Heartwarming Borscht, a Family Recipe


Today I’d like to share a very special recipe a patient shared with me– his family’s cherished, handed-down recipe for borscht (beet soup). Anyone who cooks knows that a family recipe is a gift more precious than gold.  So you can imagine how  touched I was when my patient, Lawrence, brought me a beautifully presented mason jar of his Great Grandma’s borscht as a surprise at clinic one day, along with its story and recipe.  It was deep ruby red in color, deep and earthy in flavor.

Lawrence shared it with me with hopes that we might be able to teach it in a future class in the Thrive Kitchen, and I hope we can! It’s an incredibly delicious and nutritious recipe, and I would love to be able to share a family recipe from someone who is not only my patient, but has attended a few of my classes.  While the Thrive Kitchen’s main aim is to empower people with healthy cooking skills and to inspire delicious and more frequent home cooking, equally important is the sense of community we share at every single class.  We might start out as strangers, but by the time we gather around the table after all the cooking is done to share food, nutrition information, advice, questions, and tips, everyone is relaxed and engaged.  It’s my favorite day of the month.

So thank you, Lawrence, for your family’s delicious borscht recipe.  It’s a precious gift for which I am extremely grateful.  I love the detailed directions, especially the instructions at the end on how to adjust for seasoning.  I hope to cook with you again soon!

Great Grandma Krietzky’s Borscht

Perfected over time by her granddaughter Lily Lane

Recorded by Lily’s nephew Buddy Dillon

Edited slightly by Linda Shiue

When I was growing up it was always a time of excitement and anticipation when my aunt Lilly announced she was making the Borscht.  It was an event that took all day, so we would have to just wait and savor the exotic aromas coming from the kitchen.  The recipe was handed down from our great grandmother Lille Krietzky who migrated to North Dakota from the Ukraine in 1900.  This borscht is unique in that it includes not only beets, but a large variety of vegetables, and no meat.  It makes a wonderful hot soup that is fabulously nutritious.  It can also be served cold on a hot summer day.  Adding a big dollop of sour cream will take your taste buds to Ukrainian heaven!  This recipe had never been written down.  My aunt Lilly had finally shared her secrets with me and now I am honored to share this family treasure!

-Buddy Dillon, January 2018

Makes approximately 16 quarts.  Recipe can be halved.


6-8 beets,medium size (with greens, optional)

8-10 sprigs fresh dill

1 purple or green cabbage

1 bunch celery with tops

2 carrots

1 bunch parsley

4 medium potatoes (white or red rose)

2 large yellow or white onions

3-4 heads garlic

4 lemons

10-12 tomatoes or 2 large cans diced tomatoes with juice

Optional Vegetables  (1-2 cups):

corn / green beans / peas / lima beans / zucchini / broccoli / cauliflower / mushrooms

(no parsnips or turnip types)



2 tsp ground black pepper

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

3-4 bay leaves


sour cream




  1. Clean beets well, an cut off greens leaving 2” of stems (this helps beets from losing their color while cooking).  Keep beet greens for later use if in good condition.
  2. Add beets to 6-7 quarts of cold water, bring to boil, then simmer. Cook till tender (30-45 min).
  3. Remove beets.  Save the red beet cooking water, strain and use for soup stock.  Peel off outer skin of beets by dipping in ice water (skin will slough off).
  4. Cool, then julienne, approximately ¼” x ¼” strips (use all bits and pieces).
  5. Add juice of 2-3 lemons to the beets. Stir and coat to preserve color.  Should yield roughly 6 cups of julienned beets.

MAKE THE SOUP                                                                                                         

  1. Bring 6 quarts reserved beet stock to boil in a 16+ quart pot.
  2. Add 1 tsp salt per quart of beet stock.
  3. Keep at a simmer, while adding vegetables.
  4. Chop vegetables, and add as you go, in order of cooking length:
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 4 medium white or red potatoes (not baking potatoes)
  • 8 cups tomatoes, blanched, peeled and diced (prepare in advance or use canned)
  • 2 cups celery tops (keep leaves if in good condition)
  • 1/2 head purple cabbage, finely shredded (green cabbage is OK too)
  • 1-2 cups of your favorite vegetables (mushrooms, corn, peas, etc., no parsnips or turnip types)


8-10 fronds fresh dill, depending on size (finely chopped or food processed). Dill fronds vary greatly in size, more dill is always preferable!

3-4 heads garlic, crushed and diced

3-4 bay leaves

2 tsp black pepper

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

NEXT ADD                                                  

1 bunch parsley, finely chopped

beet greens, if clean and tender, chopped fine, 1-2 cups (optional)

prepared beets and juice of 1 lemon, bring to boil, then TURN OFF HEAT!


After cooking, but while still hot:

Add remaining dill and garlic.

Stir and taste for seasoning.

Add salt, if needed (usually requires several teaspoons).

Add more lemon juice for tartness, if needed.

Add dry dill, if more dill taste is desired.

Serve hot or cold.  Taste improves with age and can be frozen.

A great big dollop of sour cream will take your to taste buds to Ukrainian heaven!


NUTRITION HIGHLIGHTS- Beets are an excellent source of folate and a very good source of manganese, potassium and copper, dietary fiber, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin C, iron and vitamin B6. They are rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds which  help protect against heart disease, birth defects and certain cancers, especially colon cancer.

beets 3.jpg

Would you like to join in the fun? Please sign up for a class in the Thrive Kitchen! Classes are open for registration one month before each class.  The schedule is available here and on my healthy eating community page at www.Facebook.com/TheDoctorsSpicebox (please LIKE and follow!). Email SFHealthEd@kp.org or call 415-833-3450 to register. 
Hope to cook with you soon!