As someone who was born and raised in Russia, I’ll admit that borscht was as big of a staple in our diet as some of the Western stereotypes about Russia may paint it. Every family had their own cherished recipe that was followed religiously and made at least every other week year round. Even though the main ingredients usually stayed the same (beets, cabbage, potatoes), other components added to borscht often varied from family to family. I’ve posted the veganized version of my family’s borscht recipe before. Recently, however, I decided to experiment with my classic vegan borscht recipe – and my new Black Lentil and Ginger Borscht recipe was born!
Of course, adding ginger to the classic Russian borscht may sound like blasphemy to a traditional Russian housewife, but I wasn’t afraid of ruffling some feathers here. I found that it actually brightens up the beet flavor, taking the focus away from their distinct earthiness. The idea of adding black lentils came from the Beluga Lentil Borscht from The Great Vegan Bean Book by Kathy Hester. I happened to have some black beluga lentils in my pantry, but if I didn’t, I would have used the more widely available green lentils.
As for the sour cream, its addition is optional, but for me borscht with sour cream was a staple when I was growing up. Even though my borscht came out less than traditional (at least for me), I decided to bring it all together with the addition of this easy nut and seed-based sour cream. Borscht by itself has lots of micronutrients from all of the veggies, but our bodies will only absorb some of them if they are eaten along with some fat. Since this recipe is very low in fat otherwise, the addition of sour cream does the trick.
I used cashews and sunflower seeds for this easy vegan sour cream to boost its nutrient profile, but if you don’t have either one of these on hand, feel free to use a full cup of either cashews or sunflower seeds. The latter have a distinct earthy flavor that some of us may find overpowering, so feel free to use less sunflower seeds (and more cashews, to make the full cup).
Bright and flavorful, this borscht will warm you up on a chilly night and charge your body with lots of vitamins and fiber.
- 3 medium red beets (the size of a tennis ball), peeled and diced into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1/2 cup white vinegar
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 Tbsp ginger, minced
- 3-4 medium potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch cubes (I used Russet potatoes)
- 2 carrots, quartered lengthwise and sliced
- 1 cup black or green lentils
- 7-8 cups vegetable broth or water
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 cups green cabbage, shredded
- 3 Tbsp tomato paste
- 1-2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar (more or less to taste)
- 1 Tbsp dried dill
- 1 Tbsp ginger powder (optional)
- Salt, pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup raw cashews (soaked for 1-2 hrs if needed)
- 1/2 cup raw hulled sunflower seeds (soaked for 1-2 hrs if needed)
- 3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 - 1 cup water
- Put diced beets into a large non-reactive bowl, cover with cold water and add white vinegar. Set aside.*
- In a large heavy-bottomed soup pot, saute diced onion in oil or vegetable broth/water over medium heat until it looks translucent, 3-4 min. Add minced garlic and ginger, stir and saute for 30 sec until the vegetables release their aroma.
- Add all the ingredients from potatoes to bay leaves. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 15 min.
- Meanwhile, heat a small pan over medium heat, add beets along with the water-vinegar mixture they were soaking in. Bring to a boil and simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 10 min.
- Add the cooked beets to the soup pot along with cabbage and tomato paste. Simmer for another 15 min.
- Add salt, pepper, dried dill, ginger powder (if using, or leave out for a more traditional borscht flavor). Add apple cider vinegar starting with 1 Tbsp. Taste and adjust the flavors with more vinegar or seasoning if needed.
- Add all of the ingredients to a high-powered blender (if available, or use a regular blender and extend the blending time - soak the cashews and sunflower seeds in water for 1-2 hrs if using a regular blender). Start with 1/2 cup of water and add more if needed. Blend until smooth, periodically scraping the sides with a rubber spatula. Taste and adjust the amount of lemon juice if a more acidic flavor is desired. Makes about 2 cups. This sour cream will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days.
*Alternatively, skip this step and add chopped beets into the pot with the rest of the vegetables in Step 3. You may need to add a bit more vinegar in the last step for added zing.
Question for you: Do you like beets? If so, what’s your favorite beet recipe?
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