Ukrainian Beet Borscht
- 1 small onion, shredded
- 6 small beets, peeled and shredded
- 4 carrots, peeled and shredded
- 4 fingerling potatoes, roughly chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- 6 c. chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 can tomato paste
- 2 Tbsps dried dill
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- Salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
Peel and shred the veggies, either in a food processor, or using a grater. Add the olive oil to the instant pot on Sauté setting. Add the onions, garlic and carrots, sautéing until the carrots start to soften. Add the rest of the ingredients, stirring well. Set pot on Soup/Broth setting and cook on pressure for 10 minutes. Serve with fresh dill and sour cream.
And now for the details…
My family on both sides have always had a focus around food. Since I was a little girl, I remember all getting together for big family meals, cracking out some snack or recently baked good when someone would come to visit, and most importantly to me, often cooking or baking together. I must have been so annoying to my mom, grandmas and aunties, because from a young age “I help too” was a common phrase coming out of my mouth, quickly followed by the screech of the kitchen chair legs against the floor as I insistently dragged it over to the counter to stand higher and “help”.
One of the people I would insist regularly on “helping” was my Grandma on my dad’s side. Since my Grandma was Ukrainian, this resulted in me learning to make foods like perogies, periski, holupchi, or borscht. And as the weather turns cooler and root vegetables are readily available now that it is officially fall, my craving for borscht peaks at an all-time high. Even though this classifies as a soup, I feel as though borscht should be more of a stew. Hearty, rich, and hitting the spot on a cool fall day. The addition of the potatoes gives a nice thick broth, and the deep, earthiness and sweetness of the beets gets elevated with the herbaceousness of the dill and the zing of the tomato paste. Admittedly, my Grandma’s borscht was a bit more on the “soup” side of things, but the main thing I did pick up from her, and I hold tight to, was on her being quite adamant that borscht should not contain cabbage. Cooked cabbage… is not my cup of tea. Let’s be frank people, it smells like farts. And so, zero cabbage in this recipe. Is it un-Ukrainian? Possibly. But since I learned this from my Grandma, I’m going to claim a certain level of authenticity!
For this recipe, we are making it in the Instant Pot. You can always make this exact same recipe in a regular pot, it will just need to cook on the stove on medium-low heat for much longer (about 5 times as long).
Let’s start by prepping our veggies. I used a food processor to shred all my veggies. You can always use a hand grater instead. Peel the carrots, onion, and beets first. Then shred the carrots and onion. Remove them from the processor into the pot, and do the beets next. We are doing these all separately so we can sauté the other veggies without the beets, as a sort of mirepoix, without the celery. Mince your garlic and add it to the pot as well. Add a splash of olive oil, set the pot to “Sauté” (medium high on a pot on the stove), and cook the veggies, stirring occasionally, until the carrots start to soften and the garlic and onions are fragrant.
While those veggies are cooking, peel and diced your potatoes. Once they are ready, add the potatoes and beets to the pot, and the broth (chicken for Grandma’s, vegetable if you are going vegetarian with your borscht) and stir well, mixing everything all together.
Add the last few ingredients to the pot, give it one last stir to mix everything in, especially the tomato paste, and the cover your pot and set to “Soup/Broth” setting, with pressure on. If no Instant Pot, turn the temperature down to medium-low temperature. We are going to cook here for 10 minutes in the Instant Pot, or 50-60 minutes on the stove, stirring occasionally if on the stove.
Once the cooking time is done, give the borscht one last stir, then serve in bowls. You can serve just like this, or if you’d like to go the way I had it at Grandma’s, add a dollop of sour cream and stir it in before your first big, soul-warming bite.