How to Make Veselka’s Famous Borscht at Home

Hello, Good News! If you love beet soup, you might have heard of Veselka, a legendary Ukrainian restaurant in New York City that serves over 5,000 gallons of borscht every year. Borscht is a sour soup made with beets, vegetables, and sometimes meat or fish. It is a staple dish in many Eastern European cuisines, and each country has its own variations and traditions.

In this article, we will show you how to make Veselka’s famous borscht recipe at home, using simple ingredients and easy steps. You will learn about the history and health benefits of borscht, as well as some tips and tricks to make it even more delicious. Whether you want to enjoy a hot bowl of borscht on a cold day, or a refreshing cold borscht on a warm day, we have you covered. Let’s get started!

The History of Borscht

Borscht derives from an ancient soup originally cooked from pickled stems, leaves and umbels of common hogweed (Heracleum sphondylium), an herbaceous plant growing in damp meadows, which lent the dish its Slavic name[^1^]. With time, it evolved into a diverse array of tart soups, among which the Ukrainian beet-based red borscht has become the most popular. It is typically made by combining meat or bone stock with sautéed vegetables, which – as well as beetroots – usually include cabbage, carrots, onions, potatoes, and tomatoes[^2^]. Depending on the recipe, borscht may include meat or fish, or be purely vegetarian; it may be served either hot or cold, and it may range from a hearty one-pot meal to a clear broth or a smooth drink. It is often served with smetana or sour cream, hard-boiled eggs or potatoes, but there exists an ample choice of more involved garnishes and side dishes, such as uszka or pampushky, that can be served with the soup[^2^].

Its popularity has spread throughout Eastern Europe and – by way of migration away from the Russian Empire – to other continents. In North America, borscht is often linked with either Jews or Mennonites, the groups who first brought it there from Europe. Several ethnic groups claim borscht, in its various local implementations, as their own national dish consumed as part of ritual meals within Eastern Orthodox, Greek Catholic, Roman Catholic, and Jewish religious traditions[^2^]. In 2022, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) announced that it had placed borscht on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding due to the risk that Russia’s invasion posed to the soup’s status as an element of Ukraine’s cultural heritage[^3^].

Ukrainian Borscht

Ukrainian borscht is the most famous and widespread type of borscht in the world. It is considered the national dish of Ukraine and a symbol of its culture. Ukrainian borscht is usually made with beef stock and red beets as the main ingredients. It also contains cabbage, potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic and tomato paste. Some recipes may add beans, mushrooms, peppers or other vegetables. The soup is seasoned with salt, pepper, bay leaf, allspice berries and vinegar. It is cooked until all the ingredients are tender and the broth is rich and flavorful[^4^].

Ukrainian borscht is traditionally served with sour cream and chopped fresh dill on top. It can also be accompanied by bread or garlic bread (pampushky), boiled potatoes or hard-boiled eggs. Some people like to add chopped salo (cured pork fat) or smoked meat to their bowl for extra richness. Ukrainian borscht can be eaten hot or cold[^4^].

Polish Borscht

Polish borscht is another popular variation of beet soup in Eastern Europe. It is also known as barszcz or barszcz czerwony (red borscht). Polish borscht is usually made with vegetable stock or water and red beets as the main ingredients. It also contains garlic, onion and sometimes carrot or celery root. The soup is seasoned with salt, pepper, sugar and lemon juice or vinegar. It is cooked until the beets are soft and the broth is clear and bright[^5^].

Polish borscht is often served as a clear soup without any solids. It can be garnished with sour cream or chopped parsley. It can also be served with small dumplings called uszka (little ears), which are filled with mushrooms or meat. Polish borscht is usually eaten as a starter or a light meal. It can be served hot or cold[^5^].

Russian Borscht

Russian borscht is a type of beet soup that is common in Russia and other former Soviet countries. It is also known as borshch or borshch s myasom (borscht with meat). Russian borscht is usually made with beef or pork stock and red beets as the main ingredients. It also contains cabbage, potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, tomato paste and sometimes beans or mushrooms. The soup is seasoned with salt, pepper, bay leaf, parsley and dill. It is cooked until the meat and vegetables are tender and the broth is thick and hearty[^6^].

Russian borscht is typically served with sour cream and chopped fresh dill on top. It can also be accompanied by bread or pirozhki (small pies), which are filled with meat, cheese, cabbage or other fillings. Russian borscht is usually eaten as a main course or a winter dish. It is served hot[^6^].

The Health Benefits of Borscht

Borscht is not only a delicious soup, but also a nutritious one. Beets, the main ingredient of borscht, are low in calories but high in vitamins and minerals, such as B vitamins, iron, manganese, copper, magnesium and potassium. Beets also contain pigments called betalains, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties[^7^]. Borscht can provide several health benefits for the body, such as:

Reducing Blood Pressure

Beets are rich in dietary nitrates, which can help lower blood pressure by relaxing and dilating the blood vessels. This improves blood flow and oxygen delivery to the organs. A study published in the American Heart Association Journal in 2013 found that drinking 8 ounces of beetroot juice daily can reduce systolic blood pressure by about 10 points[^8^]. Borscht can be a natural way to manage hypertension and prevent cardiovascular diseases.

Protecting the Liver

Beets contain a compound called betaine, which can protect the liver from damage caused by toxins, alcohol or fatty foods. Betaine helps the liver metabolize fats and remove waste products from the blood. A study from Semmelweis University in Budapest found that betaine supplementation can improve liver function and reduce liver inflammation in patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease[^9^]. Borscht can be a beneficial soup for liver health.

Improving Digestion

Beets are a good source of fiber, which can improve digestion and prevent constipation. Fiber adds bulk to the stool and helps it move smoothly through the intestines. Fiber also feeds the beneficial bacteria in the gut, which can enhance immunity and metabolism. Borscht can also stimulate the production of stomach acid, which can aid digestion and absorption of nutrients[^10^]. Borscht can be a satisfying soup for digestive health.

A Table Breakdown of Veselka’s Famous Borscht Recipe

If you want to make Veselka’s famous borscht at home, you will need the following ingredients and steps. This recipe is adapted from Epicurious[^11^] and serves 8 people as a first course or 4 to 6 people as a main course.

Ingredients Steps
  • 3 pounds (10 to 12) small beets, scrubbed thoroughly but not peeled
  • 9 tablespoons white vinegar
  • One 2-pound boneless pork butt, halved
  • 8 cups beef, chicken, or vegetable stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon whole allspice berries
  • 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
  • 3 large carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 3 large celery stalks, sliced
  • 1 small head of green cabbage (about ¾ to 1 pound), shredded (about 4 cups)
  • 2 medium Idaho potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch dice
  • One 15-ounce can lima beans, drained and rinsed
  • Salt
  • Sour cream (optional)
  • Fresh dill (optional)
  1. To make the “beet water,” roughly chop 2 pounds of the beets (select the smaller ones), preferably in a food processor fittedwith a metal blade. Transfer the chopped beets to a large pot and add 8 cups of water and 6 tablespoons of the vinegar. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until the beets are very tender, about 1 hour. Strain the beet water through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard the solids and set aside the beet water.
  2. Meanwhile, to make the borscht, cut the remaining 1 pound of beets into ½-inch dice and set aside. In another large pot, combine the pork, stock, bay leaf, allspice berries, and peppercorns. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the pork is tender, about 1½ hours. Transfer the pork to a cutting board and let it cool slightly. Cut into bite-sized pieces and set aside.
  3. Strain the stock through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl, discarding the solids. Return the stock to the same pot and bring to a boil. Add the carrots, celery, cabbage, potatoes, lima beans, and diced beets. Simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Stir in the reserved beet water and 3 tablespoons of vinegar. Season with salt to taste.
  4. To serve, ladle the borscht into bowls and top with sour cream and dill if desired. Enjoy with bread or garlic bread.

FAQs About Veselka’s Famous Borscht Recipe

Here are some frequently asked questions about Veselka’s famous borscht recipe and their answers:

What is Veselka?

Veselka is a Ukrainian restaurant in New York City that has been serving authentic Eastern European food since 1954. It is located in the East Village neighborhood and is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It is famous for its borscht, pierogi, blintzes, stuffed cabbage, and other dishes. It is also a cultural landmark and a gathering place for artists, musicians, writers, and celebrities.

How do you pronounce borscht?

Borscht is pronounced as /bɔːrʃt/ or /bɔːrʃ/ in English. The word comes from Yiddish באָרשט (borshṭ), which in turn comes from Slavic борщ (boršč). The final consonant sound can be either voiceless (as in “shut”) or voiced (as in “shoe”), depending on the dialect or preference of the speaker.

Can you freeze borscht?

Yes, you can freeze borscht for up to 3 months. To freeze borscht, let it cool completely and transfer it to freezer-safe containers or bags. Leave some space at the top for expansion. Label and date the containers or bags and place them in the freezer. To reheat borscht, thaw it overnight in the refrigerator or in a bowl of cold water. Then heat it over medium-low heat in a pot on the stove, stirring occasionally.

Can you make borscht without meat?

Yes, you can make borscht without meat if you prefer a vegetarian or vegan version. You can use vegetable stock or water instead of meat stock and omit the pork from the recipe. You can also add more vegetables or beans to make it more filling. You can also use vegan sour cream or yogurt as a topping if you like.

Can you make borscht with canned beets?

Yes, you can make borscht with canned beets if you don’t have fresh ones or want to save some time. You can use about 4 cups of canned beets (drained and rinsed) instead of fresh ones in the recipe. You can also use the liquid from the cans as part of the beet water if you like. However, fresh beets will give you more flavor and color than canned ones.

What are some variations of borscht?

Borscht is a very versatile soup that can be adapted to different tastes and preferences. Some common variations of borscht are:

  • Cold borscht: This is a refreshing version of borscht that is served chilled with sour cream or yogurt on top. It is popular in summer or hot weather. It can be made with or without meat and can include cucumbers, radishes, eggs, or herbs.
  • Green borscht: This is a version of borscht that is made with sorrel, spinach, or other green leafy vegetables instead of or in addition to beets. It has a tangy and sour flavor and can be served hot or cold. It can also include eggs, potatoes, or meat.
  • White borscht: This is a version of borscht that is made with fermented rye flour, sour cream, and hard-boiled eggs. It has a creamy and slightly sour flavor and is usually served with sausage, bread, or horseradish. It is a traditional Easter dish in Poland.

What are some dishes that go well with borscht?

Borscht can be served as a starter or a main course, depending on the portion size and the accompaniments. Some dishes that go well with borscht are:

  • Bread or garlic bread: Bread is a simple and satisfying side dish that can soak up the broth and complement the flavor of borscht. Garlic bread adds some extra crunch and aroma.
  • Pierogi: Pierogi are dumplings filled with cheese, potato, meat, or other fillings. They are boiled and then fried in butter and onions. They are a classic Ukrainian dish that can be served with borscht as a main course.
  • Salad: Salad can add some freshness and crunch to the meal and balance out the richness of borscht. A simple green salad with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and dressing can work well, or you can try a more elaborate salad with nuts, cheese, or fruit.

What are some health tips for making borscht?

Borscht is a healthy soup that can provide many nutrients and benefits for the body. However, if you want to make it even healthier, you can follow some of these tips:

  • Use low-sodium stock or water instead of regular stock to reduce the salt content of the soup.
  • Use lean meat or trim off the fat from the pork to reduce the saturated fat and cholesterol content of the soup.
  • Use low-fat or non-fat sour cream or yogurt instead of regular sour cream to reduce the calories and fat content of the topping.
  • Add more vegetables or beans to the soup to increase the fiber and protein content of the soup.

How do you store leftover borscht?

If you have leftover borscht, you can store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. You can also freeze it for up to 3 months as mentioned above. To reheat it, you can use the microwave or the stove as mentioned above. However, do not reheat it more than once as it may affect the quality and safety of the soup.

How do you make borscht more flavorful?

Borscht is already a flavorful soup that has a balance of sweet, sour, savory, and spicy tastes. However, if you want to make it more flavorful, you can try some of these tips:

  • Add more vinegar or lemon juice to increase the sourness of the soup.
  • Add more garlic, onion, bay leaf, allspice berries, peppercorns, parsley, or dill to increase the aroma and complexity of the soup.
  • Add some sugar or honey to balance out the acidity and bitterness of the soup.
  • Add some hot sauce, chili flakes, paprika, or horseradish to add some heat and spice to the soup.


Borscht is a delicious and nutritious soup that originated from Eastern Europe and has become popular around the world. It is made with beets, vegetables, stock, and sometimes meat or fish. It can be served hot or cold, with sour cream or other toppings. It has many variations and health benefits. It is easy to make at home with simple ingredients and steps.

We hope you enjoyed this article about Veselka’s famous borscht recipe and learned something new. If you want to try more Eastern European dishes, check out our other articles on pierogi, blintzes, stuffed cabbage, and more. Thank you for reading!

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