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Polish Christmas Eve Beet Soup Recipe (Borscht / Barszcz Wigilijny)

8 December 2018 | Last Updated: 19 December 2019

Christmas Eve Beet Soup (barszcz wigiljny in Polish) is a traditional soup, served on Christmas Eve Supper. The Christmas Eve Supper (Wigilia) can last for hours and consists mostly of 12 dishes, starting with clear red Borscht. This soup is most often served with uszka – porcini-filled small pierogi. It’s made using beet kvass, but I will also show you an alternative preparation method, without the kvass, which is equally good.

Polish Christmas Eve Beet Soup Recipe on a table surrounded with Christmas decorations

Ingredients:

According to the tradition, all dishes served for Christmas Eve Supper must be meatless and so is this Borscht. Don’t confuse this soup with everyday Polish borscht, which is made with meat, chopped beetroot pieces and sometimes mashed potatoes. Christmas Eve Beet Soup must be meatless.

The ingredients are simple, you’ll need:

  • Basic beetroot soup ingredients: beetroots, soup vegetables – the same you’ll need to make a simple vegetable broth (carrots, leek, parsley root, celeriac, onion, garlic). I also added a half of an apple – it adds a little sweetness to the soup.
  • Spices – traditional spices like bay leaves, allspice berries and marjoram and additional spices that works in my opinion extremely well here – just 1 clove and 1/2 of star anise. 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 don’t worry, the soup does not taste ‘spiced’.
  • Beet kvass – this is brine leftover from pickling beetroots. It’s very easy to make and will take you only 5 minutes, but you need to wait a minimum of 6 days until the kvass is ready. You just need to cut the beetroot into medium chunks, cover with salted water, add spices and leave for a couple of days to ferment. It adds a naturally sour, sharp and deep beetroot taste to the soup. Many Polish people use the beet kvas not only to make beetroot soup but also simply drink it, as it’s extremely healthy, like any other fermented food (not pickled, that is mixed with vinegar, but naturally fermented) like sauerkraut or cucumbers in brine.
  • Mushroom cooking water (leftover from uszka recipe). It adds deep ‘meaty’ and earthy taste to the soup. The mushroom flavor won’t be noticeable.
  • If you don’t have the time to make beet kvass (as mentioned above it’s quick to make but it needs to ferment for a minimum of 6 days) I developed an alternative preparation method, that also produces amazing borscht. This is not an authentic preparation method but rather my creation, that works extremely well. 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. It just adds natural sourness to the soup.
  • Different vinegar types and lemon juice – borscht soup is naturally sweet (a lot of beets are used and a 1/2 of apple) so we need to add acidity to balance this sweetness. Both beet kvass and sauerkraut cooking water add sourness, but it’s not enough. Traditionally a very sharp 10% spirit vinegar is used, which is not available in the country that I live in (Austria), so I’m using different kinds of vinegar: apple cider vinegar, rice vinegar, and lemon juice. All three are needed, each one adds a different kind of flavor. Rice vinegar is neutral in flavor, apple cider vinegar is sweet (if you only use this vinegar the soup will be too sweet and taste too much of apples) and lemon juice has a nice citrus refreshing flavor (the same – if you only use lemon juice it will be too citrusy and lemony).

How to make it step by step:

This 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.

Christmas Eve Borscht ingredients

STEP 1: the first day: 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 cut-side down in a small pot, heat over high heat until it’s dark in color.

STEP 2: Add all the vegetables into a large pot, add half an apple (with peel), and peeled garlic cloves.

Christmas Eve Borscht preparation steps

STEP 3: Pour 2 liters / quarts of cold water to the pot. Cover with a lid and bring to a boil over very low heat, it should take about 20-30 minutes.

STEP 4: 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!

Christmas Eve Borscht preparation steps

STEP 5: Strain and discard the vegetables and spices.

SEASON THE SOUP, either with:

-> sauerkraut and mushroom cooking water from this recipe for sauerkraut and mushroom pierogi OR

-> beet kvass and mushroom cooking water from the uszka recipe.

I would urge you to add these ingredients gradually to make sure the flavor is not too strong for you.

Heat the borscht until very warm. Then season the soup 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. If you’ve used beet kvass you’ll need less vinegar.

STEP 6: Serve warm with the uszka dumplings.

What to serve it with:

  • uszka – add them to the soup
  • yeast buns or puff pastry buns filled with sauerkraut and mushroom filling or krokiety – European-style pancakes filled with the same filling, rolled up, breaded and pan-fried – they are served alongside the soup

Other Polish dishes that are served for Christmas Eve:

Polish Christmas Eve Beet Soup Recipe (Borscht / Barszcz Wigilijny)

Christmas Eve Beet Soup is a traditional Polish soup served on Christmas Eve Supper. My Borscht is perfectly seasoned and slightly sweet and sour. 
To make this soup you’ll need sauerkraut and mushroom cooking water from this recipe or this beet kvass recipe.
Christmas eve borscht
Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 20 minutes
Servings 8 servings
Calories 420kcal
Author Aleksandra

Ingredients

base of the soup:

  • soup vegetables: 2 carrots, a piece of leek (white part), a piece of celeriac, ½ parsley root, 2 sprigs parsley leaves
  • 2.2 lbs beets (1kg)
  • ½ apple sweet variety
  • 1 medium onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 10 black peppercorns
  • 3 allspice berries
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 clove
  • ½ star anise
  • 2 qt water (2 liter)

if you're using beet kvass:

  • 2 cups beet kvass
  • 1 cup mushroom cooking water from the uszka recipe
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon dried marjoram
  • salt and black pepper to taste

OR

    if you're using sauerkraut and mushroom cooking water:

    • 1 cup sauerkraut and mushroom cooking water from the sauerkraut and mushroom pierogi recipe
    • 1 tablespoon dried marjoram
    • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
    • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
    • ½ tablespoons lemon juice
    • salt and black pepper to taste

    Instructions

    First day:

    • 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.

    -> If you're using beet kvass:

    • Add the beet kvass and mushroom cooking water to the pot. Don't add it all at once. Your beet kvass can be more sour than mine (mine beet kvass was fermented for 6 days, if you have left your beet kvass for longer it will have a stronger flavor and will be more sour).
    • 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. Try to season it to your taste. 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.

    -> If you're using sauerkraut and mushroom cooking water:

    • Add the sauerkraut and mushroom cooking water, but not all of it at first. Add a little and make sure that the aroma is not too strong, then you can add more.
    • 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 the vinegar or the soup is not sweet enough, you can add some powdered sugar. Try to season the soup with vinegar to your taste. Your sauerkraut and mushroom cooking water can be less or more sour than mine. Add the marjoram and at the end, season with salt and pepper to taste.
    • Serve warm with uszka dumplings and enjoy!
    Course dinner, Main Course, Soup
    Cuisine polish
    Keyword Borscht soup, Christmas Eve Beet Soup, Christmas Eve Borscht, Polish beet soup

    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!

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    2 Comments

  • Reply
    Terunja
    23 December 2018 at 22:34

    5 stars
    Really like your recipe! Will serve it tomorrow night. However, I do not see when to add the marjoram. My broth is beautifully clear but the marjoram didn’t get used. I guess I’ll put the herb in some cheese cloth and let it infuse the broth.

    • Reply
      Aleksandra
      24 December 2018 at 07:16

      You’re right, sorry! I forgot to write it. You add marjoram along with the vinegars, at the end, when the broth is very warm. It’s not clear anymore, but this is how we serve it, lightly sprinkled with marjoram. You can also do what you’ve described and put it in cheese cloth. I’m so glad you like it !! 🙂 Merry Christmas!

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