Pure Red Borscht (Barszcz Czerwony Czysty)

by Buffy Owens

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This is such a simple and delicious recipe!  Recently I invited my partner’s mother over to teach me the ins-and-outs of making this classic Polish Soup. Once fall hits, I find that a mug of this nourishing goodness soothes my palate and warms my soul. I tend to make a batch of this every other week throughout the cooler months.


Beets are high in immune-boosting vitamin C, fiber, and essential minerals like potassium (essential for healthy nerve and muscle function) and manganese (which is good for your bones, liver, kidneys, and pancreas). Not to mention these ruby red roots of tasty goodness are a unique source of betaine, a nutrient that helps protects cells, proteins, and enzymes from environmental stress. It’s also known to help fight inflammation, protect internal organs, improve vascular risk factors, enhance performance, and likely help prevent numerous chronic diseases.

“[Betaine’s]… presence in our diet has been associated with lower levels of several inflammatory markers, including C reactive protein, interleukin-6, and tumor necrosis factor alpha. As a group, the anti-inflammatory molecules found in beets may eventually be shown to provide cardiovascular benefits in large-scale human studies, as well as anti-inflammatory benefits for other body systems.” (1)

Beets and Pregnancy: Pregnant women are recommended to consume appropriate dosages of folic acid during their childbearing period. Folic acid or folate is essential for DNA and RNA production during cell development. If a deficiency in folic acid takes place, this can trigger defects in the growth of the fetus. Now get this, a cup of beets contains 136 grams of folate! Wow! Plus beets are a rich source of calcium and magnesium.

the anti-inflammatory molecules found in beets may provide cardiovascular benefits & anti-inflammatory benefits for other body systems.

Pure Red Borscht Recipe

Traditional barszcz is sometimes made with a kwas (kvass). However, this clear red Polish beet soup recipe doesn't use a sour starter but instead gets the desired hint of sourness from lemon juice or vinegar.

Makes: 8 Cups

Polish Beet Soup

Prep time:

Cook time:

  • 4 medium beets
  • 2 Carrots
  • 2 Sticks of Celery
  • 1 Medium Onion
  • 2 Cloves of Garlic
  • 10 Grams Dried Porcini Mushrooms (optional)
  • 6-8 Cups of Water or Bone Broth
  • 2 Tbs. Olive Oil
  • 1 tsp. Sugar
  • 1-2 Whole Cloves
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 1/2 tsp. Thyme/li>
  • 1/2 tsp. Parsley
  • 2 Tbs. of Lemon Juice
  • 1 Tbs. Red-Wine Vinegar
  • Salt & Pepper to Taste

  1. Chop Carrots, Celery and Onion. Place them in a large pot with a little olive oil. Cook on low heat for 2-5 minutes or until they sweat.
  2. Add 4-6 cups Water, Garlic, Mushrooms, Cloves, Bay Leaf, Thyme & Parsely, Salt and Pepper. Simmer for 20 minutes.
  3. Wash, peel and grate the beets. Add the beets, sugar and vinegar to the stock with another cup or so of water. Let cook for 15-20 minutes.
  4. Strain and add the lemon juice or Kwas to taste.
  5. Sip and enjoy!

You can top this with fresh Dill and sour cream or sip it as is. You can also serve this tasty treat warm or cold.

LEMON JUICE TIP:  You can buy lemons when they are on sale or in season. Then grate the rinds, juice the fruit and then freeze the rinds and juice together for future use. Zest the fruit and place a bit of the zest in each section of an ice-cube tray. Pour the juice of the zest and freeze. Once it is frozen take the lemon juice out of the tray and store it in airtight container. When a recipe calls for the juice just grab a cube or two. Each ‘traditional square’ cube is about 2 Tbl. of juice.

Supporting Studies

  1. Stuart AS Craig. Betaine in Human Nutrition. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 Sept; 80(3); 539-549