Soup is always on the menu in Poland and Christmas Eve is no exception. There will be at least one soup and quite possibly more for Wigilia. You could make Polish Christmas Eve Borscht or Barszcz Wigilijny and serve it in a cup to be sipped as a colorful and flavorful broth, or you might serve it in a bowl with uszka, little dumplings filled with a mushroom or mushroom and sauerkraut.
Polish Christmas Eve Borscht differs from everyday barszcz because we’re not using meaty bones to make the broth. Wigilia is a meatless meal, so we omit the pound of beef bones called for in my other borscht recipe.
The Polish version of borscht is always served just as a broth. If you want borscht with more substance, try this Ukrainian version that has a wonderful texture.
Zakwas z buraków
This recipe calls for a fermented beet mixture, zakwas z buraków, or beet leavening. It takes 5- 10 days for this mixture to ferment and be ready to use in the soup. You can make the soup without it, but it will be milder, less spicy. Without it, the broth will also be lighter. You can add a little vinegar or lemon juice to make. up for the tartness, and might try adding a clove of garlic or two to the soup mixture as you’re simmering it. If there is time, I encourage you to make the zakwas. It will give you the best result.
After the zakwas is added, you don’t want to boil the soup. The probiotics in the zakwas die at temps of 115° F or 46° C, so you’ll want to serve this at room temp or just above.
Heat will also diminish the beautiful red color added by the zakwas. So be careful about reheating.
Polish Christmas Eve Borscht Serving Suggestions
- For Christmas Eve, serving the borscht with uszka, is probably most traditional.
- Serve it plain in a cup for sipping.
- You could also serve the soup with croquettes or krokiety.
If you’re looking for other Wigilia foods, be sure to check out this post on Wigilia recipes and traditions.
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Polish Christmas Eve Borscht Recipe (Barszcz Wigilijny)
- Prep Time: 30 minutes + 5 days for zakwas
- Cook Time: 90 minutes
- Total Time: 2 hours + 5 days for zakwas
- Yield: 6 - 8 servings 1x
- Category: soup
- Method: stovetop
- Cuisine: Polish
Start your zakwas the week before to make this traditional Polish Christmas Eve Borscht
for the zakwas:
- 1 pound red beets (500 g)
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 black peppercorns
- 4 allspice berries
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 1/2 cups boiling water, cooled to lukewarm (350 ml)
for the soup:
- 1 large dried mushroom
- 1/2 cup boiling water
- 2 pounds red beets (1 kg)
- 1 medium carrot
- 1 parsley root
- 4-inch piece of leek, the white part (10 cm)
- 5 allspice berries
- 5 black peppercorns
- 1 bay leaf
- 6 1/2 cups water or vegetable broth
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- salt, to taste
- 1 cup beet zakwas
for the zakwas:
- Wash, peel, quarter, and slice the 1 pound of beets
- Add 1/4 of the beets to a sterile (sanitize in the dishwasher or boil for 10 minutes) glass jar or ceramic bowl, along with a clove of garlic, a peppercorn, and an allspice berry. Repeat. Add the bay leaf, Add two more layers.
- Dissolve the salt in 1 1.2 cups of lukewarm water. Pour it into the jar or bowl and push in beets down into the water. Cover with cheesecloth. Let sit at room temperature for 5 -10 days. The longer it sits the stronger the flavor.
- Strain, keeping the liquid. The beets can be eaten or discarded.
for the soup:
In a cup or a small bowl, cover the dried mushroom with 1/2 cup boiling water, set aside.
Peel and slice the beets, carrot, and parsley root. Add to a Dutch oven or soup pot, along with the cleaned and sliced leek, allspice, peppercorns, bay leaf, and water or veggie broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cover.
Pour the soup through a colander placed over a large bowl. Press the veggies to get all of the liquid out. The veg can be discarded at this point. To the liquid, add the sugar, salt to taste, 1 cup of beet zakwas, and the mushroom liquid. The reconstituted mushroom can be used in another recipe.
Your soup is ready to serve. If you need to reheat, just warm, don’t boil.
The excess zakwas can be used in another recipe or it is a popular drink as is.
If you can’t find parsley root, this site has some substitutions.
Keep the soup temperature under 115° F or 46° C, to preserve the vivid color and the probiotic benefits.
Keywords: Polish Christmas Eve Borscht, Barszcz Wigilijny
An accountant by trade and a food blogger since 2009, Lois Britton fell in love with Polish cuisine during the years she lived in Poznań, Poland. As the creator of PolishHousewife.com, she loves connecting readers with traditional Polish recipes. Lois has a graduate certificate in Food Writing and Photography from the University of South Florida. She is the author of The Polish Housewife Cookbook, available on Amazon and on her website.
I am excited to try this soup option this year. Roughly how long does do you typically simmer it for? My guess would be a minimum of an hour, but I think the longer the simmer the stronger the flavor. Thank you.
I’d say an hour to two.