This classic borscht recipe is just the way my Ukrainian grandma and mother made it. Easy to make, flavorful and filling, this soup will have you hooked at first slurp.
Borscht is a classic beet soup loaded with veggies and bone-in beef swimming in a savory and sweet broth. It was a staple growing up in my Eastern European home and It’s a comfort food I will always absolutely love. There is truly nothing like a steaming bowl of borscht on a cold winter day.
The Ingredients for Borscht Explained
Each ingredient for borscht plays a key part in developing it’s perfectly savory and sour flavor. Here’s the lowdown on each ingredient and the ideal way to treat it in this recipe.
- Cabbage: Shred your cabbage with a mandoline slicer or slice it as thinly as possible with a sharp knife for the best possible texture.
- Meat: Bone-in beef is always our favorite, with oxtail (cow tail) being the primo option. If you prefer chicken or pork, we highly encourage using bone-in cuts for the extra fat and marrow flavoring.
- Potatoes: Good old-fashioned russet potatoes will do the trick. But, feel free to use any potatoes you have on hand.
- Peeled Beets: You can peel and slice your beets into cubes, strips or even grate them. We like slicing them into french fry-sized strips.
- Carrots: Grate or cut into tiny cubes.
- Onion: Dice it into tiny pieces or cook an entire cube in the soup and remove it at the end.
- Kidney Beans: These are totally optional, but they works so well in this soup. If you’re sticking to vegetarian, they add a good amount of protein and can be doubled and swapped in for the meat all-together.
- Vinegar & Ketchup: My grandma always used sauerkraut to get the signature sour flavor, but I have grown to love ketchup and vinegar for that kick. In a pinch, you can use tomato paste instead of ketchup and add a bit more vinegar to compensate.
Optional Ingredients: Add in some chopped celery, bay leaves, or a couple of cloves garlic if you’d like.
How to Prepare Borscht from Scratch
Preparing borscht is a game of layering – you’ll add in a couple ingredients here, let the soup come together, and repeat the process until it’s perfect.
- Boil the Meat: In a large pot, boil some water. Slice the beef and simmer it in the water for 20 minutes to create a nice bone broth.
- Sauté the Veggies: Next, sauté the carrots, onions, and cut beets in olive oil until soft and add them into the beef broth.
- Add the Beans: Drain and rinse the canned kidney beans and add them into the pot. Cook the soup for 20 minutes.
- Add in the Potatoes: Next, add in the sliced potatoes to the pot and simmer the soup for 15 minutes.
- Add in the Cabbage: Once the potatoes are nearly finished, stir in the cabbage. Season the soup with black pepper, salt, vinegar, and ketchup. Allow the soup to simmer for 10 minutes.
- Garnish & Serve: Next, serve the borscht with a dollop of sour cream or mayo. Ladle a big bowl up and enjoy!
Handy Tips & Tricks
A few foolproof tips will help you make a beet soup with fall-off-the-bone meat and tender veggies with every slurp.
- Prepare the soup in a Dutch oven. If you have a Dutch oven, use it! Nothing compares to how well this pot maintains heat and moisture in soups.
- Keep the soup over medium heat. To prevent overcooking the ingredients and not giving them enough time to develop their flavors, keep the soup over medium heat throughout the cooking process.
- Season the soup to taste before serving. Like a tangier soup? Add in some lemon juice or more vinegar at the end of cooking. Not salty enough? Give the soup a few cracks of salt. Before you ladle up a bowl, make sure the flavors are where you want them to be!
What to Serve with Borscht
Serve borscht alongside a hunk of no-knead bread to dip into the savory broth. If you like a heartier bread, a rye or honey wheat will do the trick. In terms of garnish, we like to serve borscht with a dollop of sour cream or mayo, minced green onions, and fresh dill/fresh parsley. If you’re a garlic-lover, you can also add marinated chopped cloves right on top.
Storing & Reheating Your Leftovers
The most amazing thing about borscht is that it continues to develop its flavors as it marinates in the fridge. In my opinion, day #3 borscht is the best! Oftentimes, I’ll make it the day before and will eat it the next day. To keep it fresh for up to a week, store it in an airtight container in the fridge. Avoid freezing borscht, as the potatoes and beets tend to turn mushy and gritty upon thawing.
Reheating Tip: To reheat borscht, place it in a soup pot or sauce pan over medium heat until warmed through.
Is borscht Russian or Ukrainian?
There’s always been a big debate on whether borscht originated from Russia or Ukraine. In so many ways, the food in Slavic countries is almost identical – so it’s safe to say it originated from both regions!
What does borscht taste like?
Borscht is a savory, sour and hearty soup that is packed with beef, beets, carrots, potatoes, kidney beans and cabbage. It can be made completely vegetarian (skip the beef), or for an extra punch of flavor you can swap out the water for beef broth or beef stock. The end result is the perfect soup to warm up to on a cold day.
Is borscht healthy?
Borscht is super healthy, as it’s packed with protein, nutrients and fiber. All the veggies, especially beets, are packed with vitamins (especially vitamin C and potassium) that are perfect for keeping wintertime colds at bay. Borscht is also naturally low in calories and cholesterol.
Can you can borscht?
Yes, you can can borscht and store it in a cool place for up to a year depending on what method you use. It’s best to can it in large pint jars so you can reheat enough for a couple servings at a time.
Is borscht better the next day?
Yes, borscht is always better the next day. Giving the soup time to develop it’s flavors in storage overnight is always a good move. You can totally eat it day-of preparation, but waiting a day is where it’s at.
More Classic Slavic Soup Recipes
- Creamy Vegetarian Borscht Recipe – Savory beet soup with vegetables
- Quick Sorrel Soup – Traditional shchavel borscht
- Cabbage Roll Soup – Cabbage rolls in soup
- Pelmeni Soup – Slavic meat dumpling soup
- 1 lb bone-in beef
- 4 tbsp oil
- 1 large beet peeled, grated or sliced thinly
- 1/2 large onion finely chopped
- 2 medium carrots grated
- 16 oz canned kidney beans rinsed and drained
- 3 medium potatoes sliced into bite-sized pieces
- 1/4 head of medium cabbage thinly chopped
- 1 tbsp salt adjust to taste
- 1/4 tbsp ground pepper adjust to taste
- 1 tbsp vinegar
- 2 tbsp ketchup
- In a large pot, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Slice the beef into 2-inch pieces and let it simmer for about 20 minutes.
- In a large skillet, sauté the carrots, onions and beets in 4 tablespoons of cooking oil. Sauté the vegetables until they are soft (7-10 minutes) and add them into the beef broth. Drain and rinse beans and add them to the pot. Cook the soup for 20 minutes.
- Drain and rinse beans and add them to the pot. Simmer for another 15 minutes.
- Add in the sliced potatoes to the pot and simmer them for another 15 minutes.
- After the potatoes are almost done cooking, add in the sliced cabbage to the pot. Next, add in the ground pepper, salt to taste, vinegar and ketchup. Let the borscht simmer for 10 more minutes.
- Serve the borscht with a dollop of sour cream or mayo. Enjoy!
This recipe is a thing of beauty, the oxtail broth, the low heat manifested borscht, that gets better on day 2, and best on day 3, but it's just as good 7 days later. I have never made borscht, but I have eaten it hundreds of times and this recipe competes with the best of them.
Hi Chris, thank you so much for this kind feedback! I am thrilled that you found a recipe that you love! Enjoy it! Sounds so delicious!!
This is an awesome recipe the version a friend of mines family involves adding diced tomatoes, A LOT of garlic, and the juice of half a lemon.
Hi Nikolas, That version sounds quite tasty as well! Hope you give our recipe a try! I am sure you will love it! Enjoy!
Hi! I wanted to ask what can I do instead if I want to make the borscht without meat? How much beef broth would I need to use instead?
Hi Julia! I actually have a vegetarian borscht recipe, here is the link: https://momsdish.com/recipe/3…
I heard it goes well with Ukrainian vodka. I bought all the ingredients plus the vodka but got so pissed on the vodka that I didn’t do the recipe. I went and got a Morley’s chicken, ribs and chips instead.
I’ve learned my lesson and I am going to try again but this time without the vodka.
Hey Peter, you added vodka to the borscht? I dont think thats a good idea. Hope you love it second time around. Enjoy!
My family was from Russia (no fighting, lol). We made a similar vegetarian borscht like this.
Red beets, vegetable broth, onions, sour salt (to taste) and fresh dill. Combine and let simmer. We usually let it simmer all day. At the end my aunt would add heavy whipping cream to the soup. Nice and easy. Now my stomach can't handle the whipping cream so I just eat it plain (sometimes with a dollop of sour cream. Give it a try!
Hi Andrea- thank you for sharing! Borscht is loved by so many! I also prefer to just eat the borscht without adding any whipping cream or sour cream to it. It's nice there are so many ways to modify this recipe to taste.
Hi Natalya- I began your No Knead dough last night to bake this evening. Now this morning I am beginning your Borscht recipe. I have read through your instructions twice and am a bit confused. Sorry if I missed this but I understand simmering 1 lb. two inch pieces of bone in beef in 4 quarts water for 20 min. What do I do with the beef after that? Do I cut the meat up into smaller bite size pieces without the bones? Is the water used to simmer the beef the “beef broth” or do I use a heartier beef broth in place of the water that the beef simmered in. Thank you. Laurance
Hi Laurance- thanks for reaching out. You'll let the beef simmer in the 4 quarts of water for 20 minutes and after that you just leave the meat in there as you begin to add the rest of the ingredients into the pot. It'll get more tender as the borscht keeps cooking. Hope this helps!
Just found out about this dish from reading a story of a Ukrainian store owner, who’s business was just affected by a Russian missile, saying that “The two most important things a Ukrainian woman needs to know is how to make borscht and Molotovs”. I check in and pray everyday for the brave Ukrainian people, in their fight against authoritarianism and evil. I will be making this dish in honor and prayer during these dark times. Glory and Strenght To Ukraine!!!🇺🇦🙏🏼
Hi Ben- thank you for your kind words and support. Borscht indeed is a CLASSIC Ukrainian dish and is loved by many. I hope you love it, too!
I haven't eaten breakfast yet & I can hardly wait to make some borscht tonight thanks so much
Hi Lou - You have to share how it turns out! I think I'm craving a bowl of borscht myself this weekend. Appreciate your kind words.
4 quarts of water? is that correct?
Hi Andria - Yes, that's correct! Some of the water will evaporate out, but we like a good amount of broth for this soup. Thanks for the questions and hope this helps!
Have you ever home-canned this recipe? It would be great to have a few jars of it in the cold cellar/pantry. For a really quick version of this recipe, I used home-canned beef with home-canned broth, home-canned potatoes and home-canned beets. I'd rather make the whole thing then home-can the recipe in its "completeness" except for the sour cream and sprigs of fresh dill. Thoughts?
Hi Payme - You could totally home-can this soup! My mom used to do it all the tip. Smart move on leaving out the sour cream and dill - those are best added fresh.
Hot home canned (pressure cooker) or can you cold can? Can it then be frozen?
Hi there- I haven't tried freezing it so I'm not sure, but you can definitely can it!
What kind of cabbage, onion and vinegar is best?
Hi Elena - Green cabbage, white onion, and classic white vinegar will do. Thanks for the question and Happy New Year!
Does the recipe have fresh dill in it? The picture looks like it but it's not in your ingredients list.
Hi Mort - Yes, we like to garnish the soup with fresh dill. We love the extra flavor it adds, but it's not a must. Hope you enjoy and Happy New Year!
thank you for this recipe! I can't have sodium but this is a great starting point for me to modify and make sodium free 🙂
Hello, I am so glad you found this recipe as a helpful blueprint and that you could customize it for yourself. Thank you for your feedback!
I made this recipe today and it turned out good.
I wanted to ask why the meet was not tender but very hard to bite through. I cooked it as directed with one bone piece and other 1 inch pieces for 45 mi.
Hey Julie, I am happy to hear that you enjoyed it. I think a few things could cause the meat not to be tender. Maybe the cut was too large and didn't cook through. Another reason would be the cut of meat you used. If you can provide us with more details, we can try to help. Thank you!
Barszcz (borscht), traditionally and most importantly, starts with fermented beets & resultant sour juice... That is the source of sourness & color.
Added cooked fresh beets will provide the sweetness + the usual hearty veggie-rich stock, either pork or beef-based, or both will take care of the rest. Throw in some beans, cabbage, and potatos to make it a perfect winter soup ..
Think of barszcz as a sweet & sour soup.
Vinegar is never used for acidity control in traditionally cooked barszcz.
Polish, Ukrainian, and eastern/central Europe's cuisines are very rich in fermented vegetables or grains-based soups.
The white barszcz and żurek are based on fermented grains (wheat and/or rye)... There is also an 'ogórkowa' (fermented cucumber, not dills) and kapuśniak (fermented cabbage).
Just like the Japanese miso ramens are based on fermented soybeans.
There is a lot of interest nowadays in fermented vegetables... because we've learned so much about their positive influence on our intestinal microbiome.
Hope that helps clear the Ukrainian-Russian borsch (barszcz) dispute ...
Mark, thank you very much for sharing your knowledge, this was so interesting to learn!
Like the viruses .. foods don't need visas or passports ..to cross the borders.. sort of like .. kapustniak/kapuśniak/saurkrautsuppe/choucroute garnis ..from Kyiv via Warsaw via Berlin to Paris .. nothing .. other than slightly mutated culinary ideas ..
Same planet .. same air .. same water .. same life .. same foods ..sometimes variants ..
Yes, similar recipes with slight variations, and they are all delicious!
I have tried many various borscht recipes over the years to find what I like best, and your recipe is very similar to what I arrived at. Biggest difference is one recipe I tried had you boil the beets whole for about 45 minutes before cooling and cutting them, and I like the texture better that way. I use the purple beets water for part of the liquid as well. I have also found that while stew beef is best, when I am in a hurry or being cheap, it tastes pretty good with ground beef as well.
I'm so glad you enjoyed this recipe, thank you for taking the time to comment your feedback!
Beets are high in iron.
Yes!! Really good for you!
I really love sauerkraut so I think I would prefer that over the vinegar and ketchup. How much would you suggest putting in?
I would do half of the fresh cabbage and replace the other half with sauerkraut.
I have made mine with half a can of sauerkraut before and it tasted great, as well as being cheaper and faster than chopping a head of cabbage.
Thank you for the tip, George! That is a great idea!
In the first step you say "Cut beet into 2-inch pieces and let it simmer" but the picture looks like meat. Is it beet or beef?
Oh my, yes beef 🙂 thank you!
If I use chicken in the borscht, what’s the process for that? Do I boil it, bake it, or just what?
You would follow the same process as you would with beef. You may just need to cook it for a shorter time!
this is INCREDIBLE! thank you for sharing this classic, true-to-form recipe. a few substitutions for V/VG that i did:
i put in vegan sausage (1 pack) and simmered it in veg broth for the first step.
i used 1 jar of quartered beets brined in a red vinaigrette (Trader Joe's) because they were out of beets-- and it was perfect! this meant i skipped the vinegar at the end.
added a dash of sriracha instead of ketchup-- nice color, nice little kick.
i added a dollop of no-fat greek yogurt (my non-VG cheat) instead of sour cream to let the Borscht bring the sour-ness.
will definitely be making this again (and again).
Hey Grace, I am loving all the tips. So happy to hear that you loved it! Thank you for sharing.
What is the green herb in the picture of the cabbage going into the pot? I don't see it listed on the ingredients...
Many traditional Borscht recipes do add fresh chopped dill before serving.
Hey Sarah, yes, it is very common. But every household still did it a bit different.
Hey Kristie, its fresh parsley, it adds a bit more color to the photo. I don't add it to the soup.
To answer your question .... there are a hundred different types of borscht - all made with beets but all different - and it is a common soup not just in Russia and Ukraine, but in Belarus, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, Chech Republic, Slovakia... maybe other countries as well. My favorite is the cool borscht made with beet greens and kefir served on warm June days - when i visited Vilnius in June of 1992 it was a stole in every restaurant.
Thank you for sharing!
Hi Natalya! I have made this borscht! But i must say it didn't turn out as red as expected! I have omitted the vinegar and ketchup though. Could it be the reason ? Many thanks.
The carrots leach the red dye from the beets...you can add a small can of tomato paste and it will redden up again.
Hey Carol, thank you for this awesome tip!
Vinegar or lemon juice or pickle brine help keep the red colour.
Anette, such a great tip! Thanks for sharing!
Hey Nina, the redness comes from the beets. Some beets have a deeper color and some don't. The taste is probably very similar though.
Thank you for your reply! 🙂
Hey! Could you give us some tips if we wanted to make it vegetarian? I’m assuming just using veggie broth and cooking the veggies in there?
Hey Anya, yes, sue veggie broth and skip the meat part altogether. Definitely add beans, it will be really good. We make it vegetarian as well sometimes and the beans add so much flavor.
I grew up on borsch, so I'm on the hunt for a genuine recipe. My mum never wrote down her recipes, and now she's gone, I have nothing to go by.
I found your site on the Ukrainian Recipes FB page, it looks great, so I'm giving it a go.
Can you give me some thoughts of cooking this in a slow cooker. Would you reduce the liquids slightly?
Hey Marika, I have never made it in an instant pot. I think it could make cabbage a bit soggy so I prefer cooking it on a stovetop. This is the way my mom and grandma made it and it's the closest in flavor to their borscht. Keep me posted, I really hope you love this recipe!
Hi, quick question do the beets have to be cooked prior to using in the recipe?
Hey Ann, they don't need to be precooked. They cook in the borscht and add so much flavor.
Do you have to take out the bones?
Hey Nata, we leave the bones while the borscht is cooking. At the end, I remove the large bone.
Borscht is Ukrainian (not Russian).
Natalka, thats what I was thinking! 🙂
Your website is the best! Just love how pretty and simple the dishes are. I feel so comfortable cooking them. I like this recipe too. Will try making it tonight!
Kiera, wow! Your compliment is so sweet! I am glad you found the blog. Let me know what you think of this recipe. 🙂