Beet Borscht: A Recipe for Traditional, Healthy Food

I don’t think I’d ever so much as looked at a beet until after college, when I had houseguests who were passing through town. They had learned how to make borscht while serving as missionaries in Russia, and I came home from a long day at work to a simmering pot of the root soup that they’d thoughtfully prepared. I’ll admit that I was a bit nervous at first, but was relieved to find it both delicious and nourishing.

Aside from their earthy taste and vibrant color, beets are incredibly good for you. They contain essential nutrients including potassium, calcium, and various antioxidants as well as copper, magnesium, iron, phosphate, sodium, vitamin C and B-complex, and important trace minerals. They contain folate and betaine, which work together to lower blood levels of homocysteine (an inflammatory compound that can increase the risk of heart disease). Beets are red because of pigments called betacyanins. Although more research needs to be done, betacyanins have been shown to combat cancer in lab mice.

Beets have a special place in Greek mythology as well. They were offered to the Greek god Apollo on a silver tray at his temple at Delphi, and the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite, was said to eat the vegetable to retain her beauty.

Borscht was a mainstay in Russia and the Ukraine back in the 18th century when beets were a staple food item—before potatoes took over. The beet soup can be served cold in the summer, thus preserving the antioxidants and providing a refreshing cool meal. Borscht served simmering hot, however, is perfect for Minnesota’s cold winter evenings.

Although it’s tempting to use tons of beets left over from the spring garden or purchased at low prices this time of year, I’ve found that less is more with this ingredient. Here is my recipe, modified from Full Moon Feast’s Beet Borscht.

(If you are a vegetarian, you can substitute olive oil for the butter or lard and either water or mushroom broth for the beef broth.)

Beet Borscht


3 tbsp butter

1 onion, sliced

2-3 carrots, sliced

5-6 leaves purple cabbage

1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes

3-4 medium sized beets, washed and peeled

1 quart beef broth

1 bay leaf

salt, pepper, lemon juice or apple cider vinegar

sour cream, fresh dill or green onions

  1. Heat 3 tablespoons of butter or lard in a large pan over medium heat.
  2. Add an onion, and sauté. Add carrots and cabbage, sautéing each for around two minutes.
  3. In a separate soup pot, boil 3-4 medium-sized beets (washed and peeled) in a quart of beef broth. (Time permitting, you can boil your beets in water first, making the skin easier to remove.)
  4. Add the onion and cabbage to the broth, along with the tomatoes and a bay leaf.
  5. Bring the pot to a boil. Then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for around 30 minutes.
  6. Remove from heat. Remove the bay leaf. Add salt, pepper, and lemon juice or apple cider vinegar to taste.
  7. Season with sour cream, fresh dill or green onions.


Yael Grauer is a freelance food writer and managing editor of the Performance Menu: Journal of Health and Athletic Excellence. She has a penchant for chocolate and steak. Check out her latest blog posts and writing portfolio at Yael Writes.