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Classic Vegan Borscht Recipe, RUSSIAN-STYLE

Today’s vegan borscht recipe is the exact version of the classic Russian borscht my mom used to make when I was growing up in what’s now ex-USSR. Except I’ve cut out all the animal products to veganize this family favorite soup.

Ready for a taste of Russia?

How to make Russian borscht vegan style

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Traditional Russian cuisine is quite heavy in meat, eggs and dairy. However, veganism has deep roots in Russian history. I’ve previously shared my friend Petr’s story of what it’s like to be vegan in Russia.

Some of the best-known Russian foods like borscht, a hearty beet and potato soup, are quite easy to veganize.

Let me tell you: in Russia, borscht is a big deal  VERY BIG DEAL. There are plenty of Russian borscht legends:

– Every little girl is told that nobody would ever marry her until she learns how to make borscht, and perfects it. (Not sure if there’s any statistics to back this up though.)

– Russian people can eat borscht for breakfast, lunch and dinner. As a kid, I witnessed this at my distant relatives’ house in the village where my mom was born. In their house, a new pot of borscht was made as soon as the old one was finished. Once we went to another relatives’ house in the same village for lunch, and guess what was served to us? Borscht!!!

– A borscht recipe is never rigid, it’s more of an idea, a state of mind. Every Russian woman has her own borscht recipe that she might have tweaked a little from the one she learned originally.

Classic vegan borscht recipe

My mom taught me how to make borscht, but mine tastes different than hers.

The classic ingredients for borscht are beets, potatoes, tomatoes and cabbage. Naturally, you won’t get a delicious soup by throwing together just these four ingredients, so each cook chooses what else to add at her own discretion.

It’s also important not to go overboard with additional ingredients, or else you’ll end up with something that’s not borscht at all.

Since posting this recipe, I’ve done some more borscht-themed experimenting. Check out my vegan ginger-lentil borscht for a simpler and slightly spicier twist on this recipe.

Authentic Russian borscht vegan style

Tips for Making a Perfect Vegan Borscht

The broth gets its beautiful ruby-red color from beets and tomatoes. It is important not to overcook the beets, otherwise the color will change and not look as good (thankfully, the flavor stays the same).

My approach to cooking the beets for borscht: first soak them in water with a little bit of vinegar, then slowly cook them in the soaking liquid in a small pan until the liquid evaporates, and only add to the main borscht pot in the last 5 minutes.

To make my borscht more filling, I like to add a good amount of beans (I’m a huge bean fan!).

For the batch in pictures, I used a mix of dried pinto and lima beans that I soaked overnight and then cooked according to the bean-cooking wisdom I shared in this post. You can experiment with other types of beans as well as use canned beans.

Cabbage is a popular ingredient in Russian cuisine because it grows well into the later months of the year and only tastes better after the first frost.

I chopped a fairly large amount of cabbage (about 5 cups packed), set it in the colander, sprinkled some salt all over, and let it sit for at least 10 min to release the juices. Just before adding it to the borscht, I squeezed it lightly to soften it.

How to make vegan borscht recipe

My mom has been cooking borscht since before I was born. Naturally, she’s learned a few tricks along the way to make this soup taste even better.

I’m not going to share all of them out of respect for her work, but here’s a tip regarding potatoes: peel them and boil them whole, not chopped, in the borscht broth until done. Remove them from the broth with a slotted spoon, set aside to cool for a bit, and then roughly chop them with the same slotted spoon and add back to the pot.

If you cook the potatoes that way, somehow the soup comes out tastier than if you cubed the potatoes and boiled them with the rest of the ingredients. The starch that the potatoes release during the initial boiling thickens the broth slightly and makes it even heartier.

Enough talking, let’s see the recipe!

Yield: 12 servings

Russian-Style Vegan Borscht Recipe

Russian borscht vegan recipe

This vegan recipe for the classic Russian borscht is chock-full of vegetables, has no added oil, and yields enough to feed a crowd! Russian way of serving borscht: with a dollop of (vegan) sour cream, minced garlic, and pumpernickel bread. A vegetarian, meatless, dairy free, egg free, soy free recipe (see notes for gluten-free tips).

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour


  • 8 cups vegetable broth - I make mine with Better Than Bouillon vegetable base - see note*
  • 4 cups water
  • 4 medium potatoes, equal in size, peeled, left whole
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 2 carrots, chopped into matchsticks
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 medium beet, peeled, chopped into matchsticks
  • 2 Tbsp white vinegar
  • 5 cups cabbage, chopped into 1/4-inch strips
  • 3 cups cooked assorted beans**
  • 1/2 Tbsp dried rosemary (optional)
  • Dash of cayenne pepper (optional)
  • Salt, black pepper to taste


To prepare the potatoes:

  1. Bring a pot with water and vegetable stock base to a boil. Add peeled and rinsed whole potatoes to the pot. Let the broth come back to a boil, reduce the heat to medium, and cook the potatoes until fort-tender, about 15-25 min depending on the kind of potatoes you are using.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare the beets and the tomato-pepper mixture.
  3. Once the potatoes are done, pick them out of the broth with a slotted spoon, let them cool for 5 min, and roughly chop with the side of your slotted spoon. Large chunks are ok. Set the chopped potatoes aside.

To prepare the beets:

  1. Put chopped beets into a small bowl. Add cold water to just cover the beets. Add 2 Tbsp white vinegar. Let the beets marinate for 30-60 min, depending on how much time you have.
  2. After 30-60 min, heat a small pan on the stovetop. Add the marinated beets with all of the water to the pan. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook until all of the liquid evaporates, about 15-20 min. Do not increase the heat as it may cause the beets to lose their color quicker once added to the borscht. Set the cooked beets aside.

To prepare the tomato-pepper mixture:

  1. Heat up a pan on the stovetop. Add 2 Tbsp water or vegetable broth. When the liquid is bubbly, add sliced onions and cook them on medium until they are translucent, about 5 min. Add minced garlic and cook for 1 min. (You may need to add more water to prevent sticking.) Add sliced peppers and carrots, stir the mixture and let the vegetables sweat for 2-3 min. Stir in diced canned tomatoes, rosemary and cayenne peppers if using (the spices are not a part of classic Russian borscht, but I like the nice touch they add).
  2. Simmer the tomato mixture for 10-15 min, then set aside.

To prepare the cabbage:

  1. Put all of the chopped cabbage into a colander, sprinkle with 1 tsp of salt, mix well. let sit for 10 min to release some juice. After 10 min, squeeze the cabbage lightly to make it softer.

To finish the soup:

  1. Once you take the potatoes out of the pot, put in all of the cooked beans and softened cabbage. Bring the broth to a boil, and simmer for 5 min on medium heat.
  2. After 5 min, add cooked chopped potatoes, prepared beets, prepared tomato-pepper mixture, bring back to a boil, and simmer 3-5 min. Be careful not to bring the borscht to a rolling boil as the beets may lose their color. Ideally, the beets and tomatoes make the broth ruby-red, and the beet pieces stay the same color.
  3. Just before taking the borscht off the heat, add salt (if using) and black pepper.
  4. Take the pot off the heat, let sit for up to 30 min before serving.


*If you're strictly gluten-free, I suggest omitting Better Than Bouillon veggie stock - I couldn't confirm its gluten-free status on the manufacturer's website.

**I used a mix of pinto and lima beans.

***Borscht is always more delicious the next day as all of the flavors come together.

The following day, everything will be beet-colored (potatoes, beans, etc.), but the beet pieces may lose all of their color - that's normal!

Borscht will keep in the fridge for up to a week and only become tastier. I suggest bringing the pot back to a quick boil after 3-4 days.

When heating up borscht, don't use the microwave: the texture of all ingredients is better when heated on stovetop.

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Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:

1 bowl

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 158Total Fat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgCarbohydrates: 35gFiber: 6gSugar: 11gProtein: 6g

Please note that the provided nutritional information data is approximate.

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author avatar
Alina Zavatsky - Vegan Runner Eats
Alina first made a switch to a vegan diet in 2013 to optimize her athletic performance as a marathon runner. Eventually she embraced veganism as a way to be kinder to fellow living beings and the environment. Alina hopes that this blog helps its readers on their path to becoming vegan and making this world a better place.

Keely @ Gormandize

Sunday 1st of December 2013

Great post, and a lovely looking soup. I love bortsch, but my partner hates beetroot (sad face!) - so I don't think that perfecting borscht will increase my likelihood of getting married :)


Sunday 1st of December 2013

My husband is not a fan of beets either, so I only get to make borscht every once in a while... maybe one day his taste buds will change? [insert hopeful face]


Thursday 28th of November 2013

I so need to make this borscht! Yum! I loved reading how Russian families have a pot of borscht on the stove at all times. I kind of feel like that with my lentil soups. It's about time that I switch things up in the 'ole soup pot!


Sunday 1st of December 2013

Thank you Angela!

Anna {Herbivore Triathlete}

Wednesday 27th of November 2013

Too funny, I almost made borscht for VVP too! Great recipe, thanks for sharing.


Thursday 21st of November 2013

Mouthwatering! This will be made in my kitchen this winter!


Thursday 21st of November 2013

Thanks Lauren! Let me know how it turns out!


Tuesday 19th of November 2013

This soup looks delicious. I love the addition of so many beans. :)


Wednesday 20th of November 2013

Thank you Teresa! Beans definitely make borscht much more filling. Plus, I just love beans!

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