Traditional Polish Borscht Soup from the smoker

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Polish borscht soup is a simple beetroot soup that’s as versatile as it is delicious. Smoking and roasting the veggies may extend the cooking time, but it adds layers of flavor. 

Whether you call it Polish borscht, beetroot soup, Polish beet soup, or Polish barszcz, it’s a bowlful of comfort. Let me show you how easy it is to make Borscht Soup. 

Borscht in a glass, on a plate, hands in the photo, one holding spoon, one with a piece of bread

Polish Borscht soup has a very distinctive flavor profile

Borscht is a delight for your taste buds with its rich earthy and tangy flavor profile. The vibrant deep magenta color, adds a visual feast for your eyes. It also symbolizes warmth, prosperity and a festive spirit of Christmas. 

Borscht is deeply rooted in Polish culinary traditions. Its association with Christmas goes back generations. It’s not just a soup, it’s a cultural link connecting families to their heritage. 

Don’t limit yourself, you can make this beet soup year round. Check the Best Ways to Enjoy Borscht section for some great ideas.

borscht in a glass jar, side of bread; few parsley stems and allspice seeds

Why you will love this Borscht Soup

  • Very unique flavor created by roasting and cooking together, beets, carrots, onions, with herbs and spices
  • Versatile – experiment with the cooking methods to find the best flavor for your taste buds
  • Comforting – warming flavors of this soup give you the feeling of comfort and satisfaction
  • Healthy – Packed with vegetables, rich in vitamins, barszcz is a health-conscious choice. 

Recipe Ingredients, Variations and Substitutions

Raw Beets – washed, peeled and quartered, use 4-5 medium size. Experiment with different beet varieties for subtle flavor variations. You can also use canned beets, but the flavor profile may be slightly different.

Carrots – they add a hint of natural sweetness and a lovely orange hue. Try rainbow carrots for a visually stunning twist. Optional Substitution: Sweet potatoes or butternut squash.

Celery Root – contributes a subtle celery flavor and a hearty texture. If unavailable, celery stalks can be a good substitute. Optional Substitution: Parsley root for a similar flavor.

Parsnips – brings a sweet and slightly peppery taste to the mix. Add more for a bolder flavor. Optional Substitution: Rutabaga for a unique earthy flavor.

Onion – adds a savory base to your borscht. Experiment with red onions for a slightly different flavor profile. Optional Substitution: Shallots for a milder, nuanced taste.

ingredients to make borscht

Mushroom Water – enhances the umami depth of your borscht. If using fresh mushrooms, save the liquid from cooking them. Optional Substitution: Vegetable broth for a savory alternative.

Herbs and Spices – Marjoram, Thyme, Bay Leaves, Allspice Berries; A perfect blend of herbs and spices that adds complexity to the flavor. Crush the allspice berries for a more pronounced aroma. Optional Substitution: Rosemary for a piney note. Also if fresh herbs are not available, dried ones are a great option. Remember the conversion 1 tbsp fresh herbs = 1 tsp dried herbs.

Garlic – brings its bold, aromatic presence to the mix. Adjust the quantity based on your love for garlic. Optional substitution, not a garlic fan, roast it slightly for a milder flavor.

Soy Sauce – rich umami flavor with salty and savory notes. Optional substitution: tamari, liquid or coconut aminos.

Worcestershire Sauce – savory, umami-rich sauce with a hint of sweetness and tang. Adds complexity to the soup. Optional substitution: combine equal parts soy sauce and apple cider vinegar or use splash of fish sauce.

Apple Cider Vinegar – touch of acidity. Its all about the balance to your liking. Optional Substitution: Tamari for a gluten-free alternative to soy sauce.

Vegetable Broth – the base of your borscht, providing a savory foundation. Opt for a low-sodium version to control saltiness. Optional Substitution: Beef or chicken broth for a different flavor profile.

Brine Liquid from Pickled Beets – adds a tangy kick and a hint of pickled goodness. Adjust quantity based on personal taste. Optional Substitution: Pickle juice for a similar effect.

Splash of Lemon – Brightens up the flavors and adds a citrusy zing. Adjust the amount to your personal preference. Optional Substitution: White wine or apple cider vinegar for a different acidity.

Salt and Pepper to Taste – Seasoning to bring all the flavors into harmony. Start with a pinch and adjust gradually. Optional Substitution: Smoked salt for a unique twist.

Olive oil – nicely complements the earthy and umami flavor profile of the borscht. Optional substitution: other vegetable oil or butter.  

cut up vegetables on a baking sheet, garnished with spices and herbs

Recommended equipment:

  • Wood pellet Smoker, or stove top
  • Baking sheet
  • Parchment paper
  • Chef’s knife
  • Cutting board 
  • Vegetable peeler
  • Fine mesh strainer or cheese cloth
  • Slotted spoon
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Large spoons for mixing
  • Large size, heavy bottom pan 

Most Common mistakes to avoid when making Borscht

  • Overcooking the beets, they will lose their beautiful magenta color and become mushy
  • Skipping the mushroom water – liquid gold, it adds wonderful umami flavor to borscht; very easy to make, don’t skip this step
  • Adding too much garlic – adjust to your taste, for a milder flavor add roasted garlic
  • Using too much bay leaf or allspice – both are very powerful spies, use recommended amount or start with less and adjust during cooking
red borscht in a glass jar; front view; side of bread, few leaves or parsley

How to make the Best Polish Borscht Soup

  • Preheat smoker to 200F. 

Top tip: For borscht, I’d recommend using mild or fruitwood pellets like apple, cherry, or alder. These woods add a subtle and sweet smokiness complementing the earthy and rich flavors of the soup.

  • Wash, peel and cut all the veggies.
  • Place the cut veggies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper; drizzle olive oil, salt, pepper and herbs; toss together.
  • Smoke at 200F for 20 min to infuse maximum smokiness
  • Increase the temperature to 400F and roast for 40 -50 minutes.
  • After done roasting transfer the veggies to a large size pan.
  • Add broth, and the rest of the ingredients, leaving out the vinegar and lemon juice
  • Bring to quick boil; cover with a lid, reduce to simmer and cook on low for at least 1 hour
  • Remove from the heat, let it cool.
  • Using slotted spoon remove all the veggies and pour the broth through a fine mesh sieve to remove any remaining impurities
  • Check the flavor, add vinegar and if needed splash of lemon
  • Drink clear as is, add ‘uszka’ dumplings or other noodles.

Oven Instructions:

  • Prepare the Vegetables: Wash, peel, and chop the beets, carrots, celery root, parsnips, and onion.
  • Saute the veggies: 
  • In a large pot, sauté the onions in a bit of oil or butter until translucent.
  • Add the beets, carrots, celery root, and parsnips. Cook for about 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add aromatics and spices
  • Stir in the minced garlic, marjoram, thyme, bay leaves, and allspice berries. Cook for another 2-3 minutes until fragrant.
  • Pour in the vegetable broth, mushroom water, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and apple cider vinegar. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil.
  • Reduce the heat and simmer: cover the pot and let the borscht simmer for about 30-40 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
  • Finish by adding the brine liquid from the pickled beets for a tangy kick.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste. Adjust the acidity with a splash of lemon.
  • Serve and Garnish: ladle the hot broth into bowls; Garnish with a dollop of sour cream, a sprinkle of fresh dill, and any other preferred toppings.
Red Borscht in a glass jar; front view

TOP TIPS 

  • Use gloves when working with beets. They will stain your hands. 
  • Don’t let the soup boil, it will affect the red color by turning it brown.
  • Let the time do its magic; simmer on low and slow, let the flavors develop
  • Strain the soup before serving to make it broth like
  • Use garnishes of your liking: fresh dill, parsley, dollop of sour cream
borscht in a tea glass, on a plate, small spoon and piece of bread

Best way to enjoy Polish beet soup

Polish beet soup, or borscht, is a versatile dish that can be enjoyed in various delightful ways to suit any occasion or taste preference. Here are some expanded suggestions on the best ways to savor this rich, colorful soup:

  • With Uszka Dumplings: For a traditional Polish Christmas dinner, serve your borscht with ‘uszka,’ or ‘little ears,’ dumplings. These tiny, flavorful dumplings typically filled with mushrooms and onions are the perfect companion to the sweet and sour taste of borscht, making for a festive and filling meal.
  • As a Warming Drink: On chilly days, enjoy borscht as a warming drink. Serve it in a mug, hot and steaming, perhaps with a dollop of sour cream mixed in for richness. It’s a comforting way to warm up from the inside out.
  • With Noodles: Incorporate noodles of your choice to add heartiness to the soup. Whether you prefer thin egg noodles or thicker, chunkier varieties, they’ll soak up the soup’s flavorful broth and add a satisfying texture.
  • As a Side to a Main Dish: Borscht makes a wonderful side dish to a variety of main courses. Serve it alongside mashed potatoes, or for a heartier meal, pair it with a main dish seasoned with salt and pepper. The soup’s vibrant hue and tangy taste complement rich, savory dishes beautifully.
  • As a Side to Croquettes: Complement the crispy, golden-brown texture of croquettes with the smooth, earthy flavor of borscht. This pairing is a delightful play of textures and flavors, making for an enjoyable meal.
  • With Rye Bread: Enjoy a slice of crusty rye bread alongside your borscht. The bread’s dense, slightly sour flavor pairs wonderfully with the soup’s sweet and tangy profile, and it’s perfect for dipping.
  • Enhanced with Sour Cream and Dill: Though mentioned above, this option is too good not to try! A swirl of sour cream mixed into your borscht adds a creamy richness, while a sprinkle of chopped dill provides a fresh, herby contrast. This sour cream mixture is a classic way to enjoy Polish beet soup, enhancing its flavor and texture.
  • With a Touch of Porcini Mushrooms: For an umami kick, add some porcini mushrooms or a splash of beef broth to your borscht. The mushrooms’ rich, earthy flavor deepens the soup’s complexity and makes for a truly hearty meal.

These varied ways of enjoying Polish beet soup showcase its flexibility and the rich culinary tradition from which it comes. Whether you’re seeking comfort on a cold day, a festive dish for a special occasion, or simply a delicious, nutritious meal, borscht is a timeless choice that can be tailored to suit any taste or occasion.

borscht with little dumplings in a bowl on a wooden tray, Christmas decorations

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Storage instructions for Polish Borscht

  • Refrigeration:
    • Place leftover, cooled borscht in airtight containers or sealable bags
    • Use within 3-4 days for optimal freshness.
  • Freezing:
    • For Better Results: Consider freezing borscht before adding any dairy or sour cream. Add these components after reheating.
    • For longer storage, freeze borscht in freezer-safe containers, leaving some space for expansion.
    • Borscht can be frozen for up to 3 months.
  • Reheating:
    • please see below for more details instructions on reheating Borscht
  • Thawing Frozen Borscht: Transfer frozen borscht to the refrigerator and to allow it to thaw overnight.
borscht in a tea glass, on a plate, small spoon and piece of bread, small dish with butter and another one with salt

Reheating Polish Borscht

Stovetop: Place borscht in a saucepan and reheat over low to medium heat. Stir occasionally to ensure even warming. Avoid boiling to maintain the soup’s vibrant color and flavors.

Microwave: always use microwave -safe container; reheat in short intervals, stirring in between to distribute the heat evenly.

Adding Dairy: If the recipe includes dairy or sour cream, add them after reheating. Stir them in just before serving.  

Adjust Consistency: If the borscht thickens upon reheating, you can adjust the consistency by adding a bit of vegetable broth or water.

Adjust seasoning: taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. You may want to add a splash of vinegar or lemon juice to refresh the flavors.

Borscht in a bowl with little dumplings

Polish Borscht Soup – Barszcz Czerwony

Sylwia Vaclavek
Craving earthy, umami rich soup. Borscht is your answer. Layers of flavor created by carefully pairing vegetables and aromatics. Their preparation plays big role in developing the rich flavor. Don't skip the roasting!
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Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
roast & smoke 1 hour 10 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 25 minutes
Course Soup
Cuisine Polish
Servings 6
Calories 242 kcal

Equipment

  • 1 wood pellet smoker
  • 1 baking sheet
  • 1 parchment paper
  • 1 cutting board
  • 1 chef's knife
  • 1 vegetable peeler
  • 1 fine mesh strainer
  • 1 slotted spoon
  • 1 large size pan
  • 1 measuring cups and spoons
  • 1 ladle

Ingredients
  

  • 2-3 carrots, sliced sub: sweet potato, butternut
  • 1 celery root, peeled and quartered sub: parsley root or celery stalks
  • 1 -2 parsnips, peeled and sliced sub: rutabaga or turnips
  • 1 yellow onion, quartered sub: shallots or white onion
  • 3 tbsp olive oil sub: melted butter, ghee
  • 1 cup mushroom water sub: vegetable broth
  • 1 tsp marjoram sub: oregano
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 2-3 bay leaves sub: dried thyme or oregano
  • 4 allspice berries use: equal parts of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce sub: tamari
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce sub: fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar sub: white wine vinegar
  • 6 cups vegetable broth sub: chicken stock, water
  • ¼ cup brine liquid from pickled beets sub: pickle juice or omit
  • splash of lemon sub: white wine vinegar
  • salt, pepper

Instructions
 

  • Preheat smoker to 200F.
  • Wash, peel and cut all the veggies.
  • Place the cut veggies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper; drizzle olive oil, salt, pepper and herbs; toss together.
  • Smoke at 200F for 20 min.
  • Increase the temperature to 400F and roast for 40 -50 minutes.
  • After done roasting transfer the veggies to a large size pan.
  • Add broth, and the rest of the ingredients, leaving out the vinegar and lemon juice.
  • Bring to quick boil; cover with a lid, reduce to simmer and cook on low for at least 1 hour
  • Remove from the heat, let it cool.
  • Using slotted spoon remove all the veggies and pour the broth through a fine mesh sieve to remove any remaining impurities.
  • Check the flavor, add vinegar and if needed splash of lemon.
  • Serve hot with little dumplings or clear as is.

Notes

    • Use gloves when working with beets. They will stain your hands. 
    • Don’t let the soup boil, it will affect the red color by turning it brown.
    • Let the time do its magic; simmer on low and slow, let the flavors develop
    • Strain the soup before serving to make it broth like
    • Use garnishes of your liking: fresh dill, parsley, dollop of sour cream

Nutrition

Serving: 1cupCalories: 242kcalCarbohydrates: 34gProtein: 4gFat: 11gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 8gSodium: 1906mgPotassium: 830mgFiber: 6gSugar: 11gVitamin A: 5880IUVitamin C: 25mgCalcium: 113mgIron: 2mg
Keyword barszcz czerwony, beet soup, borscht, soup
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
Did you make this recipe?

borscht in a tea glass, on a plate, small spoon and piece of bread, small dish with salt, knife with butter on it

Polish Borscht Soup Conclusion

This simple beetroot soup, known for its rich, earthy, and tangy flavors, is more than just a meal. Call it a celebration of Polish culture and the comfort of home cooking. With its vibrant magenta color symbolizing warmth and prosperity, it’s no wonder this soup is a staple during Christmas and all year round.

So what do you think? are you up for making Polish beet soup? It does require a list of ingredients, but the method itself is very easy. Don’t skip the roasting step. Caramelizing the veggies deepens their flavor and adds layer of complexity to this soup.

Frequently Asked Questions about Borscht

What is borscht?

Borscht is a vibrant and hearty soup of Eastern European origin, often associated with countries like Russia, Ukraine, and Poland. It’s typically made with beets, other vegetables, and sometimes meat, creating a flavorful and visually stunning dish.

Is borscht vegetarian?

Yes, borscht can be made in vegetarian or vegan variations. The base typically includes beets, carrots, and other vegetables, and you can use vegetable broth to keep it entirely plant-based.

Is borscht healthy?

Yes, borscht is considered a healthy soup. Made with a variety of nutritious vegetables, borscht provides essential vitamins and minerals. This low calorie soup is also a great option for vegetarians or vegans. 

Can I add cabbage to borscht?

Yes, cabbage is a great option to use in borscht. Both types of cabbage work well in borscht. The choice between them will influence the color and slightly alter the flavor of the soup. Red cabbage – slightly peppery and earthy with a touch of sweetness. It will also enhance the color of the soup. White cabbage – mild and slightly sweet in flavor. It will not affect the color of the soup, but will add a nice color contrast.

Can I make borscht with beef?

Yes, you can make borscht with beef. Make sure to brown the cubed beef stew meat over medium-high heat until nicely seared. This step enhances the flavor of the beef and adds depth to the borscht.

Why is borscht popular during Christmas in Poland?

Borscht is a traditional dish in Poland, and its association with Christmas stems from its meatless nature, making it suitable for the Wigilia, the Christmas Eve supper. Sometimes, borscht is even called ‘Christmas eve borscht.’

Can I freeze borscht?

Yes, borscht can be frozen, but it’s best to freeze it before adding any dairy or sour cream. Thaw and reheat gently, then add the dairy components just before serving.

What are some common garnishes for borscht?

Popular garnishes include a dollop of sour cream, fresh dill, and sometimes a slice of lemon. Get creative with additional toppings like chopped green onions or a swirl of horseradish.

Can I make borscht in advance?

Absolutely! In fact, borscht often tastes even better the next day as the flavors have more time to meld. Make a big batch and enjoy it over a few days.

Are there different types of borscht?

Yes, there are many regional variations of borscht. Some include meat like beef or pork, while others are strictly vegetarian. The choice of ingredients and seasonings can vary widely.

How do I adjust the sweetness of borscht?

The sweetness in borscht comes from beets. To adjust, you can add a touch of sugar or honey. Alternatively, balance it with a bit more acidity from vinegar or lemon juice.

Can I make a gluten-free version of borscht?

Yes, borscht is naturally gluten-free. Just ensure that any additional ingredients or garnishes you include are also gluten-free.

What’s the best way to reheat borscht?

Reheat borscht gently on the stovetop over low to medium heat, stirring occasionally. Avoid boiling to maintain the soup’s vibrant color and flavors.

What can I do with the cooked beets?

You can create a wonderful beet salad. Grate the beets, add a little horseradish and serve with a side of protein

Can I use canned beets to make borscht?

Yes, you can make borscht using canned beets. Few things to remember:

  • adjust cooking time; the borscht will take less time to cook
  • adjust seasoning during cook to achieve the balance of sweetness and acidity balance
  • Add fresh veggies like carrots, red cabbage, celery and onion to enhance the flavor of canned beets

What is the difference between Russian and Polish borscht?

Russian borscht typically includes a variety of vegetables and a meat base. It is often served hearty with a dollop of sour cream. Polish borscht, known as barszcz, is generally a clearer beetroot soup. Frequently it is served with ‘uszka’ dumplings, especially during Christmas Eve. Both share beets as a primary ingredient, Russian borscht is heartier and more varied in vegetables, while Polish barszcz focuses on a purer beet flavor and is often more refined.

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