Like I mentioned last week, I’m on travel for work – right now I’m enjoying sunny (but a little chilly) Naples, Italy. And just like last week, I’m using today’s post as an opportunity to share a favorite recipe from one of my cookbooks; this time I’m sharing one from my debut, The Ancestral Table. From the book:

Borscht (Борщ) is a hearty soup most commonly associated with Russia, Poland, and Ukraine. Its name likely comes from the Slavic name for hogweed (Borschevik), which was often used to flavor soups. Although potatoes were a later addition, the foundation of borscht as we know it today dates back at least to the 9th century. This recipe is the popular Russian version, which is served hot and with meat. To cut down on the cooking time, you could make this soup with premade broth, or even make it vegetarian by using just water. Instructions for each variation are provided below.

Borscht (Gluten-free, Primal, Paleo, Perfect Health Diet, Whole30 adaptable)

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: Easy

2 carrots, divided
1 onion, divided
3 lbs beef bones with meat attached (oxtails, shanks, knuckles or a combination)
1 tsp black peppercorns
2 large beets
1/2 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp butter
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp tomato paste
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 head green cabbage, shredded
2 russet or yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 bay leaves
1 small handful parsley, coarsely chopped
juice of 1/2 lemon (1 tbsp)
salt and black pepper to taste
sour cream and fresh dill for serving

1. Over an open flame or under a broiler, roast 1 carrot and half of the onion until charred, about 3 minutes. Boil the bones in a large stockpot filled with water for 8 minutes, then drain and rinse thoroughly with cold water. Clean the stockpot, then return the bones to the pot along with the charred carrot and half onion and the peppercorns. Add enough cold water to cover the bones by at least 1″, about 4 quarts. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer on medium-low until the meat easily separates from the bone, about 2 hours. Be sure to skim any foam or fat that accumulates on the surface. Add water to replace any that evaporates.

2. As the bones simmer, preheat the oven to 375°F. Place the beets in aluminum foil, drizzle with the olive oil, and wrap tightly. Roast until easily pierced with a fork, 45-60 minutes. Remove from the oven, let cool, then slip off the skins and cut the beets into French fry-sized strips. Set aside.

3. When the bones are ready, strain the broth and discard the vegetables and peppercorns, then return the broth to the stockpot. Set the meaty bones aside to cool; once cool, pick apart the meat and set aside. Discard the bones or reserve for making stock.

4. Coarsely chop the remaining half onion and grate the other carrot. In a skillet, warm the butter on medium heat, then add the chopped onion and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the minced garlic and tomato paste and sauté until aromatic, about 1 minute. Add the sautéed onion and garlic paste to the broth, along with the beets, red wine vinegar, and grated carrot. Bring to a simmer on medium heat, then add the shredded cabbage and cubed potatoes. Return to a simmer and cook for 10 more minutes, skimming any excess fat from the surface, then stir in the meat, parsley, and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste, about 1/2 tsp. each.

5. Cover, remove from the heat, and allow to brew for 20 minutes. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and fresh dill sprinkled on top. For a more flavorful soup, allow the soup to brew overnight and reheat the next day.

** To make this soup with premade broth, bring 2 quarts each water and beef broth to a simmer and proceed directly to step 2.

** To make it vegetarian, do the same but with 4 quarts water or vegetable broth. Vegetarian borscht is often served cold.

14 thoughts on “Borscht

  1. I have made this a couple of times. We LOVE it. I cut some corners (I never roast the beets, I just grate them in and make sure to simmer it for a bit), but it always comes out SO good. Even my teenage daughter can’t stop eating it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This may be obvious to many, but I’m wondering: what’s the purpose of the first 8 minutes for the bones in the stockpot, then rinsing and cleaning?

    Thanks for the enlightenment!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Boiling the bones briefly will remove any potential pathogens from the bones, and a standard practice in my cookbooks – alternately, you can roast the bones at 400F for 30 minutes to achieve the same effect!


  3. Hi Russ. Thank you for your borscht recipe. I did want to mention that Ukraine refers to itself as “Ukraine” not “the Ukraine” which is the name given to Ukraine when it was still part of the USSR. In fact, the Ukrainian constitution specifically states that the country will be referred to as “Ukraine” henceforth. Thanks for your fantastic recipes and the histories surrounding them!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I like the way you bring in colors in life through your recipe. I am not a great cook, but love cooking and like different colors. They kind of provoke me and pep up my mood….Thanks for sharing !!!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This soup does look wonderful. I just wanted to add that my grandfather was Ukrainian and his family(myself included) use a pork broth, not beef.

    I boil my pork ribs in water onions for 25 minutes…remove the ribs to put in oven. Strain the broth to remove sludge(sorry not sure of the technical term) and freeze for future borsch production. :-)


    Liked by 1 person

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