Borsch with dill

Russians Soups – Comfort Food For Cold Weather (Recipes included)

When it gets darter and colder, hot soup is the best comfort food for both body and soul. Let’s talk about traditional Russian soups, look at some recipes and cook these dishes at home! Is borsch really the most traditional Russian soup?

Soup has been a staple of Russian cuisine since ancient times. It is easy to cook hot meal and an inexpensive way to feed the entire family. Ingredients are interchangeable. During fasting periods of year meat could be replaced with fish or mushrooms. There is a big variety of Russian soups. Let me tell you about the ones that we cook most often in Russia now.

Schi – The Most Traditional Russian Soup

Unlike the popular myth – it is not borsh, but schi, which is the most traditional Russian soup, made of meat and cabbage. Shi are popular in Russia since the IX century, when cabbage was brought in the country.

Sсhi - most traditional Russian soup

Sсhi – most traditional Russian soup


The basic recipe, which people use at home now is to cook a beef bouillon (put a piece of beef, preferably with a bone in a cold water, add one whole peeled onion and sliced peeled carrot, cook for ~30 min (taking away the meat foam from time to time). Take the onion out. Then add diced cabbage and cook for 15 more minutes, add diced potatoes and cook until potatoes are ready. You can also add some tomatoes – either blended or diced and cooked in a sauce-pan with diced carrots. Several minutes before the soup is ready, add bay leaf, peppercorns and salt. Or you can add the salt and pepper at the earlier stage as I do. After turning the heat off, let the soup stay on the stove for 30 min and serve with sour cream and diced dill and parsley.

That is a basic recipe and there are many variations to it. First of all – in old times cabbage was not available all year round. So people preserved cabbage as a sour cabbage and added it to the soup instead of fresh cabbage. Sour cabbage adds more flavor to schi, so even now many Russians believe that proper schi should be made with sour cabbage. In Spring, when people ran out of both fresh and sour cabbage, they used nettle to replace cabbage in the soup. Nettle has a lot of Vitamin C and in soup it loses the “biting qualities”.

Most people did eat meat in old times, but during religious fasts meat is not allowed, so it was either replaced by mushrooms (or fish) or was omitted (which makes a really bland soup in my opinion). Russian people have a tradition of mushroom picking and have excellent knowledge of mushrooms. We collect mushrooms in Summer and use fresh mushrooms in our cuisine and use dried mushrooms in winter. Porcini is the best type of mushroom for the soup. Champignons will not work as they do not have enough flavor.

Borsch – Is The Schi With Beets

Borsch – a soup that is believed to be Russian, actually has Ukrainian roots. But Russia was really good at adopting great dishes from the USSR countries, so by now even we do consider borsch to be our traditional soup and cook it often at home.

Borsch with dill

Borsch with sour cream and dill


There are as many if not more varieties of borsch as they are of schi. But great news is that since you already know how to make schi – learning how to make borsch will be easy for you. Same process, just add beets with cabbage. I like beets to be diced really thin and usually make a mixture of diced beets, carrots, tomatoes without skin and either make the mix marinate in the vinegar or lemon juice for some time or steer-fry the mix for couple of minutes. Adding vinegar or lemon juice is a necessary step since acid helps to preserve the red color of the beets.

I strongly prefer borsch over schi. I think that beets add the taste and color. Even thought the best borsch is the one made with meat, vegetarian option is also good enough. Make sure you have a lot of veggies in the soup – it should be quite thick. We believe that borsch should also be served with sour cream (we like sour cream)). I am not a big vodka drinker at all, but do understand when people like to have a shot of ice-cold vodka with their borsch. Also – great addition is Pampushki – small round pastries, polished with garlic. And I usually add minced garlic either with dill when I serve the soup or add cloves of garlic to the soup when I turn off the heat and let it sit.

Mushrooms Can Replace Meat In The Soup

I do not know how I have missed such a rich topic as mushroom picking this Summer in my blog! Russians are crazy about picking mushrooms – it is a national sport! We do go to woods for this adventure – the goal is to collect edible mushrooms, which calls for a lot of skills – finding mushrooms in the forest, using your knowledge to understand which ones are not poisonous, collecting them the right way (so that they continue to grow after your harvest) and knowing how to peel and cook them! If everything is done right – all your family and friends are alive and happy.

Mushroom soup

Mushroom soup

The soup, made of forest mushrooms is a fantastic dish! We do not do cream soups if we take the traditional recipes – we peel the mushrooms, make a bouillon, add potatoes and the soup is ready. Of course, make sure you add the sour cream before serving the soup – otherwise the experience will be incomplete!

As for mushroom soup – you can replace forest mushrooms with champignons. Not the best choice, but if you do not have forest mushrooms – that is still a viable option.

Fish Soup – Famous Russian “Uha”

Current economic sanctions have made some damage to our cuisine. Not all fish is available any day and some fish became quite expensive. However, soups is still an area where sanctions do not do much harm. Best recipe for a traditional Russian fish soup “Uha” – catch the fish, use it instead of meat in the bouillon and make sure that soup is thick from fish + add some potatoes. Preferably – cook it near the lake, at the open fire.

Uha - Russian Fish Soup

Uha – Russian Fish Soup

If those conditions are not possible – take several types of fish, a lot of it, clean it, cut into rather big pieces, make a fish bouillon and add potatoes (and carrots if you like). No need to add sour cream to this soup when serving!

Solyanka – The Strangest Winter Soup In Russia

I already wrote about a really bizarre Okroshka soup, made of Russian version of Coca Cola and Russian salad. Here is the most bizarre winter soup, for which you use pickled cucumbers, black olives, a variety of meat etc.

Solyanka - the most bizarre Russian winter soup

Solyanka – the most bizarre Russian winter soup


I am not a big fan of this soup myself, so I never cook it home. But I found the most traditional recipe for you. Millions of people love it, so give it a try.

Take lean beef and fatty pork, chop in small pieces and stir-fry with diced onion and garlic. Add diced pickled cucumbers and sauté for 3-4 minutes. Chop capers and tomatoes, add them to the mix and sauté for another 3-4 min. Place everything in a sauce-pan, add some chopped sausages and bouillon and cook for 20 min at a low heat. Add parsley and dill and lemon, cook couple more minutes. Turn off the heat, let the soup sit for 30 min and serve. Black olives are not present in this recipe, so I am not exactly sure at which point you are supposed to add them. (sauté them with pickles or add when serving the soup?)

Hot Milk Soups – Second Contender For Strange Soup Nomination

If sautéing pickles did sound ok to you – here is another invention that may make you wonder. Hot milk soup with noodles!

Hot milk soup with noodles

Hot milk soup with noodles

It is mostly cooked for kids though. Maybe because it is easier to force kids eat something or maybe because it is good way to make kids drink milk. Or maybe because kids really like it for some reason. I also used to like it, when I was a kid, which now seems quite odd. Recipe is pretty easy – heat up some milk, add salt and sugar and noodles and cook until noodles are ready.

Chicken Soup – Loved In All Countries

There is something about this soup. Every country has its version of chicken soup – from spicy Sopa de Lima or Sopa de Pollo in Mexico to Avgolemono in Greece to Chihirtma in Georgia. Russia is no exception – we also like chicken soup and cook it often. And we also cook chicken soup when we feel sick since it really helps to get better.

Russian chicken soup is usually just a clear chicken broth. Sometimes we add noodles or rice to it. And we almost always add minced dill for the flavor and presentation:

Russian chicken soup

Russian chicken soup

All countries and all cuisines are different. But people everywhere like soups and chicken soup in particular!

And what are your favorite soup recipes? Please share, I love trying out new recipes!

Leave a Reply

  • Danielle Creeksong - 8 years ago

    Hi! I live in America, and am studying fermented foods. I recently made beet kvass which, when fully fermented, tasted very much like a good borscht! But another book showed a kvass made with sourdough whole grain bread slices (stale) and sourdough starter.

    You may know even more of these traditional Russian fermented foods, and I would be delighted to see a write-up about their history, plus some recipes from your family and others.

    Danielle Creeksong

  • kathy - 7 years ago

    Ive had that milk soup thing. In my family its made with home made noodles, thin egg noodles type cut with a pasta maker. Called Lopsha. Either cooked in milk and butter or water and butter. The water butter one is particularly gross. I used to called it peasant food. It’s awful. The only good thing about the water butter on is leftovers (and there were plenty of those) were made into a cake sorta looked similar in shape to a brownie both in the pan and how it was cut for serving…. after adding lots of eggs Lopsheewnik. I loved the cake thing. after eating the cake as a side for a meal the leftovers of that were thinly sliced and fried up for breakfast particularly yummy in bacon grease after cooking the bacon. Really just writing about it makes my lips smack. the cake thing is a nice finger food thing to eat cold in lunches or when travelling ive added cheddar cheese shredded to it and leftover ham cut into cubes or small chunks before baking or crumpled bacon and green onions. or even baking the whole mess in mini muffin pans, for easy packing into lunches. Im hungry now…

    • Tanya Golubeva - 7 years ago

      I would love to get your recipe of Lapshevnik! It never occurred to me to cook lapsha that way! Especially with bacon! but now I also get hungry :-)

  • JoAnn Vogel - 6 years ago

    I love your recipes for Russian soups. I worked in Russia in 2000 as part of the VOCA program. I enjoyed the wonderful people of Russia and their country. I have several of thdolls photographed on this site–purchase them on the street in Moscow. Another soup that I ate in Vologda was the Ukrainain Borsch. I also made Hungarian Goulash in Budapest with a chef. I will email you that recipe. In Wisconsin we love our Chicken Booyah. Another recipe I will email you, if you would like.
    Thank you for perpetuating the Russian Culture through food. I perpetuate the Czech Bohemian Culture through food and baking Kolaches.

    Thank you,

  • Kartik Gurlhosur - 6 years ago

    Hi , nice article . Among the soups I can relate to the one with noodles , we have it has a dessert the noodles are thinner though.

  • Sveta Kharkin - 6 years ago

    i love all russians food forever

  • bloodforcetrauma - 5 years ago

    I love Russian soups, you know why – ’cause I don’t have to have pasta nor rice of any kind with it… such as those of my s.a.d. family has. Thinking that noodles should go with every soup, when they’re wrong. I prefer to fill up on veggies and meat, plus the broth, not damn wheat/rice/or whatever other pasta is made up of. Russian soups are hearty and there’s no bloating from wheat pasta.

  • Brad Erwin - 3 years ago

    I think it is so cool that people made variations to recipes, such as using sour cabbage instead of regular cabbage, in order to use the recipes year-round. Over the last month, I have become a lot more interested in trying the food from different cultures so that I can gain an appreciation of the background and development of foods. I will have to add these foods to the list while I look for more Russian food recipes online!

  • Gismo - 2 years ago

    Makes me think that Eurasia is really one large stretch: most of it sounds like back from my childhood in Germany (noodles in milk was a staple at a friend’s house). We’d add celery root and parsley root to make broth, and might not add sourcream. Other than that, it sounds familiar.