Less known than the famous red variety, green borscht is often made in summertime when getting fresh sorrel is easy. It is an herby and bright soup, perfect for those who want something a little lighter than than the earthy beetroot version.
Borscht, also spelled borsh or borshch or borsch (and more), traditionally refers to the Ukrainian beetroot soup that is popular in much of Eastern Europe and known worldwide. However there is another popular variation, green borscht, which replaces the earthy red beetroot with fresh and tangy sorrel.
While there are plenty of ways a Ukrainian would prepare green borscht, this version is actually Alona’s recipe. We’ve been spending the past two weeks in her hometown and her family have been kind enough to teach me all sorts of traditional recipes. Some of my favorites are her grandmother’s liver cake and her mom’s Ukrainian cherry cheesecake.
How To Cook Green Borscht
The first step in making green borscht is to create the base. While it may not look that appetizing it’s necessary for a rich flavor. In a pot add water and pork ribs, some salt and pepper, and a couple bay leaves, and bring it up to a boil. Reduce to a low simmer and let cook for about an hour.
Once the ribs are sufficiently tender it’s time to add the potatoes. I add in about 500 grams of cubed young potatoes. Raise the heat back to high and let cook for 10 minutes. While this is happening you should hard boil 4-5 eggs.
In a skillet with a bit of oil quickly fry some grated carrot and onion. I use one carrot and one onion, but you could use more or less depending on taste. Once everything is fried a bit add it to the soup pot.
Peel and chop the hard boiled eggs you just made and add them to the pot.
In a small bowl beat together one egg and a tablespoon of sour cream. The sour cream we use here in Ukraine is actually called smetana which is a bit different (higher fat percentage) than the American version, but Daisy will work just fine.
Give the pot a good swirl and slowly trickle in the egg mixture. In a way it is kind of like making egg drop soup; You want the eggs to cook as soon as they hit the boiling soup and form little strings. This is also a similar method when making Italian Stracciatella.
Chop up a good couple handfulls of sorrel leaves into strips. These are added at the end so they do not get too wilted and lose all their color. Just turn the heat off of the soup, add in the chopped sorrel, give a good stir and voila…green borscht.
Green Borsch Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Is Green Borsch also from Ukraine like the red version?
A: Yes, green borsch is also said to have originated in Ukraine. In fact, it is likely that the green version came about before the red version, except it used hogweed instead of sorrel!
Q: Can you make a vegetarian green borshch?
A: Yes you can make green borshch vegetarian, just leave out the meat. While it is true the stock gets a lot of flavor from the meat/bones, you can leave it out if you feel like it. A good substitute would be some sort of vegetarian stock and if you want meat texture you can use any meat substitute.
Q: I cannot find sorrel, is there anything else I could use?
A: While sorrel is the primary ingredient, you can use another green leafy plant provided you understand the flavor will change. I would try to pick something pungent and flavorful like stinging nettle, rocket, wild garlic, mustard greens, or in a pinch endive. I would suggest NOT using spinach in green borshch as it does not impart even a comparable flavor.
Q: I want to make an authentic green borscht but cannot find smetana. What should I use?
A: While you can use American style sour cream as a substitute, the main difference is it has a lower fat content (14-18% compared to 20-42%). While this won’t make a huge difference I always suggest going higher fat rather than lower when you look at substitutes. In this case you can use creme fraiche (28%+).
What To Eat With Green Borscht?
While green borscht isn’t as iconic as a pair with pampushky (Ukrainian garlic bread rolls) you can of course have those as a side with this soup. Here are a few other things you can serve along with this tasty green soup:
- Rye bread with salo
- Forshmak (basically mince salo with herbs and spices)
- Dry fish like mackerel or sprats or marinated fish like herring.
- Infusion juices like Kompot or Uzhvar are popularly drunk with this soup, especially by children or those who don’t want to drink alcohol.
- For those that do want to drink alcohol with this soup you can use a traditional Ukrainian persivka (hot pepper horilka), or hrinovukha (horseradish spirit).
More Delicious Soup Recipes You’ll Love
- 500 grams Pork Ribs
- 500 grams Young Potatoes cubed
- 200 grams Sorrel fresh
- 1 Onion
- 1 Carrot
- 5 Eggs 4 hardboiled
- 1 tbsp Sour Cream or Smetana if you can find it
- 2 Bay Leaves
- Salt to taste
- Pepper to taste
- 1 tbsp Oil
- In a pot add the pork ribs along with salt and pepper and the bay leaves. Ad water up to 60% of the pot. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cover with a lid for one hour.
- Add in the potatoes and bring back up to a boil. Let cook for 10 minutes.
- While the potatoes are cooking quickly fry some grated onion and carrot in a pan with a bit of oil. Add to the borscht and give everything a stir. Also chop up the hard boiled eggs and add that in.
- In a small bowl beat together an egg and the sour cream. Swirl the pot of boiling borscht and slowly pour in the egg mixture so it cooks immediately as it hits the soup.
- Turn off the heat and add in the chopped sorrel. Give everything a good stir and let sit for a few minutes before serving. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust as needed.