Cesnecka: Czech Garlic Soup

It’s no real secret here that we’re pretty big fans of garlic.

Even one glance at other recipes like brodet and tave kosi is enough to see that we’re not shy about adding in the extra clove or two into almost any recipe.

Luckily for us, it seems we share our fanaticism for the pungent root with others out there. In fact, there’s a whole population that loves it just as much – but probably more – than we do.

Nowhere is the spirit of garlicphilia more apparent than in the Czech recipe for cesnecka, or garlic soup.

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Cesnecka the Garlic Soup, Garlic Cultivation, and Bohemian Cuisine

In keeping with the old tenets of traditional Bohemian cooking, it’s fitting that such a simple recipe like garlic soup would be one of the most beloved and favored dishes in the local Czech cuisine.

If you like soups check out our other recipes on Squash Soup, Moroccan Beef Stew, or Coconut Conch soup

Czech Cuisine: From Bohemia and Beyond

The genesis for what we consider the modern Czech cuisine dates back to the 9th century and the formation of the Duchy of Bohemia in the Great Moravian Empire. In the centuries prior to the unification, the lands were fragmented by relatively autonomous groups of Slavic settler tribes. It wasn’t until 7th century when the Avars, a Turkic nomadic tribe coming from the East, arrived that the Slavic tribes launched a united resistance under the leadership of a man named Samo. The successful anti-Avars insurgence triggered two centuries of geopolitical development that led to defined Slavic nation-states.

With the rise of Bohemia came the development of what are now considered as traditional Bohemian foods. A key principle to the old cuisine – and one that remains prevalent in cesnecka – to rely entirely on locally produced ingredients to create very simple, functional meals. It did help that the Duchy had the gift of fertile lands and a diverse ecosystem for ingredients at its disposal, but much of the cuisine at that time consisted of no-frill and highly substantial gruels. Millet, cabbage, eggs, mushrooms, dairy products and bread were the staples of the everyday commoner meal.

As the lands came under Austrian Hapsburg control by the 15th century, the Bohemian cuisine underwent a massive transformation and, you could say, a pseudo-Renaissance. The first Bohemian recipes were properly transcribed and cookbooks printed, and more higher-brow external influences made their way into the heart of the cuisine. “Noble” seasonings like cinnamon, pepper, oregano and, perhaps most significantly, caraway seeds were integrated into local dishes, and Germanic and Austrian recipes like schnitzel and dumplings very quickly became extremely popular with everybody.

Still, even with the rapid sophistication and changes in the cuisine, there has remained a preference and appreciation for what can be made with locally produced goods… like garlic.

Garlicphilia – The Love of Garlic

The Czechs’ love for garlic easily transcends the realm of food, and it has even attained urban legend status as a focal point of several Czech superstitions and traditions. At Christmas time, for example, you’ll see a bowl of peeled garlic put under the table to offer everyone strength and protection. When dealing with an ailment like a sinus infection, hangover or anything else, a bowl of garlic-heavy cesnecka is the de facto prescription.

Yes, part of the obsession lies in garlic’s well known health properties. In addition to allicin, garlic offers a strong source of vitamins A, B, C and minerals like selenium, calcium and iodine. It’s been shown to improve circulation in the body and to help regular blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Garlic is also a great antibiotic in times where you’re ailing, too.

This only partially explains, however, why the Czechs are so keen on their garlic and why average garlic consumption reaches up to 6.5-7 thousand tons per year! Another reason garlic has played such a large role in the Bohemian/Czech cuisine is because the locally grown Czech garlic has traditionally been considered to be of higher quality than the garlic produced elsewhere.

Thanks to the aforementioned fertile soils, Czech garlic contains more of the oils that give it a stronger aroma and taste than its foreign counterparts. And while local production of Bohemian garlic has gone down considerably in the past two decades, locally grown garlic is still preferred by – and a point of pride for – Czech consumers.

With or without having true Bohemian garlic, though, all of us can still enjoy the delectable aromas and flavors that come out of the keystone Czech dish of cesnecka.

View of ingredients - garlic, potato, onion, parmesan cheese, baguette loaf

About the Recipe

One of the beauties in our eyes of this cesnecka recipe is how easy it is to prepare. It’s little more than a true garlic soup, so the main steps to the dish surround your garlic and your broth.

To start, you’ll want to add and heat your garlic along with melted butter to let its oils and aromas to release into the pot. You can also add in some complementary and enhancing ingredients like salt and pepper, but just make sure to have garlic offer the predominant flavor profile.

Start by bashing the cloves and then adding them to a pot with some simmering butter, after a few minutes you'll then add your diced onion.

One key spice that is surprisingly common in the Czech cuisine – and in cesnecka – are caraway seeds. Caraway came into the cuisine as part of the 15th century culinary renaissance alongside other herbs like marjoram, and it serves as a true flavor enhancer to this garlic soup in particular. Depending on which recipe you come across, caraway might be more an optional add-if-you-like ingredient, but it’s one that really does make a difference in the overall flavor.

With your garlic and accompanying ingredients softened, the next step in your cesnecka is to add in your broth and bring everything to a boil. Once boiling, you reduce the heat and let the liquid reduce and thicken with the flavors and oils that have come from the garlic. The broth will help to dilute the strong flavors but still leave you with a garlic soup with rich, savory yet subdued flavors.

Adding homemade broth to garlic, onion, spices mixture

Most commonly, cesnecka will either have potatoes and/or croutons added in as a means of thickening up the soup. Depending on your preference, you can choose one of either (or both), although your choice will affect the timing of the soup. If you choose to add potatoes, you’ll add them shortly after reducing the heat of your boiling broth and let them cook fully while the liquid reduces. As the potato cooks and flakes a bit, it will by default thicken your soup.

Adding diced and peel potato to really round out the soup

With your croutons, you simply add them in once the cesnecka is done and almost ready to serve. With a little grated cheese and some nicely soaked croutons, you’re all set and ready to enjoy!

Our Take on the Recipe

This garlic soup was a fun recipe to research, since almost every recipe we saw had their own unique style of preparing cesnecka. Still, for us we preferred the fairly laid back, laissez-faire style of this recipe that we used as our original reference. Nevertheless, we did take some liberties into making the recipe our own.

To start, we swapped out bouillon cubes and/or meat-based broths for a vegetable broth. Not only did we find this to be a slightly healthier option, but it makes the recipe an easy vegetarian-friendly offering now. Technically, cesnecka could also become vegan friendly, but for us it teetered on a bit too much manipulation of the recipe. We did, however, omit the egg from our preparation, but the butter and cheese stayed in.

When cooking the garlic, we added in a small diced onion to offer another complementary flavor. It’s not traditional per se, but garlic and onions can go hand in hand in virtually any recipe, including this one. We also made the caraway seeds mandatory in our recipe as well.

Finally, we thought to include homemade croutons in our version of cesnecka. Since they’re traditional accompaniments to the garlic soup in general that can be easily made while the broth is reducing, we added them in as an optional step for those that would want to make them like we did.

Cutting a baguette and making some croutons coated in olive oil, garlic powder, pepper, salt and oregano that will top the soup.
Baking croutons coated with spices in a tray

All in all, cesnecka instantly became one of our favorite dishes (for obvious reasons), and it’s perfect for any type of meal… provided you have no social engagements immediately thereafter.


How would you prepare and garnish your cesnecka? Comment below!

Popular hangover cure packs a full head of garlic, herby croutons and cheese.
Serving bowl with soup, croutons and cheese.

Food styled by: Phil Roepers

click to download recipe

12 thoughts on “Cesnecka: Czech Garlic Soup”

  1. My husband lived in the Czech Republic for a couple of years so I was excited to show him this recipe. He said he definitely remembers it and it brings back fond memories. Guess I’ll have to make it for him soon!

    • Hahah I take it you mean that it’s rainy outside then, Christine? And if you’re a garlic fan like we are, then yes this soup is absolutely perfect. Let us know if you give it a try! 🙂

  2. I am SO excited to see this recipe! We lived in Germany for 3 years, and were regulars at a restaurant that was a Czech kitchen. Cesnecka was our FAVORITE thing on the menu. They served theirs with strips of ham in the bottom of the bowl, which added a slightly smoky flavor. Love, love, LOVE this soup. I need to make it NOW!! Thank you!

    • That’s awesome, Dee Dee, and so cool that this hearkened you back to that restaurant 🙂

      Yeah we’d seen and tested the recipe with ham and some smoked bacon in it as well, which was really awesome and delicious. In the end, though, we chose to keep it vegetarian-friendly so everyone could enjoy it, but we could definitely vouch that adding ham or bacon will enhance the flavor.

      If you end up giving this a try, let us know how it goes!

    • Totally understandable, Allie! The croutons are so good and really can work well with anything you’d like. If you find another home for them away from garlic soup, let us know about it 🙂

  3. My father was Czech so I am so happy to see a recipe inspired by my heritage. The ingredients look items I already have in my pantry which is nice. If I were to win the contest I would love to have a kitchenaid stand mixer and pressure cooker.

    • That’s awesome, Sharon! This turned out to be one of our favorite Czech recipes, although there are definitely more to come in future posts as well. Good luck in the contest!

    • Delicious it is indeed, Dani! Roasted garlic in general is a fantastic add to any recipe, and it would be great in here as well!

      If you give this soup a try, let us know how it turns out 🙂


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