Sharing my grandma’s Borscht Recipe I grew up eating in Ukraine. This iconic red beet soup is made with beef, cabbage, potatoes, carrots, garlic and dill, and then served with a dollop of sour cream and rye bread.
Table of contents
- Our Family’s Recipe and Beets Nutrition
- What Is Borscht?
- Is Borscht Ukrainian or Russian?
- What Does Borscht Soup Taste Like?
- Ingredients You Will Need
- How to Make Borscht
- How to Peel and Cut Beets and Other Veggies
- What Type of Stock to Use?
- What to Serve Borsht Soup With?
- How to Store and Freeze
- More Soup Recipes to Try
Our Family’s Recipe and Beets Nutrition
This is my grandma’s authentic recipe for borsch I grew up with in Ukraine. She made it every week and I still have it in a regular rotation. It’s simply the best borscht recipe!
It is also super healthy and nutritious. According to Healthline, beets are packed with iron, may help fight chronic inflammation and lower blood pressure. Then we add cabbage (vitamins, fiber and cancer fighting properties), potatoes (vitamin C and potassium), carrots (carotene) and optional protein (meat and beans).
Another way to enjoy more beets is this Instant Pot beets recipe.
Everyone in our house loves borscht and I hope you will too!
What Is Borscht?
If you don’t know what is borscht, it is vibrant red color soup with cabbage, beets, potatoes, carrots, onion and garlic, and possibly beef and beans. Then served with sour cream and dill.
Essentially, this borscht is a superfood and a meal in itself.
“Borscht”, “bortsch”, “borsh” or “борщ” is a true classic soup every Ukrainian or Russian grew up eating almost weekly. It can be vegan or vegetarian borscht, as well as made with beef, pork or chicken.
It truly depends what’s in your fridge that day. That’s how beet soup came about – out of necessity and hunger.
Is Borscht Ukrainian or Russian?
According to Wikipedia, Borscht is Ukrainian dish that has a history of centuries. Borsch is traditional beet soup cooked in every household of any former republic that belonged to USSR – Ukraine, Russia, Moldova, Belorussia etc. Not to mention all over Eastern Europe.
There are as many variations of traditional Ukrainian borscht recipe as there are regions and families. Everyone makes it differently, even within the same household.
Fun fact. All girls in my family, mom, grandma, sister, aunt and me, had their own borscht recipe. We all cooked in the same kitchen we used to share and yet everyone’s version of borscht was unique. Even my sister-in-law and mother-in-law cook theirs differently.
What Does Borscht Soup Taste Like?
Traditional borscht recipe definitely tastes like beets, sweet and tangy. Earthy flavors of beets truly shine through in this dish.
It is also kind of sweet and sour soup. We add vinegar and a little bit of sugar to compliment natural sweetness of root vegetables.
And lots of fresh dill and garlic after this delicious Ukrainian beetroot soup is cooked. As much as you like to personal preference, and us, Ukrainians, like to add a lot!
Ingredients You Will Need
Borscht ingredients are very simple and greatly vary on one’s fridge contents and region of Ukraine. Here are the main ingredients you could always find in my grandma’s recipe:
- Red beets
- Tomato paste
- White vinegar and sugar
- Bay leaves
- Water or beef broth, vegetable broth or chicken broth
- Salt and pepper
Meat or beans are optional. If you choose to add meat, short ribs, pork ribs, soup bones or any cut of meat with a bit of fat is the best. As for beans, any large-sized beans like cannellini beans, red kidney beans (I love to make Instant Pot kidney beans) or pinto beans will hold the shape and add volume to the dish.
How to Make Borscht
Ukrainian borscht recipe is actually very easy to make and anyone can do it. I like my borsch with variety of vegetables, with thin flavorful broth, lots of fresh garlic and dill.
Here is a quick rundown of how to make borscht. Also there is a video below.
Prep veggies: You want to start with cabbage first because it takes the longest time to cook. While it is cooking, you can prep other vegetables.
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 making entire borscht recipe more delicious. Do not skip.
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 white vinegar, garlic, sugar and pepper. You can also use red wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, white wine vinegar or lemon juice. Traditional choice is white vinegar though.
Stir, turn off heat and let borscht soup stand for 10 minutes covered to allow flavors to “marry” each other. Add dill and your borscht is ready to serve.
How to Peel and Cut Beets and Other Veggies
- Beets: Peel beets with a regular vegetable peeler and cut into thick matchsticks. You can also grate beets on a boxed grater or in a food processor. If you have fresh beets, you can also chop some beet greens and add to the soup. Beetroot stains your hands and cutting board however I do not appreciate the waste of disposable gloves. Instead, rub your hands and cutting board with a slice of lemon. Amazing!
- Cabbage: Thinly uniformly shredded cabbage using a mandoline is my favorite for a borscht recipe. But my grandma always shredded it with a knife and I prefer it that way for Russian shchi. It doesn’t matter if you use red or green cabbage, beets will turn it into red borscht anyways.
- Potatoes: Cube potatoes into small pieces to soak up more of the soup flavor. Cover them in a bowl with cold water to prevent from browning while they are waiting their turn.
- Onion and carrots: Dice the onion like for frying, a mirepoix size. And carrots into small rounds and wider part into half moons.
What Type of Stock to Use?
- Store bought or homemade beef or chicken broth: You can use regular broth or 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 but hopefully you recycle. That’s why I often make batches of homemade chicken broth or Instant Pot chicken broth and freeze for later.
- 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, make broth with ribs, soup bones or any cut of meat with a bit of fat first. Cover with cold water, bring to a boil and simmer for about an hour, skimming foam occasionally. After beef borscht is ready, remove meat, separate from bones and discard bones, finely chop and return meat to the pot.
- Bone broth (my other fave): This time I was ready, stopped by my local beef farm, got soup bones and made Instant pot beef bone broth. So proud today! 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 stock. Ukrainian in me will never die. 🙂
What to Serve Borsht Soup With?
My favorite part of the whole entire borscht recipe cooking process is what to serve borscht with?! That’s when I go all out!
Ukrainians like to serve it warm, with a dollop of sour cream and sprinkle of fresh dill in bowl, slices of home cured pork belly (salo), pampushky or rye bread and fresh garlic on a side. But on a hot summer day, cold borscht is just as delicious.
Sour cream or yogurt: Sour cream is traditional choice. 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 soup but it’s not for me.
Rye bread: Rye bread is dense dark colored bread. I find mine in a bread section seal wrapped for freshness. It is often German.
Sourdough bread would be great for serving with borscht as well! I toast it to resemble freshly baked Ukrainian bread. Nothing compares to pampushky traditionally served with borscht 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 enjoyed grandma’s Ukrainian borscht as a kid – rub garlic on a slice of rye bread, spread it with sour cream and sprinkle with salt.
By the way, my Canadian born kids love it! Try on yours and see. Would love to hear how it goes. 🙂
How to Store and Freeze
The best 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 leftovers in a large pot you cooked soup 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 cook borscht. Have you ever tried it? Would love to hear your experience. I promise traditional Ukrainian borscht recipe would be one of the most delicious and healthiest soups you have ever tried. Enjoy!
More Soup Recipes to Try
Ukrainian Borscht Recipe (Beet Soup)
- 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
- Pinch of sugar or maple syrup
- 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, sugar, 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).
- Store: 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: 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.