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Ukrainian borscht with smetana and pampushkas

Borscht (also borsht, barszcz or borshch) is a soup of Ukrainian origins[1] that is popular in many Eastern and Central European countries. In most of these countries, it is made with beetroot as the main ingredient[2][3], giving it a deep reddish-purple color. In some countries tomato may occur as the main ingredient, while beetroot acts as a secondary ingredient. Other, non-beet varieties also exist, such as the tomato paste-based orange borscht and the green (zelioni) borscht (sorrel soup).



The soup is a staple part of the local culinary heritage of many Eastern and Central European nations.

It made its way into North American cuisine and English vernacular by way of Slavic and Ashkenazi Jewish immigrants from Central and Eastern Europe. Alternative spellings are borshch[4] and borsch [5].

It is called in various languages: Azerbaijani: borș, Czech: boršč, Estonian: borš, Lithuanian: barščiai, Polish: barszcz, Romanian: borș, Russian: борщ, borshch, Slovak: boršč, Ukrainian: борщ, borshch, Yiddish: בארשט, borscht.[6][7]

Hot and cold Borscht

Pink color of traditional Lithuanian cold borscht (šaltibarščiai). Often eaten with a hot boiled potato, sour cream and dill.

There are two main variants of borscht, generally referred to as hot and cold. Both are based on beets, but are otherwise prepared and served differently.

Hot Borscht

Hot Borscht (mostly Ukrainian and Russian), the kind most popular in the majority of cultures, is a hearty soup. It is almost always made with a broth made of beets. It usually contains heavy starchy vegetables including potatoes and beets, but may also contain carrots, spinach, and meat. It may be eaten as a meal in itself, but is usually eaten as an appetizer with thick dark bread.

Cold Borscht

Cold borscht exists in many different cultures. Some of these include Lithuanian (šaltibarščiai), Polish (Chłodnik, literally 'cooler'), Belarusian, Ukrainian (swekolnik) and Russian cultures. As a traditional European cold soup, it is akin to preparations like gazpacho, Hungarian cold tomato and/or cucumber soups and meggyleves.

Polish variants

The basic Polish borscht (barszcz) recipe includes red beetroot, onions, garlic, and other vegetables such as carrots and celery or root parsley. The ingredients are cooked for some time together to produce kind of clear broth (when strained) served as boullion in cups or in other ways. Some recipes include bacon as well, which gives the soup its distinctive, "smoky" taste.

Other versions are richer as they include meat and cut vegetables of various kinds where beetroots aren't the main one (though this soup isn't always called barszcz, but rather beetroot soup). This variation of barszcz isn't strained and vegetable contents are left in it. Such soup can make the main course of obiad (main meal eaten in the early afternoon).

Barszcz in its strictly vegetarian version is the first course during the Christmas Eve feast. It's served with ravioli-type dumplings called "uszka" (lit. "little ears") with mushroom filling (sauerkraut can be used as well, again depending on the family tradition). Typically, this version does not include any meat ingredients, although some variants do.

A key component to the taste of barszcz is acidity. Whilst barszcz can be made easily within a few hours by simply cooking the ingredients and adding vinegar, lemon juice or citric acid; the traditional way is to prepare barszcz several days before and allow it to naturally sour. Depending on the technique; the level of acidity required and the ingredients available, barszcz takes 3–7 days to prepare in this way.

Romanian borș

The word borș is used in Romanian to refer to a kind of sour soup made from fermented wheat bran, which is an important part of Romanian cuisine. To refer to the traditional borscht made from beetroot, Romanians generally say borș rusesc (Russian borscht) or borș de sfeclă (beetroot borscht).

Other regional recipes

Russian borscht with beef and sour cream

There are local variations in the basic borscht recipe:

  • In Belarusian cuisine, the tomatoes are standard, sometimes in addition to beets. It is usually served with smetana (eastern-European style sour cream) and a traditional accompaniment of pampushki (sing. pampushka), small hot breads topped with fresh chopped garlic.
  • In Polish cuisine, the beet basis is not required. Besides the beet-based soup, Polish people enjoy a white Easter borscht, commonly known as barszcz biały or żur. White borscht is made from a base of fermented rye, usually added to a broth of boiled white fresh kiełbasa. It is served hot with cubed rye bread and diced hard-boiled eggs added to the broth, and horseradish is often added to taste.
  • In Russian cuisine, it usually includes beets, meat, and cabbage and optionally potatoes.
  • In East Prussia (now parts of north-east Poland and Kaliningrad, Russia) sour cream (Schmand) and beef is served with the Beetenbartsch (lit. beetroot-borscht).
  • In Lithuanian cuisine, dried mushrooms are often added.
  • In Romanian cuisine, it is the name for any sour soup, prepared usually with fermented wheat bran (which is also called borș), which gives it a sour taste. In fact, Romanian gastronomy uses with no discrimination the words ciorbă, borș or, sometimes, zeamă/acritură. One ingredient that is required in all recipes by Romanian tradition is lovage. Its leaves give a special taste, enhancing the palate experience, which makes the Romanian borș so appreciated by international travelers.
  • In Armenian cuisine, it is served warm with fresh sour cream.
  • In Azerbaijani cuisine, it is served hot and it usually includes beets, potatoes and cabbage and optionally beef. One soup spoon of plain yogurt is added on top, the way it is typically served in Azerbaijan [8].
  • In Doukhobor cuisine, the main ingredient is cabbage, and the soup also contains beets, potatoes, tomatoes and heavy cream along with dill and leeks. This style of borscht is orange in colour, and is always eaten hot.
  • In Hong Kong-style western cuisine, it includes tomatoes instead of beets, and also beef, cabbage, potatoes, bell peppers and carrots. Sometimes chili pepper is added.
  • In Mennonite cuisine, borscht is a cabbage, beef, potato and tomato soup flavoured with onions, dill and black pepper. This soup is part of the cuisine absorbed by Mennonites in Ukraine and Russia. Mennonite "Summer Borscht" contains beet leaves, potatoes, dill, and sausage. It is made with a pork stock, usually made by boiling the sausage contained in the soup.
  • In northern Chinese cuisine, particularly found in and around the city of Harbin in Heilongjiang province, an area with a long history of trade with Eastern Russia, the soup known as hóngtāng ("red soup") is mainly made with red cabbage.
  • In mainland China borshch was borrowed as 罗宋汤 Luósòng-tāng via English ("Russian soup"), Luósòng is not the usual Chinese word for "Russia(n)" (usually: 俄罗斯 Éluósī) but borrowed from the English sound, it is identical to the Russian beef-based borshch.
  • In Ukrainian cuisine, it can be a vegetable soup or based on either chicken or other meat bouillon. Usually it is served with pampushki and smetana. Main ingredients include specially prepared red beets, chopped cabbage, and a tomato sauce.

See also


  1. ^ Sydney Schultze. Culture and customs of Russia. Greenwood Pub Group(2008) pp. 65-66
  2. ^ Definition of Borscht by Vladimir Dal (in Russian)
  3. ^ William Pokhlyobkin about borshch (in Russian)
  4. ^ Oxford English Dictionary
  5. ^ Merriam Webster's Unabridged Dictionary, "borsch" entry
  6. ^ Lukasz Luczaj Guide to Wild Edible Plants, English language website.
  7. ^ Luczaj, Lukasz. Dzikie Rosliny Jadalne Polski. Przewodnik Survivalowy (Wild Edible Plants of Poland. A Survival Handbook). Chemigrafia 2002. (in Polish)
  8. ^

External links


Up to date as of January 23, 2010
(Redirected to Cookbook:Ukrainian Borscht article)

From Wikibooks, the open-content textbooks collection

Cookbook | Recipes | Ukrainian Cuisine


Ukrainian Borscht is a vegetable soup with beetroots as its characteristic ingredient.

It is just a soup for mankind; a matter of principle for the Slavs

If you want to find out about the reason for the conflicts between Ukraine and Russia, do not waste your time reading articles on political issues or language-related arguments. The truth is as plain as the nose on your face: all the conflicts started with the discussion about the origin of Borscht. Ukrainians swear to high heaven that it is a traditional soup of their beloved mother country, but Russians also claim that it is their national dish. They lure customers into their restaurants in New York or Berlin and offer Borscht as a traditional Russian dish.

The Origin of the Name 'Borscht'

Let us first have a look at the name itself. Borscht derives from the Slavic “borshchevik”, which means hogweed. Hogweed was used by the ancestors to add a greenish brown colour to their soup. Even though hogweed is no longer used for preparing Borscht, its name still reminds us of the long history of the soup.

Then and Now

Borscht, like a bird, does not know political boundaries. Despite mud-slinging between the countries of the former Soviet Union, cooking Borscht is getting increasingly popular owing to the internet discussions on its variations. It is not just a bowl of beetroot and cabbage in meat stock; it carries a little fragment of former life in a union with a population of almost 300 million people.

When to Eat Borscht

Borscht is very nourishing, especially if you cook it with meat. That is the reason why it is normally eaten for dinner. Ukrainians are known for eating this hearty vegetable soup with pork as a morning pick-me-up and then again three times throughout the day!


There are different types of Borscht. The choice of ingredients depends on the region or simply on what your fridge offers. Originally there were up to 40 ingredients used for a good plate of Borscht. No matter which ingredients you use in the end, beetroot is the ingredient you need to get the typical red colour. It is often said that there are as many different kinds of Borscht as there are cooks in the Ukraine. Not even my own and my mother's Borscht taste the same. You can vary your recipe according to your taste. For example, leave out meat if you are a vegetarian and avoid garlic if you have an appointment after dinner. A plate of hot Borscht in winter will warm you up and in summer it will be very refreshing if you eat it cold. Especially vegetarian Borscht tastes great when cold. And do not forget to add some sour cream to it!

How to Start and What to Prepare

When you plan to prepare Borscht start early and write “feeding the pot” in your Filofax for that day. It will take you some time to put all the ingredients into the soup. I always make sure that I have true “Borscht beets” with whitish stripes inside. Unfortunately, you will not find out until you come home and start cooking. Do not be afraid of putting too much cabbage into the pot. Beside the beetroot it is the main ingredient of Borscht and it makes the soup thick, which, according to my grandmother, is characteristic of good Borscht. Even if you are used to cooking in spinster-sized pots, you can make an exception when cooking Borscht. Use a large pot for your Borscht. If you have leftovers, simply eat them the next day. Your soup will even taste better than the day before. If you are short of time, buy tinned beans instead of soaking the dried ones overnight. Tinned beans do not need to be cooked, just add them when your Borscht is ready.



Time: 2h


  • 1/2 cup dried beans, soaked in water overnight
  • 2-3 pounds of pork or beef
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 large or 2 medium beets, peeled and julienne
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, peeled and diced
  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced
  • green pepper, diced
  • tomatoes, diced
  • 2 potatoes, cut into thick slices
  • herbs and spices: salt, bay leaf, black pepper, pieces of dried red pepper, thyme
  • 1/2 small cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 3 ounces salted pork fat or bacon
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tbsp chopped dill
  • 1/2 cup yoghurt
  • 1/3 cup of tomato paste

Garnish:sour cream


  • Drain the soaked beans and put aside.
  • Place the meat in a large pot; add 3 cups of cold water.
  • Bring to a boil slowly and remove scum.
  • Add half of the onion and 2 carrots.
  • Reduce to a simmer, partially cover the pot, and cook for about 1 hour.
  • When done, add the beets and beans, bring to a boil, then lower the heat, cover, and simmer until the beans are tender.
  • In the vegetable oil, sweat half of the onion, carrots, and green pepper over low heat until the onions are yellow.
  • Scrape into the pot, simmer for a few minutes, then scrape in tomatoes, potatoes, and spices, and simmer until the potatoes are tender.
  • Add the cabbage and simmer until it has the consistency you like - crunchy or soft.
  • In the meantime, chop the garlic, dill, and pork fat (or bacon) in the food processor, whisk in the yoghurt at the end.
  • When the cabbage is the way you like it, add tomato paste and the garlic-dill-fat mixture.
  • Return the pot to a simmer, then cover the pot, turn the heat off, and let the flavors mingle for at least 30 minutes.
  • When ready to serve, ladle into bowls and top the soup with a dollop of sour cream on top.

Simple English

Borscht (Russian language: борщ, Polish language: barszcz, Lithuanian language: barščiai, Romanian language: borș) is a type of red beet soup eaten in Eastern European countries, such as Russia, Romania Poland, Belarus, Lithuania and Ukraine. It contains red beets, sausage, onion and cabbage. Borscht soup is usually eaten with a piece of black bread.

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