I grew up in a region of Canada that’s host to a lot of people with eastern European ancestry – Ukrainian, mostly, so there was always borscht and pierogi around. Though my dad’s family was also German speaking, we think they were probably from Prussia and so also carried these kinds of foods with them.
Since beets, carrots, and potatoes are all stars of the harsh Manitoba gardening season, borscht, or red beet soup, was a mainstay. Not vegetarian then, but this plant based version is really excellent. I know beets are kind of love it or lump it, and if you really hate that earthy sweetness that beets have, this isn’t the recipe for you. Try my chocolate beet muffins instead.
It’s a lighter soup that works well anytime from autumn to spring, whenever you might see beets growing in gardens, but I think it’s best in autumn when the main crop potatoes are ready. New potatoes shouldn’t be shredded up into soup.
I typically serve this vegan borscht with sourdough rye bread to make a meal, but if you want something more protein-focused, try this wintery lentil beetroot soup, which also features red cabbage. If you’ve never had borscht, it is a slightly sour soup and has a distinct earthy/sour flavour that isn’t for everyone – but if you like beets, you’ll love it.
- Vegetables: the vegetables, apart from the beetroot, can be a bit flexible here. Add parsnips, or celeriac, cabbage, chard, whatever you like that’s in season. I like the heartiness the potatoes add but do often switch carrot for parsnip especially moving further into winter.
- Canned tomatoes: an equal amount of fresh tomatoes can be subbed in for canned – my plants just don’t do well enough here to think of putting my hard-won garden tomatoes into a soup! If you’re in that transitional period between summer and autumn and have an abundance, though, it’s very nice to use fresh tomatoes here.
- Vegetable broth: if you don’t have broth on hand, feel free to use water and season appropriately.
- Dill: it’s possible to use dried dill, or even dill seed, but certainly use fresh if you can. Frozen or freeze dried are good options too.
- Mustard: this should be something like a German mustard or Dijon mustard, but absolutely not yellow hotdog mustard.
I know mustard might seem like a strange thing to add. It plays a large role in my lentil potato stew, as well, and it’s a bit surprising but very tasty. Mustard is a bit hot and a bit sour, so it adds to the sharpness of the soup, while also adding a bit of kick.
If you have a food processor with a grating attachment, it makes very short work of the vegetables and I highly recommend it. Grating all of this by hand takes ages and increases the prep time significantly, but it’s certainly possible, and easier with extra hands if you have someone around to cook with.
Vinegar is optional depending on how sour you like your borscht. I always add it but Graham doesn’t like it so much. If you’re vegan, I suggest a plain mild yogurt like an oat or lupine based version. Coconut is a no-go.
How to Store
Storage: leftovers can be stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to three days, and can also be served chilled.
Freezing: transfer cooled soup into an airtight container and freeze for up to a month. Thaw in the refrigerator.
- Season to taste: as with any soup, I can’t stress enough how important it is to season to taste. Most of the time homemade soup is lacking salt and that’s all it needs. I write recipes to publish with less salt than I actually use to account for your tastes rather than mine – I generally use about double what’s written for savoury recipes.
- Don’t worry about peeling: you can cut off any particularly thick or knobbly bits, but otherwise, there’s no need to peel the vegetables for this recipe. The peel is good for you!
More Beet Recipes
Beets and Greens Tart
Beet Salad with Spinach
Roasted Beet Lentil Salad
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- 3 medium beets
- 2 medium carrots
- 2 medium potatoes
- ½ one large onion
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 400 ml canned tomatoes
- 2 litres water or 8 cups vegetable stock
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 10 grams fresh dill, plus extra for serving
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar optional
- Yogurt for serving
- Prepare your vegetables as needed, then run the beets, carrots, potatoes, onion, and garlic through the shredding attachment on a food processor. Alternatively, shred on the large side of a box grater and mince the garlic.3 medium beets, 2 medium carrots, 2 medium potatoes, 1/2 one large onion, 3 cloves garlic
- Heat a large pot over medium heat and add the olive oil. Once it's hot, add the shredded vegetables and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the volume is reduced and the vegetables are sweating and starting to brown.1 tablespoon olive oil
- Add the canned tomatoes, vegetable stock, salt, and pepper. Cover and bring the soup to a rolling boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes.400 ml canned tomatoes, 2 litres water, 1 teaspoon sea salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- Check that the vegetables are cooked through, then remove from the heat and add the mustard, dill, and vinegar (if using). Taste and season as needed.1 teaspoon dijon mustard, 10 grams fresh dill, plus extra for serving, 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- Serve immediately, topped with yogurt (vegan if needed) and extra dill. Borscht freezes very well, up to a month in a sealed container, and can also be eaten cold if preferred.Yogurt
* For American cup measurements, please click the pink link text above the ingredient list that says ‘American’.
Nutrition is provided as a courtesy and is an estimate. If this information is important to you, please have it verified independently.
This post was originally published in 2014. It has been updated with improvements to the recipe and text and new photos were added as of September 2020.
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