Ukrainian Borscht

Today’s soup is the one I have made more than any other. My ancestry is half Ukrainian, from my father’s side. Ukraine cuisine has so many memorable dishes: perogies, cabbage rolls and kielbasa are three of the most famous. Borscht is a soup that is commonly served in Ukraine, Russia and other Eastern and Central European countries. There are as many variations of borscht as there are people who make it; no bowl is the same as another.

I remember having borscht as a young child. Both my mom and grandmother would make it in the fall, when root vegetables were in harvest. There are so many memories I experience each time I have borscht now as an adult. Memories of family and comfort flood me with each spoonful.

I am so thrilled to share this family recipe with you. Borscht is hearty and chunky with so many ingredients. I use a ham bone to make the stock, and the beets give the broth a deep burgundy colour. In some ways, because of the large chunky vegetables, the soup reminds me of a stew. It is perfect to have on a cool fall day.

This recipe was one of the more difficult ones to write down. Since it is a family recipe, and I have made it many many times, I cook this dish by feel and by taste. I know what needs to go in and how it is supposed to look and taste so I have never really known exact quantities. Also, I make this in a BIG pot, so I needed to reduce the quantities of all the ingredients for a reasonable recipe size.

One thing to monitor, as you are making the stock, is that the water will reduce down. I start with my pot about 3/4 or more full with water and the ham bone. I like the stock to cook for a good 60-90 minutes which would reduce the stock by about 1/3. As you make the borscht, if you feel that more water is needed, feel free to add extra.

I cut the veggies on the larger size because I like borscht to be a chunky soup.

Print Pin
5 from 2 votes

Course Soup
Cuisine Ukrainian
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 40 minutes
Servings 8
Author Steve Cylka


  • 1 ham bone (1-2 pounds of beef ribs works well also)
  • 15 cups water (more if needed)
  • 2 cups diced ham (or beef if using beef ribs)
  • 6 beets
  • 3 potatoes
  • 3 carrots
  • 1/2 cabbage
  • 1 onion , minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups sour cream
  • 1/3 cup fresh parsley


  • Place ham bone in a soup pot with water. Bring the stock to a boil and let it cook for 1 hour.
  • While the stock is boiling, prepare the vegetables. Peel the beets and cut in long sticks, similar to french fries. Peel the potatoes and cut into 1/2 inch cubes. Peel the carrots and cut in 1/4 inch slices. Cut the cabbage in 1/4 inch strips.
  • After the stock has boiled for an hour, strain it to remove the bone and any other residue.
  • Bring the stock back to a boil and add the veggies, diced ham and bay leaf. Lower the heat so the soup is at a low boil and cook it for another hour.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Serve with a dollop of sour cream and garnish with fresh parsley.
  • Alternatively, you can stir all the sour cream in the soup pot prior to serving.


About Steve Cylka

Steve is the author of The Black Peppercorn. He is a recipe developer and food photographer. His recipes have been featured on websites like Bradley Smoker, Times Picayune, Buzzfeed, and Basil & Salt. He has also authored and co-authored a couple cookbooks.


  1. I’m Ukrainian so my mom still makes this at least a few times a month. I personally can’t even stand it anymore, I’ve had so much! I do know that she adds a tbsp of vinegar to the soup at the end – she says it brightens the purple/red color.

  2. I’m a vegetarian, so this is right up my alley. It looks so good that I want to pick up that spoon, put it right into that bowl, scoop some up and try it.


  3. I’ve only cooked this once since having it at a private home in Lviv, Ukraine several years ago. It just wasn’t the same. 🙂 I’m going to give your recipe a try and see if it comes closer to what I remember. It was pure heaven.

  4. just want to say I love this recipe first time making borschtit was really good think few more time at making borscht it will be very good, but my wifes grandmother from ukraine I can’t top that borscht but thank you so much for this recipe cheers

  5. My word Steve! That looks incredible…another one I have to try. Also just have to note how impressed I am by your photography skills, everything looks amazing, so bright, clear and very appetizing!

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