Karelian Borscht

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. Beet lovers, welcome to beet heaven!

Fresh & Seasonal. Hearty Soup with Beautiful Color. Easily Made Vegan. Great for Meal Prep.
Karelian Borscht (Russian Beet Borscht Soup) ♥ KitchenParade.com, extra hearty with sausage and a swirl of sour cream but also especially earthy and delicious as a vegetarian borscht.

"We're Warm In Here."

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 still 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.

My Favorite Finnish Cookbook

Living in Finland, food and cooking helped me make – and find – a home and a family. My first school friends were shy girls, slightly younger, in a cooking class. My Finnish mother was taking English lessons. After school, we'd sit in the kitchen, trading the English and Finnish words for different foods. Maito=Milk. Juusto=Cheese. Leipä=Bread. Voi=Butter.

All these years later, I still remember all the food words!

When I left Finland for home a year later, my Finnish mother sent along a copy of the classic introduction to Finnish home cooking, an original edition of The Finnish Cookbook. There's also a newer edition of The Finnish Cookbook that's more affordable.

The author is Beatrice Ojakangas the isoäiti (EE-so-EYE-tee, grandmother) of Finnish cooking in America. I still turn to The Finnish Cookbook often. The pages and 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.

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


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 the vinegar, salt and flour, then work in the flour until all signs of it have been absorbed. A small cupful at a time, stir in the broth. Add the 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 the 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 vegan version. It's still hearty and the beet flavor really shines through!
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.
NUTRITION INFORMATION With Sausage, Per Cup: 192 Calories; 8g Tot Fat; 4g Sat Fat; 23g Carb; 3g Fiber; 1354mg Sodium; 23mg Cholesterol; 14g Sugars; 6g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS POINTS Old Points 4 & PointsPlus 5 & SmartPoints 8 & Freestyle 5 & myWW green 5 & blue 5 & purple 5
NUTRITION INFORMATION Vegan, Per Cup: 136 Calories; 5g Tot Fat; 1g Sat Fat; 19g Carb; 3g Fiber; 1712mg Sodium; 0mg Cholesterol; 12g Sugars; 4g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS POINTS Old Points 4 & PointsPlus 5 & SmartPoints 8 & Freestyle 5 & myWW green 5 & blue 5 & purple 5

More Recipes for Hearty Soups

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Homemade Lentil Soup Chocolate Chili Winter Tomato Soup
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~ more beet recipes ~
from Kitchen Parade

~ Summer Borscht ~
~ Beets with Feta ~
~ Pan-Pickled Beets ~
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from A Veggie Venture, my food blog about vegetables

Shop Your Pantry First

(helping home cooks save money on groceries)

~ beets ~
~ cabbage ~
~ carrots ~
~ sour cream ~

~ All Recipes, By Ingredient ~
~ How to Save Money on Groceries ~

Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Quick Suppers are Kitchen Parade favorites and feature recipes easy on the budget, the clock, the waistline and the dishwasher. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via recipes@kitchen-parade.com. How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. If you make this recipe, I'd love to know your results! Just leave a comment below.

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Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

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


  1. Anonymous7/21/2007

    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