My Knoephla Soup Recipe: A Taste Of North Dakota In Iowa

I felt a little North Dakotan so I made some knoephla soup.

This past weekend, I enjoyed following Beth of Rhubarb & Venison, Tracie of Basin Electric, and Sarah of Home With The Lost Italian as they explored Fargo as part of the ND Bloggers & Writers Workshop hosted by the Department of Commerce. I’m happy I could meet them at last summer’s workshop before we moved to Iowa.

I’m finding many favorite places in North Iowa, but I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic as they visited some of our favorite Fargo places like Pinch & Pour, Unglued, The Hodo, Sarello’s and Atomic Coffee. Then, I found myself craving knoephla soup.

I’ve never found knoephla soup outside of North Dakota. Sure, I’ve eaten chicken and dumplings in entrée and soup form before but learned that in North Dakota, it goes by knoephla. This soup comes from the food traditions of the German-Russians who settled in North Dakota and I can’t think of any Fargo restaurant that does not serve it regularly.

My favorite knoephla soups came from Home Plate Cafe in Fredonia and Josie’s Coffee Corner in Fargo. Knoephla soup often appeared on our culinary school lunch menu and I was thrilled when I was assigned to prepare it one morning.

Knoephla collage.jpg

I giggled this winter when I ordered a cup of chicken and dumpling soup at the local sports bar Papa’s and it tasted exactly like knoephla soup. It was a really good cup, too, and would have held it’s own in North Dakota.

In culinary school I made soup so often that I could make it in my sleep. I build soups by sight, feel and taste instead of measuring ingredients. If you’d like a more exact recipe, scroll down to the recipe at the end of this post I wrote for Simple, Good & Tasty about Quantity Lab in Culinary School.

Here’s what I whipped together last night, though I might have made too much soup. Our pot was big enough to serve a large family so I froze the extra. Actually, I take that back. You can’t have too much knoephla. Especially if you live outside of North Dakota.

Cooks Notes:

IMG_2070These homemade dumplings are denser and chewier than frozen knoephla dumplings. They remind me more of spaetzle. Frozen dumplings are widely available in North Dakotan grocery stores. The raw dumplings will expand during cooking so don’t cut them too big. 

Make as little or as much soup as you’d like. I add a lot of vegetables and gently cream the soup. This means preparing it with chicken broth and adding just enough cream to provide a butterfat shimmer but not make too heavy. I prefer my soup thinner but you can add more roux for a thicker texture. Extra roux can be saved in the refrigerator for later use thickening soups or sauces. 

Use chicken stock or water with chicken base added to it. I typically buy the highest quality chicken base I can find  because it’s less expensive than purchasing boxes of broth. You can even find organic chicken bases. The higher quality bases will contain chicken and require that you store them in the refrigerator after opening. Of course, if you make your own broth, then use that. 

DSC_0150

Good bowls have a butterfat shimmer.

Ingredients:

Roux
1 stick of butter
1/2 cup flour

Knoephla Dough
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold water
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

Soup
Olive oil or butter
Carrots, about three medium, diced
Celery, about three ribs, diced
1 small onion, diced
Waxy red or yellow potatoes, diced (about two cups)
Chicken broth or water + high quality chicken base
Cooked chicken, two-three cups
Salt
Black pepper
White pepper
Garlic powder (or a little fresh garlic)
Sugar, a couple pinches

Instructions:

  1. First, make the roux which will thicken the soup. Melt a stick of butter in a saute pan. Slowly whisk in the flour until it resembles the texture of wet sand (you might not need the entire 1/2 cup flour). Cook briefly until the flour is no longer raw but is not brown. Remove from heat and cool.
  2. In a large pot, saute the carrots, celery and onion in a little butter or olive oil until softened. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Cover with stock or water and add potatoes.
  4. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. In the meantime, make the knoephla dough.
  5. To make the knoephla dough: Whisk together the eggs, baking powder, salt and water. Slowly stir in the flour with a fork until the dough forms a ball. Incorporate flour by hand until the dough resembles dough that is softer than bread dough and slightly stickier. Cover and rest for about 15 minutes. Roll into ropes and cut into small dumplings. Spread the dumplings onto a sheet pan and dust with flour so they don’t stick together.
  6. When the potatoes are tender, add the cooked chicken.
  7. Gradually whisk in spoonfuls of the roux. Be patient and allow the soup to come back to a simmer. The roux will thicken as the soup heats. If you add too much roux too quickly, your soup might be overly thick.
  8. When you like the thickness of the soup, add as much cream as you’d like.
  9. Continue to taste your soup and check for seasoning. Add more salt, pepper, garlic, chicken base if using water, and sugar to taste.
  10. Drop in the dumplings. They’ll float to the surface when they are cooked.

27 Comments

  1. Yum. Yum. Yum. Looks delightful.

  2. Had my first encounter with knoephla a few months ago at Krolls diner in North Dakota and have been itching to have it again ever since. Your recipe isn’t quite it, but its so good! Thank you!!

    • Knoephla is one of my favorites! I have eaten knoephla there, but had never explored the rest of their menu. I’m glad it’s good, though! I really liked Josie’s knoephla. It was brothier and lightly creamed, but they only have it on certain days.

  3. My family LOVES this soup. I grew up in South Dakota and missed Knoephla until I tried this from scratch.
    Definitely a go to on snowy and blustery days!

  4. Excellent recipe. I live in Bismarck,ND and this rivals the best in the area. Recipe for noodles can also be used for other dumplings like turkey and dumpling soup after thanksgiving. Slight modifications/tips for dumplings: use milk instead of water; add 1 tbsp butter; cut baking soda to flour ratio in half; make thick batter instead of dough; drop into favorite chicken/turkey vegetable soup recipe by the teaspoonful and enjoy

  5. The roux wasn’t necessary in my case- perhaps I made too many dumplings- but the soup was thick enough as is!

    • Thanks for giving it a try and sharing! The recipe does make a lot of dumplings. This reminds me that I should make it again this month.

  6. Is there a reason not to add thyme and bay leaves? It seems like the broth would benefit from a little herbal influence, although it is less than traditional.

  7. Wow. My teenage son absolutely loved this soup! I used a family size bag of the John Soule’s fully cooked fajita chicken for the extra flavor. I also found flat frozen dumplings that I cut into bite-sized pieces. It was quick and easy and turned out great!

  8. Hi Jeni,

    Knoephla Soup popped up on one of my feeds; I am of midwest Germanic origin (Indiana) but had never heard of it. As a huge dumpling lover (especially like these, not ‘drop’ dumplings), I was intrigued, and went gaily Googling for its history, variations, etc.

    The original version does not have actual chicken in it, and I am happy to have found your version which does. The dumplings *and* potatoes are an awful lot of starch for one dish, without protein…so thank you for your version. The recipe on my feed also had -nutmeg-, a huge fave of mine!

    Enjoy your yummy soup!

    • I’m glad you found me. Thanks for sharing your knowledge! You are right, the dumplings and potatoes are a lot of starch. Will try adding nutmeg next time. That sounds lovely.

  9. Hi Jeni,

    Knoephla Soup popped up on one of my feeds; I am of midwest Germanic origin (Indiana) but had never heard of it. As a huge dumpling lover (especially like these, not ‘drop’ dumplings), I was intrigued, and went gaily Googling for its history, variations, etc.

    The original version does not have actual chicken in it, and I am happy to have found your version which does. The dumplings *and* potatoes are an awful lot of starch for one dish, without protein…so thank you for your version. The recipe on my feed also had -nutmeg-, a huge fave of mine!

    Enjoy your yummy soup!

  10. Gonna try your recipe. I am from Gackle and it surprised me when you mentioned Fredonia ND I am excited to try your recipe. I also love knoephla with gravy

  11. Thank-you for sharing. I loved the Knoephla Soup at Kroll’s while stationed in Minot! Can’t wait to try this.

    • Thanks for visiting! Hope you enjoy.

      • I only remember my Russian-German mother in North Dakota making Knoephla once as a child. I remember it was so tasty. She made plain potato soup and what we called Shurpa which is just bread dough made into long rolls and proofed then boiled in water with shortening, salt and pepper topped with ground beef and potatoes and cooked until the dumplings (shurpa) were cooked. We were never allowed to take the lid off until the pot was put on the table. Now, I’ve taught that to my two sons who share them often with their families. Living in Pennsylvania, although there is a large German population, the Plains States still had some of the best comfort food!

  12. Jeni, if you’re ever back in Fargo, Wurst has a great cup of knoephla, too. As an native Iowan with German heritage, I’d never heard of knoephla until ND, either, but it is a great treat! I’m “pinning” your version. Thanks!

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