Cheap & easy borscht, and the Mountain Man’s vegetarian adventure

I finally made the Mountain Man his long awaited borscht.

It’s cheap and really pretty easy, even though it’s kind of a long process. You could make it a weeknight meal by roasting the beets in advance, and then tossing it all together the night you want to eat it. It’s also a super easy meal to make vegan/vegetarian, and it works really well on my quest to eat vegetarian dinners at least once a week, in order to reduce some environmental impact.

This can also be made without a real recipe… no need to measure and follow close instructions. Just get the ingredients and make it happen.

This takes about 2 hours, including roasting and cooling the beets. Of course you can start on the other steps while the beets are cooling, but since I work with interruptions I roasted the beets in the morning and let them sit on the counter until the afternoon when I was ready to start dinner. I peeled & shredded them and stuck them in the fridge, along with the shredded carrots & cabbage. Then when I was ready to cook the soup, all I had to do was toss everything together!

Wrap 2 lbs of beets in foil and roast on 400 for 1 hour. Take them out & let them cool, then unwrap and remove skins. They’ll come off in your hands with a little bit of pressure and rubbing. Rinse quickly, cut off the ends, shred, and set aside.DSC_0225

Sautee some onion, carrot & garlic in olive oil. I used a bag (gasp!) of shredded carrots, and 1.5 minced onions, along with some mojo de ajo. The bag of shredded carrots is certainly not the most frugal way to go, but it saved me some shredding time.DSC_0224 

Shred 1/2 of a head of cabbage, set aside.DSC_0226

Add some tomato paste to the pot and stir it around. I had some tomato paste in a container in the fridge. I don’t know how much was in there, I just scraped the container and called it good. I also like to add some marjoram, pepper and sumac.DSC_0227

Add about 2qt of beef or vegetable broth, then the cabbage. Let cabbage soften for a few minutes and then add the shredded beets. Don’t let the soup cook more than a few minutes with the beets in it.

Season with salt and pepper, add some dill and balsamic vinegar or lemon.DSC_0228 

Serve with crusty bread for dipping, and sour cream & dill on top. I used an loaf of rustic white bread I had accidentally let over-proof, so it came out dense and hard and flat. It tasted fine, but it was definitely dippin’ bread.DSC_0229 DSC_0230

Borscht can be warm or cold, and can be modified a million ways. Add celery root or celery salt! Sprinkle crispy bits of bacon on top! Add some heavy cream at the end to make it creamier! Stir in some lentils, noodles, sausage, beans! Make it and then experiment.

Yum. It’s the first vegetarian dinner the Mountain Man has had in a while. He kind of lamented the lack of animal at the table, but as he was inhaling his second bowl I think he forgot all about it.


  1. i have always wanted to try borscht. but i'm scared of the beets. i had a bad experience with pickled beets when i was a kid and this has hindered any beet dish that has come my way. it looks soooo good though. you may have inspired me!

  2. oh i am so sorry about your pickled beet experience. i am not a fan of most things pickled, but roasted beets are wonderful. sweet, earthy, rich. this dinner is so cheap it's worth a shot, and if you make it in a smaller quantity it's just a side-dish and won't make you run for the peanut-butter to have an emergency sandwich for dinner. for me the key is to have richness - roasted garlic and a hearty broth. kids and husbands may be skittish about trying it, but tell them it will make their pee turn pink and they'll probably give it a shot!


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