherry plums in stock or if they can special order them if you are interested in trying to recipe with fresh fruit.

Another ingredient that can be difficult to find in Georgian cooking is a spice mix called хмели сунели (khmeli suneli), which contains a variety of ingredients including saffron, pepper, basil, dill, cilantro, and marjoram. It is used in харчо as well as many other Georgian dishes. However, again, the age of Internet wonders is upon us and хмели сунели can be found online at Amazon and specialty spice retailers. Don't feel bad about investing in whole bottles of either of these unique ingredients – ткемали complements nearly any meat dish and can be used in place of ketchup or barbeque sauce for a spicier, more original flavor. For those who cook, хмели сунели can complement nearly any dish in which the main ingredient is beef, lamb, or beans.

While there is a lot of disharmony regarding what should be put in харчо, there is the general rule that before ingesting your харчо, it should be topped off with cilantro!

Давай Приготовим!

Суп-харчо по-грузински

Состав (на трехлитровую кастрюлю):

500-600 г говядины
2/3 стакана риса
2/3 стакана грецких орехов
2-3 луковицы
2-3 моркови
2 небольших корня петрушки
1/2 большой головки чеснока
большой пучок кинзы и базилика
ткали/ткемали/свежая алыча/гранатовый сок (по вкусу)
хмели-сунели (по вкусу, я положила 1 ст. ложку)
толченые семена кориандра (по вкусу, я положила 1/2 ч. ложки)
свежемолотый черный перец (по вкусу)
лавровый лист (по вкусу)
соль (по вкусу)
растительное масло или жир для жарки


Мясо вымыть, обсушить и нарезать на порционные кусочки. Залить холодной водой и поставить на сильный огонь. Довести до кипения, тщательно собрать пену, убавить огонь до минимального и томить бульон примерно 1,5 часа.

Рис хорошо промыть и добавить в суп.

Орехи измельчить и тоже добавить в суп.

Лук мелко нарезать, морковь и корень петрушки натереть на крупной терке. Спассеровать овощи и положить в суп.

За 10-15 минут до окончания приготовления добавить в суп хмели-сунели, толченые семена кориандра, свежемолотый черный перец и 3-4 лавровых листика. Посолить. Добавить подкислитель (тклапи/ткемали/свежая алыча/гранатовый сок) по вкусу.

Чеснок очистить и измельчить. Кинзу и базилик мелко порезать. Готовый суп выключить и положить в него чеснок и зелень. Накрыть крышкой и дать настояться 20-30 минут.


Georgian Kharcho

Ingredients (for a 3-liter pot):

1-1.3 pounds of beef
2/3 cup rice
2/3 cup walnuts
2-3 onions
2-3 carrots
2 medium-sized parsley roots
1/2 large head of garlic
Big bunch of cilantro and red basil
Ткали/ткемали/fresh cherry plums/pomegranate juice - to taste
Khmeli-suneli (a traditional Georgian spice mix that contains a variety of herbs including saffron, pepper, basil, dill, cilantro and marjoram) – to taste
Crushed coriander seeds – to taste
Freshly ground black pepper – to taste
Bay leaves – to taste
Salt – to taste
Vegetable oil or grease for cooking


Wash your meat, dry it and cut it into chunks. Add cold water to the pot and put it over high heat. Bring this to a boil, thoroughly skimming off any foam, and reduce heat to a minimum. Let the bouillon stew for about 1.5 hours.

Wash the rice thoroughly and add it to the soup.

Cut or pound the walnuts into very small pieces and also add them to the soup.

Finally chop the onion and grate the carrot and parsley root. Saute the vegetables and put them into the soup.

Ten to fifteen minutes before the cooking time is up, add the khmeli-suneli, crushed cilantro seeds, freshly ground black pepper and 3-4 laurel leaves. Salt the soup. Add your sour factor (tkali, tkemali, fresh cherry plums, pomegranate juice) to taste.

Mince garlic, finely chop cilantro and basil. Turn off the pot of soup and add the garlic and herbs. Cover the pot and let the soup sit for 20-30 minutes


Our Favorite Kharcho Videos

This video is part of a series on traditional Georgian cuisine. A very good foundational video on харчо as it not only showcases some of the variations spoken of above (they use tomato paste instead of ткали) and some shortcuts all its own (e.g. there is a blender involved), but there is also a kind of question-and-answer session about the nature of the dish itself going on between the host and the chef.

This is an amateur video made by a fairly prolific Russian cooking vlogger. Although the quality is not optimal at times, it is a good one to watch as she uses lamb and also throws in some preparation variations, such as cooking her meat beforehand. Also interesting to look at the comments posted under the video; the argument over харчо ingredients is alive and well even on the Internet!

Very cool video that is actually an advertisement for a multi-cooker. Shows you a nice, quick-and-dirty version of харчо using ткемали.


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