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Experience the wholesome flavor of one of Eastern Europe’s most popular sour soups with our borsch recipe, perfect for a hearty, nutritious meal that keeps well and can feed the whole family.
Few soups come as hearty as borsch, as we’re about to find out. While sour soups are hugely popular across both Europe and Northern Asia, our recipe closely aligns itself with traditional Ukrainian borsch, which combines beetroot and sauteed vegetables in a flavorsome sour soup.
Be it to warm you up on a cold winter’s eve, or enjoyed cold to add a tart twist to your backyard lunch in the heat of the summer sun, the possibilities with borsch are endless.
What is Borsch?
Borsch (also spelled as ‘borscht’ or ‘borsht’) can trace its origins to an ancient European soup made from a plant known as hogweed. Our ancestors would gather the stems, stalks, and leaves of this plentiful plant that grew in wet meadows, pickle them, and then cook the soup from these ingredients.
Through the ages, this style of soup spread across Europe and Northern Asia, naturally evolving with the inclusion of different ingredients.
While borsch recipes are both plentiful and diverse, many people today associate “borsch” with the Ukrainian variation, renowned for its deep red color from the use of beetroot in the recipe.
That famous dish, which can be served both hot or cold, is the subject of our borsch recipe. However, if you’re intrigued to experiment with this sour soup, you will find variations of it in many other countries, including Eastern Europe in the likes of Moldovan cuisine and Romanian cuisine, Northern Europe in the likes of Lithuanian cuisine and Latvian cuisine, and across Northern Asia in the likes of Russian cuisine and Chinese cuisine.
Can you make Vegetarian Borsch?
You absolutely can, and in Ukrainian cuisine (and all other cuisines) it is common to make borsch both with and without meat. For a vegetarian version of this recipe, simply skip the meat part.
To make our hearty borsch recipe, you’ll first need to assemble the following ingredients:
- Pork Belly* – 500 grams (1.1 lb)
- Potatoes – 4 medium potatoes
- Beetroots – 4 small beetroots, cooked
- Carrot – 1 medium
- White Onion – 1 medium
- Cabbage – 1/4 small cabbage
- Sunflower Oil – 1 tbsp
- Butter – 1 tbsp
- Apple Cider Vinegar – 2 tbsp
- Tomato Paste – 3 tbsp
- Bay Leaves – 3
- Sugar – 1 tsp
- Salt – 2 tsp
- Black Pepper – 1/2 tsp
- Herbs (Parsley) – 1 bunch
- Sour Cream, for serving
*You can also use other pork cuts like ribs or butt.
Step 1 – Cut the pork belly into slices and then add it to a pot of boiled water and slowly boil it on the stove for about 40 minutes. Remember to remove the white foam that forms on the surface of the water while the meat is boiling.
Step 2 – Prepare your vegetables: potatoes, carrots, onion, beets, and cabbage. First, peel the potatoes, carrot, onion, and beets. Then dice the potatoes into cubes, grate the carrot and the beets, dice the onion, and shred the cabbage. Place your prepared vegetables onto separate plates or in bowls, as shown below:
Grated Raw Carrot
Grated Cooked Beets
Diced or Grated Raw Onion
Diced Raw Potatoes
Shredded Raw Cabbage
Step 3 – Add the oil and butter to a pan over medium heat, then add the onion, and sautee for about 2-3 minutes (carefully so it doesn’t burn; lower the temperature as needed if the heat is too high).
Step 4 – Add carrots and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
Add the tomato paste, grated beets, vinegar, sugar, and 1 tsp of salt. Sautee for 2-3 minutes.
Then put a lid on the pan and cook for another 2 or 3 minutes.
Step 4 – Remove the meat after 40 minutes once it’s ready and to the pot of water, add the potatoes and the shredded cabbage and boil for about 20 minutes until the potatoes are fork-tender.
Step 5 – Once the potatoes are fork-tender, add the pork belly back in the pot along with all the sauteed vegetables from the pan, black pepper, bay leaves, meat, and chopped parsley (leave some fresh herbs for topping). Boil over low heat for about 2 minutes.
Step 6 – Put a lid on the pot and turn the heat off. Let the borsch rest for about 8-10 minutes.
Step 7 – Remove the bay leaves and serve in bowls.
What to Serve with Borsch
Sour Cream – To keep things traditional, top it with a dollop of sour cream and fresh herbs.
Bread – Like any other soup, borsch goes hand-in-hand with a few slices of soft, crusty, fresh bread.
Dumplings – The likes of Polish pierogi or Ukrainian varenyky can make for a hearty side for the soup. You can put them in the soup or serve them on the side.
Dive in with your spoon, and enjoy each and every hearty mouthful, tinged with tartness, of this widely popular and beloved soup, be it hot or cold, with or without meat.
Borsch Recipe Card
- 500 grams (1.1 lb) pork belly
- 4 medium potatoes
- 4 small beetroots, pre-cooked
- 1 medium carrot
- 1 medium white onion
- 1/4 small cabbage
- 1 tbsp sunflower oil
- 1 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 3 tbsp tomato paste
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1 bunch parsley
- sour cream, for serving
- Cut the pork into slices or cubes (depending on the cut of the meat), then add to a pot of water and slow boil for about 40 minutes. Remember to remove the white foam that forms on the surface of the water while the meat is boiling.
- While the meat is boiling, prepare your key vegetables: potatoes, carrots, onion, beets, and cabbage. First, peel the potatoes, carrot, onion, and beets. Then dice the potatoes into cubes, grate the carrot and the beets, dice the onion, and shred the cabbage. Place your prepared vegetables onto separate plates or in bowls.
- Add the oil and butter to a pan over medium heat, then add the onion, and sautee for about 2-3 minutes (carefully so it doesn’t burn; lower the temperature as needed if the heat is too high).
- To the pan, add carrots and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
- Then, to the pan, add the tomato paste, grated beets, vinegar, sugar, and 1 tsp of salt. Sautee for 2-3 minutes.
- Put a lid on the pan and cook over low heat for another 2 or 3 minutes. Turn the heat off and set the pan aside.
- Remove the meat once it's ready (after roughly 40 minutes if using pork belly cut similarly to the one in our recipe), and to the pot of water from which you removed the meat, add the potatoes and the shredded cabbage and boil for about 20 minutes until the potatoes are fork-tender.
- Once the potatoes are fork-tender, add the pork belly back to the pot and add all the sauteed vegetables from the pan, the black pepper, bay leaves, and cut-up parsley (leave some parsley for topping). And boil the pot over low heat for about 2 minutes.
- After the 2 minutes have elapsed, put a lid on the pot and turn the heat off. Let the borsch rest for about 8-10 minutes.
- Remove the bay leaves from the pot and serve the borsch in bowls. To keep things traditional, top it with a dollop of sour cream and fresh parsley.
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Contributor: Efimia is a Moldovan teacher and passionate home cook, who has been feeding family and friends with her delicious home-cooked dishes for over 40 years and counting.