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3 Russian Ladies and a Borscht Soup Recipe


You can’t go through a 3 week trip in Russia without partaking in some delicious, red, Russian borscht. Topped with a dollop of smetana and a smathering of dill, this traditional borscht soup recipe was brought to you by the 3 Russian ladies at the 8th Floor Hostel in Tomsk — all 3 of which slaved away for hours in the kitchen to give us foreigners a taste of the real deal.

Russian borscht soup

I already knew I love a good borscht, but when Pollina — one of the amazing and helpful hostel workers at 8th Floor — asked if we might like to have a night of home cooking, I couldn’t say no. No way! Plus, I wanted to see how it was really done so I could recreate the magic at home. Australians already love beetroot, so it makes sense.

The Ingredients

Before we set out for the day, Pollina dropped us a small note with a list of ingredients for the borscht soup recipe that we needed to pick up and have back at the hostel by 5pm. It included:

  • 1/2 kilo beef on bone
  • 1 small cabbage
  • 1 kilo potatoes (we didn’t need that much)
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 large beet
  • Tomato paste (they used ketchup instead)
  • Bay leaves
  • Peppercorns
  • Oil

borscht ingredients

Pat and I acquired most of these items at the open-air markets across the street from the hostel. Overall, it was an enjoyable experience except for when we had to buy the meat. Oh dear god, it was trying to watch the lady man-handle bloody meat and plop it on the counter repeatedly. But we lived.

One thing to note: The meat is actually less important. We wanted the bone to make a traditional and flavorful broth.

We brought the ingredients back, and the magic began!

Boil the Meat

First step was simple enough. Boil the beef in a small pot of water to create a delicious soup base. This went on for a couple hours.

boil the beef

Don’t forget to drop in a couple bay leaves and some peppercorns to add to the flavour.

Prepare the Veggies

Pat actually volunteered to help with the veggies, but after being laughed at and shown the “correct way” to peel a potato, I bet he wish he hadn’t!

prepare the veggies

3 Russian ladies

Chop up some onions, dice some beetroot, and shred some carrot.



Fry the Veggies

Fry the onion in a pan of oil. Add in beetroot, garlic, and carrot (most recipes I found online only fried the onion).

fry the onions

fry the carrot and beetroot

Remove Meat from Soup

Place on a plate to cool before deboning and dicing to bite-sized bits. Remove bay leaves and peppercorns from stock.

remove meat from soup


Add Mixture to Soup

Add the fried mixture to the soup stock. Continue to heat through after adding in a few dashes of ketchup to taste (most recipes will call for tomatoes and vinegar, or tomato paste and vinegar).


Add Cabbage and Potatoes to Soup

Finish shredding a white cabbage and add in about 1-2 cups to the soup. Chop up about 2 medium potatoes and also add those. Bring to a boil and continue simmering for 30 minutes.



Serve it Up!

Before serving, drop the meat back in the soup. Ladle out bowls of the borscht, spoon a dollop of sour cream on top and don’t forget the fresh dill.


As you can imagine, it was delicious! Big thanks to the 8th Floor Hostel in Tomsk for making our stay so damn enjoyable, and thanks to Hostelworld for hooking us up. You all rock!


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17 Responses to 3 Russian Ladies and a Borscht Soup Recipe

  1. Melissa July 25, 2012 at 10:11 am #

    That sounds tasty! I may have to make this in a few weeks when our local farmer’s market starts carrying root vegetables. Do you think it would work with store bought beef stock instead?

    • Brooke July 25, 2012 at 10:42 pm #

      Yeah most likely would work πŸ™‚ Let us know how it goes!

  2. Katherine | Kapcha The World July 25, 2012 at 10:05 pm #

    Oh my god random – we were just having a conversation at lunch about Borscht Soup and wondering what was in it. Came back to my desk and this was the first thing I saw on Facebook! Thanks for the recipe – have sent the link to everyone. Yum.

    • Brooke July 30, 2012 at 10:05 am #

      That is absolutely random! Glad to hear I could help out many people at once πŸ™‚ Cheers!

  3. Laryssa July 26, 2012 at 10:18 am #

    Haha, this post was so well-timed! Earlier this week I was pondering finding a good borscht recipe. I grew up eating it, as my grandpa was from Ukraine. But we had the Ukrainian version… no meat, no sour cream, and the kicker- served cold πŸ™‚ It was all about the beets, I recall!

    • Brooke July 30, 2012 at 10:07 am #

      I’ve had that cold borscht you’re talking about — or something like it… made with beets and kefir, pickles and eggs. Sound familiar?

  4. Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) July 26, 2012 at 4:37 pm #

    I love family recipes! I always think one of the best ways to get to know a culture is to cook one of its meals, especially when you are using a recipe that has been passed down across generations.

    Also, my husband is not a fan of borscht whatsoever, but even he said this looked phenomenal. Not sure when we will have a kitchen of our own to do some cooking, but I will definitely try this recipe at some point.

    • Brooke July 30, 2012 at 10:08 am #

      We really liked this recipe because it didn’t use too much beetroot — just enough to add flavour but not too much to make it overpowering. It was really good, and I’m happy that it made your husband enticed πŸ˜‰

  5. London4Travelers July 28, 2012 at 2:23 pm #

    From my own experience I can say that Russian women prepare very tasty food. I have tried many dishes of Russian cuisine and can say that these dishes are amazing. So, when travel in Russia don’t forget to try the best dishes of local cuisine. You will not regret about this.

    • Brooke July 30, 2012 at 10:09 am #

      Love love love Russian food – so hearty and homestyle.

  6. Marisa July 31, 2012 at 11:32 pm #

    Oh wow Brooke, this looks soooo good. I’ve tried lots of things but never Borscht Soup – I feel like that’s something that needs to be authentic, you know? One of my new friends in the town I just moved too has parents that are from Russia and apparently they make a pretty amazing Borscht soup – I am determined to try it one of these days:)

    • Brooke September 5, 2012 at 8:46 am #

      Hi Marisa — I’m wondering if you ever got to trying some borscht ? Would love to know what you thought! πŸ™‚

  7. Jade Johnston - August 2, 2012 at 12:01 am #

    YUM I have actually been craving borcht so i will have to try this soon!

  8. stormi December 26, 2013 at 12:38 pm #

    I am doing my practicum for my associates in Culinary Arts. As part of this cours, I must come up with a themed menu, including pictures, recipes, and pricing. I decided to do a Russian theme, as I live in an area that most will only think to do either Italian, French, or Mexican. I wanted my assignment to be different! The first thing I thought of was Borscht. I love love LOVE borscht! But I couldn’t find the recipe I got from a friends Russian mother, who has since passed away. Then I found yours, and I remember making it like this last time, so I tried it………… was right on! Thank you for giving me back a recipe that I had lost!

  9. Charles March 16, 2014 at 3:29 pm #

    Thank you posting this. It’s even better after being in the fridge a couple days. Ours was gelatin-like. We put it in the microwave for one minute, so it was still somewhat cool, then added the sour cream and dill. Perfection!


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