Ukrainian borscht soup is easy to make and chock full of hearty root vegetables, of course beets being one of them, and flavors like garlic and bay leaves. This beef and beet soup is sure to warm your body and your soul with all its amazing ingredients and beautiful bright red color.
The borscht is a very important soup in many Slavic countries, especially Ukraine and Russia, but Ukraine is usually stated as the origin of the borscht. The word borscht is said to be derived from the Slavic word for cow parsnip and used to be the basis of this soup. However, beets were more easily cultivated and eventually replaced the cow parsnip.
It has a long history and it varies greatly from country to country, area to area and kitchen to kitchen, so it can be a bit confusing when you don't know what you are looking for. This recipe is for the most known version with beetroots and cabbage.
Traditionally it was sour from a lot of other ways, but I make it super easy more suited for today's cooking styles, using something we should all have - red wine vinegar - to create the same sour soup effect.
The ingredients in this easy borscht are just a handful, and is the perfect fall soup (along with butternut squash soup!) because the ingredients are at their best at this time.
- Beef and beef stock
- Fresh dill
- Bay leaves
- Tomato paste
- Red wine vinegar
- Salt, pepper, sugar and oil
- Sour cream, to serve
You can use whatever beets you like, it will only change the color of your soup. Here I've used a couple of different colors and it obviously didn't turn out as bright red as some other beet soups are. If you use just red beets, it ought to be redder.
There are a ton of hearty root vegetables, with some aromatics like garlic, dill and bay leaves. Tomato paste ties the flavors together and it also helps a little with the color of the soup.
I think the best borscht recipe must include beef, as beef has the most amazing umami flavor. That does not mean that you have to use beef, absolutely not. It is a perfectly delicious vegetable soup without it as well, so it is actually quite easy to make a vegan version if you want to. Simply skip the beef step altogether and use vegetable stock instead.
Beef borscht or not, it is a comforting soup that is both pretty to look at and very delicious!
Red wine vinegar helps balance the soup and also brings out the flavors of the other ingredients more. Funny how acid can work! The vinegar is very important in this borscht because being sour is one of the main characteristics of the soup.
Difference between Ukrainian and Russian Borscht
The difference between Ukrainian and Russian borscht is quite hard to establish as there are so many differences within regions as well. People generally agree that Ukrainian borscht is made with pork rib broth, but not in traditional Russian beet soup. In Russian borscht they often use beef broth.
The way they add cabbage can also indicate where the soup is from. In Russia they often use sauerkraut which is added at the start of the cooking. In Ukraine they want to use fresh cabbage and add it later in the process so that it has some chew to it.
And apparently, in Belarus they often use potatoes in it.
So to repeat myself, keep in mind that there are probably as many versions as there are people making this soup, so you can just call it borscht or even just beet soup and call it a day.
Culinary expert Olga Syutkina also emphasizes this when she said that 'Borscht is just a term that everyone assigns their own meaning to'. There are so many versions of borscht, some not including beets at all. This red beet soup is also often referred to as svekolnik which just means beetroot soup.
So you can probably see by this that my soup is not either or really. I believe my version is the best, with the best of the best from each of the countries. Beef broth from Russia, potatoes from Belarus and fresh cabbage from Ukraine. I struggled for a while to decide whether I should call it Ukrainian or Russian, but I ended on Ukrainian as that is said to be the origin of the soup.
How to make it
To make this soup, first we will begin with the beef. In a large saucepan or casserole, heat oil on medium high heat. Add cubed beef and sear until browned, a couple of minutes (1). Add onion and cook for another five minutes or until the onion is translucent (2-3). Add garlic and stir for a minute before adding in the carrots, parsnip, potato and beets (4-6).
Top with the beef stock and bay leaves (4-6). Bring it up to a boil and then reduce to a simmer, and simmer covered for about 15 minutes. Now add the cabbage (7) and cook for another 15 minutes or until the vegetables are fork tender (8).
Add in tomato paste, red wine vinegar, fresh dill and salt and pepper. Taste and adjust the seasonings accordingly. It all is really just to taste, so add as much or as little as you want.
But what should be mandatory, is to serve the soup with a dollop of sour cream, fresh dill and crusty bread. Enjoy!
Now that you have ventured into Ukrainian and Russian food, maybe you are ready for another healthy, very delicious recipe from Norway this time? This Norwegian halibut is so delicious with sweet whipped sour cream and a cucumber salad. So fresh and comforting at the same time!
Did you like this recipe? Here are more soup recipes I think you would like:
- Creamy chicken and vegetable soup
- Tomato white bean soup with spinach
- Pumpkin sage brown butter soup
- Thai lemongrass noodle soup
- Curry coconut carrot soup
- Roasted tomato soup with herbs
- Thai chicken noodle soup
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