White Borscht

April  4, 2022
3 Ratings
Photo by MJ Kroeger, prop styling by Molly Fitzsimons, food styling by Anna Billingskog
  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour
  • Serves 6 to 8
Author Notes

Commonly served for Easter, white borscht can be found in rotation on many Ukrainian and Polish restaurant and deli menus year-round because it’s a crowd-pleaser. This recipe is an homage to the Polish white borscht, also known as zurek, from Podhalanka, a restaurant in Chicago. It’s blended and creamy, rich and peppery, smokey and sour, and hearty because it’s filled with half-moons of kielbasa and sliced hard-boiled egg.

Traditional white borscht recipes call for a 3- to 5-day fermented rye or wheat flour starter to thicken the broth and give the soup its trademark tanginess; however, this recipe uses seedless rye bread, sour cream, and a little vinegar so it can be made as soon as inspiration strikes, ingredients are acquired, and enjoyed in just an hour and a half.

Speaking of ingredients, the quality of the kielbasa really makes a difference here—you’re looking for a 1½- to 2-inch-wide, usually over a foot long, smoked, and semi-dried kielbasa packed with black pepper and garlic, sometimes labeled as “wedding sausage.” The best you can get will be in a glass case or hanging on a wall in your local Eastern European deli or market(where you can also purchase your rye bread). It will come wrapped in paper which means the sausage will perfume your refrigerator and tempt you to eat it every time you open the door.

The broth for white borscht is usually made by boiling sausage in water, but this recipe calls for a combination of water and chicken broth because I think when you can, why not use broth as a flavor amplifier? You can absolutely use all water if there’s no broth on hand, just add a bit more salt to taste.

No parsnip? No problem! Use an extra carrot or two! If you can’t have gluten: remove the bread, use 2 additional potatoes and add a cup of sauerkraut to the soup before blending. If you can’t have dairy: remove the butter and sour cream, and replace them with olive oil and your favorite plant-based Greek-style yogurt. If you can’t have kielbasa: I’m sorry. —Jessica Romanowski

What You'll Need
  • 1 pound smoked kielbasa, aka Wedding Sausage, cut into 3 or 4 pieces
  • 3 medium Yukon gold potatoes (about 2 pounds), peeled and quartered
  • 4 cups chicken stock or broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 2 to 3 dried bay leaves
  • 3 teaspoons (or more) kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 medium yellow onions (about 8 ounces), peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
  • 2 celery stalks, cut into ½-inch pieces (about 1 cup)
  • 1 parsnip (about 6 ounces), peeled, and cut into ½-inch pieces (about 1 cup)
  • 2 small carrots (about 6 ounces), peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces (about 1 cup)
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled, smashed, and coarsely chopped
  • 5 slices seedless light rye bread or rye sourdough bread
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar or distilled white vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup packed finely chopped parsley, plus more for serving
  • 6 to 12 hard-boiled eggs
  1. In a large saucepan, bring the sausage, potatoes, broth, peppercorns, bay leaves, 1 teaspoon of the salt, and 4 cups of water to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes. (Now would be a great time to chop/prep the vegetables.)
  2. In a large heavy stockpot over medium heat, melt the butter. Cook the onion, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 5 minutes, until softened and translucent. A little color is okay. Add the celery, parsnip, carrot, and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Stir to combine, then cover and cook for 5 minutes, stirring once or twice more. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for about 1 minute, until slightly softened and fragrant.
  3. Ladle 1 cup of the simmering broth from the saucepan and pour into the pot of vegetables. Using a wooden spoon, scrape and release any browned bits from the bottom and sides of the pot while the broth bubbles. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.
  4. Once the sausage has plumped up and is no longer wrinkled, remove the sausage from the broth and transfer to a cutting board. Test the potatoes for doneness with a fork: if a fork easily slides into the potato or the potato breaks in half, they are ready. Remove from the heat.
  5. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Carefully transfer the broth and potatoes to the pot with the vegetables, starting with a slotted spoon to transfer the potatoes, then finishing with the broth to prevent hot splatter. Stir to combine.
  6. Add the bread, vinegar, black pepper, and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Cover and simmer over low heat, stirring twice, for about 10 minutes, until the bread is ultra-soggy and easily breaks apart as you stir. While waiting for this last bit of cooking time to pass, slice the sausage into half-moons, slice or quarter the hard-boiled eggs, and divide among bowls.
  7. Remove the pot from the heat. Using an immersion blender (or in batches with a standard blender), very carefully blend the hot soup until smooth. Add the sour cream and parsley, then stir (or blend once more) until fully combined and no streaks of sour cream remain. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup over the eggs and sausage. Garnish with more parsley before serving.
  8. Do Ahead: The soup can be made 4 days ahead. Store the soup separately from the sausage and hard-boiled eggs in the refrigerator. Reheat in a saucepan with a splash of water over medium-low heat, stirring frequently until hot and steaming, but not boiling.

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3 Reviews

Bdavis April 9, 2023
This was an excellent recipe. I made it today for Easter. So much flavor! Many similar recipes thicken the soup with a flour slurry at the end but the bread was and excellent, flavorful addition. For anyone who grew up enjoying Polish food made by grandma this recipe will speak to your heart.
[email protected] April 10, 2022
This was amazing!! Very easy and definitely enough food for a crowd! I will be making this again!
Is this something I could freeze?
Jessica R. April 11, 2022
Glad you enjoyed it! You can freeze this soup for up to 2-3 months-just hold off on adding the sour cream and parsley until after you've thawed and reheated it.