Russian Borscht Recipe for the Home-Cooked Soup of my Childhood. Copyright © 2022 Terence Carter / Grantourismo. All Rights Reserved.

Russian Borscht Recipe for the Hearty Home-Cooked Soup of my Childhood

This post may contain paid links. If you make a purchase through links on our site, we may earn a commission.

This Russian borscht recipe makes the hearty home-cooked soup of my childhood that my baboushka used to make. The Russian-Ukrainian beetroot-driven vegetable soup is served with sour cream and dill and is a filling meal in itself. We’d eat it for lunch or dinner the first night then breakfast the next day.

My traditional Russian borscht recipe makes a comforting vegetable soup that I like to think of as the Russian-Ukrainian soup for the soul. Borscht has a special place in the hearts, minds and stomachs of anyone of Russian or Ukrainian heritage who grew up dunking weighty slices of black rye bread into their grandma’s nourishing broth. It’s one of our best beetroot recipes.

This is the Russian-Ukrainian borscht of my childhood growing up in the western suburbs of Sydney, which is partly why it’s a deep amber to dark orange colour rather than the deep ruby or purple-tinted borscht you’re probably more familiar with seeing in cookbooks, magazines and food blogs. There are reasons for that, which I’ll explain below.

But before I tell you about my recipe, can I ask a favour? If you’ve cooked any of my family recipes from Russia, Ukraine or beyond, or any of the thousands of recipes in our archives and you’ve enjoyed them, please consider supporting Grantourismo so we can continue developing recipes and food content. This post offers suggestions for ways to support Grantourismo but here are a few ideas…

You could make a donation or become a supporter of our epic Cambodian culinary history and cookbook on Patreon; purchase something on Amazon, such as one of these James Beard award-winning cookbooks, cookbooks by Australian chefs, cookbooks for foodie travellers, classic cookbooks for serious cooks, and gifts for Asian food lovers and picnic lovers. Or you could browse our online store for gifts designed with Terence’s photography. Now let me tell you about my Russian borscht recipe.

This Russian Borscht Recipe Makes the Hearty Home-Cooked Soup of my Childhood

This Russian borscht recipe is next in our series of traditional Russian recipes that we’ve been cooking since Russian Christmas and will continue to share until the Russian Orthodox New Year’s Eve.

So far we’ve published family recipes for beet potato salad, Russian pelmeni, stuffed cabbage rolls, and a classic garden salad, and over coming days we’ll publish recipes for piroshki (hand pies), chicken kutleti (meat patties), varenyki (potato filled dumplings), an Olivier salad, and more.

This Russian borscht recipe makes the hearty vegetable soup my baboushka made. It’s not baba’s recipe, which is hand-written and back home in Australia. It’s the borscht recipe I have been trying to recreate for years from my memory and I’ve I finally nailed it.

If you’re of Russian heritage or Ukrainian heritage or from one of the countries that were part of the former Soviet Union it may not be the borscht of your memory, and here’s why…

My grandparents were Russians who arrived in Australia as post-World War II refugees, who were called ‘DPs’ or displaced persons in those days. My grandparents were born in Imperial Russia in the early 1900s, in the land that we now know as Ukraine, and I was raised as an Australian with Russian heritage.

As a child, when we were at my grandparents’ home, we ate Russian food, followed Russian cultural traditions, listened to Russian music, and my grandfather in particular longed for his ‘Russian’ homeland until the day he died.

Papa was born in a village in what’s now the separatist area although he called Kiev his city, as it was there that he came of age. My baba was born in a village near Odessa, a city she adored. During the countless long lunches that turned into dinners she’d tell wonderful tales of summers spent on the Black Sea and in the Crimea.

It was only after Putin invaded Russia, when I pressed my mother for more information for a cookbook cum family memoir I’m writing, that mum revealed that while my grandfather identified as Russian, my grandmother considered her heritage Ukrainian. Although throughout my childhood, the word ‘Ukraine’ was never mentioned. Because my grandparents were born during the Russian Empire, long before the country of Ukraine was formed.

That’s why the Russian recipes of my childhood, including this Russian borscht recipe, is more of a Russian-Ukrainian borscht of sorts, not in the style of borscht now considered Ukrainian. Although it has to be said that there are countless types of borscht right across Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, a monumental country that stretches from Europe to Asia.

Russian cuisine has a long rich history, and so does Ukrainian cuisine. Those cuisines are intertwined due to the histories and experiences of people like my grandparents. More on that in another post. For now, just a couple of tips to making my Russian borscht recipe.

Tips to Making This Russian Borscht Recipe

My baba made her borscht with big chunky bone-in pieces of beef and ox tail, but we can’t get quality beef or ox tail here, so we use pork ribs for this Russian borscht recipe, which are delicious and fall off the bone.

If you prefer a more beetroot-driven borscht then by all means adjust my Russian borscht recipe and shift the balance of vegetables and use more beetroot.

Use less tomato and more beetroot and you’ll get that ruby-red or purple colour you’re after. And, yes, while fresh beetroots are best, you can use canned beetroots if it’s more convenient for you.

Lastly: while you can certainly cook this Russian borscht recipe in an hour and have a delicious soup to slurp, leave it to simmer longer and it will taste even better. Re-heated the next day it’s even more heavenly.

Russian Borscht Recipe

Russian Borscht Recipe for the Home-Cooked Soup of my Childhood. Copyright © 2022 Terence Carter / Grantourismo. All Rights Reserved.

This Russian Borscht Recipe Makes the Hearty Home-Cooked Soup of my Childhood

This Russian borscht recipe makes the hearty home-cooked soup of my childhood that my baboushka used to make. The Russian-Ukrainian beetroot-driven vegetable soup is served with Russian black bread, sour cream and dill and is a meal in itself. We’d eat it for lunch or dinner the first night then breakfast the next day. In fact it tastes even better a day after it's made when the flavours have melded together.
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 2 hours
Course Soup
Cuisine Russian
Servings made with recipe6 People
Calories 313 kcal

Ingredients
 
 

Stock

  • 4 litres water
  • 500 g pork ribs
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 onion - roughly sliced

Soup

  • 1 large carrot - peeled and sliced into rounds
  • 350 g potatoes - cut into cubes
  • 250 g beetroot - peeled and julienne
  • 330 g cabbage - roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp neutral cooking oil
  • 1 onion - finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves - finely chopped
  • 150 g carrot - finely chopped
  • 400 g tin tomatoes - crushed
  • 1 tsp ground paprika
  • ¼ tsp ground allspice
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp virgin olive oil
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • Fresh dill - handful roughly chopped
  • Fresh curly-leaf parsley - handful roughly chopped

Garnish

  • Sour cream
  • Fresh dill - roughly chopped

Instructions
 

  • Make the stock by cooking the pork ribs with bay leaves, a roughly sliced onion, salt, and pepper in four litres of water in the soup pot for an hour. Bring to a boil then turn down to low. From time to time skim the scum off the top of the water.
  • Meanwhile, prep your vegetables: peel and slice carrots into rounds, peel and cut potatoes into cubes, roughly chop cabbage into a large pieces, peel and julienne beetroot.
  • In a pan, fry the finely chopped onion in a neutral cooking oil until soft, add the finely chopped garlic cloves and carrot, and continue frying until the onion is translucent, taking care not to burn the garlic, then set aside.
  • Remove the pork ribs and set aside, strain the stock to ensure there are no impurities, but keep the onions. Clean the soup pot, then return the stock, onions and pork ribs to the soup pot and simmer on low heat.
  • Add all the vegetables and fried onion, garlic and carrot to the soup pot, along with the crushed tomatoes, olive oil, sugar, and salt and pepper to taste.
  • Bring to boil then reduce to low heat and simmer the soup for a minimum of one hour (the longer you simmer it the better), adding more water if necessary. About ten minutes before serving, add the finely chopped fresh dill and parsley.
  • Ladle out the borscht into bowls and plop a dollop of sour cream into the soup and a few sprigs of dill onto the sour cream. Provide bowls of sour cream and roughly chopped dill on the table for guests to help themselves.

Nutrition

Calories: 313kcalCarbohydrates: 21gProtein: 12gFat: 21gSaturated Fat: 5gPolyunsaturated Fat: 4gMonounsaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 47mgSodium: 592mgPotassium: 748mgFiber: 6gSugar: 11gVitamin A: 6175IUVitamin C: 34mgCalcium: 86mgIron: 2mg

Do let us know if you make my Russian borscht recipe in the comments below, by email or on social media, as we’d love to know how it turns out for you and get your feedback and tips.

SHARE ON SOCIAL MEDIA

Lara Dunston Patreon

AUTHOR BIO

Photo of author
A travel and food writer who has experienced over 70 countries and written for The Guardian, Australian Gourmet Traveller, Feast, Delicious, National Geographic Traveller, Conde Nast Traveller, Travel+Leisure Southeast Asia, DestinAsian, TIME, CNN, The Independent, The Telegraph, Sunday Times Travel Magazine, AFAR, Wanderlust, International Traveller, Get Lost, Four Seasons Magazine, Fah Thai, Sawasdee, and more, as well as authored more than 40 guidebooks for Lonely Planet, DK, Footprint, Rough Guides, Fodors, Thomas Cook, and AA Guides.

18 thoughts on “Russian Borscht Recipe for the Hearty Home-Cooked Soup of my Childhood”

  1. My ancestors are Mennonites who left Ukraine in the 1870s when these pacifist farmers began facing conscription into the Russian army. This is the borscht of my childhood which i still make today. I was shocked when I ordered borscht in a Jewish deli and got beet soup. This is a vastly superior soup!

  2. Borsch (red bit sup) is NOT Russian meal!!! Borsch is traditional UKRAINIAN meal! Schee is traditional Russian meal made of cabbage!

  3. Hello Market Master, what a fascinating history! My grandparents and great grandmother didn’t leave until near the end of World War 2. I agree on the borscht! We had a similar experience in Moscow 20 years ago – my mother, husband and I ordered borscht in a restaurant expecting to get this. We were so looking forward to our first borscht on Russian soil too. What arrived was like warm beetroot juice from a can! It was then that I began to do research and learnt that borscht is regional, that a St Petersburg-style borscht is different to a Siberian borscht, which is different to a Ukrainian borscht, which is different to a Lithuanian borscht. Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment.

  4. Hello O.M, it’s true that one of the earliest mentions of borscht suggests its origins in Ukraine, such as the 1584 diary entry of a German merchant who visited Kiev, however, there’s also a reference to the soup in a 16th century Russian homemaking compendium called “Domostroi (Domestic Order):Rules for Russian Households in the Time of Ivan the Terrible”, and many other references in Russian and Ukrainian texts.

    While all those exclamation marks and capitalisation suggest you’re very passionate about borscht, surely it’s possible to acknowledge that borscht has been cooked and eaten throughout Russia, many Eastern European countries and the ‘Stans, as well as Ukraine, for many centuries – at least 500 years from written evidence, though probably much longer – and that it can be part of the culinary heritage of other cultures and countries too?

    There are many regional styles of borscht in Russia, but shchi is not one of them. Shchi is a different dish to this – it can range in colour from yellow to orange to red and is typically made with cabbage, onion, carrot, celery, tomato and potato. If it’s red it’s from the tomato. There’s no beetroot in shchi. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.

  5. Hello Oleksandr, my family did not only “speak Russian”. My grandparents were born in the early 20th century in Odessa (baboushka) and a village near Kiev (papa), which were then part of the Russian Empire and then later the Soviet Union. They made their way to Italy and onto Australia at the end of World War 2 in 1945. Ukraine declared independence in 1991, some 46 years after they left. So for my grandparents who’d cooked and eaten borscht/borsch their whole lives, it was a Russian dish, as it has been for me for my 54 years. But of course it’s still a Ukrainian dish, it’s thought to have originated in Ukraine, but it’s also a Siberian dish, Lithuanian dish, a Belarusian dish, a Polish dish, and so on. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.

  6. Lara, a longtime lurker here. I’ve really enjoyed your Russian recipes so much so I made this today. It really was outstanding. Just as I remembered it. I do not cook Russian at home but will start to now. I did not realise you had Russian heritage. We have similar backgrounds. I’m Russian-Ukrainian. Grandparents fell in love at the DP camp. Will try some more recipes for sure. Spasiba!5 stars

  7. Hello Marina, wow, I’m so touched that my Russian recipes inspired you to both cook Russian food and leave a comment! I had not heard of DPs meeting and falling in love in the camps before – what a wonderful story! But no surprise considering there were many men and women who took that long journey alone. My papa actually travelled to Australia ahead of my baba, mum and her baba – and amazingly they found eachother at Greta! I hope you won’t be a stranger. I’d so love to get your feedback if you do cook any other recipes to see how they compare to what you grew up eating. Thank you so much for leaving a comment!

  8. Lara,
    Thanks for sharing this interesting recipe. Of course, there are many variations of this dish. For example, I add parsnip sometimes because potato entered Ukrainian cuisine only around 1780. Hence, first Ukrainian borsch was cooked without it.
    As someone who is originally from Ukraine, I will always consider it a Ukrainian dish. Hopefully, soon, with the efforts of a famous Ukrainian chef Yevhen Klopotenko, Ukrainian borsch will appear on UNESCO’s world heritage list, which will put an end to these speculations: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/ukraine-borscht-russia-un/2020/10/20/cc8464b8-0d51-11eb-b404-8d1e675ec701_story.html.

    Unfortunately, this is not the first time when Russia is trying to privatize other countries’ history, territory, culture, and now …cuisine. Also, the correct transliteration of Ukrainian capital is “Kyiv” since 1995. Again, thanks for sharing your version of borsch and best of luck!5 stars

  9. Hello Vasyl, 

Spasiba for the kind words! Yes, there are countless renditions of borsch/borscht, in Ukraine, Russia, Eastern Europe, Central Asia, the Russian-Ukrainian diasporas in Australia, USA, Canada, UK etc, and then all the iterations in homes where cooks put their own stamp on dishes, adapting them to their tastes and ingredients available. 

And of course you’d consider borscht Ukrainian, just as I was raised to think of borscht as Russian.

    From a culinary history perspective, I grappled with calling it ‘Ukrainian’ or ‘Russian’ and if I had no cultural connection to the dish and was a cookbook author or culinary historian writing about borscht and interviewed someone like myself, I would have preferred to call it ‘Russian-Ukrainian’, particularly as my Ukraine-born grandparents identified as Russian (46% of the Ukraine population identified as Russian prior to Independence if Russian Census data is accurate) and had both Russian and Ukrainian friends in Australia and cooked and ate together.

    

Cuisines evolve, meld and blur in diasporas because refugees/immigrants have a tendency to hold onto their culture rather than nation. Friendships such as those within the Russian-Ukrainian communities in Australia were bound by shared cultural connections rather than divided by national allegiances, as allegiances shifted to Australia rather than Russia or Ukraine. I’ve been researching Cambodian cuisine and its culinary history for 7.5 years and have seen how, for instance, Khmer-Americans in the USA cook dishes from Vietnam and Thailand that become such a part of their culinary repertoire that the next generation often see these dishes as their ‘own’ in a way that would be impossible here in Cambodia due to the long, complicated history in which Vietnam and Thailand have been the conquerors and enemies. Cambodians happily embraced and absorbed French culinary influences and eat baguettes as often as Parisians, but it’s rare to see them cooking/eating Vietnamese/Thai dishes despite having incorporated culinary influences from their neighbours, just as their neighbours adopted Khmer dishes and made them their own.

    I acknowledge the evidence suggesting borscht originated in Ukraine, and don’t see any reason to refute that, however, at the same time it has still been cooked in Russia for many centuries so that it’s become a Russian dish. This cannot be denied, just as the provenance of the dish cannot be denied. But we should be able to recognise that it has meaning to both Ukrainians and Russians. Borscht is a dish that has a special place in my heart and soul, as an Australian with Russian heritage. You wouldn’t deny me that, surely?

    

Culinary cultures the world over reject and absorb culinary influences, choosing what they like, ignoring what they don’t. Russia has naturally done that over so many centuries – empires are very good (and very bad!) at doing this – but so has Ukraine. There’s nothing right/wrong about this is, it’s just what happens. It is what cultures do. What a boring world it would be if people only cooked/ate their own indigenous food.


    And I do understand why the UNESCO efforts are important to Ukraine – food is important to cultures and nations – but I don’t place importance on UNESCO listings nor believe they put an end to anything. Look at Thailand. Most of the country’s culture originated in Cambodia; one only has to look at an historical timeline and maps from each significant period of history to appreciate this. Yet Thailand has managed to get Khmer intangible cultural practices UNESCO-listed as Thai, despite the fact they were Khmer. Any Khmer person in Cambodia will tell you that their dance, music, art, architecture, cuisine, crafts etc were “stolen”. I empathise and to an extent agree, however, the Thais have made much of these ‘stolen’ arts/crafts their own over many centuries. Cultural processes are complicated.

    

Re the use of Kyiv/Kiev, yes, I was aware Ukraine adopted ‘Kyiv’ and I normally include the various names of places, dishes etc, but I’ve been so busy I overlooked this. I went with Kiev for the same reason that we write ‘Munich’ rather than ‘München’, ‘Venice’ rather than ‘Venezia’. If I was in Ukraine, naturally I’d use ‘Kyiv’ out of respect, just as I’ve used ‘Milano’ in conversation with Italians in Milan. I also decided to go with ‘Kiev’ simply for the fact that it has ten times the number of search results so more people will get access to our recipes but this does not mean I don’t appreciate that Ukrainians prefer to call Kiev ‘Kyiv’. I do respect that. Thank you again for taking the time to comment and the kind words. Much appreciated.

  10. It came out fantastic. I also grew up in a Russian immigrant household and recently found out that my heritage is actually Ukrainian, this really spoke to me.

    I tweaked it a bit, browned the pork first, used more salt, removed the pork bones at the end and used an immersion blender to make a chunky soup, added back in the meat and more chopped veggies for the last 10-15 minutes. It was so delicious. My apartment smelled like my grandmas house. Thank you!!5 stars

  11. Hello Elena, how did you feel about your ancestral discovery? A lot of DPs – Ukrainians, Russians from Ukrainian, Lithuanians, Poles, etc – changed their names when they got identity cards in the DP camps in Europe because they feared being sent back to where they’d came from.

    We never discussed it but my grandparents might have identified as Russian-Ukrainian even though they were Russian, in the same way as, say, a person of Vietnamese heritage born in Australia thinks of themselves as Vietnamese-Australian. They read Pushkin, Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky, but alongside Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff, their record collection included both Russian and Ukrainian folk music and cossack music.

    I’m pleased you enjoyed the borscht. I sometimes brown the pork too and add more salt, however, if I wrote how much salt in the recipe, people would say it’s too salty, which is why I advise people season to their own taste. My borscht is very chunky, but I do let it simmer for hours. We work from home so have that luxury. I know many don’t, so the immersion blender is a great idea for time-poor cooks. Thanks for that tip!

    And the smell!!! Completely agree; takes me right back to my childhood, probably more so than any other Russian dish. Thank you taking the time to leave a comment.

  12. Not Russian or Ukrainian, Lara. Don’t care where this soup came from, just wanted to let you know this is soooooo good. Been making borscht for years, especially in fall and winter, and this is the best I’ve ever made and eaten. Thank you!5 stars

  13. Ha! Ha! Thanks, Jessica – love to hear this! Thank you so much for taking the time to drop by. Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

  14. I love borscht and make it often, and I’m always searching for new interesting recipes. I’ve tried this one today and it turned out beautiful; deep red in color, with a rich taste and a great texture. I also added a tablespoon of wine vinegar, and served it with lots of smetana and dill)) Thank you for a wonderful recipe, as well as insightful comments about Borscht origin and history. Now I can’t wait to try the recipe for Shchi))5 stars

  15. Hello Mark, thank you so much for the feedback. So pleased it turned out for you! It freezes well also, so I usually have some in the freezer, but don’t at the moment, so will make another batch and try your wine vinegar suggestion. Red wine vinegar I assume? Please do let me know what you think of the Shchi. Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a comment. Appreciated.

  16. Leave the war out of the bors…until91 there was no ukraine, region was a Soviet run by Moscow and before 1900 was under Russian tsar or polish Lithuanian empire. For hundreds of years
    People died on that soil for others…today is the same thing battle between east and west est carried out on the same land by the same people. I just wanted a receipt for Russian borscht

  17. Hi Nico, with all due respect, nobody is forcing you to read anything :) You can click ‘jump to recipe’ and go straight to the borscht recipe. I hope you’ll try the recipe. I worked hard to recreate my baboushka’s recipe (her original recipe is home in Australia). But, sorry to say, I won’t be leaving the war or history out of borscht or any dish, as the provenance and evolution of dishes is something that interests me. As far as the borscht and other Russian/Ukrainian recipes go, I’m writing a cookbook, family memoire and history of the post WW2 Russian and Ukrainian communities in Australia, so the war is integral to that story for me and the recipes that I share here are recipes I’m personally connected to. Although if you read my post, as I said, my grandparents were born in the land that we now know as Ukraine when it was the Russian Empire, so we agree on that. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment :)

Leave a comment

Recipe Rating