Ukrainian Borscht is traditional sweet and sour soup made with beets, cabbage, garlic and dill in Eastern Europe. Then served with a dollop of sour cream and rye bread. This is my grandma’s original borscht recipe I grew up on in Ukraine.
Borscht! A true classic soup every Ukrainian grew up on. If you don’t know what borscht soup is, it is deep red coloured soup with cabbage, beets, potatoes and maybe beans and beef. Then served with sour cream and dill. Essentially, borscht is a superfood and a meal in itself.
There are as many variations of Ukrainian-Russian borscht recipe as there are regions and families. Everyone makes it differently, even within the same family. All of the girls in my family – mom, grandma, sister, aunt and me made it differently. That is even in the same kitchen we all used to share. Even my sister-in-law and mother-in-law cook their borscht differently.
I promise Ukrainian borscht recipe would be one of the most delicious and healthiest soups you have ever tried. Enjoy!
Ingredients You Will Need
I like my borscht full of vegetables, with thin broth, lots of fresh garlic and dill. Borscht can be vegan, vegetarian, with beef, pork or even chicken.
It truly depends what’s in your fridge that day. That’s how borscht came about – out of necessity and hunger.
- Tomato paste
- Water or broth
- Beef or beans are optional. If you choose to add them, ribs, soup bones or any cut with a bit of fat is best. Then any large white, red kidney or pinto beans.
What Type of Stock to Use?
- Store bought beef or chicken stock: You can use regular stock from a carton. It adds good flavor and I quite like it. I highly recommend to buy organic and low sodium. What I don’t like is a lot of packaging and price (in Canada) but hopefully you recycle. 🙂
- Water: I make water based borscht more often than not because it’s easy. In this case, I make sure to add a can of low sodium beans to up the protein, a bit more olive oil and maybe an organic bouillon cube, if I have it.
- Beef bones (my fave): If you choose to add meat, cook broth with ribs, soup bones or any cut with a bit of fat first. Cover with cold water, bring to a boil and simmer for about an hour, skimming foam occasionally. After borscht is ready, remove meat, separate from bones and discard bones, finely chop and return meat to the pot.
- Bone broth (my fave): This time I was ready, stopped by my local beef farm, got soup bones and made Instant pot bone broth. So proud today haha. So much health right here in this pot. It came out so rich, I diluted half of it with water and used for borscht. And cooked the other half with more water and same bones for more bone broth. Ukrainian in me will never die. 🙂 And I LOVE my Instant Pot, even only for this reason alone.
How to Prep Veggies for Borscht
You want to start with cabbage first because it takes longest to cook. While cabbage is cooking, you can prep other veggies.
- Cabbage: Thinly uniformly shredded cabbage using a mandoline is my favorite. But my grandma always shredded it with a knife. Red or green cabbage doesn’t matter because beets will turn anything red. 🙂
- Potatoes: Cube potatoes into smaller pieces to soak up more soup flavor. Cover them in a bowl with cold water to prevent from browning while they are waiting their turn.
- Beets: Peel and cut beets into thin matchsticks. It is true beetroot is colourful but I do not appreciate the waste of disposable gloves. Instead, rub your hands and cutting board with a slice of lemon. Amazing!
- Onion and carrots: Dice the onion like for frying, a mirepoix size. And carrots into small rounds and wider part into half moons.
How to Make Borscht
- Cook cabbage in broth with bay leaves and peppercorns for 20 minutes after bringing to a boil. Chop beets, potatoes, carrots and onion in the meanwhile.
- Saute onion and carrots in a bit of olive oil until translucent, about 5 minutes. This makes onion flavorful.
- Then add beets and a bit more oil, cook for another 5 minutes.
- Transfer sauteed veggies to the pot along with potatoes, tomato paste and salt. Cook covered for 20 minutes. In the meantime, prep garlic, dill and other seasonings.
- Season borscht with vinegar, garlic and pepper. Stir, turn off heat and let borscht stand for 10 minutes covered to allow flavors to “marry” each other.
- Add dill and serve. And that takes me to the next important part… What to serve borscht with? 🙂
What to Serve Borscht With?
My favorite part – What to serve borscht with?! That’s when I go all out.
- Sour cream or yogurt: Sour cream is traditional. We use plain yogurt with more than 2% fat because it is lighter than sour cream. Last week I tried local buffalo yogurt which is apparently even more healthy than cow’s. Some people also love mayo in their borscht but it’s not for me.
- Rye bread: Rye bread is dense dark coloured bread. I find mine in a bread section seal wrapped for freshness. It is often German. Sourdough bread would be great too! I toast it to resemble freshly baked Ukrainian bread. Nothing compares though.
- More garlic: Many Ukrainians eat borscht while biting on a clove of garlic in between the spoonfuls. The key is to eat garlic together with your husband and don’t leave the house that night.:)
- More dill: I add dill to the pot and then to individual bowls. There is no such thing as too much garlic and dill, almost never. I’m such Ukrainian at heart. 🙂
This is how I ate borscht as a kid – rub garlic on rye bread, spread it with sour cream and sprinkle with salt. By the way, my Canadian born kids love borscht! Try on yours and see. Would love to hear how it goes. 🙂
How to Long Does Borscht Last?
Borscht is like a good bottle of wine, it gets better with time. Therefore, I always make a very large pot and we eat it for days or freeze.
Refrigerate borscht in a large pot you cooked it in for up to 5 days. Reheat by simmering on low in small pot only amount you are planning to consume. Freeze in an airtight glass container for up to 3 months. Then thaw on a counter overnight and reheat.
This is how we do borscht. Have you ever tried borscht? Would love to hear your experience. 🙂
More Healthy Soup Recipes
- 12 cups beef or vegetable broth or stock low sodium
- 5 cups green or red cabbage thinly sliced
- 1 large onion chopped
- 3 medium carrots chopped
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 3 large beets peeled and cut into matchsticks
- 4 large potatoes peeled and cubed
- 6 oz can tomato paste low sodium
- 2 tsp salt
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 tbsp white vinegar
- 3 large garlic cloves grated
- Ground black pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup dill or parsley finely chopped
- Yogurt sour cream and rye bread, for serving
- In a large pot (I use 6 quart Dutch oven), add broth, bay leaves and bring to a boil.
- In the meanwhile, wash, peel and cut vegetables.
- Once broth is boiling, add cabbage, cover and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to low and cook for 20 minutes.
- In the meanwhile, preheat large skillet on medium heat and swirl 1 tbsp of oil to coat. Add onion, carrots and saute for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add beets, remaining 1 tbsp of oil and cook for another 3-4 minutes.
- Transfer sauteed veggies to a pot along with potatoes, tomato paste and salt. Cover, bring to a boil and cook on low heat for 20 minutes.
- Turn off heat. Add vinegar, garlic and pepper. Stir and let borscht sit for 10 minutes to allow flavours to marry each other.
- Add dill, stir and adjust any seasonings to taste.
- Serve hot with a dollop of yogurt or sour cream, bread and garlic clove on the side (this is not for everyone).
- Refrigerate borscht in a large pot you cooked it in for up to 5 days. Reheat by simmering on low in small pot only amount you are planning to consume. Freeze in an airtight glass container for up to 3 months. Then thaw on a counter overnight and reheat.
- Store bought stock: You can use regular stock from a carton. Preferably organic and low sodium, if you can. 🙂
- Beef bones: If you choose to add meat, cook broth with ribs, soup bones or any cut with a bit of fat first. Cover with cold water, bring to a boil and simmer for about an hour, skimming foam occasionally. After borscht is ready, remove meat, separate from bones and discard bones, finely chop and return meat to the pot.
- Bone broth: This time I made Instant pot bone broth and used half of it diluted with water as a soup base.
- Vegetarian: I make water based borscht more often than not because it's easy. In this case, I make sure to add a can of low sodium beans to up the protein, a bit more olive oil and maybe an organic bouillon cube, if I have it.
- Beans: If not using meat, you can add a can of drained beans. Any large white, red kidney or pinto beans.
- Sauerkraut: If you replace 2 cups of cabbage with 2 cups of sauerkraut, borscht will have even more umph.
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