This is how to make a Traditional Borscht Recipe. My mom’s Ukrainian borscht can be made vegetarian or with beef and I share all the tips and variations to this beet soup! Borscht soup is made of red beets, onions, carrots, potatoes, dill, sour cream, and beef bones (or pork ribs.) Sometimes my mom will add kidney beans or cabbage, but I like it simple and it’s still as delicious!
To make borscht, I will roast a huge batch of beets in the oven and store them in the freezer. Here’s how to roast beets and helpful storing tips! Need more beet recipes? Try Russian Shuba (Herring fish beet salad), Vinaigrette, or our roasted beet salad! They come with many health benefits including fiber, vitamin C, and lower blood pressure! Looking for green borscht? Try our Sorrel Soup that we call Zelene Borscht.
One of our family-favorite soups is this deep red beet soup, Ukrainian’s call it red borscht. It’s an old-time classic soup my mom makes to this day! Beets are big in the Ukraine cuisine because it was a vegetable grown in many gardens back in Ukraine. My mom used to work seasonally on different farms, weeding, and growing beets, so it wasn’t just a farmer’s market food–they were grown in bulk because the demand was high.
That being said, the Ukraine menu consists highly of beets. We add them to soups, make colorful salads, and leftovers were fed to the animals. It’s hard for beets to go to waste they store long and preserve easily, whether you can them or freeze them.
I have made vegetarian borscht, for quick dinners, and when the time allows I’ll simmer my meat bones for an hour for fall-off-the-bone borscht. This soup is really versatile as you can clean out your fridge with whatever vegetables you have on hand, and if you don’t have cabbage it will still be as good.
The main ingredients to this beet soup are beets, potatoes, water, onion, carrots, and tomato sauce. Anything else is optional like adding kidney beans (extra protein), a handful of cabbage (vitamin K and C, plus fiber), or sweet red bell peppers. It doesn’t require meat, although adding a few bones will give you a flavorful broth loaded with more nutrients.
My mother-in-law adds chicken to borscht soup and that’s totally fine, too. You just can’t skimp on the beets or potatoes (two staple pantry items in a Ukrainian household.) Not only is this soup beautiful but borscht is a delicious and healthy way to feed your family with a ton of nutrients!
Ukrainian Tip: add beets at the end of cooking time for a deep purply red borscht recipe. Avoid simmering beets long as the red color dulls within cooking time. And of course, you have to use fresh beets for a vibrant soup, please don’t use the canned beets from the store.
So, whether you are Polish, Russian, or just someone exploring Ukrainian cuisine, I think you will love this borscht! It’s simply a classic!
What is Borscht Soup?
What does Borscht Mean? You might be wondering how does Borscht taste-like? Borscht is a really good soup from beets! Beets are naturally a sweet vegetable and the tartness of tomato sauce balances out the flavors perfectly! The soup is robust in flavor but incredibly pleasant. Traditionally it is served hot with sour cream, although it’s good enough to enjoy cold too.
Cold Borscht may vary in preparation. Borscht is the soup you can eat without meat, add cabbage too, or leave plain with beets, it will all equally be delicious!
Many borscht recipes include different versions–beets with beans, beef shank, beet greens, cabbage, chicken broth, and sweet bell peppers. All of which, are good add-ins, however, completely achievable with basic ingredients.
The main ingredients to make borscht soup are potatoes, carrots, onion, tomato sauce, water, and beets.
Borscht is one of the signature soups of Russia and Eastern Europe. Its vibrant red color comes from beets, which happens to be the main ingredient in a bowl of this Ukrainian soup! As a result, I used to make it with cabbage but within the years but, I’ve taken shortcuts to make it plain vegetarian borscht. It still keeps all the classic flavors a pot of borscht would have only much quicker!
Borscht is a little sour (from tomatoes), sweet (from beets), and perfectly delicious! Ingredients are so broad as you can add beans, cabbage, and beef, however, this version of beet soup will be as basic as it gets to achieve our family’s version of classic borsch (that happens to be on regular rotation!)
Ingredients for Borscht:
The main ingredients to make borscht soup are potatoes, carrots, onion, tomato sauce, and beets (iron.) Add in some meat bones and make it heartier or leave it vegetarian the call is yours!
- Beets- I grated 5 roasted beets for this borscht recipe.
- Water- simmer it with bones to make a homemade broth.
- Oil- for frying the carrots and onion.
- Meat- use beef bones (beef shanks), pork ribs (or any cut), or even store-bought chicken or vegetable broth if going vegetarian.
- Spices- bay leaves, Vegeta (an all-purpose seasoning), salt, fresh dill, and garlic cloves.
- Vegetables- carrots and onions are sauteed before adding to the soup.
- Tomato Sauce- I add one 15-ounce of tomato sauce and 1/3 cup of ketchup.
- Sour Cream- is a must for authentic borscht. I usually dollop a heaping spoon of sour cream to my hot bowl of soup.
How Do You Make Borscht?
To start the process of borscht, make sure your beets are fully cooked. I typically buy a bulk bag of raw beets and roast them in batches. Here is how to roast beets. Once the beets are taken care of, you can make the recipe!
If you are short on time you can boil the beets until tender then, peel them, grate, or chop. For a chunkier soup slice and dice the vegetables into chunks.
Note: to make cooking a breeze prep most of your ingredients together and keep your potatoes submerged in cold water to prevent discoloration. This will give you a break while your soup is simmering.
- To begin, bring the water to a boil. If adding meat, add it in, otherwise, just add the potatoes instead. Simmer beef or pork bones for 1 hour.
- Add the potatoes, Vegeta seasoning, salt, 1 tsp back pepper, 3 bay leaves and simmer for 25 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a large skillet saute the onion and carrots in 4 Tbsp of sunflower oil (about ten minutes.) Stir in the tomato sauce and ketchup. Add to the soup.
- When the potatoes are done, crush 4 cloves of garlic into the pot. Stir in the grated beets and turn off the stove. Garnish with fresh dill (about 1/2 cup.)
- Serve with a dollop of sour cream.
Can I add Bell Peppers?
My mom will add sweet red bell peppers to her borscht. You can add it when you fry the carrots. Slice and dice the bell peppers into small pieces. Go for a sweeter type of pepper, like the red or orange-colored bell peppers. Bell peppers do add extra flavor.
How To Cut Beets?
Beets can come roasted, pickled, or grated fresh when making borscht. Keep in mind raw beets take longer to simmer as pickled beets and roasted beets are already cooked. You want to add any form of beets towards the end of the cooking time. The longer they cook the more they lose their vibrant deep red color. Beets are always grated or julienned in Russian or Ukrainian beet soups!
To use beets for borscht you’ll want to fully cook them. I typically roast the beets with their skins on and peel the skins off before storing them in the freezer. You will want to peel the skins off completely.
Since the skins slip off the beets easily after they have roasted in the oven, I use a knife to easily slide the skins off–you won’t even need a potato peeler!
You can use gloves to prevent red stains from your hands when handling beets, but that doesn’t bother me because after a few washes it sort of disappears. And if you really want to avoid beet juice messes just use a food processor to chop the beets into little chunks.
What Meat Can I Use?
The best meat to use for a full nutrient-filled soup is beef on bones. Beef neck bones, prime ribs, or beef shanks are great choices. We used a wild game with a leg bone from a wild hog. Bones add a nutrient-dense broth that is healthy and flavorful.
To substitute for bones or meat use store-bought organic beef or chicken broth. To make it vegetarian omit the meat and use a veggie broth instead.
Is Borscht Healthy?
Yes! Beetroots have tons of vitamins and minerals. Borscht is mainly made from veggies and meat and if you use a healthy oil-it’s even healthier!
How To Store Borscht?
This beet soup can stay up to a week in the refrigerator. It actually develops better in flavor as it sits. Try reheating only as much soup as you think you will eat and avoid reheating the soup too much. The red color can get dull.
Can you Freeze Borscht Soup?
Borscht freezes very well. I have ladled cold borscht into freezer bags and when served, you probably would’ve never known it was frozen!
To Freeze cool soup completely. Ladle into gallon-sized freezer bags and keep frozen for up to 3 months.
To reheat thaw overnight in the refrigerator or tear off the freezer bag and place the frozen soup into a large pot. Heat over medium heat until defrosted and simmering. Stir occasionally.
- Meat- Add 1 lb of beef or pork one hour prior to adding the potatoes for tender meat.
- Beans- Stir in 1 can of red kidney beans or cannellini beans (great Northern beans) when you add the beets.
- Cabbage- Add 2 handfuls of shredded cabbage with the beets (about 1/4-1/2 head of cabbage, shredded.)
- Tomatoes- use diced tomatoes, fresh, tomato juice, or tomato paste diluted with water to equal 15 oz of tomato sauce.
- Beets: If using grated raw beets boil for an additional 5 minutes. Roasted beets are already cooked. Overcooking beets will fade the red color.
What to Serve With Borscht?
Our family-favorite way of eating this soup is with a side of sourdough wheat bread, more garlic cloves, and sour cream. I typically add fresh dill into the pot of soup. This is one hearty meal on its own!
- – great for big pots of soup
- 8-Quart Pot– for cooking borscht.
- Heavy Dutch Oven Pot– photographed photo in a similar pot.
- Foam Skimmer– the dark foam that floats to the top of soups is actually the blood from the meat when it boils. Use this skimmer to skim it off the top.
- Vegeta (all-purpose spice blend)– used in most Russian and Ukrainian dishes as an all-purpose seasoning.
BEST Tips To Make a Borscht Recipe:
- For a deep ruby red borscht add the beets towards the end. Cooking the beets too long will dull out the red color.
- Cut your prep work by roasting a batch of fresh beets and freezing for many beet soup recipes to come.
- Add a can of red kidney beans for extra protein and fiber.
- I usually make my borscht without cabbage, so if you want to use cabbage add about 1/4 head of cabbage (about 3 cups shredded) 10 minutes before the end of cooking.
More Russian Soups to Enjoy:
- Sorrel Soup (Shchavel Borscht)
- Ukrainian Pickle Soup (Rassolnik)
- Pelmeni Soup (Russian Dumplings Soup)
- Easy Mushroom Soup
How To Make Borscht:
Borscht Recipe (Beet soup)
- 8-quart pot
- 12-inch frying pan
- 1 1/2 lbs beef short ribs (or pork ribs)
- 6 quarts water (24 cups)
- 5 large potatoes (2 lbs, peeled and cubed)
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 cups grated beets* (5 small beets)
- 2 tbsp Vegeta seasoning
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 4 cloves garlic
- 2 carrots
- 1 onion
- 15 oz tomato sauce
- 6 tbsp ketchup
How to Make Borscht:
- In a large pot, bring the water and meat to a boil. Skim off any dark foam and simmer for 1 1/2 hours over medium-low heat. (See notes for vegetarian borscht below.)
- Meanwhile, sauté the onion and carrots until tender. Add the tomato sauce and ketchup and add this to the soup.
- Add the potatoes, salt, pepper, bay leaves, and Vegeta seasoning to the soup. Simmer for 25 minutes. Stir in the beets* and garlic, then turn off the stove. (For raw beets see notes below.)
- Serve borscht with sour cream and fresh dill.
- Meat- use any cuts available (preferably in-the-bone meat.)
- Vegetarian Borscht: omit step 1 and simmer potatoes in 5-quarts of water for 25 minutes. Add 1 can of red kidney beans or 2 cups of shredded cabbage at the last 10 minutes of cooking.
- Chicken Borscht- omit step 1 and add 1 1/2 lbs of chicken pieces with the potatoes to 5-quarts of boiling water (chicken cooks fast.) Proceed with the recipe.