Borscht Without Beets

The weekend before Thanksgiving I attended the Kalamazoo Russian Festival with my niece and there were a variety of Russian foods on the lunch menu. I really enjoyed the pierogi, pumpernickel bread, and borscht. Except–I forgot–borscht usually has beets in it. (If you saw my post about Martha Rose Schulman’s recipe for Grated Raw Beet Salad, you’d think she won me over as a beet-eater but that’s about the only way I can handle them–smothered in citrus.)

The borscht was tasty, but it still had that beety edge to it. That’s because borscht, according to Wikipedia, is traditionally a soup made from “trimmings of cellared vegetables consumed throughout the winter months.” While its origins are in the Ukraine, the soup is popular throughout many Eastern and Central European countries. And one of the primary vegetables of the Slavic diet that’s consumed during the winter months is beets.

Cabbage is another vegetable found in borscht. So I thought: Can you make borscht with cabbage and not beets? That got me searching for a borscht recipe without beets. And, indeed, there are quite a few.  The recipe that inspired my borscht is called Cabbage Borscht Mennonite Soup. Here’s my adaptation:

Borscht Without Beets


  • 2 pounds beef soup bones
  • 2 quarts water, or more as needed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 12 carrots, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 3 onions, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 potatoes, cubed
  • 1 head cabbage, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (or 1 tsp. dried)
  • 5 whole allspice berries
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pinch ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups tomato puree
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Olive oil for drizzling


Bring beef soup bones and water to a boil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 1 1/2 hours, adding more water, as necessary, to maintain the 2 quart level. Remove and discard the soup bones, then strain the broth into a fresh pot, and return to the stove.

Saute carrots, celery, and onion in olive oil until tender. Add garlic and saute two minutes.

Stir in the potatoes, cabbage, allspice berries, bay leaf, salt, and pepper. Cook until the potatoes are easily pierced with a fork, about 20 minutes.

Stir in the tomato puree and return soup to a boil. Salt and pepper to taste.

Drizzle with olive oil when served.


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