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Borscht – authentic Polish soup, is also known as Barszcz Czerwony. It’s a classic dish that is traditionally served on Christmas Eve. It’s made from beets and it has a clean, almost see-through consistency; it can be served in mugs to drink, or in bowls with Polish mushroom “uszka” pierogi, or Sauerkraut and Mushroom Pierogi.
Borscht – Traditional Polish Soup Served on Christmas Eve
Clean red borscht (Barszcz czysty czerwony) is served in most Polish homes for Christmas Eve. Some families have a different tradition of serving a mushroom soup, but in my house, this borscht was always served on Christmas Eve. I brought this tradition with me to America. I make it once a year for Christmas Eve, and it’s become something that my family and I are looking forward to during the holidays.
If you’re a bit curious about some of the Polish Christmas Eve culinary traditions, I wrote more about it in this post for Polish Pierogi with Potato and Cheese and how much my American side of the family loves all these dishes.
I also get a lot of requests from readers to make more Polish dishes, as a lot of them are looking for recipes that their grandmas used to make. So here’s traditional Polish borscht that is made with simple ingredients that can be found in any American grocery store. But, as always, I’ll show you also a few other options too.
What are the Ingredients in Polish Red Borscht
The ingredients needed for the borscht are super simple and can be found in any grocery store. Here’s your shopping list:
- Celery Root
- Dry Porcini Mushrooms
What Spices to Use In Polish Borscht
There are a few critical spices to use in borscht, as well as a couple of pantry staple condiments to make it super flavorful and delicious. Here’s your list:
- Bay leaves
- Whole allspice
- Dry Marjoram (not a marjoram powder)
- Lemon Juice
- White Vinegar
How Do You Make Authentic Beetroot Borscht
The process to make authentic Polish borscht is two-fold. First, you’ll need to make a broth:
Step 1: Place dry mushrooms in a bowl and cover them with hot boiling water. Let them soak for 5 minutes.
Step 2: Peel, wash and cut into chunks, your vegetables (carrots, parsnip, celery root, leeks, and parsley);
Step 3: Place your vegetables and your soaked mushrooms in the large pot, cover with water, add a tablespoon of salt, bay leaves, and allspice and boil for about 30 minutes, uncovered; (tip: mushrooms can be sandy, so don’t stir the water when picking them up; you can use a strainer to add some of the mushroom water into your pot).
Step 4: Prepare beets – peel them and slice in 1/2 inch slices; peel your garlic and slice the apple;
Step 5: Add beets, garlic, apple, and spices (salt, sugar, and marjoram) to the vegetable broth. At this time add 1 tablespoon of vinegar and 1 tablespoon of lemon to preserve the beautiful color of the beets. Cook it for another half hour uncovered;
Step 6: Add the remaining vinegar, and adjust seasoning with vinegar, salt & pepper, as needed.
Step 7: Discard the vegetables and pour your borscht through the strainer either into mugs for drinking or into bowls to serve with mushroom pierogi.
Other Methods to Make Polish Red Borscht
The method that I presented above uses ingredients that can be easily found in any grocery store. However, if you live close to any Polish specialty grocery store then you can get something that is called Beet Concentrate.
Borscht with Beet Concentrate
Basically, this is a very concentrated borscht. It is very flavorful and I typically like to add it to my borscht. But, if you use it then your method of cooking needs to be a little bit different.
When you cook your vegetables broth use very little salt as the beet concentrate is pretty salty so it will be better to adjust seasoning at the end.
Once you have your vegetable broth cooked, add beets, garlic, apple, and half the bottle of the beet concentrate (do not add sugar, vinegar, lemon juice, or salt, or other spices). Let cook for a half-hour and then taste.
At this point, you can add a bit more of the concentrate, a little at a time, until the right amount of acidity and sweetness suits you, and if needed add salt & pepper.
Borscht using Beet Kvass
In a lot of Polish houses instead of using vinegar or beet concentrate, the cooks would make beet kvass to use for the borscht. I love beet kvass and we drink it in my home all the time.
If you want to use this method, make beet kvass from my recipe (that can be found here) 5 days prior to making your borscht. You should use this instead of vinegar and lemon juice. Also, be mindful that beet kvass is salty, so be sparing with your salt until the end of the process.
To make borscht using beet kvass, you will start the same way with vegetable broth. Then when you add beets, apples, and garlic, you would add 1 cup of beet kvass and let it all cook for half an hour. Then add more kvass and seasoning as needed.
Here is why I don’t use this method. Beet kvass is a wonderful source of good bacteria and nutrients. Therefore we love to drink it alone. The cooking process will kill the beneficial bacteria; so in my opinion, it is better to use vinegar and lemon juice for the borscht and drink beet kvass….but that’s a personal preference.
Anyhow, you have options here. Use whichever works best for you!
Other Polish Recipes often served on Christmas Eve
- Sauerkratut and Mushroom Pierogi
- Pierogi with Potato and Cheese
- Bigos – Polish Hunter Stew
- Kapusta – Sauerkrout and Mushrooms
- Russian Salad (Olivier Salad or Salatka Jarzynowa)
What is your traditional recipe that is served on Christmas Eve? Let me know, I’m curious.
Here’s Your Printable Recipe for Borscht
Borscht (Authentic Polish Recipe)
- 4 Carrots medium size
- 1 Parsnip medium size
- 1/2 Celery root If it's big then 1/4 will be enough
- 1 Leek
- 4 sprig Parsley
- 1 cup Dried Porcini Mushrooms
- 2 Bay leaves
- 4 whole Allspice
- 6 Beets medium size
- 1 Apple any kind, sliced with the skin
- 3 cloves Garlic peeled
- 2 tbsp White Vinegar + more if needed
- 1 tbsp Lemon Juice freshly squeezed
- 2 teaspoon Sugar + more if needed
- 2 tbsp Salt + more if needed
- 1/4 teaspoon Marjoram dry
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
- Place dry mushrooms in a bowl and cover them with hot boiling water. Let them soak for 5 minutes.
- Peel, wash and cut into chunks, your vegetables (carrots, parsnip, celery root, leeks, and parsley);
- Place your vegetables and soaked mushrooms* (see notes below) in the large pot, cover with 10 cups of water, add a tablespoon of salt, bay leaves, and allspice and boil for about 30 minutes, uncovered;
- Prepare beets - peel them and slice in 1/2 inch slices; peel your garlic and slice the apple;
- Add beets, garlic, apple, and spices (salt, sugar, and marjoram) to the vegetable broth. At this time add 1 tablespoon of vinegar and 1 tablespoon of lemon to preserve the beautiful color from the beets. Cook it for another half hour, uncovered;
- Add the remaining vinegar, and adjust seasoning with vinegar, sugar, salt & pepper, as needed.
- Discard all the vegetables and use a strainer to pour your borscht either into mugs to drink or to bowls to be served with mushroom pierogi.
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I’ve always wanted to make Borscht, but honestly didn’t know where to begin. Thanks for all the detailed steps!
instead of the “ears” can i use potatoes instead?
I honestly wouldn’t as this is not that kind of borscht. You may want to look for a recipe for Ukrainian borscht that uses a different technique of cooking. If you still want to do this, add potatoes to your broth because once you add vinegar your potatoes will have a difficult time getting cooked.
I think they meant at the end to add cooked potatoes to the soup instead of uszka. We used to mash potatoes and add them to Barszcz right before serving
Hi Melissa. There is no “they” here. It’s my personal blog and you can read more about me on my About page. I am born and raised 100% Polish and I posted a recipe of POLISH CLEAR Borscht that is eaten traditionally on Christmas Eve with Uszka (mushroom little pierogi) for everyone who knows this tradition and is looking for the proper Polish borscht recipe. There are NO POTATOES in this recipe and nobody in Poland would have ever served clear borscht with potatoes or mashed potatoes. Obviously the borscht wouldn’t be clear anymore and that’s an important part of this recipe. You probably mixing it up with the borscht recipe that comes from Ukraine and it is served with potatoes and other vegetables, but this is a completely different soup even though they are both named Borscht.
If you put potatoes in your barszcz, Edyta will call the cops
There are no rules, do what you want
Traditional Polish Christmas Eve barszcz is fermented
This is so good! It’s a recipe that my family requests again and again!
I’ve always loved the color of borscht, seeing it in photos. but I’ve never tried it! Which is weird because I really do like beets. I’ll have to try your recipe.
Great! let me know how you liked it!
This dish is very popular in Ukraine! Ukrainians cook this borsch several times a week and this is really very tasty. The ingredients are very simple and easy to cook. I love this recipe.
Yes! Borscht is common in Ukraine as well. That’s such a wonderful tradition 🙂
I adore Borscht but have never attempted to make it myself – yet! Thanks for this recipe.
Try it and let me know how you liked it 🙂
Edyta, I made your soup tonight….and though I like it I’m not sure I made it right. I do cook a lot, mostly healthy foods but I had some difficulty with your recipe….things need clarification. I sought out a Borscht recipe since I’m Polish. I was hoping to find something like my Mom used to make. Years ago I made a recipe using canned beets that tasted like my Mom’s but I lost it somewhere and can’t find it. Though now a days I don’t eat many things from cans anymore…..I cook all things from fresh produce.
My questions: it’s doesn’t say if you use the soaking water from the mushrooms…I used it
It doesn’t clearly say to put the mushrooms in pot th the vegetables….I did add them to the veggies.
Because there is no instruction on whether to puree the soup or how to finish it off I cut all veggies in small bite sized pieces to leave it chunky…..but your photos show the soup clear and I can’t imagine what would be done to the veggies….So I will puree the whole batch in the morning and make it a pureed beet borscht. Why is sugar used in this recipe? Is it used to enhance flavor in some way. I am trying real hard to eliminate sugar from my life. I am severely allergic to sugar. If I eat something with sugar I fall asleep with 45 min. of eating eat….and there is nothing that can keep me awake….Nothing. I have to sleep. I did put the sugar in and will suffer the consequences but can I use stevia instead of sugar? Lastly, the recipe doesn’t say if cooking the soup should be with the pot lid on or off? And should the Marjoram be flakes or Marjoram powder? Thank you for your help. I will taste it again tomorrow and see if the flavors are better. I will serve this soup like my Mom always did with boiled potatoes then fried with butter and caramalized onions. Put potato mixture in bowl sprinkle with dill then pour the soup over and garnish with a sprig of dill. Yum!!!
Hi Jeanette, thanks for reaching out and letting me know that some things weren’t clear about the recipe. I actually just updated it to include information that you pointed out. But I’m going to address all your questions here.
1. Yes, you can use mushroom water but be careful as there may be some sand or dirt so use a strainer to add it to your vegetable broth.
2. This is not borscht with the vegetables in it to serve. As you can read it from my post it is Clear Borscht that has broth consistency and it’s served as a traditional dish on Christmas Eve with Polish Mushroom Ear Pierogi. All the vegetables should be discarded at the end of cooking and the borscht should be poured into bowls through a strainer to ensure clear consistency. And by the way, no Polish soup is ever pureed. You are probably looking for a different kind of borscht that is called in Poland: Ukrainian-Style Borscht. I don’t have a recipe for that but you can check these two resources: https://www.polishyourkitchen.com/polishrecipes/ukrainian-style-polish-beet-soup-barszcz-ukrainski/; https://polishhousewife.com/ukrainian-borscht/.
3. Sugar in this recipe is to enhance the flavor but you can skip it if you want to. However, be mindful that beets are very high in sugar on their own so if you are allergic to sugar you should probably consult your doctor if this soup is something you should be eating.
4. The soup should be cooked uncovered. You could partially cover it but you need to watch it so it doesn’t overboil.
4. You should use dry marjoram not powder as you want this soup to be as clear as possible.
I hope this helps.
How much is 1 cup of dried porcini mushrooms? They are very expensive by me. Is 1 oz enough? Thank you!
Not sure how much is in 1 oz. but don’t stress about it. You don’t need to use them for borsht. It will still be good.
Im making my first attempt to continue our family tradition of vigalia in my home this Christmas eve. I am not sure how much of each ingredient to include:( Please help
Hi Jilian. You must have missed a recipe card. All the ingredients with measurements are there.
Hi Edyta! I never ever leave comments under recipes, but I just made this today for Wigilia and it is absolutely perfect!!! I’ve made barszcz only once or twice before and wasn’t really satisfied with the results, but following your instructions exactly resulted in the best barszcz I’ve eaten! I love it. I’ll definitely be printing this recipe out and pasting it into the cookbook. 🙂
Dzieki, Edytko, i wesolych Swiat!
Dziekuje bardzo!I’m so glad it came out so good for you 🙂
I used a bit more than 10 cups of water and this only yielded 4 cups of borsht.
Is this the same amount you get or did I boil it down too much?
It was delicious though! My husband said it was just like his grandmother’s 😍
Of course we won’t tell grandma that hahahah!
You can always add more water. Maybe it cooked for too long but I’m sure the taste was still good.
I was given a recipe for borsch using boiled beef bones and using the beef meat and stock for the soup . Is this another version?
Yes, this is clear Polish borsht served on Christmas Eve, made latent without any meat, and served with mushroom pierogi. It’s a totally different soup than Borscht that is called Ukrainian borscht made with meat and potatoes (even though the name is the same)
Hello – I am up north of Toronto for the summer and there are a lot of beets at the market. I had this soup, once, made by a Polish friend and loved it so decided to try your recipe. It turned out beautifully.
We will have it tomorrow on a rainy day with lentil perogies and sauerkraut ones as well. Thank you!
Can i make 4 times the recipe by adding 4 times the amount of everything? Thanks!
Yes you can
Hi, I am in Sussex England and have growing a lot of Beetroot this year which I love. My first wife was born to a polish refugee family who settled in Sweden and most Christmas were spent together either in Sweden or here in England, on Christmas Eve Borsch was part of our tradition followed by Pierogi.
After that preamble my question is ” If I make the Borsch now with my freshly harvested beetroot will it freeze satisfactorily until Christmas Eve ?
I should add that both my wife and mother in law have sadly passed away.
Thank you in advance, I shall endeavour to look at more of your Polish recipes.
Hi Edyta, I’m making this recipe today how long is it good for In the fridge? Could I freeze it for a month? Thank you so much! Super excited to try once it’s done I already finished making the mushroom Pierogies. 🤗🤗🤗
So I definitely love all forms of borscht and coming from different heritages I’ve made both this clear borscht and a more meaty/vegetable borscht originating more of Russian/Ukrainian heritage. Like I said I love them all but the only concern I have with this recipe is the amount of salt. For any of these more “traditional” soups, the addition of salt was more defined by taste than just straight up 2 tablespoons from my own personal experience. If I were to make a recommendation especially to those reading this who may have high blood pressure, this soup can still taste amazing with a significant decrease in salt.
This recipe is fantastic, thank you! Every year we have Xmas celebrations with friends who are Australian/Polish and they always serve this as the first starter with various pierogi. This year with Covid we haven’t been able to meet but I am so happy to be able to create my favourite soup!
Hey, I have read your blog. This is really great. I like your work. I am also a blogger. Please read my blog and let me know your feedback on the same.
Hi Edyta, I was wondering why you cook beets in the vinegar. In my house the vinegar or lemon juice was to be add in the end of cooking. And of course not white vinegar which is not healthy at all. Balsamic or apple cider vinegar would be a good substitute. This will preserve the color. You forgot to add onion too.
Thanks for posting this recipe. I haven’t made this by myself before and it tasted just like when I last ate it 😀
One question, what does it mean by ” 4 Whole” all spice? I estimated on the amount of all spice and added to taste.
Thank you, I am looking forward to cooking more of your recipes.
It’s not the powder all-spice but the whole kernels
I have made Borscht for the last 10 years or so and it’s been very similar to your recipe. So I’ve added the ingredients from your recipe. Thank you very much for such a lovely soup.
I have polish heratage and the primary way I have connected with that heratage is eating delicious polish food at Christmas. And this is one of my favorites. Cooked it for xmas and my (also polish Ukrainian heratage) partner thinks it is just like her grandma’s recipe. We made it to go with pierogi so the liquid soup is ideal. But I feel very wasteful throwing out all of the root vegetables. Going to try adding a lot of salt, blending it and preserving it as a vegetable stock. I doubt it will work but I can’t bring myself to throw out all those vegetables.
Hi, I’ve experimented with several recipes for barszcz over the years including Ukrainian style yet this is the best I’ve ever had whether homemade or when in Poland, and; except when in the mood for a Ukrainian barszcz will use nothing other than this recipe. It is wonderful and I thank you very much!!
I’ve been looking for a borscht recipe similar to what my ex Polish MIL made for Xmas Eve which was a delicious broth* with uszka/oosaka, and this looks to be the closest one I’ve found so far, so thank you!
What do mean by celery root? Is there a Polish name for marjoram (I don’t recall her ever growing it or being in her spice cupboard)?
*It was super clear, full of flavour, and vegan. Those Polish Catholic Xmas Eves were meatless, so I’m 99% sure it didn’t contain bone broth. (And unlike the one’s from my childhood which were quite chunky.)
I’m probably going to make some tweaks, but can’t wait to try it.
So authentic and delicious! We make multiple times a year and serve with the mushroom filled noodles.