Vegetarian Borscht

A couple weeks ago I had the extreme pleasure of visiting Johnson’s Backyard Garden and getting a tour of the farm. I got to pull up beets right out of the ground and eat them in the fields under the sun. It was glorious.

Hilah with BeetsI met Brenton, who started the farm with his family in 2004 — literally in their backyard. The growth of the farm from a backyard affair in East Austin to a 60 acre, 1000-member Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) organization is truly inspiring. He told me that before he decided to become a full-time farmer, he was an irrigation specialist for the city. Obviously, his background is perfectly suited to farming in our drought-prone environment here in central Texas.

The farm is certified organic and grows over 60 different vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers; many of the varieties they choose are heirlooms that are impossible to find in your regular grocery store. When I visited, it was time to harvest the beets! I tried three different beets! Holy Cow! That’s a lot of beets, y’all. (If you’re curious, they were: golden beets, chioga beets, and forno beets.)

Vegetarian Borscht

When we left, we each got a CSA box to take home. They were chock-full of beets, carrots, potatoes, onions, squash, fennel, basil, and mint. Such a cornucopia as I had never seen. Looking at that beautiful box, I was struck with the notion that everything needed to make a super-light, super-Summertime, vegetarian borscht was right in front of my face.

Borscht kind of has a rough reputation, although it is really yummy and gorgeous. It’s usually made with beef stock and meat, but it need not be. It seems like some people have an aversion to beets. I suspect that it’s an aversion that was established in childhood and I encourage you, if you are put-off by beets, to try them this way. Beets are high in antioxidants, folate, potassium, fiber, and phytochemicals. Plus, they are sweet. Sweet as beet sugar.

I didn’t use the beet greens in this soup, but they are completely edible! Beets are related to chard and their leaves are very similar to chard. To prepare beet greens, wash them well, chop, then saute in some olive oil for 5 minutes. Add garlic or red pepper if you like. Salt to taste and serve as you would any greens. You can also combine beet greens with chard for a pretty medley.

Vegetarian Borscht and Farm Field Trip Video!

Vegetarian Borscht Recipe — Printable


Vegetarian Borscht

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A healthy vegetarian soup

  • Yield: 4 1x


  • 1 pound beets (about 3)
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 large carrots
  • 1 cup shredded cabbage
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon salt (approximate measure, depending on the saltiness of your broth)
  • 1 lemon
  • Black pepper
  • Optional for serving: sour cream, fresh dill


  1. Peel the beets and carrots and cut into matchsticks about 2″ by 1/8″.
  2. Cut the onion in half from top to bottom, then cross-ways to make little C-shaped onion slices.
  3. Heat the oil in a large saucepot over medium heat until warm.
  4. Saute the beets and carrots and onions for about 10 minutes.
  5. Add the cabbage, broth and salt.
  6. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer, covered, about 20 minutes until everything is tender.
  7. Season with pepper and lemon juice. I used an entire lemon. It should taste tangy and sweet.
  8. Serve with a dollop of sour cream if you like, and/or some fresh dill.
  9. This may also be served cold with good results.

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  1. Great Stone Face on June 7, 2011 at 8:38 am

    You also could put a small boiled peeled potato in every bowl. Hot or cold. Very traditional.

    • Hilah on June 7, 2011 at 10:19 am

      Oh, thank you! That is a great idea. Traditional, yummy, and cute as a bug.
      No, it’s way cuter than a bug in your soup.

  2. Susan Gayle on June 7, 2011 at 8:43 am

    Oh, man!!! You didn’t tell me you got to drive a tractor!! And eat beets fresh from the ground. You have all the fun.

    • Hilah on June 7, 2011 at 10:20 am

      It was majorly fun, Susan! Driving a tractor is weird because it kind of feels like you could lose control at any second, but you’re still only driving like 4 miles an hour.

  3. Kathryn on June 7, 2011 at 9:38 am

    Oh my goodness, you got me at the forno beets. Laughing over here in my cube, wishing to all goodness that I was playing out in the dirt 🙂

    • Hilah on June 7, 2011 at 10:23 am

      I wish I was back out playing in the dirt, too, Kathryn. Those forno beets were cracking me up HARD all day.

  4. Monica Thomas on June 7, 2011 at 10:17 am

    The field trip looks like fun and your borscht looks delicious!!!

    • Hilah on June 7, 2011 at 10:24 am

      Hi Monica! Thanks for writing! We had a great time and a great dinner afterwards!

  5. Ryan Renee on June 7, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    I love your episodes!! Made me want to grow my own garden!! Whats the story behind your number one tattoo?

    • Hilah on June 7, 2011 at 12:37 pm

      Hi Ryan! Wasn’t it inspiring? It made me feel really sad about my own tiny, dessicated garden! It’s amazing out there.
      My tattoo is actually an anchor, although from certain angles it looks like a number 1 because I drew it myself on a napkin in a darkened bar after I should have been at home already. Oops!

  6. Diane on June 7, 2011 at 7:18 pm

    Huge yum! And I loved the farm visit; always good to know where your food comes from.

    • Hilah on June 8, 2011 at 8:09 am

      Hi Diane! Yes, it’s even better when it’s grown less than 10 miles away!

  7. Scott on June 8, 2011 at 10:59 am

    Amazing episode Hilah! I Absolutely loved seeing you get out on the farm and pulling up some of those interesting vegetables.

    • Hilah on June 8, 2011 at 1:22 pm

      Thank you, Scott! Seeing all the unusual varieties of vegetables was the highlight of my day for sure.

  8. Randy on June 8, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    Wow, I just got through watching 40 episodes of Britain’s Best Dish and was struck by how many times beets were cooked. For some reason, as a really little kid, I decided I didn’t like beets and haven’t eaten them since. Since I’m in the middle of an effort to get rid of all my irrational dislikes, this came at the perfect time.

    BTW, last night I had a dream that they brought back Green Acres with you in the Eva Gabor part.

    • Hilah on June 8, 2011 at 1:20 pm

      Yeah, I was super surprised in Olde England and New Zealand how often beets showed up in unlikely places like sandwiches and cheeseburgers.
      I think you should try beets again. I think you’ll like them now. I mean, what’s not to like?! 😉

  9. Chelsea on June 8, 2011 at 6:29 pm

    That’s so awesome you got to visit their farm! I buy from them during the Hope Farmers Market. Take care!

    • Hilah on June 8, 2011 at 6:39 pm

      Oh, cool, Chelsea! I hope you liked seeing where your food is coming from! Thanks for writing!

  10. Sarah on June 9, 2011 at 12:51 am

    can i email you an authentic recipe for borcht and beet salad? I only say authentic because it’s how we’ve made it in my family for at least 4 generations, in soviet Russia… your recipe is definiteky easier, but i think you’d like this one better 🙂

    • Hilah on June 9, 2011 at 6:59 am

      Hi Sarah!
      That would be awesome if you’d share those recipes! Could you post them in the comments for everyone to see? (or you can email me if you’d rather) I’m interested to see the differences, especially between the salad recipes since I’ve never come across an authentic Russian beet salad recipe.
      Thank you so much! xo

  11. Sarah on June 11, 2011 at 11:38 am

    Hi! Sorry it took me so long to reply, all!

    The beet recipes i have are for borscht and vinegrette.

    ingredients: (amount for a large pot (5qts))
    beets- 4-5 medium sized
    carrots – 2 large
    cabbage- 1 (about the size of a baby’s head)
    onion- 1 (preferably yellow)
    potatoes- 1-2 baking potato or 2-3 regular potatoes (all depends on size)
    parsley- 1/2 of a bunch of parsley (add as much as you like)
    tomato sauce- 15.5 oz.
    ketchup- about a half a cup
    white sugar

    1. wash and peel all vegetables leave all vegetables whole, except for potatoes, which should be cut into 1-inch cubes. dice onions into small pieces.
    2. fill 5-qt pot half way with water, add salt (until the water tastes salty) and put the beets and carrots inside. turn heat on high to boil. lower heat to medium and cover. let simmer for 20 minutes. can be longer, just until they are almost done (almost tender)
    3. meanwhile, cut the cabbage into quarters, then finely slice into thin strips.
    4. when the beats are almost done, remove them and the carrots and put them into a bowl. put about half of the cabbage into the pot, if, after you stir, the soup seems like it needs more, just add more cabbage for the “soupy” consistency and let it simmer on medium low heat, covered.
    5. while this is cooking, and the beets and carrots are cooling, take a medium can (15.5oz.) of tomato sauce and pour it into the pot along with ketchup (eyeball about a half a cup). add a teaspoon of sugar. stir and cover to let the soup simmer on low heat for about 10 minutes.
    6. on a vegetable grater, grate the carrots and beets into one bowl. do this while the cabbage/tomato mixture is simmering. put them into the pot and stir.
    7. let it simmer for another 5 minutes. taste. the taste should be a balance between sweet and sour. I personally like it a little bit on the sour side, and my dad likes sweeter borscht, you decide when to stop adding things that it needs because here is where you can add more salt or sugar if the soup needs it. also, here you need to chop the parsley.
    8. when you turn off the heat after 5 minutes, throw in the parsley and cover with a lid.

    you can eat this recipe right away or you can eat it cold. this is what is referred to as “holodniy” or cold borscht. this is perfect for the summer because you can leave it overnight to cool or eat it hot when the weather is cold. when you eat it hot, just add sour cream to taste. when you eat it cold, you add sour cream, but in addition to that, you can also add chopped cucumbers, grated hard-boiled eggs, green onions, or all three.

    beets- 4-5 medium beets
    carrots- 2 large carrots
    potatoes- 1 large baking potato
    onion- 1 small onion
    israeli pickles- 3/4 can
    sunflower oil, if you can’t find that, use corn oil- to taste
    crunchy saurkraut- out of the safeway or generic brand can is the best. (15.5 oz)

    1. put all beets, carrots, and the potato into a pot and cook them until they are tender. usually the potato is done first, take that out when it is ready and take the carrots and beets out when they are done. let everything cool. once cool, peel all the vegetables by hand.
    2. cut beets, carrots, potatoes, onion, and pickles into small (1/4 inch cubes) pieces. put everything into a large bowl and add anywhere between 1/4-1/2 of the can of saurkraut. add salt to taste because the pickles are salty, you don’t want to over salt the salad. STIR WELL.
    3. add 2-3 tablespoons of oil and mix well and taste. if the mixture seems dry, add more oil.
    4. chill well and enjoy!

    I hope that you enjoy these recipes. my mom doesn’t have them written down, these are the type of things that just get passed on verbally. If you ever need any more recipes, let me know!


    • Hilah on June 13, 2011 at 8:17 am

      Thank you a hundred times, Sarah!
      I like the use of parsley in borscht. I’ve never seen a recipe calling for that but I love parsley and it seems like a wonderful combination. Can’t wait to make some and eat it cold on one of our many 100+ degree days here. I also think it’s really cool that your family recipe is vegetarian (or even vegan if you don’t use sour cream!). I thought pretty much all traditional borscht was meaty.
      And I want to try the vinaigrette salad, too. I’ll have to look around to find Israeli pickles.
      Again, thank you so much for sharing these with everyone.

  12. Chris Clement on June 12, 2011 at 6:21 pm

    I really liked seeing where the veggies come from, especially the broccoli. I wouldn’t have recognized it before the leaves were cut away. Gotta learn to grow stuff! Did succeed w cukes from seeds but everything else fizzled. Sometime try eating corn raw, just shucked. I got impatient waiting for a microwave at work and just ate the ear strait up and it was gooood!

    • Hilah on June 13, 2011 at 8:10 am

      Hey Chris! I’m glad you enjoyed the farm field trip. It is super cool to see the original form of everything before it’s been prepped and cleaned and moved around.
      I will eat the hell out of some raw corn, dude!

  13. Jessie on June 29, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    Brenton is hot do you think he’d like me?

  14. darislav on July 4, 2011 at 10:45 pm

    Oh my God! I am So Amazed… O_O
    I claim, this is the Best Episode i’ve ever seen in your show, Hilah!

    First of all, cuz Borstch assume to be a traditional russian cooking, some even call russian people “borstches” xD

    But anyway, it’s so important for us today to see where our food comes from and how does it grow.
    And most of all, as a vegetarian, i was very surprised to see how Hilah decided to cook vegetarian food after she saw how cows walks in the field… Really, all of us don’t really bother that this stake in our plate from the mall actually isn’t a stake, It is a cut off part of some dead body! We just don’t see cause-consequence chains now…

    I’m giving a deep bow to you, Hilah, for this great episode, Thank You!

    • Hilah on July 6, 2011 at 9:26 am

      Thank you so much, Darislav!
      I am really happy you liked this episode so much. We had a lot of fun on the farm as you can see!
      Tell me, how does this recipe compare to one you might make?

      • darislav on July 6, 2011 at 11:12 pm

        Actually, you made it very close to our recipes, Hilah, so you can even say that you cooked “russian borscht” this time! ;D
        The main addition is that we also use potatoes, cabbage and when it’s already in the plate, we put some green and my favorite sour cream 😀

        Another thing that really surprised me is that you have beet already in season, you know! O_O
        Because in our gardens vegetables gets ready only in autumn… It’s amazing how cold russia is… 🙁

      • darislav on July 6, 2011 at 11:17 pm

        Oh, and one more interesting thing, for vegan recipe, i’d recommend to add beans, it’s a Great replacement for the meet in borscht.

        Thank You again, Hilah, and i wish you happiness! You are truly Amazing Person.

  15. Carla @ Yorkshire Pantry on August 6, 2011 at 3:41 am

    I love beets, but usually eat them cold. This is a great recipe for a cold winter evening.

    • Hilah on August 6, 2011 at 11:34 am

      Yes, I love beet salads and pickled beets on sandwiches. They seem to be way more popular in the UK than over here, though. Kinda have a bad reputation in the US for some reason…

  16. Amy Pease on September 19, 2011 at 5:53 am

    I made a pot of borscht last night and my husband was supposed to put if away after dinner. He placed it in 2 containers and forgot them on the counter overnight. I would hate to throw out 6 quarts of something so healthy and home made. Here is what I used. I boiled 3lbs of beets, 2 lbs of yams, 1 lb of baby carrots, 3 large granny smith apples, 2 table spoons of fresh ginger, 1& 1/2 cup of Apple cider vinegar, and 3 tables spoons of honey. It was on the counter for 6 hours. Should I throw it out?

    • Hilah on September 19, 2011 at 7:50 am

      Hi Amy!
      I also can not stand to throw food away. If I were in your position, I’d put it in the fridge or freezer and then just make sure to bring it to a boil again before serving it. It should be fine.
      And it sounds delicious! I’m going to add ginger next time. Great idea.

  17. Nick Davis on March 29, 2012 at 8:26 pm

    Yay for Google+ being in search results. Was searching for Borscht and you came up in my personal results. YAY GOOGLE!

    Doing it, BTW. The Borscht.

    • Hilah on March 29, 2012 at 9:11 pm

      Howdy, Nick! I am so happy to hear that! Hope you like the borscht. It’s all healthy and stuff. 🙂

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