How to Cook with Sorrel

A photograph of page 119 of Jewish Cooking in America by Joan Nathan, with a recipe for Spinach-Rhubarb Soup. You can substitute sorrel for spinach in this recipe.
Rhubarb and Sorrel Soup—the recipe from Joan Nathan’s book Jewish Cooking in America.

Sorrel is a lemony and bitter perennial herb that is used all around the world in a wide variety of ways. Cultures around the world use it in everything from soups, salads, vegetable side dishes and teas for its sharp, tangy taste. It’s also loaded with nutrients.

Sorrel leaves may be puréed in soups and sauces or added to salads; they have a flavor that is similar to sour wild strawberries and pairs well with rhubarb. The plant’s sharp taste is the oxalic acid, also found in rhubarb.

The health benefits of sorrel include the abilities to improve eyesight, aid in skin infections, strengthen the immune system, and improve digestion.

Sorrel has a very significant level of potassium (1 cup contains 15 percent of your daily recommended intake), which is an essential mineral for human health. The significant levels of iron in sorrel boost the red blood cell production, stimulate the immune system and increase the white blood cell count. The anthocyanins found in sorrel interact with almost every system in the body to boost functionality and health. Sorrel is great for: circulation, increasing energy, lowering blood pressure, strengthens heart health, and improves kidney health and bone health! So why not indulge?

  • Nigerian recipes call for sorrel in stews, usually with spinach.
  • In India, the leaves are used in soups and curries.
  • Afghans coat the leaves in batter and deep fry them for a dish commonly served to break the Ramadan fast after sunset.
  • Greek cooks use sorrel with spinach, leeks, and chard in spanakopita.

Word of Caution: Oxalic acid is a toxin, so eating sorrel in a moderate amount is important. Large amounts of sorrel could increase the risk of kidney stones.

When cooking with sorrel, do not use cast iron or aluminum cookware, as the metal will interact with oxalic acid to create an unpleasant metallic taste.

Recipes with Sorrel

Sorrel Pesto
This is fabulous on fish or lamb.

  • 1/2 cup sorrel leaves
  • 1/4 cup mint leaves
  • 1/4 cup hemp seeds
  • 1/2 lemon zest 
  • 12 tablespoons  capers, rinsed
  • 7 anchovies
  • 2 garlic clove, minced  
  • 1 tsp. dried red chilis
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

Place all the ingredients in a food processor. Blend to form a smooth paste and set aside. Add salt to taste.

Poached Eggs in Sorrel Cream Sauce, in Memory of Polly Murphy

  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1 large bunch sorrel – 1/4 lb., stems removed
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 4 large eggs
  • Chili flakes

In a skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add shallots and sauté until translucent. Add sorrel leaves. Cook the sorrel about 3 minutes. Stir in cream. Then add the eggs one at a time and very carefully.  Carefully crack eggs into skillet. Do not stack them and try not to have them overlap.

Over low to medium heat, and allow the eggs to steam about  2 3 minutes, depending on your choice of doneness. Lift the eggs out of the sorrel cream sauce and then spoon the sauce over the eggs. A dash of za’atar and salt is an essential seasoning.

Polly’s Potato Sorrel Pie
Cook the potatoes first, then slice or dice and toss with the wilted sorrel, eggs, milk and cheese.

  • 2 pounds small or medium-size Yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed
  • 8 ounces sorrel, stemmed and washed
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • Olive oil or butter for the baking dish
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream 
  • 3 ounces Gruyère, grated (3/4 cup)
  • 1 ounce Parmesan, grated (1/4 cup)
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Cook the potatoes in a wide saucepan and cover with water. Add 1 Tbsp. salt to taste and bring water to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium, cover partially and gently boil potatoes for 20 minutes, or until tender but  firm enough to slice or dice Drain allow to cool and then slice about 1/2 inch thick, or cut in small dice. Transfer to a bowl.

Meanwhile wash sorrel leaves and remove bigger stems. Heat a wide skillet over high heat and add the sorrel, in batches if necessary. Stir until sorrel has wilted in the liquid. When the sorrel has wilted, remove from heat and transfer to a strainer. Rinse briefly with cold water, then press squeeze out excess liquid. Chop into fine pieces. Transfer to bowl with the potatoes, toss together and season with salt and pepper.

Rub the inside of a 3-quart baking dish with oil or butter.

Beat eggs in a medium bowl. Add garlic and cream and sorrel and 1 teaspoon salt . Pour over potatoes and stir well to distribute sorrel evenly throughout the mixture. Sprinkle in cheeses.

Bake 45 minutes, or until set and the top and sides are nicely browned. Remove from the heat and allow to sit for 10 minutes or longer before serving.

Joan Nathan’s Sorrel and Rhubarb Soup

My dear friend Joan Nathan serves this soup every summer. It is a classic and should not be missed. The simplicity of a quick garden soup makes all the difference. It keeps well and of course, is most often served cold! Try it with a dollop of cultured sour cream.

  • 1 lb. or 4 cups rhubarb stalks, cut into 1” pieces
  • 12 oz. chopped chard, spinach or sorrel
  • Optional garnish: scallions, cucumbers, radishes or medium-cooked egg

Place rhubarb in a saucepan with 1 1/2 cups water.Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the rhubarb is tender.

Add the chard, spinach or sorrel to the pan and cook just a few minutes, until it is wilted. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Once cooled, purée and serve with sour cream, sliced scallions, cucumbers or radishes. One friend of mine garnishes this soup with a slice of a medium-cooked egg.

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