This is the borscht that Ted Allen raved about in an episode of “The Best Thing I Ever Ate.” With a bad Eastern European accent, he repeatedly intoned , “Will make you strong. Like bull.” I’m not sure about the bull part, but this soup rocks! It is packed with tons of vegetables, potatoes, and bits of pork. It is also the perfect thing to warm you up on cold evenings.

The recipe is from Veselka, the famous Ukranian deli in the East Village of Manhattan. The deli was featured in one of my favorite movies, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. The title characters take refuge from the night’s madness while downing a pile of pierogis. After reading the pierogi recipes in the cookbook, I can’t wait to try some of their fillings.

as seen on



3 pounds (10 to 12) small beets, scrubbed thoroughly but not peeled
9 tablespoons white vinegar
One 2- pound boneless pork butt, halved
8 cups beef stock
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon whole allspice berries
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
3 large carrots, peeled and sliced
3 large celery stalks, sliced
1 small head of green cabbage (about 3⁄4 to 1 pound), shredded (about 4 cups)
2 medium Idaho potatoes, peeled and cut into 1⁄2- inch dice
One 15- ounce can lima beans, drained and rinsed


  1. To make the “beet water,” roughly chop 2 pounds of the beets (select the smaller ones), preferably in a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Place the chopped beets in a large stockpot. Add 10 cups of water and 1 tablespoon vinegar.
  2. Place the stockpot over high heat and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 2 hours. (If it seems like the liquid is evaporating too quickly, you may need to cover the pot partially with an off set lid.) The beets should be soft and the liquid bright red.
  3. Strain the liquid, pressing the cooked beets against the side of the strainer to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard the pulp or reserve to make beet salad. Set aside the beet water. You should have just about 4 cups.
  4. Meanwhile, place the remaining 1 pound of whole beets in a separate large stockpot.
  5. Add just enough water to cover the beets. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the beets are tender- firm, about 40 minutes. Add 1 Tbs white vinegar and set the pot aside to cool.
  6. When the whole cooked beets are cool enough to handle, peel them; the skins should slip off easily. If not, use a peeler. Grate the peeled beets on the largest holes of a box grater. Be careful, because the beets will be slippery.
  7. To make the broth, place the pork butt in a large stockpot and add the beef stock. If necessary, add a little more stock or water to cover. Add the bay leaf, allspice berries, and peppercorns. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the meat is tender and beginning to fall apart, about 3 hours. Remove the pork from the stock and set aside to cool. Save the stock. When the pork is cool enough to handle, cut the meat into 1 ⁄2- inch cubes. Strain the stock and discard the aromatics. Reserve the cubed meat and 4 cups of the broth.
  8. To cook the vegetables, place the carrots, celery and meat broth in a large stockpot. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until the carrots and celery are just tender, about 15 minutes. Add the cabbage and potatoes and continue to cook until the potatoes and carrots are easily pierced with a pairing knife but keep their shape, about 20 additional minutes. Add the lima beans and cook for 5 additional minutes, just to meld the flavors. Gradually add the remaining 7 tablespoons white vinegar, tasting between additions and stopping when the flavor is to your liking. Turn heat down to low. Add the “beet water,” cubed pork, and grated beets. Stir to combine. Bring to a simmer over low heat. Season with salt if necessary and serve. Garnish with fresh chopped dill and a dollop of sour cream.


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Sweet Comments:

  1. My word –the color looks incredible. Pity about the pork and beef and such! Can you make a veggie variety?

    • Easy, oeasy to make a veggie variety.
      My mother does it all the time.
      Just leave out the meat. My mother cooks the borsch in plain water,
      The flavor is enhanced by using reconstituted and chopped dried mushrooms.

  2. I’ve always wanted to try borscht. I never imagined there’d be lima beans in it! I think if I attempt it, I’ll omit the pork butt.

  3. For a vegetarian option, I would use vegetable stock and omit the pork. Also add more potato to keep the soup hearty.

  4. Alla Kirichenko says:

    I am originally from Ukraine. The name of the restaurant you reference with this Borsht is Veselka, which is Ukrainian word. The soup is defenatelly have nothing to do with the Ukrainian borsht versions. There are several recipes but then NEVER have allspice in any of them. It is usually done with pork, beef short ribs and chicken cabbage, beets, potatoes, carrots, onion and butter flour paste (ru) or if you want to have lima beans it is for vegetarian version also it must have tomato paste and fresh tomatoes. At the end you must add lots of fresh garlic smashed with salt pork or just salt for vegy borsht. the only two hearbs that goes with borsht is parsley and dill. Sour cream on a side. Condaments to it are pampushki s chesnockom which are small toll dinner rolls dipped in garlic sauce. Hope it will help. I have the recipe you can email to me.

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