Classic Russian Borscht Recipe, Veganized

I am superexcited to be participating in my first Virtual Vegan Potluck – an online event that unites over a hundred food blogs in an awesome chain of all-vegan recipes, from appetizers to beverages to entrees to desserts! VVPs happen twice a year, and for this month’s event on November 16, my blog is being featured in the Soups category.

Welcome Virtual Vegan Potluckers! I’m so glad you’ve stopped by my blog! To check out the rest of the Potluck, scroll down to the end of this post and click the ‘Go Forward’ or ‘Go Back’ buttons – they’ll continue to work even after November 16. To see the full list of participating blogs, click here.

I was thrilled to find out that the featured ingredient for this November’s potluck is BEETS! This has become a great incentive for me to finally share my recipe for the world-famous Russian soup called BORSCHT – completely veganized, of course! As a Russian person who’s recently embarked on a vegan diet, I’d do the world a disservice if I never shared this gem!

Ready for a taste of Russia?

Vegan Borscht

Never heard of borscht? Well, let me tell you this: in Russia, it is a big deal  VERY BIG DEAL! You can trust me on this, I’ve lived in Russia until I was 21. There are plenty of Russian borscht legends (all of them true!):

– Every little girl is told that nobody would ever marry her until she learns how to make borscht, and perfects it!

– Russian people can eat borscht for breakfast, lunch and dinner. As a kid, I witnessed this at my distant relatives’ house when we were visiting the village where my mom was born. In their house, a new pot of borscht was made as soon as the old one was finished. Once we went to another relatives’ house in the same village for lunch, and guess what was served to us? Borscht!!!

– A borscht recipe is never rigid, it’s more of an idea, a state of mind. Every Russian woman has her own borscht recipe that she might have tweaked a little from the one she learned originally. My mom taught me how to make borscht, but mine tastes different than hers. And now that I’m making vegan borscht, the recipe is even more different.

Borscht cut plate

The classic ingredients for borscht are beets, potatoes, tomatoes and cabbage. Naturally, you won’t get a delicious soup by throwing together just these four ingredients, so whatever else each cook chooses to add will make her borscht taste different from others. It’s also important not to go overboard with additional ingredients, or else you’ll end up with something that’s not borscht at all!

Tips for Making a Perfect Vegan Borscht

The broth gets its beautiful ruby-red color from beets and tomatoes. It is important not to overcook the beets, otherwise the color will change and not look as good (thankfully, the flavor stays the same). My approach to cooking the beets for borscht: first soak them in water with a little bit of vinegar, then slowly cook them in the soaking liquid in a small pan until the liquid evaporates, and only add to the main borscht pot in the last 5 minutes.

Borscht 1-2

To make my borscht more filling, I like to add a good amount of beans (I’m a huge bean fan!). For the batch in pictures, I used a mix of dried pinto and lima beans that I soaked overnight and then cooked according to the bean-cooking wisdom I shared in this post. You can experiment with other types of beans as well as use canned beans.

Cabbage is a popular ingredient in Russian cuisine because it grows well into the later months of the year and only tastes better after the first frost. I chopped a fairly large amount of cabbage (5 cups packed for this batch!), set it in the colander, sprinkled some salt all over, and let it sit for at least 10 min to release the juices. Just before adding it to the borscht, I squeezed it lightly to make it softer.

My mom has been cooking borscht for longer than I’ve been alive. Naturally, she’s learned a few tricks along the way to make this soup taste even better. I’m not going to share all of them out of respect for her work, but here’s a tip regarding potatoes: peel them and boil them whole, not chopped, in the borscht broth until done. Remove them from the broth with a slotted spoon, set aside to cool for a bit, and then roughly chop them with the same slotted spoon and add back to the pot.

If you cook the potatoes that way, somehow the soup comes out tastier than if you cubed the potatoes and boiled them with the rest of the ingredients. The starch that the potatoes release during the initial boiling thickens the broth slightly and makes it even heartier.

Enough talking, let’s see the recipe!

Yield: 12 servings

Classic Vegan Russian Borscht Recipe

Classic Vegan Russian Borscht Recipe

This vegan recipe for the classic Russian borscht is chock-full of vegetables, has no added oil, and yields enough to feed a crowd! Russian way of serving borscht: with a dollop of (vegan) sour cream, minced garlic, and pumpernickel bread. A vegetarian, meatless, dairy free, egg free, soy free recipe.

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour

Ingredients

  • 8 cups vegetable broth - I like Better Than Bouillon vegetable base
  • 4 cups water
  • 4 medium potatoes, equal in size, peeled, left whole
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 2 carrots, chopped into matchsticks
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 medium beet, peeled, chopped into matchsticks
  • 2 Tbsp white vinegar
  • 5 cups cabbage, chopped into 1/4-inch strips
  • 3 cups cooked assorted beans*
  • 1/2 Tbsp dried rosemary (optional)
  • Dash of cayenne pepper (optional)
  • Salt, black pepper to taste

Instructions

To prepare the potatoes:

  1. Bring a pot with the vegetable broth and water to a boil. Add peeled and rinsed whole potatoes to the pot. Let the broth come back to a boil, reduce the heat to medium, and cook the potatoes until fort-tender, about 15-25 min depending on the kind of potatoes you are using.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare the beets and the tomato-pepper mixture.
  3. Once the potatoes are done, pick them out of the broth with a slotted spoon, let them cool for 5 min, and roughly chop with the side of your slotted spoon. Large chunks are ok. Set the chopped potatoes aside.

To prepare the beets:

  1. Put chopped beets into a small bowl. Add cold water to just cover the beets. Add 2 Tbsp white vinegar. Let the beets marinate for 30-60 min, depending on how much time you have.
  2. After 30-60 min, heat a small pan on the stovetop. Add the marinated beets with all of the water to the pan. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook until all of the liquid evaporates, about 15-20 min. Do not increase the heat as it may cause the beets to lose their color quicker once added to the borscht. Set the cooked beets aside.

To prepare the tomato-pepper mixture:

  1. Heat up a pan on the stovetop. Add 2 Tbsp water or vegetable broth. When the liquid is bubbly, add sliced onions and cook them on medium until they are translucent, about 5 min. Add minced garlic and cook for 1 min. (You may need to add more water to prevent sticking.) Add sliced peppers and carrots, stir the mixture and let the vegetables sweat for 2-3 min. Stir in diced canned tomatoes, rosemary and cayenne peppers if using (the spices are not a part of classic Russian borscht, but I like the nice touch they add).
  2. Simmer the tomato mixture for 10-15 min, then set aside.

To prepare the cabbage:

  1. Put all of the chopped cabbage into a colander, sprinkle with 1 tsp of salt, mix well. let sit for 10 min to release some juice. After 10 min, squeeze the cabbage lightly to make it softer.

To finish the soup:

  1. Once you take the potatoes out of the pot, put in all of the cooked beans and softened cabbage. Bring the broth to a boil, and simmer for 5 min on medium heat.
  2. After 5 min, add cooked chopped potatoes, prepared beets, prepared tomato-pepper mixture, bring back to a boil, and simmer 3-5 min. Be careful not to bring the borscht to a rolling boil as the beets may lose their color. Ideally, the beets and tomatoes make the broth ruby-red, and the beet pieces stay the same color.
  3. Just before taking the borscht off the heat, add salt (if using) and black pepper.
  4. Take the pot off the heat, let sit for up to 30 min before serving.

Notes

*I used a mix of pinto and lima beans.

**Borscht is always more delicious the next day as all of the flavors come together.

The following day, everything will be beet-colored (potatoes, beans, etc.), but the beet pieces may lose all of their color - that's normal!

Borscht will keep in the fridge for up to a week and only become tastier. I suggest bringing the pot back to a quick boil after 3-4 days.

When heating up borscht, don't use the microwave: the texture of all ingredients is better when heated on stovetop.

Recommended Products

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Nutrition Information:

Yield:

12

Serving Size:

1 bowl

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 158Total Fat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgCarbohydrates: 35gFiber: 6gSugar: 11gProtein: 6g

Please note that the provided nutritional information data is approximate.

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Borscht horisontal

Hope you enjoyed this lovely recipe! And please check out the rest of the Virtual Vegan Potluck: click the ‘Go Forward’ button to see the Ginger-Carrot Soup recipe by Veggie BonVivant blog, and ‘Go Back’ to check out the Broccoli-‘Cheddar’ WOW Soup by The Soulicious Life.

To go to the beginning of the Potluck, click here.

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41 thoughts on “Classic Russian Borscht Recipe, Veganized”

  1. Great post, and a lovely looking soup. I love bortsch, but my partner hates beetroot (sad face!) – so I don’t think that perfecting borscht will increase my likelihood of getting married πŸ™‚

    1. My husband is not a fan of beets either, so I only get to make borscht every once in a while… maybe one day his taste buds will change? [insert hopeful face]

  2. I so need to make this borscht! Yum! I loved reading how Russian families have a pot of borscht on the stove at all times. I kind of feel like that with my lentil soups. It’s about time that I switch things up in the ‘ole soup pot!

    1. Thank you Yinka! I’m with you on chunky soups – I guess because I was raised on all kinds of Russian soups, and we never blended any of them (blenders were unavailable).

  3. There’s so much about borsch I never new before. I’ll admit I was not a fan when I was younger but this soup looks so delicious with all those hearty veggies mixed in, I may have to give borsch another shot πŸ™‚

  4. This looks great – I love your version with the beans. I love beans! I have Russian friends and they do all make it differently. One friend was making it once, and I went into the kitchen to see the whole beet standing on end, boiling merrily away in a little pot. It was so cute πŸ™‚

    1. Thank you Allison! That’s what I like the most about this soup – it calls for regular ingredients that are almost always in my house, and they work together so beautifully!

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