Karelian Borscht:
a Finnish - Russian Beet Borscht Soup

A Russian beet borscht soup recipe, made extra hearty with sausage and a swirl of sour cream but also especially earthy and delicious as a vegetarian borscht.

First published in print in 2004, updated and republished in 2015 for a little weekend cooking inspiration. Beet lovers, welcome to beet heaven!

Karelian Borscht (Russian Beet Borscht Soup), extra hearty with sausage and a swirl of sour cream but also especially earthy and delicious as a vegetarian borscht.

"... it was delicious, thank you ..." ~ rog peppe

Winter is the perfect time of year for large kettles of hearty soups and stews. Bubbling on the stove, they fill a home with an earthy, smoky aroma that seems to proclaim, “There may be snow and cold outside but we’re warm in here.”

The country of Finland is known for snow and cold. I was fortunate to call this northern land home while an exchange student and hold its people – and its food – close to my heart.

This borscht recipe comes from Karelia, a small piece of land along the Baltic Sea ceded by Finland during World War II to what was then the Soviet Union and is now the most western part of Russia. The recipe is adapted from the classic of Finnish-American cooking, “The Finnish Cookbook” by Beatrice Ojakangas.

Some borscht recipes call for cooking the beets and other ingredients, then blending until smooth in a blender or food processor. In contrast, this recipe calls for cooking but not processing the beets so the end product has considerable texture.

If you don’t have access to or time for fresh beets, canned beets are a more-than-acceptable alternative. And if you’re watching calories, omit even the small ration of sausage and the sour cream. You won’t leave the table unsatisfied.

ALANNA's TIPS A hand grater works fine but is to my style, fairly tedious. A food processor will make quick work of grating the beets, cabbage and carrots. The raw beets will stain your hands but it will wash away with a couple of good scrubs. Love borscht? Me too! Try Borscht Beets with Sour Cream and for summer, a cold Summer Borscht.
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Hands-on time: 45 minutes
Time to table: 2 hours, 45 minutes
Makes: about 6 cups
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 pound beets, peeled and grated (about 4 cups)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • 8 cups beef broth or vegetable stock (for vegetarian)
  • 1 small red cabbage, shredded (about 3 cups)
  • 2 carrots, peeled, grated (about 1 cup)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 pound spicy sausage such as andouille, optional
  • For serving, sour cream and fresh chopped dill, optional

Melt butter in a Dutch oven on medium heat. Add the beets and gently cook until soft and almost brown. Stir in vinegar, salt and flour, work in flour until all signs of it have been absorbed. A small cupful at a time, stir in broth. Add cabbage, carrots, bay leaf, garlic and sugar. Simmer gently at least 2 hours, adding water or broth if too much liquid evaporates.

Close to serving time, cook sausage in a skillet until fully cooked and slightly crispy on the edges, slice into small bits.

To serve, place soup in bowls and top with sausage. Add a dollop of sour cream and sprinkle with fresh dill. Try it with Finnish Whole-Wheat Flatbread !

VEGETARIAN BORSCHT Most times, I use vegetable broth, skip the spicy sausage and just enjoy the earthy beet soup in a vegetarian version. It's still hearty and the beet flavor really shines through!

NUTRITION INFORMATION Vegetarian/With Sausage, Per Cup: 130/187 Calories; 4/8g Tot Fat; 2/4g Sat Fat; 20g Carb; 3g Fiber; 1739/1859mg Sodium; 10/23mg Cholesterol; 5/7g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS POINTS: WW Old Points 2/5 & WW PointsPlus 3/6 Sour Cream Only, Per Tablespoon: 20 Calories; 2g Tot Fat; 1g Sat Fat; 1g Carb; 0g Fiber; 6mg Sodium; 5mg Cholesterol; 0g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS POINTS: WW Old Points .5 & WW PointsPlus .5

More Recipes for Hearty Soups

(hover for a description, click a photo for a recipe)
Homemade Lentil Soup Chocolate Chili Winter Tomato Soup


Living in Finland, food and cooking helped me make – and find – a home and a family. When I left, my Finnish mother sent along a copy of the classic introduction to Finnish home cooking, The Finnish Cookbook by Beatrice Ojakangas the "isoäiti" (EE-so-EYE-tee, grandmother) of Finnish cooking in America. I still turn to it, often, and the recipes transport me back to a home in my heart. It's why you'll find so many Finnish recipes in Kitchen Parade's recipe collection.

More Beet Recipes

~ Those Pink Potatoes ~
~ Borscht Beets ~
~ more beet recipes ~
from Kitchen Parade

~ Summer Borscht ~
~ Beets with Feta ~
~ Pan-Pickled Beets ~
~ more beet recipes ~
from A Veggie Venture, my food blog

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© Copyright 2004, 2009, 2012, 2015 (repub) Kitchen Parade

Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.


  1. The soup has a lovely colour indeed! I keep coming across Ojakangas name - maybe it's time to buy one of her books after all:)

    Good to know that Soup's On until Feb 28th - I might be able to make it after my trip!


  2. I made this last night, and it was delicious, thankyou. a nice compromise between some of the highly elaborate borscht recipes out there, and the ones that you just know won't taste anything like the real thing. I used beef stock cubes for the beef broth, and two large beets seemed to give about the right amount of beetroot. I wasn't sure what it meant to cook the beets until "almost brown" though - they're dark purple no matter what! 15 minutes seemed ok, but maybe it would be fine with no frying at all...

  3. Christopher3/09/2012

    I have to ask what part of Karelia you were in. I spent some time in Petrozavodsk on lake Onega and the borscht was one of my favorite things to eat there. I'm excited to try this recipe this week, for sure.

  4. Hi Christopher, I lived outside Helsinki in Vantaa but traveled into / through Karelia during a trip to what was then Leningrad. But even so, Karelia as you may know, is a "place in the heart" of many Finns, since it was taken during World War II. One of the families I lived with were Karelian, it was a huge hurt for their families, to be so separated by the Iron Curtain. I have new understanding of this. I lived in Finland about 35 years after Karelia was taken away. At the time, that seemed like a lot. Now that it's been 35 years since I have lived in Finland, not so much.

    "Kiitos paljon" for writing - I think you'll like the borscht. :-)

  5. I do need to try Borscht now that I'm in love with beets... and with that flat bread.


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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. But I also love hearing your reactions, your curiosity, even your concerns! When you've made a recipe, I especially love to know how it turned out, what variations you made, what you'll do differently the next time. ~ Alanna