Vegetarian Borscht Recipe

Want to add a bit of diversity to your Christmas dinner? Think about this Ukrainian vegetarian borscht recipe.

Winter 2014-15

  • Try using 'Chantenay' carrots and 'Hollow Crown' parsnips for this borscht recipe as both will be quite sweet by late December, the time this recipe is made for Ukranian holiday festivities.
    Photo by Fotolia/shaiith

Yield: 8 servings

An Ukrainian Proverb states: "Borscht is the center of everything." It is the Ukrainian national dish and is to be made so thick that a spoon can stand up in it. The name borscht derives from the Old Church Slavonic ‘brsh’ (beet) in honor of the central ingredient of this stew. While originally a way to extend a handful of vegetables and various leftovers to feed the whole family over a number of cold winter nights, borscht soon evolved into a more extravagant dish loaded up not only with many vegetables but also many types of meat and sausage. There are now as many types of borscht as there are babushkas (grandmothers).

For Christmas Eve, the borscht must follow Orthodox Lenten rules and avoid use of meat, dairy, and eggs. In their place, tiny mushroom-filled dumplings are added to make the stew rich, complex and hearty. Making the tiny dumplings takes a bit of time, so if you want to cut a corner or two, you can eliminate them from the final dish, although it won’t be quite as authentic. As with all borscht, the flavor will improve as it sits over a few days. If you’re not vegan and do not feel obliged to strictly follow Orthodox rules, you should consider serving each bowl with a generous dollop of sour cream on top, which is stirred in at the table to make the borscht even more rich.

This dish makes wide use of your garden’s bounty. We recommend you use 'Chantenay' carrots and 'Hollow Crown' parsnips as both will be quite sweet by late December. Any onion will work well, though you may want to consider trying a pungent long-storing yellow type such as 'Stuttgarter.' 'Bulls Blood' beets will give you lots of beet flavor and dark red coloring. Why not try the 'Giant Red Re-Selection' celery to make your borscht even redder? Use an Eastern European leek cultivar, like 'Bulgarian Giant Leek.' While green cabbage is usually used (we’d recommend using the interiors left over after harvesting the larger outer leaves for stuffed cabbage), you could use a red cabbage like 'Red Express' or 'Tete Noire.' For the garlic, use an assertive eastern European marbled-purple-stripe cultivar, like 'Bogatyr' or 'Siberian.'

This recipe is part of a series that includes a number of vegetarian holiday recipes. Find more history and inspiration at A Ukrainian Christmas Eve.

Vuška: Mushroom-filled Dumplings.

In Ukrainian, "vuška" means ears, and these little filled dumplings do look this way. They also greatly resemble small tortellini. Make them ahead of time and keep in the refrigerator until ready to be put into the borscht.

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