Classic Beet Borscht

updated Dec 13, 2023

Learn how to make hearty borscht full of beets, cabbage, and tender beef to keep you warm all winter long.

Serves6 to 8

Makesabout 10 cups

Prep25 minutes

Cook1 hour 35 minutes

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Borscht is the perfect cold-weather soup — it’s rich, earthy, and has just the right amount of sour. I love borscht’s deep ruby-red color, rib-sticking heartiness, and the fact that it’s full of vegetables, which feels like a win come wintertime.

Borscht is endlessly riffable. Plus, it’s a great way to use up the vegetables you have on hand. Because the beets and red cabbage will stain any other vegetables you add a bright red, they’ll end up blending in seamlessly (just watch out for your shirt and kitchen towels!). So if your memories of borscht consist of the sickly sweet jarred variety, you owe it to yourself to give the homemade variety a chance.

The Origins of Borscht

While beet borscht is a staple throughout Eastern Europe, it was originally made by Ukrainians as early as the late 1600s. The most common type of borscht is the bright-red beet variety; however, the term refers to a wide range of sour soups that highlight ingredients like cabbage, rye, and sorrel. The name comes from the Slavic word for common hogweed, which was used to make a pickled soup. Over time, this inspired a wide array of tart soups, among which the Ukrainian beet borscht was most popular.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: Rachel Perlmutter

Ingredients in Borscht

  • Beets. Cut these into slightly larger pieces so they don’t get lost in the soup.
  • Aromatics. A mix of carrots and onions build flavor.
  • Tomato paste. Cook until darkened in color to add a rich depth of flavor.
  • Beef. To make things easier, opt for boneless cuts like chuck roast or pre-cut stew meat.
  • Broth. Use low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth rather than beef so that its flavor doesn’t overpower the beets.
  • Cabbage. Shredded red cabbage boosts the soup’s vibrant color.
  • Vinegar. A generous pour of red wine vinegar adds brightness and cuts through the rich soup. It also helps maintain the vibrant color.

Hot Borscht vs. Cold Borscht

Borscht is served both hot and cold, although the ingredients vary. Hot borscht is typically chunky, served with a dollop of sour cream on top. Cold borscht is often a little smoother and creamier, with sour cream or buttermilk stirred in for a light, bright fuchsia pink soup.

What to Serve with Borscht

Serve this warm borscht with a dollop of sour cream on top. I like to stir in a little horseradish to give the creamy topping a little kick. While cucumbers are traditionally reserved as a topping for chilled borscht, I think they work well on hot soup as well, adding a fresh, cooling flavor. Lastly, you can’t go wrong with a generous sprinkling of dill fronds for herby freshness.

Borscht Recipe

Learn how to make hearty borscht full of beets, cabbage, and tender beef to keep you warm all winter long.

Prep time 25 minutes

Cook time 1 hour 35 minutes

Makes about 10 cups

Serves 6 to 8

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the borscht:

  • 1

    large yellow onion

  • 1 pound

    boneless beef chuck roast or stew meat

  • 2 teaspoons

    kosher salt, divided, plus more as needed

  • 2 tablespoons

    olive oil, divided

  • 1 (6-ounce) can

    tomato paste

  • 2 (32-ounce) cartons

    low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth (about 8 cups)

  • 2

    dried bay leaves

  • 1 1/4 pounds

    loose red beets (about 3 large)

  • 3

    medium carrots (about 10 ounces)

  • 1

    large russet potato (about 8 ounces)

  • 1/2

    small red cabbage (about 1 pound)

  • 1/4 cup

    red wine vinegar

  • 1/4 cup

    packed light brown sugar

For serving:

  • 1/2 medium bunch

    fresh dill

  • 1/2

    medium English cucumber (optional)

  • 1 (8-ounce) container

    sour cream (1 cup)

  • 1 tablespoon

    prepared horseradish (optional)

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 400ºF. Halve and thinly slice 1 large yellow onion (about 2 cups). Trim off any large pieces of fat from 1 pound boneless beef chuck roast, then cut into rough 1-inch pieces (no need to cut stew meat). Season the beef with 1 teaspoon of the kosher salt.

  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the beef in a single layer and sear until browned all over, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.

  3. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the onion and cook, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon, until golden brown and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomato paste is slightly darkened, 2 to 4 minutes.

  4. Return the beef and any accumulated juices to the pot. Add 2 (32-ounce) cartons low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth and 2 dried bay leaves. Scrape the bottom of the pot to loosen any browned bits, increase heat to high, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Simmer until the beef is tender, about 1 hour.

  5. Meanwhile, peel and cut 1 1/4 pounds loose red beets into 3/4-inch pieces (about 3 1/2 cups). Peel and dice 3 medium carrots (about 1 1/2 cups). Peel and dice 1 large russet potato (about 1 1/2 cups). Place on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with the remaining 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Toss to combine and spread into an even layer. Roast until crisp-tender and browned in spots, about 30 minutes.

  6. Prepare the cabbage and toppings while the vegetables are roasting: Cut the core from 1/2 small red cabbage, then thinly slice (about 3 cups). Coarsely chop the leaves and tender stems from 1/2 medium bunch fresh dill. Dice 1/2 medium English cucumber if desired. Add 1 tablespoon prepared horseradish and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt to 1 (8-ounce) container sour cream and stir to combine if desired.

  7. Add the roasted vegetables, cabbage, 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, and 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar to the pot and stir to combine. Simmer until the cabbage is tender and everything is bright red, about 15 minutes. Discard the bay leaves. Taste and season with more kosher salt as needed. Top each serving with the cucumber, dill, and a dollop of the horseradish sour cream if desired.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The borscht can be made up to 2 days ahead. Let cool and refrigerate in an airtight container. Rewarm on the stovetop.

Storage: Refrigerate the borscht in an airtight container for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating with more water or broth as needed to thin out to the desired consistency.