Easy Polish Beet Soup (Barszcz Czysty Czerwony)

Polish beet soup in white bowls
The Spruce
  • Total: 60 mins
  • Prep: 15 mins
  • Cook: 45 mins
  • Servings: 4 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
117 Calories
1g Fat
22g Carbs
8g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 117
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 1g 1%
Saturated Fat 0g 1%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 534mg 23%
Total Carbohydrate 22g 8%
Dietary Fiber 3g 10%
Protein 8g
Calcium 93mg 7%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Perhaps you have heard of borscht, the Eastern European sour soup made with beets and served hot or cold. The Polish word barszcz means borscht, but this soup is slightly different. Whereas traditional borscht is an opaque purple and commonly includes meat, tomatoes, and cabbage, barszcz is more of a basic beet broth that is somewhat translucent, whether red or white in color.

Traditional barszcz is often made with a kwas or sour starter; sometimes people even chill this fermented starter and drink it, as you might with kombucha. However, if the soup is red, then the kwas was made with fermented beets (kwas buraków). If the barszcz is white, it was made with fermented rye flour or rye bread, (żur or kwas chlebowy).

This easy, clear red Polish beet soup recipe doesn't use a sour starter but instead takes a shortcut and gets the desired hint of sourness from lemon juice or vinegar. This soup is great eaten hot with boiled potatoes or cold with rye bread.

This meatless soup is often served with mushroom uszka ("little ear" dumplings) for Polish Christmas Eve dinner (known as wigilia). When the soup is served that way, it is then referred to as barszcz wigilijny.

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Ingredients

  • 4 whole beets (2 cups sliced canned or jarred beets)
  • 4 cups stock (chicken, beef, or vegetable)
  • 1 clove garlic (minced)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (or 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar)
  • Black pepper (to taste)
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Optional: boiled potatoes
  • Optional: fresh dill (chopped)

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for Polish barszcz soup

    The Spruce

  2. If using fresh beets, heat the oven to 400 F. Wrap beets in aluminum foil and roast until tender, about 30 to 45 minutes.

    Beets wrapped in foil in a baking dish

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  3. When cool enough to handle, peel, and slice into strips or julienne.

    Julienned beets in a white bowl

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  4. In a medium pot, bring meat or vegetable stock to a boil. Add sliced beets, garlic, sugar, lemon juice, and pepper and salt. Simmer 10 minutes.

    Beets simmering in stock

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  5. Serve hot with optional boiled potatoes and garnish with chopped dill. Enjoy.

    Polish beet soup in a white bowl topped with dill

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What's the Difference Between Borscht and Barszcz?

  • What distinguishes Russian borscht from barszcz is that borscht is often made with meat, served with sour cream, and can be served cold, whereas barszcz does not usually include sour cream and is most often served hot. That being said, there is a version called barszcz zabielany that is creamed and served cold. Simply cool the soup in an ice water bath and refrigerate. Then serve cold, garnished with dill and sour cream. 

Recipe Variations

White borscht, known as biały barszcz or żurek wielkanocny (Easter sour soup), is made with cooking water from white kielbasa, potatoes, sour cream, sausage, and hard-cooked eggs. White barszcz features a żur, similar to a kwas, but it's made by fermenting rye flour or bread with water in a jar or crock for up to five days.

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