Borsch is a very traditional Russian beets-based stew. It is typically very heavy, savory, and perfect for cold winter nights. I think traditionally it came to be as a way to combine whatever vegetables were available with scraps of meat and fattiness into a hot stew. But I obviously had the option to use more choice ingredients.

I’ve promised Jen to make this soup for a while. She really likes Holodnik, which is another beets-based Russian Soup, but one that is light and served cold. Borsch has meat, potatoes, cabbage while Holodnik has cucumbers and eggs. While both are beet-based, savory, and typically served with sour cream and garnished with dill and scallions, they are very different in their consistencies. Holodnik also is very quick to make, especially since I cheat by using jars of cooked beet soup. But Borsch made from scratch takes a lot of prep, so I took an entire Saturday afternoon to make it (well, by entire afternoon I mean about 3 hours).

As I mentioned, this is a thick stew so it is almost a meal in itself. However, you can serve it with several accompanying dishes, such as Russian Salad.

Borsch (borrowed from Emeril Lagasse)

Yields: 10 servings


  • 1/2 pound bacon, diced (this is definitely not Russian, but it is delicious so I went with it)
  • 1 pound lean beef chuck, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onions
  • 1 carrot, peeled and grated
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons dill seeds
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar, plus more to taste (can also add regular, apple, or any vinegar depending on preference)
  • 2 quarts water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds red beets, greens tops removed
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 large russet potato, peeled and diced
  • 6 cups shredded green cabbage (about half a head of cabbage)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
  • scallions for garnish (optional)


Preheat oven to 350°F. Place the bacon in a Dutch oven or stockpot and cook, stirring, over medium-high heat until the fat begins to render, about 3 minutes. Rendering the fat means that it is cooked over low heat and melts, separating from the meat. Add the beef and cook, stirring, until brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. Remove the meat from the pan with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.


With the remaining fat still in the pan, add the onions and carrots, and stir to coat. Cook until soft, about 4 minutes.

Add the garlic, oregano, dill seeds, and bay leaves and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the red wine vinegar and stir to deglaze the pan. Return the meat to the pot and add the water, salt, and pepper and bring to boil. Reduce the heat and simmer partially covered until the beef is tender, about 2 hours.


Meanwhile, place the beets on a baking sheet and brush with the oil. Roast until tender and can be pierced easily with a knife, about 1 hour. Remove from the oven and let sit until cool enough to handle. Trim the stem and root ends and remove the skins. Coarsely grate and set aside.

When the meat is tender and falling apart, add the beets, potatoes, and cabbage. Simmer over low heat for another 30 minutes.

Season with additional red wine vinegar, salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste. I really like a good level of tartness, so I added some red wine vinegar along with apple vinegar to the Borsch. Ladle borscht into bowls and garnish with a dollop of sour cream and pinch of fresh dill and scallions.

4 Responses to “Borsch”
  1. Natasha says:

    For a more authentic taste try adding caraway seeds instead of oregano. That is how my grandma used to cook it.

    • gooseva says:

      Ah you’re right! The recipe I was using admittedly was not super authentic, but I liked all the ingredients and it turned out very well. Next time I’ll go for more Russian authenticity!

      • Natasha says:

        I do experiment with my borscht too (mostly when I lack an ingredient and too lazy to go shopping). Last time it was Italian sausage instead of beef. Tasted great.

  2. Oh my, that looks brilliant. It’s a real shame I can’t stand beets! Grrrrr.

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