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"Borsch", "borshch", and "borsht" redirect here. For other uses, see Borsch (disambiguation).
Borscht served.jpg
A bowl of borscht garnished with dill and a dollop of smetana, or sour cream
Type Soup
Place of origin Ukraine
Associated national cuisine Various East European cuisines
Cooking time 3 hours to 6 hours
Serving temperature Hot or cold
Main ingredients Beetroot
Cookbook: Borscht  Media: Borscht

Borscht is a soup of Ukrainian origin[1] that is popular in many Eastern and Central European cuisines, including those of Ukraine, Belarus, Poland, and Russia. In most of these countries, it is made with beetroot as the main ingredient. In some countries, tomato is used as the main ingredient, while beetroot acts as a secondary ingredient. Other varieties that do not use beetroot also exist, such as the tomato paste-based orange borscht and green borscht (sorrel soup).[citation needed] Potatoes and cabbage are also standard; some regions have green borscht, where green spinach is substituted for the cabbage.[2][3]


Common hogweed, historically the principal ingredient of borscht

The English word borscht, also spelled borsch, borsht, or bortsch,[4] comes from Yiddish באָרשט‎ (borsht), which derives from Ukrainian or Russian борщ (borshch).[5][6] The latter, together with cognates in other Slavic languages,[a] comes from Proto-Slavic *bŭrščǐ 'hogweed', and ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *bhr̥sti- < *bhares-/bhores- 'point, stubble'.[7][8][9] Common hogweed (Heracleum sphondylium) was the soup's principal ingredient[9] before it was replaced with other vegetables, notably beetroot. The beetroot borscht was invented in what is now Ukraine and first brought to North America by Yiddish-speaking Ashkenazi Jews from Eastern Europe.

Ingredients and preparation[edit]

Typical Ukrainian borscht is traditionally made from meat and/or bone stock, sautéed vegetables, and beet sour, that is, fermented beetroot juice. Depending on the recipe, some of these components may be omitted or substituted.

The stock is typically made by boiling meat, bones, or meat and bones. Beef, pork or a combination of both are most commonly used, with brisket, ribs, shank and chuck considered to give the most flavorful results, especially if cooked on a high flame. Marrow bones are considered best for the bone stock. Meat stock is usually cooked for about two hours, whereas bone stock takes four to six hours to prepare. Meat and bones are usually removed afterwards and the meat is only added back into the soup about 10–15 minutes before the borscht is done. Some recipes call for smoked meats, resulting in a distinctively smokey borscht, while other use poultry or mutton stock. Fasting varieties are typically made with fish stock to avoid the use of meat, while purely vegetarian recipes often substitute the stock with wild mushroom broth.[10][11]

The vegetables most commonly added to borscht are beetroots, white cabbage, carrots, parsley root, potatoes, onions, and tomatoes. Some recipes may additionally call for beans, tart apples, turnip, celery, zucchini or bell peppers. Parsnip may be used as a substitute for parsley root, and tomato paste is often used in addition to or instead of fresh tomatoes.[10] The traditional technique of preparing the soup is to precook the vegetables – by sautéing, braising, boiling or baking – separately from the meat and only then to combine them with the stock. This distinctive feature of borscht derives from the practice of slow cooking in the Russian oven (traditional masonry stove, used for both cooking and heating), wherein the differences in cooking times of individual ingredients had to be taken into account in order to ensure that all components reach doneness at the same time. The importance of this method is reflected in the Russian language, where a variant in which all vegetables are added raw directly into the stock, is referred to by the diminutive form borshchok[b] rather than borshch.[12] Vegetables are usually julienned, except for potatoes and zucchini, which are diced. The beetroots may be partially baked before being sprinkled with vinegar or lemon juice to preserve the color and braised separately from other vegetables. Onions, carrots, parsley root, turnip and other root vegetables are sautéed (traditionally in animal fat, especially lard or butter) and then mixed with tomatoes or tomato paste. Dry beans are boiled separately. Potatoes and cabbage are boiled in the stock for about 15 minutes before the precooked vegetables are added.[10][13]

A tureen of hearty borscht

The dominant tastes in borscht are sweet and sour. This combination is traditionally obtained through the addition of beet sour.[12] It is made by covering sliced beetroots with lukewarm preboiled water and allowing for lactic fermentation to convert some of the sugars present in beetroots into lactic acid. Stale rye bread is often added to hasten the process, but usually omitted in Jewish recipes, as the addition of chametz (leavened bread) would make the sour unfit for Passover meals. Sugar, salt and lemon juice may be also added to balance the flavor. After about 2–5 days (or 2–3 weeks without bread), the deep red, sweet and sour liquid may be strained and is ready to use. It is added to borscht shortly before the soup is done, as prolonged boiling would cause the tart flavor to dissipate.[10] The beet sour is known in Slavic languages as kvas[c] (literally 'sour, acid'; compare kvass) and in Yiddish as rosl[d] (from a Slavic word originally referring to any brine obtained by steeping salted meat or vegetables in water; compare Russian rassol[e] 'pickle juice', Polish rosół 'broth'). Apart from its employment in borscht, it may be also added to prepared horseradish or used as pot roast marinade.[14]

As the traditional method of making borscht with beet sour often requires planning at least several days ahead, many recipes for quicker borscht replace the beet sour with fresh beetroot juice, while the sour taste is imparted by other ingredients, such as vinegar, lemon juice or citric acid, tomatoes, tart apples, dry red wine, dill pickle juice, sauerkraut juice, fermented rye flour and water mixture, etc.[13][15] The soup is typically flavored with a wide selection of herbs, spices and condiments. Salt, black pepper, garlic, bay leaves, and dill are among the most commonly used. Other aromatics often added to borscht include allspice, celery, parsley, marjoram, hot peppers, saffron, horseradish, ginger, and prunes. Some recipes require the addition flour or roux to further thicken the borscht. A common opinion is that a good borscht should be thick enough for a spoon to stand upright in it.[10][16]


Borscht with beans

As the home country of the beetroot borscht, Ukraine boasts great diversity of the soup's regional variants, with virtually every district having its own recipe. Differences between particular varieties may regard the type of stock used (meat, bone, or meat and bone), the kind of meat (beef, pork, poultry, etc.), the choice of vegetables and the method of cutting and cooking them. For example, while the typical recipe calls for beef and pork, the Kiev variant uses mutton or lamb instead, while in the Poltava region, the stock for borscht is cooked on poultry meat, that is, chicken, duck or goose. The use of zucchini, beans and apples is characteristic of the Chernihiv borscht; additionally, in this variety, beetroots are sautéed in oil rather than lard, and the sour taste comes solely from tomatoes and tart apples. The Lviv borscht is based on bone stock and is served with chunks of Vienna sausages.[17]

Many regional recipes for borscht have also developed in Russian cuisine. Examples include the Moscow borscht, served with pieces of beef, ham and Vienna sausages; Siberian borscht with meatballs; and Pskov borscht with dried smelt from the local lakes. Other unique Russian variants include a monastic Lenten borscht with marinated kelp instead of cabbage, and the Russian Navy borscht (flotsky borshch[f]), whose defining characteristic is that the vegetables are cut into square or diamond-shaped chunks rather than julienned.[10][16]

Polish clear Christmas Eve borscht served over uszka, or ear-shaped mushroom-filled dumplings

In addition to the hearty, thick borschts described above, Polish cuisine offers a ruby-colored beetroot bouillon known as barszcz czysty czerwony, or clear red borscht. It is made by combining strained meat-and-vegetable stock with wild mushroom broth and beet sour. In some versions, smoked meat may be used for the stock and the tartness may be obtained or enhanced by the addition of lemon juice, dill pickle brine, or dry red wine. It may be served either in a soup bowl or – especially at dinner parties – as a hot beverage in a twin-handled cup, with a croquette or a filled pastry on the side. Unlike other types of borscht, it is not whitened with sour cream.[18] Barszcz wigilijny, or Christmas Eve borscht, is a variant of the clear borscht that is traditionally served during the Polish Christmas Eve supper, a meal that is both fasting and festive. In this version, meat stock is either omitted or replaced with fish broth, usually made by boiling the heads cut off from fish used in other Christmas Eve dishes. The mushrooms used for cooking the mushroom broth are reserved for uszka (small filled dumplings), which are then served with the borscht.[19]

Cold borscht served with a hard-boiled egg and sprinkled with chives

In the summertime, cold borscht is a popular, refreshing alternative to the aforementioned variants, which are normally served hot. It consists of beet sour blended with sour cream, buttermilk and/or yogurt, and refrigerated. The mixture has a distinctive lively pink color. It is typically served over grated beetroot, finely chopped cucumbers, radishes and green onion, together with halves of a hard-boiled egg and sprinkled with fresh dill. Chopped veal, ham, or crawfish tails may be added as well.[10][20][21] This soup probably originated in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which comprised the territories of modern-day Lithuania and Belarus, and it is still part of the culinary traditions of these and neighboring nations. The Lithuanian language is the only one in the region which actually refers to it as 'cold borscht' (šaltibarščiai). In Belarusian it is known simply as khaladnik,[g] or 'cold soup'; in Polish as chłodnik litewski, or 'Lithuanian cold soup'; and in Russian as svekolnik,[h] or 'beetroot soup'.[12]

Ashkenazi Jews living in Eastern Europe have adopted beetroot borscht from their Slavic neighbors and adapted it to their taste and religious requirements. As combining meat with milk is proscribed by kosher dietary laws, Jews have developed two variants of the soup: meat borscht (fleischik) and dairy borscht (milchik). The meat variant is typically made from beef brisket and cabbage, while the dairy one is blended with sour cream or a mixture of milk and egg yolks. Both variants typically contain beetroots and onions, and are flavored with beet sour, vinegar or citric acid for tartness and beet sugar for sweetness. Galician Jews have traditionally liked their borscht particularly sweet. Jewish borscht may be served either hot or cold, typically with a hot boiled potato on the side.[22]

Without beets[edit]

While in the English language borscht refers almost invariably to a beet-based soup, in some culinary cultures there exist soups with the same or similar names where beetroots are absent or merely optional. The principal common trait among them is the tart flavor obtained by the addition of various sour-tasting ingredients.[12]

In Romanian cuisine, it is the name for any sour, hearty soup, prepared usually with a fermented liquid, which is also called borș and gives it its sour taste. This ingredient consists of wheat or barley bran, sometimes sugar beet, fermented in water[23] - a slightly yellowish liquid which can also be drunk as such. In fact, Romanian gastronomy uses with hardly any discrimination the Turkish word ciorbă, borș or, sometimes, zeamă ("soup") or acritură (based on the word for "sour").[24] Romanian borș recipes can include various kinds of vegetables and any kind of meat, including fish. "Borș/ciorbă de perişoare" (a broth with meatballs) is quite common, while the Ukrainian-type borscht is usually called borș rusesc (Russian borș soup) or ciorbă de sfeclă roşie (red beetroot soup). One ingredient required in all recipes by Romanian tradition is lovage leaves, which have a characteristic flavour and significantly improves the soup's aroma.

Tubed borscht as space food

There are local variations in the basic borscht recipe:

  • In Armenian cuisine, it is served warm with fresh sour cream.
  • In Assyrian cuisine, it contains beets, beef, and cabbage, and is served warm.
  • In Chinese cuisine, it is known as luósòng (i.e. "Russian") soup. Tomatoes and tomato paste are used instead of beets, in addition to beef, cabbage, potatoes, and carrots. In northern Chinese cuisine, particularly in and around the city of Harbin in Heilongjiang province, an area with a long history of trade with Eastern Russia, the soup known as hóngtāng ("red soup") is mainly made with red cabbage.
  • In Doukhobor cuisine, the main ingredient is cabbage, and the soup also contains beets, potatoes, tomatoes and heavy cream, along with dill and leeks. This style of borscht is orange in colour, and is always eaten hot.
Borshch stamp UA026-05 transparent.pngBorshch stamp UA027-05 transparent.png
Ukrainian miniature sheet displaying a bowl of borscht and its common ingredients: beetroots, cabbage, carrots, tomatoes, bell peppers, beans, onions, garlic, salo, parsley, and dill
  • In Mennonite cuisine, borscht is a cabbage, beef, potato and tomato soup flavoured with onions, dill and black pepper. This soup is part of the cuisine absorbed by Mennonites in Ukraine and Russia. Mennonite "summer borscht" contains beet leaves, potatoes, dill, and sausage. It is made with a pork stock, usually made by boiling the sausage contained in the soup. Hard-boiled eggs are sometimes added. There is also a Mennonite borscht made with chicken.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Belarusian: боршч (borshch); Polish: barszcz.
  2. ^ In the Cyrillic script: борщок.
  3. ^ Ukrainian: буряковий квас (buryakovy kvas); Russian: свекольный квас (svekolny kvas); Polish: kwas buraczany.
  4. ^ In the Hebrew script: ראָסל‎; also Romanized as rosel, rossel, russel or russell.
  5. ^ In the Cyrillic script: рассол.
  6. ^ In the Cyrillic script: флотский борщ.
  7. ^ In the Cyrillic script: халаднік.
  8. ^ In the Cyrillic script: свекольник.


  1. ^ Sydney Schultze (2000). Culture and Customs of Russia. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 65–66. ISBN 978-0-313-31101-7. 
  2. ^ Definition of Borscht by Vladimir Dal (in Russian)
  3. ^ William Pokhlyobkin about borshch (in Russian)
  4. ^ Borsch, Encyclopædia Britannica.
  5. ^ Borscht,
  6. ^ Harper.
  7. ^ Rudnyc'kyj (1972).
  8. ^ Pokorny (2007).
  9. ^ a b Max Vasmer. Russisches etymologisches Wörterbuch. Winter, Heidelberg 1953–1958 (in German). Russian translation by Oleg Trubachyov: Этимологический словарь русского языка. Progress, Moscow, 1964–1973. Борщ
  10. ^ a b c d e f g Burlakoff (2013), Appendix.
  11. ^ Pokhlyobkin (2004), p. 83.
  12. ^ a b c d Burlakoff (2013), Chapter 2.
  13. ^ a b Pokhlyobkin (2004), p. 84.
  14. ^ Marks (2010), Rosl.
  15. ^ Strybel & Strybel (2005), pp. 190–192.
  16. ^ a b Zdanovich (2014).
  17. ^ Pokhlyobkin (2004), p. 83–86.
  18. ^ Strybel & Strybel (2005), pp. 9, 180, 190.
  19. ^ Strybel & Strybel (2005), pp. 182, 190.
  20. ^ Strybel & Strybel (2005), pp. 211–212.
  21. ^ Pokhlyobkin (2004), p. 108.
  22. ^ Marks (2010), Borscht.
  23. ^
  24. ^


External links[edit]