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 Russia’s 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.
This is the Russian borscht of my childhood growing, which is why it’s a deep amber-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’s a reason for that, which I’ll tell you about below.
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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 Russian 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 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. They identified as Russian, and I was raised as an Australian of Russian cultural heritage, despite the fact that my grandparents were born in the land that what we now recognise as the country called Ukraine.
Throughout my childhood, the word ‘Ukraine’ was never mentioned. 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. Yet Papa was born in a village near the Ukrainian capital Kiev and my baba was born in Odessa. During the countless long lunches that turned into dinners she’d tell wonderful tales of summers spent in the Crimea on the Black Sea.
That explains why the Russian recipes of my childhood, including this Russian borscht recipe, may perhaps be a Russian-Ukrainian fusion of sorts. 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’ve used pork ribs for my 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. I’ve tried to recreate my Baba’s borscht that I grew up eating and this recipe results in that but it may be a different borscht to that with which you’re familiar and grew up slurping.
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 beetroot in in this Russian borscht recipe, but it may not result in that vivid ruby or purple shade that you want.
Lastly: while you can certainly cook this Russian borscht recipe in an hour and have a delicious borscht 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
- 4 litres water
- 500 g pork ribs
- 4 bay leaves
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 onion roughly sliced
- 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
- ½ tsp paprika
- 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
- Sour cream
- Fresh dill roughly chopped
- 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.
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.