How to Make Borscht (the Quick, Easy Way!)
I once had a boyfriend with a Scandinavian background who he taught me to make borscht. Only, he didn’t follow many of the traditional methods of borscht making, such as cutting the vegetables Julienne style (otherwise known as matchsticks), boiling beef for several hours to create a rich broth, skimming the foam from the top of the broth to keep it clear, or adding vinegar at the end for the distinctive sweet and sour taste.
His reason for his unorthodox style wasn’t a preference of taste, but a lack of patience. He was not interested in carefully chopping a large mound of vegetables into tiny slices, or waiting for the flavors of the broth to deepen. Instead, we haphazardly chopped the veggies into chunky cubes, used pre-made beef broth, and added extra tomatoes to achieve the acidity of the vinegar.
I’ve continued to make the recipe by myself and I’ve tweaked it over the years to suit my own tastes. The result is an easy to make borscht-style stew with a delicious bright red broth, packed full of vegetables and flavor, that’s perfect for a cold winter evening. Don't skip the sour cream and dill at the end. It really transforms the dish!
This is a, “we’re gonna need a bigger pot,” kind of recipe so make sure to either haul out your extra large pot or halve the amounts below for a smaller portion.
- Olive oil
- 1/2 lb chuck roast
- 3 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 large onion, chopped large
- 3 large carrots, chopped large
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1 tbsp coriander
- 1 tsp cloves
- 2 tsp rosemary
- 1 small cabbage or 1/2 large cabbage, chopped
- 1- 32oz carton of beef broth
- 1- 28 oz can diced tomatoes
- 1- 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
- 4-5 chicken or beef bouillon cubes
- 2-3 red potatoes, chopped large
- 4-5 red or gold beets, peeled and chopped large
- sour cream and dill, for serving
- Chop the chuck roast into small bite-sized cubes. Get your very large pot nice and hot, then add a drizzle of olive oil, the meat, and the crushed garlic cloves to the pot.
- Brown the meat for a few minutes. Stir just enough to prevent burning, but you want it to get that darker color. If it’s leaving a brown sticky mess on the bottom of the pot, that means it’s caramelizing, and you’re doing it right.
- When the meat is well colored, before things start to burn, take the chunks of meat out of the pot and set them aside. Add your onion. As the water releases from the onion, you can start to scrape the bottom of the pot to get the lovely brown stuff incorporated into your veggies.
- Add the carrots, bay leaves, salt, pepper, coriander, cloves, rosemary, and cabbage. Stir to get all the veggies coated in the oil and spice mix.
- Allow the veggies to cook for several minutes, as the water releases from them. You’ll know it’s done releasing when the noise of the sizzling increases again.
- Add in your carton of beef broth to stop the frying. Add the two cans of tomatoes, the bouillon cubes, and fill one of the cans with hot water and add that as well.
- Bring the mixture to a low boil, and add the potatoes and beets. If your vegetables are not completely covered in liquid, add some boiling water or additional beef stock if you have it.
- Cover and allow to simmer for 40-60 minutes, until the vegetables prick easily with a fork. Cook for less time if you want your veggies a little crunchier. Add back the chuck roast cubes and stir through. Taste the broth and adjust the seasoning as needed.
- Serve with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of fresh or dried dill. Enjoy!
Beets stain EVERYTHING. Your hands, the counter, and the cutting board will wash clean easily with some dish soap, but avoid using white dishcloths, cloth napkins, or light colored table clothes when cooking and serving this bright red dish.
Possible variations to play around with:
- You can use whatever type of chunky red meat you like, but I find the smoky taste of chuck roast goes really well with the broth.
- I like to use a mix of red and gold beets, but they will all be stained red once cooked, even if you only use one red beet!
- Cut the cabbage into whatever size you prefer. I kind of like long floppy leaves of cabbage in my soup, but if you don’t like the texture, it’s easy to cut small.
- I find dried dill to be just as delicious when used as a topping as fresh dill, and it's less expensive.
- Chop your veggies to be whatever size is easiest for you to fit in your mouth!
If you want to Instagram your beautiful dish, make sure to do so before you stir in the sour cream, as the white and the red mix together to make bright pink! Boy did I get some strange looks in the break room at work with my pink soup.
I hope you enjoy this quicker version of Borscht. If you try any cool variations of my recipe, please let me know in the comments!