Hot and Sour Soup with Burdock Root

How to Cook Burdock Root: A Hot and Sour Soup Recipe

There was a major shift this week in my northern forest. While we still have several feet of snow on the ground, the signs of the coming spring are everywhere. Snow is melting, birds are returning and even the noticeably longer days hold the promise of warmer months ahead.

One of my herbal teachers, Lesley Tierra, teaches that the shift of seasons is an especially important time to be vigilant about our health. It’s easy to prematurely rejoice of what is to come and forget to maintain balance in the present.

Her recommendations include dressing and eating for the weather you have, not the weather you wish you had.1 In my climate, scarves, hats, and soups are still the best choices (even though I yearn for sandals and raw foods from the garden).

While Lesley’s wise words come to us from the philosophy of Chinese Medicine, we can see many other sources validating this cautionary approach. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) points out that February traditionally has the highest incidence of the flu, with March containing an impressive amount as well.2 In other words, we aren’t out of the woods yet!

It’s not uncommon to feel a restlessness this time of year, especially in regards to food. We still have many winter veggies like carrots, cabbage, and beets stored away, but the heavy foods of winter are not as enticing as they were in December.

It’s with this in mind that I made this simple, delicious, and immunomodulating hot and sour soup recipe. It’s fresh and lighter than the stews of winter, but still contains roots and herbs for supporting the immune system. This recipe is also a great way to learn how to cook burdock root.

What is an Immunomodulator?

Immunomodulation is a general term used in herbalism to describe the non-specific beneficial effects some herbs have on the immune system. Immunomodulators are believed to have a balancing result, and, when taken long term, they strengthen the immune system. Examples include Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus), many medicinal mushrooms like Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum), and Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum).

Herbalists often use immunomodulating herbs for people who have frequent colds or the flu, are plagued by seasonal allergies, or have cancer. Many of these herbs are safe for everyone and besides being used for specific health challenges, they can be taken simply to maintain good health.

(Of course many nutrients and lifestyle changes should be taken into account when wanting to improve general immune system health. Exercise, vitamin D3 levels, and sleep are all part of the holistic considerations.)

Before we get to the hot and sour soup recipe, let’s take a look at the ingredients and their general effects on your immune system health.

Burdock Root (Arctium lappa, A. minor)

You don’t commonly see burdock root listed as an immunomodulator, but I think there’s a good case for it. Many of our immunomodulating herbs contain polysaccharides which are believed to play a large role in the immune system effects of the plant.

Herbalist David Hoffman reports that “It is increasingly being suggested that the polysaccharides are at the core of herbal immuno-modulating effects. Laboratory studies have revealed a range of impressive results, including:

  • a general improvement of many immune response measures
  • T lymphocyte activation
  • anti-tumor activity
  • increase in certain serum proteins
  • non-specific activation of the complement system
  • stimulation of interferon production
  • stimulate increased phagocytosis”3

Burdock root is high in polysaccharides. One of the most prevalent, inulin, is a starchy substance that provides nutrients for beneficial gut flora. In other words, inulin is a PRE-biotic that supports the healthy gut flora that plays an important role in your immune system health.

This is just the tip of the iceberg for burdock root. Herbalists also use it for people with skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and acne and it’s also used for urinary health. Learn more about burdock on our membership site, HerbMentor.com.

The hot and sour soup recipe below will also show you how to cook burdock root.

Shiitake Mushrooms (Lentinus edodes)

Shiitake mushrooms have long been heralded as beneficial for the immune system. Like burdock, they are high in polysaccharides (called beta-glucans) as well as many other constituents known to support immune system health. Many scientific studies have investigated shiitake mushrooms in regards to cancer care and general immunity.

One randomized dietary intervention trial in young adults showed that regularly eating shiitakes resulted in general improved immunity as observed by improved cell proliferation and increased gut immunity.4

Ginger (Zingiber officinale)

Ginger is famous for its ability to modulate inflammation and support digestive health. It is probably most famous for alleviating nausea, whether from chemotherapy, motion sickness, or the morning sickness of early pregnancy.

Ginger is commonly used for many stages of a cold or flu. Herbalists often reach for it at the first sign of an upper respiratory infection to stop or shorten the duration of the illness. It’s also used for sore throats, boggy coughs, and to support the fever process when someone is feeling chilled.

Ginger has also been shown to be potentially beneficial for people at higher risk for colorectal cancer. In a pilot study, ginger was shown to have a beneficial effect on the colon and immune system health in people that took 2 grams for 28 days.5

Carrots

Carrots are full of antioxidants, such as beta carotene, that have a wide range of health benefits. While beta carotene is most famous for supporting eye health, eating a diet high in beta-carotene has been epidemiologically associated with a decreased risk for both lung cancer and stomach cancer.6

Hot and Sour Soup with Burdock Root

We will be combining all of these health-giving ingredients into a simple hot and sour soup recipe that is perfect for the transition from the winter months to spring.

Look for fresh burdock root in Asian grocery stores, health food stores, or ask your local grocery store to order it.

To increase the immunomodulating properties of this soup, consider making your own stock using additional immunomodulating herbs, such as astragalus.

What you’ll need…

  • 1 quart chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon tamari
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup carrots cut into matchstick pieces
  • 1/2 cup burdock root cut into matchstick pieces
  • 1 large handful of mushrooms sliced thinly (I like fresh shiitakes)
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 1/2 pound cooked tempeh or meat (ground beef, chicken, pork, and shrimp all work well)
  • 4 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch mixed with 4 tablespoons cold water
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • toasted sesame oil
  • 2 scallions, chopped

Combine the stock, salt, tamari, and ground pepper in a soup pot and bring to a boil.

Add the carrots, burdock root, mushrooms, ginger, and tempeh or meat. Bring back to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 3-5 minutes, covered.

Add the vinegar to the pot. Stir in the cornstarch mixed with water to the pot, and continue to simmer while stirring until the mixture is thickened, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Turn off the heat and add the egg, stirring gently.

Ladle the hot soup in bowls and garnish with a teaspoon of toasted sesame oil and a tablespoon of scallions.

Yield: 6 cups, roughly 3 servings as a main course

Show 6 footnotes

  1. Tierra, Lesley. Healing with the Herbs of Life. Berkeley, CA: Crossing Press, 2003. p 346.
  2. “The Flu Season.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2014. Accessed February 15, 2016. Visit Website.
  3. Hoffman, David. “Herbal Medicine: Immuno-stimulation, Immuno-modulation or What?” Healthy Net. Accessed February 15, 2016. Visit Website.
  4. Dai, Xiaoshuang, Joy M Stanilka, Cheryl A Rowe, Elizabethe A Esteves, Carmelo Nieves, Samuel J Spaiser, Mary C Christman, Bobbi Langkamp-Henken, and Susan S Percival. “Consuming Lentinula Edodes (Shiitake) Mushrooms Daily Improves Human Immunity: A Randomized Dietary Intervention in Healthy Young Adults.” Journal of the American College of Nutrition 34, no. 6 (2015): doi:10.1080/07315724.2014.950391.
  5. Citronberg, Jessica, Roberd Bostick, Thomas Ahearn, D Kim Turgeon, Mack T Ruffin, Zora Djuric, Ananda Sen, Dean E Brenner, and Suzanna M Zick. “Effects of Ginger Supplementation on Cell-cycle Biomarkers in the Normal-appearing Colonic Mucosa of Patients at Increased Risk for Colorectal Cancer: Results From a Pilot, Randomized, and Controlled Trial.” Cancer prevention research (Philadelphia, Pa.) 6, no. 4 (2013): doi:10.1158/1940-6207.CAPR-12-0327.
  6. van Poppel, G, and R A Goldbohm. “Epidemiologic Evidence for Beta-carotene and Cancer Prevention.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 62, no. 6 Suppl (1995): 1393S-1402S.
53 comments
  1. Audy says:

    Yuck. Sorry but I need a soup without fungus. Lol. Also no way I or my kids would eat this. Can you please give a recipe that is semi normal tasting?

    • claire says:

      Chaga is the only anti fungal “mushroom” in the world-that be better? Candida and mushrooms,I don’t think is a good match. I use Chaga harvested fresh from Alaska..it never grows fungus,mold.

    • Laura says:

      Audy – if it’s the texture of mushrooms you don’t like, try powdering dried ones, or put fresh ones in a blender with some of the stock before cooking the soup. You’ll get all the health and flavour benefits without having to suffer through the discomfort of chewing on them.

      • kristin says:

        Thanks for the idea. I’ve wondered how to get some benefit without the texture. Just can’t stomach it!

  2. Denny Thorson says:

    Love to try the recipe. The download link comes back with an error message that indicates that it can not find the file. I guess it is going to be cut and paste.
    Thanks

  3. Seeking Joyful Simplicity says:

    This recipe sounds wonderful! I love that we can use the power of simple foods as medicine.

    I work and commute long hours, and like to cook large batches and freeze meals. I am wondering if this recipe would double or triple well, and if it would freeze well?

    Thanks for all you do!

  4. Suzie says:

    here it seems like no fresh burdock is available at this time of the year. Would it work to have tried burdock? And if yes, how would you have to prepare the tried burdock?

    • Rosalee de la Forêt says:

      I was able to order fresh burdock in from my local grocery store. I live in a very rural town of less than 1,000 people so I assume if we can get it ordered in many others could too. I haven’t tried dried burdock in this recipe. If you tried dried burdock let us know how it goes!

    • Tanya says:

      I live in a town of less than 1000 and I can’t get fresh burdock or shitakes (my store sucks and won’t order “weird” things that no one has heard of haha – that’s what they told me). So I used dried burdock and dried shitakes. I rehydrated the mushrooms in hot water. The burdock, i tossed in my broth with my raw chicken and 2 cups of water then simmered it for about 15 minutes before adding the rest of the ingredients. I also added a handful of fresh brown mushrooms and extra carrots. And I left the cornstarch out. The soup was really tasty, the dried burdock softened up to about the texture of hmmmmm let’s say, slightly undercooked pot barley. I’ve never had it fresh to cook it so not sure what fresh burdock is like when cooked – but the soup was good!

      • Jan says:

        Thanks for this recipe, Rosalee. Definitely going to give it a try. I have been using dried burdock in soup for many years, mainly because fresh burdock was not available in our stores until more recently. Probably it was 20 years ago that I started my dad taking one of Rosemary Gladstar’s formulas, ‘Dandelion Burdock Formula’, for unhealthy liver enzymes in his blood work. After a month, his blood work came back all good! I was hooked, and developed a ‘Soup Herbs Mix’ for my herb group that we sell at our Heritage Harvest Festival every fall. It has all dried herbs of burdock, nettles, thyme, bay leaf and garlic granules, and can be added to most any pot of soup. So, I would have to say that if you cannot find any fresh burdock, feel free to substitute dried anytime. It’s worked for me for a long time.

      • gb says:

        will have to try this – though at this time i cannot dig my burdock yet… a few weeks may be?
        only used it once and hubby was not a fan of it at all, may be in soup he will like it better?

    • Tanya says:

      Oh and I also cooked my egg first into a very thin omelet and then sliced it up, just because I don’t like the texture of them cooked in soup ? . I used lemon juice in my husbands bowl because he hates vinegar – it tasted good too.

      • Liz says:

        I love your creativity with this recipe! Thanks for thinking outside the box and posting your results for the rest of us to learn from. Kudos to you!

  5. Julie says:

    Hi Rosalee,
    Thank you for sharing this recipe. I have not used burdock root in cooking yet. Is it safe to use with autoimmunity? Thank you, Julie

  6. Colleen says:

    Thanks for this recipe… I can’t wait to try it out. From personal experiences, I have come to know that the best way to fight colds (and yeast infections etc.) is with hot sour, or bitter foods. Take lemons for example… They work wonders for colds! ?

  7. Joyce says:

    I absolutely cannot wait to try this recipe. I have included some shiitake mushrooms in my stir fry and it was better than finger licking good. Thank you!

    Joyce

  8. Va Grace says:

    I love burdock – the only contraindication I’ve ever heard is that if you eat very much of it it can lower blood pressure. It’s a fantastic absorber of toxins which are then eliminated through the colon. Think I had it the first time at a vegetarian restaurant called “sunflower “cooked with brown rice –fresh burdock has a sweet taste!

  9. Valerie Klyman-Clark says:

    Nice recipe! We plan to substitute arrowroot for the corn starch and either brown rice vinegar or citrus instead of the white vinegar. Plus garlic, onions, and chilies. Ummm. Thanks!! And, for any readers in the Asheville area, there are a couple folks selling great medicinal mushrooms at the farmer’s markets. And oriental markets often carry fresh burdock/gobo, I have found.

  10. pujakins says:

    When I can get fresh burdock I stir fry it with carrots and after I have sliced it on the diagonal, along with the carrots, however it’s not easy to find. And yes it is a great blood purifier and a wonderful herb to use in teas as well, dried.

  11. Melinda Rhodes says:

    I have been using fresh burdock ~ that I dig in my yard for years, simmered in water itis excellent for cystitis (urinary tract infection) . You don’t eat the burdock~ just drink the tea. Burdock when it gets older can be woody. I know this from the preparation of the root for the tea. It must be the very young roots used that are tender enough for them to be edible. This time of year (we are in Illinois) as the thaw comes they are very easy to pull when you see the dead looking plant ~ not dead burdock is very Hardy. I’m sure everyone knows that burdock ~ is the cockal burr which gets stuck to your clothes. That is actually the seed. Thanks for the recipe. I’ll give it a try. :) Melinda Rhodes

    • Marilynn says:

      Melinda I’m in I’ll illinois too andI have it in my yard . I’m new to this and was wondering if the burdock has seeded is it too old (woody)?

  12. Molly says:

    Just made it as written with ground beef. Super yummy! My 11 year didn’t care for it. To much going on with it for her, but I love all the flavors. Will definitely keep making this. Thanks!!

  13. Michele says:

    Looks like a great recipe. I have never cooked with burdock, thanks for the information. Is there any other substitute for the shitake mushrooms. I cannot each mushrooms due to mold toxicity, sure do miss them!
    Thanks

  14. Sondra says:

    Looks yummy! I’m gonna play with it & try dandy roots, white radish & chard inste
    ad of burdock. Also omit the shrooms & cornstarch.

  15. greentalk says:

    I grow burdock but dry it. Thanks for the suggestion on how to use dry burdock. I was wondering if you could can this recipe or would the pressure canning kill the beneficial attributes of the soup?

    Also, can you use the burdock leaves too?

  16. Val says:

    Just last Sunday, I tried a similar soup at a Chinese restaurant. Can’t say I really liked it too much. I would like to try this recipe tho and see if it’s better. I’ll start by cutting the ingredients in half…just in case ;)
    Thank you!

  17. Carol says:

    My gut feeling is that I’d have a stomach ache if I only cooked burdock root for 5-8 minutes as this recipe suggests. Don’t we need to digest this to get the immunomodulating benefits or does this cook really fast?

  18. Leslie says:

    This soup was simply delicious! I made exactly as recipe read except only two tablespoons vinegar and the juice of one lemon. I will make again. Thank you for the recipe.

  19. Jennifer says:

    I couldn’t find Burdock root (either fresh or dried) and didn’t want to wait to make the soup. So I added celery root, some dried dandelion root, 4 large cloves of diced garlic, a 2″ piece of fresh turmeric (diced), a bunch of cilantro chopped. I just started adding things that I know support health. It is REALLY good. I considered adding daikon radish or horseradish but will save that for the next batch. Leeks might also taste good in it. Thank you for the original recipe! It really started my creative juices flowing. What a fun soup idea for that winter to spring transition.

  20. Poppy says:

    This soup looks great. Good medicine!! I think i will try it without the cornstarch and egg so it’s more a broth type soup. Thank you!

  21. Tiffany says:

    This recipe couldn’t have come at a better time! I have been ill for the past 4 days (still getting over it) and I asked my daughter to make this soup. I thought that it would be bitter because the burdock smelled bitter when I cut it, but it wasn’t bitter. It was flavorful and delicious. I think we will omit the corn starch next time, it makes it ugly haha! Thank you so much for this recipe. Now I have SOMEthing to do with all of this burdock root in my refrigerator.

  22. lynn bosman says:

    I am wondering if there is any cross reactions to medications people are on, together with herbs. My mom had been on a number of medications and ended up in emergency when she had a herbal remedy someone suggested. It somehow cross reacted with her thyroid meds and she was not taking for 10days as she lay in hospital. I dont think they mentioned a coma, but she was out and we had to wait for her to recover. The doctors went line to check out the herbal and said anyone taking herbs should check medications first to see for cross reactions

    • Rosalee de la Forêt says:

      There can be interactions between some medications and some herbs. Just as there are interactions betweens foods and herbs (e.g. grapefruit). If someone is taking medications it is best to consult with an experienced practitioner before taking therapeutic amounts of herbs. Burdock has a high safety rating and is eaten as a vegetable in Asia. Most people will be able to eat it safely.

  23. Robin says:

    This sounds wonderful! I can’t wait to try it! I always add dried burdock in a muslin bag to my stocks and stews, straining it out before serving. There is a ton burdock growing in my yard, and I cannot wait to use it fresh! Thank you!

  24. ella says:

    My 11-year old granddaughter came down with flu yesterday. I made this soup and got a “like” from her on her first spoonful. I like burdock very much but have not cooked with it until this year. The “hot” and “sour” drew me in, also.

  25. Mari says:

    Looks and sounds so yummy. Looking forward to making the soup. Love soups especially when the weather is cold outside. Thank you, thank you , thank you

  26. Marjorie says:

    Compelling reasons for trying this unusual soup. I’m intrigued but where in the world do you find burdock root ? Thanks. Marjorie

  27. Erica says:

    Thank you for the delicious recipe! We made the soup with homemade broth, it felt so nourishing! My young son loved it! I did use rice vinegar instead of white vinegar. Blessings!

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