Easy Polish Beet Soup (Barszcz Czysty Czerwony)

Polish beet soup garnished with chopped dill in white bowls

The Spruce Eats

Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 50 mins
Total: 65 mins
Servings: 4 servings
Yield: 6 cups
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
132 Calories
3g Fat
19g Carbs
8g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 132
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 3g 4%
Saturated Fat 1g 4%
Cholesterol 7mg 2%
Sodium 554mg 24%
Total Carbohydrate 19g 7%
Dietary Fiber 2g 7%
Total Sugars 12g
Protein 8g
Vitamin C 7mg 34%
Calcium 26mg 2%
Iron 1mg 7%
Potassium 531mg 11%
*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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"This delicious, warming soup is so easy to make. The lemon juice adds brightness and keeps it from being too 'earthy.' I used the mushroom soaking liquid from making uszka (Polish dumplings) plus some beef broth. It was wonderful with the polish dumplings but would be just as good with potatoes or warm, crusty bread." —Danielle Centoni

Easy Polish Beet Soup (Barszcz Czysty Czerwony) Tester Image
A Note From Our Recipe Tester


  • 4 whole beets, about 1 pound, (or 2 cups sliced canned or jarred beets)

  • 4 cups stock (chicken, beef, mushroom, or vegetable)

  • 1 clove garlic, minced

  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (or 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar)

  • 1 teaspoon sugar

  • Salt, to taste

  • Black pepper, to taste

  • Boiled potatoes, optional

  • Chopped fresh dill, optional

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for Polish beet soup recipe gathered

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  2. If using fresh beets, heat the oven to 400 F. Wrap beets in aluminum foil and place on a baking dish. 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. If you prefer, julienne some for garnish and dice the rest.

    Beet cut into strips in a white bowl

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

    Beets simmering in stock and spices in a large pot

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

    Polish beet soup garnished with chopped dill in a white bowl

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Recipe Variation

  • 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.
  • To make a cold version of this beet soup, barszcz zabielany, simply cool the soup in an ice water bath and refrigerate. Serve cold, garnished with dill and sour cream. 

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.

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