Mostly Traditional Borscht

This soup comes to me by way of Miss N, the nanny we had working for us two summers ago. She is from the Ukraine or maybe Russia, I’m not totally sure as she said the place where she is from is no longer the same place. In any event, we made it together one afternoon, and I didn’t write down the recipe, mostly because I didn’t have high hopes for it turning out well. She didn’t approve of my choice of beets, dill, potatoes, or pretty much anything. It turned out awesome, however, and I was sad I hadn’t written it down.

With autumn popping up so quickly, I felt like soup the other night and after a quick check of the freezer and fridge, I realized I had more or less all the ingredients I remembered us using, and so, I recreated it. The other awesome thing about this soup is that soup-hating Kale agreed to eat it on the principle that it is Technicolor fuchsia. 

Like pretty much all of my soup recipes, I don’t really have measurements to give you. Trust your instincts because it’s seriously hard to screw soup up. 

Delicious Deliciousness - mostly traditional borscht

Mostly Traditional Borscht


  • 2 litres ish of stock (beef, pork, or vegetable)
  • 1 white onion, chopped up
  • 1 shallot I had kicking around, chopped up
  • 2 cloves garlic, smushed
  • 1/2 head cabbage ( I used purple because it’s what I had), sliced thinly into stringies
  • beets – I had about 16 assorted sized ones leftover from my CSA, some golden ones, some really dark ones, and some teeny tiny ones. We’ll talk beet prep in a minute.
  • potatoes – Miss N would have chided me for using russets, as she said the nugget ones are better. I used the smallest ones in my bag, about five. I peeled them, sliced, and quartered them.
  • Carrots – I used two medium ones, chopped into disks.
  • Other Veggies – I added in a chopped up sad, nearly wilty fennel bulb from the fridge, and a couple of mini zucchinis we had. You could also add: celery, parsnips, turnip, spinach, etc.
  • Fresh dill (when Miss N and I made this, I used dried and if looks could kill…)

First, you need stock. I decided to use a package of ground pork that had been frostbitten in our deep freeze. Traditionally, you would use beef stock, but you could use vegetable too and if homemade stock is not in your wheelhouse, go buy two of those one litre tetra pack thingies. I got out my biggest pot and put about a 1 lb package of meat into the pot and covered it with about 2 litres of water and let it do its thing for about an hour. Strain off the stock from the bits you used to make it, and return the stock to your giant ass pot on the stove. (While my stock is happening, I am working on the next sections at the same time).

Get your beet on. Scrub your beets, top and tail them (don’t peel them just yet), put them in a large pot and cover them with water. Boil until tender but not so soft they smush. Remove the pot from the stove. If you’d like, grab a few cups of the beet water and add to the stock. Cool the beets off by running a stream of cooler water into the pot – I usually just stick the pot into my sink and let it do its thing for a few minutes. When you can reach your hand in there without burning yourself, slip the beet skins off using your hands – voila! (Put those into the chicken bucket. What, you don’t have a chicken bucket?) Put the hot beets aside, we’re going to do something else with them in a minute when they cool.

Ain't no party like an onion party.

Prep your oniony-things and cabbage. Pan fry your onion gently with some butter or oil, and add in the shallot (if you’re using) and garlic. I swear that sauteing these on their own gives them better flavour in your soup. I also added in my fennel here, as it was a pretty tough fennel. Once they are nice and translucent, I turned up the heat, added in the sliced up cabbage stringies, and then about 1/2 cup of stock from my stock pot, and slammed a lid on it. Let it chill out and steam for 5 ish minutes, stirring once in a while if your stove tends to get too hot, or ignore it, whatever.

Chop up your other veggies. While the cabbage was steaming, I chopped up the potatoes, carrots and zucchinis. Just a note, I prep and cook the veggies all a bit differently so there are a variety of textures and flavours going on in the finished product. 

Collate. There is nothing finer to me than being able to use the word collate in a recipe. Into the stock add the chopped up veggies and the oniony-things and cabbage. Take all those slightly less nuclear hot beets and pull out your grater. Grate them into the pot. It is crazy efficient and fast. Chop up the dill (I had one of those plastic flat packages from the grocery store) and stir it in. Let the whole thing blend together for whatever time you have. You don’t want the veggies to be complete mush, but you want the potatoes and carrots you added in raw to be edible. I let it simmer for about 1.5 hours. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve. Ladle into bowls and blob some sour cream on there. We served with some crusty rolls and had seconds and thirds.




    1. Thanks! I’m pretty laid back about cooking except for baking, where I tend to get pretty exact. And I like reading recipes that have a back story and a bit of a conversation in them so I am glad to hear it is relatable when I write it that way too!

  1. Thanks a lot, Jen. Now I have a craving for borscht.

    I haven’t had any since my dad passed away 8 years ago as he never really wrote down the recipe but I did watch him make it many times. Funny thing is his was completely different and MEAT FREE. I’ve searched and searched the internet over the years and finally figured out it’s doukhobor borscht. I now know what we’re having for thanksgiving dinner… screw turkey!

    PS: Found a web site with the key base ingredients he used. Cream and butter… that is the secret. He also only used the green pepper for flavour in the broth and the beet for colour. He’d pull both of them out when he was done cooking it all. And he used MUCH MORE dill – the whole bloody big bundle of it. Funny thing was every time I put sour cream in my bowl he’d give me major shit!

    Here’s the site if you happen to not care about calories:

    1. I think the best way to describe it is “cabbage soup”. Unless, of course, you use 16 beets. Then it becomes “beet soup”. 🙂

    1. I think some people put it in. The straight from Europe nanny did! I think it depends what region people come from – I’ve read that Mennonites substitute the cabbage in for beets, etc. I tink because we refer to all “purple” soup as borscht, there is flexibility.

Comments are closed.