How can a bowl of borscht with a dollop of sour cream be such a comfort?
Perhaps it’s the vibrant color or the fresh flavor of dill that makes this beet stew so enticing. It reminds me of my college self who found a bit of normalcy in New York in the warmth of a Polish restaurant slurping on a bowl of borscht with a side of pierogi.
Like Anthony Bourdain, I think a good soup is a window into the heart and soul of a place. And so, whenever there’s a chill in the air and beet root of every size and shape, I think of borscht as a flavorful way to celebrate the transition from Fall to Winter. I think about how my Polish ancestors might have survived on borscht in the cold.
On a whim, I decided to make mine with lamb, and I think it works incredibly well, adding fat and richness. I usually make borscht vegan though, so if you want to use vegetable stock, it’s a very easy thing to do.
What does borscht taste like?
The dominant tastes in borscht are sweet and sour. In this variation, the sweetness comes from a medley of root vegetables (beet, carrot, red potato) and purple cabbage. Sourness comes from red wine vinegar, which really balances the sweet. Coriander and dill add astringent and aromatic qualities that make this a beautifully seasoned stew with a bright quality.
It’s just so darn good – I can’t get over how nice it is to sit down with a giant bowl of hot borscht!
Many people add sour cream, and I’m one of them. I love how cream can be stirred in a bit for a little touch of richness. It’s totally optional though if you are avoiding dairy.
Working with Beets
When you work with beets, they bleed all over your hands and that’s what gives this soup the reddish-purple color. It’s a very easy recipe, made with simple ingredients. It’s a bit of work to chop all the vegetables, but then you end up with a giant pot so it’s well worth the time.
Leftover borscht can be portioned into containers and stored in the fridge for up to 5 days for a really nutritious and satisfying lunch or dinner. I’ve heard of some people eating borcht cold, but I can’t imagine liking it as much as hot.
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Serving the Borscht (Borsch) Stew
I could eat this borscht as-is for a light and healthy dinner because it’s loaded with lots of textures from all the vegetables. Since this version has lamb, it’s a meal in itself. If you want to add some crusty sourdough bread, I think that would be useful for sopping up all the broth.
For me, there’s nothing quite like dill with borscht. If you have an aversion to dill (like my husband), you could try using fennel fronds or parsley instead.
Top Tips for Making Borscht
- If adding lamb, add stew meat cut into chunks in the beginning so it can develop flavor for the base of the soup.
- It’s important to add salt and pepper in the beginning, so that the flavors develop. You can add salt at the end again to taste.
- Always add delicate fresh herbs (dill) at the very end so that their aromatic qualities don’t get lost in evaporation and high heat.
- Use acid to lift the flavor of the sweet beets. I use red wine vinegar, but you could also try lemon juice, white wine vinegar, or sherry vinegar.
- When making soup, look for vegetable stock (no salt added) or low sodium broth so that you control how salty the final dish tastes.
- Liquid measurements are always approximate. You can absolutely add more stock if you want to.
More Stews You Might Like
- Immunity-Boosting Turmeric Vegetable Soup
- Hot and Sour Chicken Soup
- Wine Braised Short Ribs
- Purple Cabbage Rolls
*Are you making borscht with lamb? Let me know if you had any trouble finding lamb for this recipe in the comments below.
Borscht with Lamb and Beets
- 2 tbsp olive oil, extra virgin
- 1 pound boneless stew lamb chunks, leg of lamb or beef sirloin tip, diced
- 2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 2 medium red potatoes, diced
- 1 small head red cabbage, halved, cored, thinly sliced
- 1/3 cup tomato paste
- 1 tbsp coconut sugar, or brown sugar
- 2 tsp ground coriander
- 2 quarts beef stock, or vegetable stock
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 beets, peeled and grated
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped
- 1/4 cup sour cream, or plain Greek yogurt (optional)
- Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Pat the lamb dry with paper towels and add to the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring to sear the lamb, 1 to 3 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to medium and add the onion, garlic, carrots, potato, and cabbage. Cook until the vegetables are slightly tender, stirring occasionally (10 minutes). Stir in tomato paste, coconut sugar, coriander, cooking for 1 minute. Add stock and bay leaves. Boil, then reduce heat to medium-low.
- Cover and simmer until the cabbage is very tender, 15 minutes. Stir in beets and vinegar and continue to simmer, covered, for 10 minutes or until the beets are tender. Stir in fresh dill, reserving a few springs for garnish. Ladle into bowls and dollop with sour cream and extra dill.