Vegetarian Ukrainian Borscht

February 8, 2023 at 10:23 am (Beans, B_(3 stars, like), Cruciferous rich, Instant Pot, Root vegetables, soup, Spring recipes, Summer recipes, To test on plan, Uncategorized, Website / blog, Winter recipes)

Alma likes beets, as do Derek and I, but I don’t actually make that many dishes with them. I make a beet and lentil salad pretty often, and I occasionally make a beet and potato walnut gratin. And sometimes we just have plain beets as a side. But other than that I don’t use beets that often. I was trying to think of other things to do with beets, and a friend suggested making borscht. Given that we are smack in the middle of winter, I liked the idea of adding another soup to the rotation, so I decided to give it a try. I don’t have a recipe for borscht so I started looking on the internet. Many of the recipes I found call for meat (like this one from Serious Eats). But I found a recipe for a Ukrainian Vegetarian Borscht that looked good to me. I served it for dinner tonight with extra white beans on the side and with dark 100% rye bread from our local farmer’s market.



  • 1 garlic clove, minced (I’d like to try more next time. This well-rated recipe calls for 3 cloves.)
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 1/2 leek finely chopped (My leek was quite large, as was my onion, so I only used 1/2 my onion.)
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 allspice berries (I didn’t have any whole berries, so I used 2 sprinkles of ground allspice. I couldn’t taste it in the final soup)
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and coarsely grated
  • 4 Tbs. (40g) celeriac/celery root, peeled and coarsely grated (don’t substitute celery stalks!)
  • 2 cups (150g) shredded cabbage (or finely chopped)
  • 4 medium beets, peeled and then coarsely grated (I wasn’t sure what a medium beet was. My beets seemed like they were on the large side, so I only used 3, but in the end I felt like the soup needed more beet flavor. Peeling the beets was easy, but grating them by hand was *hard*. I think next time I will either dice the beets or use a food processor to grate them.
  • 3 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed (Again, I wasn’t sure what a medium potato was. I left mine unpeeled. I didn’t care for the rather large pieces of potato in the soup. Next time I’d cut them smaller. Both Derek and Alma liked the potatoes though.)
  • 4 Tbs. parsley, finely chopped (divided)
  • tomatoes or tomato paste (I didn’t add any, because the recipe I was using didn’t call for it, but a lot of recipes including this one do. I’m curious to try it.)
  • 2 to 3 Tbs. white wine vinegar (I used I think 4 Tbs. apple cider vinegar)
  • 2 to 3 Tbs. dill pickle water (I used I think 4 Tbs.)
  • 8 cups (1.9 liters) hot vegetable stock (I used a mix of homemade vegetable broth, water, and bouillon, but only 6 cups because my 4-quart pot was full)
  • 400g (from one can) of white beans, rinsed and drained (I didn’t care for the white beans in the soup, but Derek and Alma liked them)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 Tbs. dill, finely chopped, for serving (I used much more)
  • sour cream for serving (I used creme fraiche)


Different borscht recipes seem to have different orderings. Some have you boil the cabbage first, some have you make the mirepoix in a separate skillet. These are roughly the steps I used.

  1. Make soup base: Mince your garlic and chop your onions and leek. In a 5- to 6-quart pot, heat the oil, then add the onion, garlic, leek, bay leaf and allspice berries and cook gently for 3 minutes, stirring often.
  2. Add shredded vegetables: Stir in the carrot, cabbage and celeriac. Cook for 3 more minutes.
  3. Add beets: Add the beets, potatoes, parsley, 2 tablespoons of vinegar and dill pickle water (each) and most of the stock. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 20 minutes stirring occasionally.
  4. Add beans: Add the beans, more stock if needed, pepper to taste and continue cooking gently for 25 more minutes.
  5. Finish off: Remove from the heat, add more vinegar and pickle water if needed and adjust the seasoning. Serve with sour cream and freshly chopped dill.

The recipe has you cook the base first for 6 minutes then add the beets and potatoes and cook for another 45 minutes (adding the beans in the middle), which I somehow failed to notice. I was running late at that point so I threw the whole thing in the Instant Pot and cooked it for 3 minutes + quick release, then added the beans at the end. The potatoes were definitely done at that point. I think the beets could have possibly used a bit more time.

My notes:

Derek said this soup was good. Not exciting, but hearty and satisfying. Given that Derek didn’t really like the borscht my Mom made when she visited last year, nor the non-vegetarian borscht that a colleague from work shared with him, I will take this as a win. Alma was less excited. She had maybe half a bowl then filled up on plain beans and rye bread and lots of butter. I thought the soup was more flavorful than I expected. I didn’t love the beans and potatoes in the soup, but other than that I thought it was good. I’d like to keep experimenting until I come up with a borscht recipe I really love.

1 Comment

  1. Mats said,

    I make a fairly similar version, but use black beans, which I think stand up better to the other flavors. I also use beets I’ve grown and that I roast (both for flavor and to skin them), plus I use the skins (and other veg parings) when I make the stock. All of this seems to give it more distinctive character instead of being just a veg stew missing the beef.

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