Borscht (Russian-Style Beet Soup)

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Borscht (Russian-Style Beet Soup)

Until I made this soup, I have never had Borscht in my life, which is strange because my dad has Russian roots…but what’s even stranger is that I had been craving this soup for a good month before I caved in and made it.

I’ve always been a fan of beets, even as a kid, so Borscht was a natural fit for me. I love how beets stain everything in this soup with their lovely deep red color. No matter what’s in your spoonful, it looks like beets. Of course the beets also stain your cutting board and your hands, but no matter, it doesn’t last long. Wear it like a badge of honor for making this glorious soup.

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This soup is so hearty it really doesn’t need meat to be filling; you can omit the meat if you like, but be sure to use a super flavorful stock. The potato will disintegrate into the stock, acting as a slight thickener along with a touch of tomato paste.

The flavor of Borscht is bright and complex, beautifully sweet and sour. The natural sweetness in beets and carrots provide the perfect offset for a generous splash of red wine vinegar at the end of cooking. I think celeriac is a more traditional addition than celery, but I went with celery because it’s what I had on hand (and I’m not claiming that this version is authentic – it’s my own rendition – but it is delicious, and it definitely will be what I make for years to come when a Borscht craving hits). Fresh dill and a dollop of sour cream are the perfect finishing touches.

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Here are a few other Borscht recipes from around the web:

Borscht from Cooking Light

Classic Russian Borscht from The Girls’ Guide to Guns and Butter

Red Borscht from The Food in My Beard

Borscht from Manger

Borscht, Vegetarian Style from Grateful Table

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Borscht (Russian-Style Beet Soup)
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 lb (450 g) beef stew meat
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 8 cups (1.9 L) beef broth, divided
  • 1¾ lbs (795 g) beets (roots only; use the greens for something else, such as Beet Greens Pasta), scrubbed and trimmed
  • 4 medium carrots, finely chopped
  • 3 large stalks celery, diced
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 large starchy potato (such as Russet), scrubbed and chopped
  • ½ lb (225 g) savoy cabbage, thinly sliced into shreds (about 5 cups shredded)
  • 4 large cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon coarse kosher salt (use a bit less if using fine salt)
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 6 tablespoons (90 ml) red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar (more or less to taste)
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh dill, plus more for garnish if desired
  • Sour cream, for garnish (optional)
  1. Heat the oil in a 5-quart pot over medium-high heat; once hot, add the meat in a single layer and cook until browned on both sides, about 4 minutes, flipping once. (You might need to do this in 2 batches so you don’t overcrowd the pan.)
  2. Add the bay leaf and 4 cups (.95 L) beef broth, and bring to a boil. Cover the pot, turn heat down to simmer, and cook 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
  3. While the beef cooks, chop all the vegetables. For the beets, shred ⅓ of the beets and finely chop the remaining ⅔. Add the finely chopped beet to the pot; bring back up to a boil, then cover the pot and cook 10 minutes.
  4. Add the shredded beet, carrot, celery, onion, potato, cabbage, garlic, salt, black pepper, allspice, tomato paste, and remaining 4 cups beef broth. (The vegetables should be just covered with liquid; you can add water if you need more liquid to cover them.) Cover the pot and bring it back up to a boil, then turn the heat down to simmer and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes.
  5. Add the vinegar, then turn off the heat and stir in the dill. Taste and add additional salt and pepper as desired.
  6. To serve, ladle the soup into bowls; top with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of fresh dill.
Peeling Vegetables: For this recipe, I use organic beets, carrots, and potato, and give them a good scrub before using; I don’t peel them because the skin holds a lot of nutrition. (Beets Tip: Look for smaller beets since their skin is more tender.) The potato sort-of melts right into the soup so you will be left with little bits of potato skin, which I didn’t mind at all; however, if you prefer, you can peel the potato.

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  1. Eha says

    Well this is ‘mother’s milk’ for me as I have had it and cooked it ‘forever’! Up in the conservative north of Europe without the garlic, allspice or tomato paste :) ! Am willing to try all three!!!

  2. Mona K says

    When I was growing up, we had soup for every Sunday lunch. Borscht was one of the regular soups on the short list. Even now as an adult, I make borscht at least twice a month. I love the sweetness of the beets and the truly lovely color it makes. My recipe is a little different — I make the stock from the beef meat/bones — into the boiling liquid, I add onion, carrot, and a tablespoon or two of PICKLING SPICE, plus a dried red pepper or two. I usually just throw the pickling spice into the liquid and strain it out afterwards. Instead of the tomato paste, I use a can or two of diced tomatoes. The veggies are all just chopped up (sometimes I just wash them and don’t bother with the peeling)in equal sizes. I like the veggies to just be on the edge of cooked, with a little crunch. Sometimes I add the meat, diced, back into the soup (makes a full meal) and sometimes I reserve it for other uses. I never add the vinegar to the pot, but rather leave it to each person to add to their own taste. But it does need vinegar to be at its absolute best. It is absolutely my favorite soup. I usually make a huge pot, and freeze about half of it into serving size dishes — it’s a tasty filling lunch for work or even a low-calorie snack on a cold evening. Suggest you all try it this soup.

  3. says

    Borscht isn’t common here in Greece. So when we first learned about this delicious dish, we couldn’t get enough of it:) Your version looks amazing Faith! Excellent photography and a very hearty filling version of this Russian classic.
    Superb work!
    Panos and Mirella

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