Christmas Eve Beet Soup (barszcz wigiljny in polish) is a traditional soup, served on Christmas Eve Supper. The Christmas Eve / Wigilia Supper can last for hours and consists mostly of 12 dishes, starting with red Borscht.
According to the tradition, Christmas Eve Beet Soup must be meatless. It’s most often made using beet sour (a couple of beets are chopped and combined with water and spices, then fermented for a couple of days). My recipe is much simpler but still full of taste. The soup is slightly sweet and sour. Beet sour adds sharpness and a lot of flavor to the soup. Since I’m not using it, my secret ingredient is sauerkraut and mushroom cooking water (leftover from the sauerkraut and mushroom pierogi recipe). The soup won’t taste like sauerkraut though. Borscht soup is naturally sweet (a lot of beets are used!) so we need to add acidity to balance this sweetness. I’m using apple cider vinegar, rice vinegar and lemon juice. Borscht seasoned this way is really perfect for me. Slightly sweet and sour, balanced.
The addition of clove and star anise is optional and not very traditional, but it’s worth to add them. Their aroma works well with the beetroots, but the soup does not taste ‘spiced’.
Christmas Eve Beet Soup must be made a day ahead. It’s based on vegetable broth so it takes time to release a lot of flavor from the vegetables. I leave them in the broth overnight then strain and season on the next day. The traditional way to serve Christmas Eve Beet Soup is with uszka (small dumplings) or yeast buns filled with mushrooms.
Are you looking for other Christmas recipes? Try these Lebkuchen – German/Austrian gingerbread cookies, filled with plum jam and coated in chocolate. They’re on our Christmas table every year.
Polish Christmas Eve Beet Soup Recipe (Borscht / Barszcz Wigilijny)
- soup vegetables: 2 carrots piece of leek (white part), piece of celeriac, ½ parsley root, 2 sprigs parsley leaves
- 1 kg / 2.2 lbs beets
- ½ apple sweet variety
- 1 medium onion
- 3 cloves garlic
- 10 peppercorns
- 3 allspice berries
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 clove
- ½ star anise
- 2 l / 2 qt water
- 1 cup sauerkraut and mushroom cooking water from the sauerkraut and mushroom pierogi recipe OR mushroom cooking water (from the uszka dumplings recipe)
- 1 tablespoon dried marjoram
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- ½ tablespoons lemon juice
- salt and black pepper to taste
- Wash all the soup vegetables and beets. Peel carrots, celeriac, parsley roots and beets (use gloves!), cut into 3-4 cm / 1-½ inch pieces. Cut the leek in half, rinse thoroughly. Fire roast the onion on a gas burner or cut in half, put the cut-side down in a small pot, heat over high heat until it’s dark in color.
- Add all the vegetables into a large pot, add half an apple (with peel), peeled garlic cloves, pour in 2 liters / quarts cold water.
- Cover with a lid and bring to a boil over very low heat, it should take about 20-30 minutes.
- When the broth is boiling, add the peppercorns, bay leaves, allspice, clove, star anise and a teaspoon of salt. Simmer over a very low heat, covered, for about 2 hours.
- Leave to cool, then put in the fridge overnight, don’t strain the vegetables!
On the second day:
- Strain and discard the vegetables and spices.
- Add the sauerkraut and mushroom cooking water / mushroom cooking water, but not all of it at first. Add a little (especially if you’re adding mushroom cooking water) and make sure that the aroma is not too strong, then you can add more. If you’ve added mushroom cooking water (not sauerkraut and mushroom cooking water) it’s possible you’ll have to add a little more vinegar or lemon juice later.
- Heat the borscht until very warm.
- Season with apple cider vinegar, rice vinegar and lemon juice (a little at a time) until nicely sweet and sour. If you overdo it with vinegar or the soup is not sweet enough, you can add some powdered sugar. Add the marjoram and at the end, season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm with uszka dumplings.
Did you make this recipe? Let me know how you liked it and give it a star rating in the comments below! You can also add a photo of your creation!