This delicious, easy to make Polish Borscht Recipe (Christmas) is a traditional dish served with Polish Christmas Eve Porcini Dumplings (Uszka).
Christmas Eve borscht (‘barszcz wigilijny’) is for me the highlight of the Polish Christmas Eve meal. It is served as the first of 12 dishes (according to tradition) and I couldn’t imagine Christmas Eve without it.
Having said that, customs can vary from region to region and many people in Poland prepare wild mushroom soup instead of borscht. Commonalities do exist though as wild mushrooms are also added to the Christmas Eve borscht.
Polish Christmas Borscht recipe
Christmas borscht is a little different from everyday borscht (the one people tend to be more familiar with). At Christmas it is served without any vegetables, as broth really. It contains very few ingredients and is always vegetarian! Polish Christmas Eve is meat free, though not vegetarian, as the meal consists of at least one fish dish.
How to add flavour to Polish barszcz wigilijny
To most people (those who haven’t grown up with this tradition) this soup must seem a bit odd. After all, it’s just beets cooked with 2-3 mushrooms and not much else. This is why it’s important to add vinegar, soy sauce and a good amount of seasoning to bring out the flavour of the beetroot and add sharpness to this soup.
*Note: Although soy sauce is not a traditional ingredient it is a good idea to use it in this recipe. Soy sauce complements the beetroot, adding complexity and more depth to the overall flavour.
How to make Polish borscht recipe (Christmas)
To make this beetroot soup simply place all the ingredients (except the vinegar and butter) into a large pot and bring to the boil. Then simmer for about 50 minutes. Half way through add the vinegar. When the soup is ready add in the butter.
You can make this soup as peppery or sour as you like so use the vinegar, soy sauce and seasoning according to your preference.
This is one of the least labour intensive Polish Christmas Eve dishes! I like to get some of the more time consuming dishes out of the way first (i.e. sauerkraut pierogi dumplings and cheese and potato dumplings). And I leave the easy stuff, such as the dried fruit compote and this borscht soup, until Christmas Eve.
What to do with the beets from the soup
As this beetroot soup is served without any vegetables in it you could create a nice side dish using the beets. Simply grate them coarsely, add a little lemon juice/sour cream, knob of butter, stir and serve hot. Or you could combine the grated beets with some vegetable oil, lemon juice and cilantro/dill and serve it chilled.
Barszcz with uszka
Polish borscht is always served with porcini dumplings (‘uszka‘), which make this soup truly special. Beetroot tastes really delicious with wild mushrooms!
The soup itself also contains a bit of mushroom flavour and there are 2 ways you could add it. One is to simply throw a few porcinis into the pot. But the other one has to do with making the porcini dumplings.
If you make the porcini dumplings to go with this barszcz reserve the water from cooking the mushrooms and add it into this soup. About 1/3 cup will suffice. If you choose this method you won’t need to add any mushrooms to the borscht.
More beetroot soup recipes
Polish Borscht Recipe (Christmas)
- 4 medium beets peeled, cut in half
- 2 small marinated beets coarsely grated
- 1 small celery stick
- 1 small onion peeled, whole
- 1 garlic clove peeled, cut in half
- 2-3 large pieces dried porcini mushrooms, rinsed *see Recipe Notes below
- 2 allspice whole
- 1 tablespoon salt plus plenty of pepper
- 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar or cider vinegar, or other, but add gradually according to taste
- 1.5 - 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 - 2.25 l water
- Place all the ingredients (apart from the butter and vinegar) in a large pot, cover and bring to boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 45-50 minutes. Half way through add the vinegar. Remove from the heat and add the butter and soy sauce, adjust the seasoning, remove the vegetables and serve (only the liquid) with porcini dumplings.
- What to do with the leftover beets: you can grate them, add some oil, lemon juice, dill or coriander, season and serve as a veggie side dish (hot or cold).
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