‘Cooking Together’: Beet Borscht – Warming Red Soup for Your Valentine

By Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff

The month of February symbolizes heart, love and friendship. And, red is the color for February.  In many countries, people celebrate this month with friends and family by giving them loving gifts such as red flowers and heart-shaped candies. But the American Heart Association has a different theme for February. They call February the “Heart Awareness Month” to remind us that heart diseases are one of the major causes of premature deaths in the United States. 

Health professionals point out that many factors contribute to our heart health, including family history of heart disease and diet. While the genetics are out of our control, we can certainly modify our diet by including heart-healthy foods, such as fresh vegetables, to our daily menu. So, let’s celebrate February by sharing a warm and healthy vegetable soup with our loved ones. 

Depending on how you plan to serve this beet borscht, it can be thick or thin; it can vary in form, content and consistency. I like my beet bortsch with lots of red broth. You can modify the recipe by adding more vegetables, such as potatoes (or even beans) to make it thicker. 

Photos by Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff.


8 cups water

1 cup beet cubes, (sugar-cube size) 

½ cup chopped beet peels (from the above beets)

1 cup peeled potato, cut into small cubes

1 cup carrots, cut into small cubes or thin slices

2 tablespoons oil or butter

3 tablespoons finely chopped onion

2 cloves garlic minced

½ cup fresh or canned tomato cut into small chunks

1 cup cabbage cut into thin strips

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 

3 tablespoons fresh dill, finely chopped

2 tablespoons, finely chopped parsley

½ cup red wine or vinegar

1 teaspoon sugar or honey or to taste

More salt and pepper as needed to correct seasoning

Additional chopped dill weed for garnish

A bowl of sour cream or unflavored yogurt to serve for topping (optional)

In a large pot, bring 6 cups of water to boil. Trim small pieces from both ends of the beets. Peel the beets using a knife (instead of a vegetable peeler) to obtain some thick peels. Set the peels aside. Then cut the beets into cubes. Peel and cut the potatoes into cubes and the carrots into small cubes or slices and set them aside. 

Wash the peels and place them in a separate pot with 2 cups of water and boil them for 10 to 15 minutes. Then strain this red liquid and set it aside.

Add the beet cubes to the large pot of boiling water and cook them for 20 minutes and then add the potato cubes. Cook the two roots together for additional 10 minutes, then add the carrots.  Continue to simmer the roots for 10 to 15 minutes while preparing the next step. 

While the roots are cooking together, heat the oil in a skillet and sauté the onions for 2 minutes.  Add the garlic and continue to sauté for another minute. Add the tomatoes and stir fry for an additional few minutes and then add the cabbage. Stir these vegetables well and then set them aside.  

When the beets and potatoes feel very soft to the touch, add the sautéed vegetables, salt, pepper, dill and parsley. Next, cook the borscht for 15 minutes so that all vegetables are well blended.  Next, add one cup of the reserved broth from the beet peels. Save rest of the broth liquid for future use. (The reason for adding this broth towards the end of the cooking process is to preserve and highlight the deep red beet color). Then add the wine or vinegar and simmer the soup for 5 minutes. Taste the soup and add sugar or honey as needed. Add additional salt and/or pepper to correct seasoning. Lastly, garnish the borscht with chopped dill. Serve with the optional sour cream or yogurt. This soup goes well as the first course for dinner or as a lunch served with dark rye bread. 

The day-old borscht tastes great, when reheated, but it may have lost its bright red color. To bring back the color, heat the day old-soup and add the reserved beet broth and you will get a brand new red borscht again.  

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Recipes by Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff, copyright 2023. Shanta is a Sunset District resident and the author of “Cooking Together” and “Flavors of India,” both available at Other Avenues Food Store at 3930 Judah St. Shanta writes recipes and articles on food and nutrition. She also teaches vegetarian and vegan cooking classes and shares recipes via videos on YouTube.

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