Lithuanian Cold Beet Soup | Šaltibarščiai [Recipe] (2024)

Lithuanian Cold Beet Soup | Šaltibarščiai [Recipe] (1)

Growing up I was never a big fan of beetroot. I think this was due to the highly acidic pickled stuff you get in jars, which was pretty much the only type of beetroot available back then. My grandmother used it on all her salads and everything else on the plate would be tinted purple and tainted with its earthy, sour taste.

However, in recent years as fresh, unpickled beetroot has become more readily available, I have become a convert. So when someone gave us a few freshly dug beetroots recently I was absolutely delighted and started thinking about what I’d cook with them.

In Lithuania, there’s really only one thing to do with beetroot and that’s make cold borscht soup, known in Lithuania as šaltibarščiai (shalt-eh-barsh-chay). This garishly pink soup is incredible popular, particularly in summer when the weather can be quite hot. It is made using a cultured milk called kefir (kefyras in Lithuanian), which is like a cross between yoghurt and buttermilk. Because it is contains high quantities of beneficial bacteria and yeasts, kefir is very good for your digestive system. Couple that with the benefits of eating the “superfood” that is beetroot and you have a highly nutritious lunch!

Lithuanian Cold Beet Soup | Šaltibarščiai [Recipe] (2)

As this is a cold soup it is incredibly quick and easy to make. The only cooking required is for the beetroot. If cooking beetroot seems like too much trouble, or if you can’t source fresh, raw beetroot to cook, you can simply use the cooked beetroot that is now available vac-packed in the vegetable section of most supermarkets.

The most difficult aspect of making this soup is probably sourcing the kefir milk. Unfortunately, while widely available in many countries, kefir is not available in all supermarkets. If it’s not available at your local supermarket you may find it at Lithuanian, Polish or Russia food stores. Alternatively you can make an approximation using yoghurt and buttermilk, both easily and cheaply available.

Despite being a cold soup, borscht actually makes a fantastic autumn lunch. It has a mild taste but is quite hearty due to the amount of solid ingredients. It would make for a great light lunch on a day when you know you’ll be having a heavy or stodgy evening meal. Lithuanian šaltibarščiai is traditional served with a side of warm, boiled potatoes. However, you can replace these with a slice of rye bread or your favourite crusty loaf, as you prefer.

Lithuanian Cold Beet Soup | Šaltibarščiai [Recipe] (3)

In the original version of this recipe I used my own homemade pickles instead of fresh cucumbers as I liked the zing that they brought to the soup. Traditionally, fresh cucumbers would be used. Either will actually work well. In summer I tend to use fresh cucumbers, but off-season I still use pickles if I can’t find good quality fresh cucumbers.

Traditionally, šaltibarščiai would not contain lemon juice. However, in an attempt to use less salt in my diet I like to use a small amount of lemon juice to provide a little piquancy. It should not be possible to taste the lemon juice – only to feel a slight bite from its acidity. You can leave the lemon out if you prefer, seasoning only with salt.

Spring onions are not widely available in Lithuania. Lithuanians rarely pull young onions for use in salads. Instead, they cut some of the green stems from onions that are still growing and use only these stems in their salads. The stems regrow quite quickly, so you can cut them again and again until it comes time to lift the onions. We have a few onions in the garden and I used some of their stems in this dish.r stems in this dish.

Lithuanian Cold Beet Soup | Šaltibarščiai [Recipe] (4)

Lithuanian Šaltibarščiai

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print


For the soup:

    200 g | 7 oz boiled & cooled beetroot (about 2 medium beets)
    100 g | 3.5 oz cucumber (about 2 large pickling cucumbers, either fresh or pickled – see note above)
    6 spring onions or 10 green onion leaves
    2 hard-boiled eggs
    1.5 litres | 3 pints kefir (or 500 ml | 1 pint thick natural yoghurt and 1 litre | 2 pints buttermilk)
    Bunch fresh dill
    Juice of ½ a lemon (optional)
    Salt to taste

For the side dish:

    200 g | 7 oz potatoes


  1. Peel the potatoes and chop into bite-sized pieces. Place in a saucepan of boiling water, add a good pinch of salt and boil until a knife can easily pierce the flesh.
  2. While the potatoes are boiling, assemble the soup.
  3. Slice the beetroot & gherkins into fine julienne.
  4. Chop the eggs into small dice.
  5. Chop the scallions or onions leaves into 1 cm (½ inch) pieces.
  6. Finely chop the dill.
  7. Pour the kefir into a large bowl or saucepan and add the chopped ingredients and half of the lemon juice, holding back some of the dill for garnish.
  8. Taste and season salt and additional lemon juice as required.
  9. Ladle the soup into bowls and sprinkle with the remaining dill.
  10. Serve the potatoes on a side plate so that they do not heat the soup.

Lithuanian Cold Beet Soup | Šaltibarščiai [Recipe] (5)
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Lithuanian Cold Beet Soup | Šaltibarščiai [Recipe] (2024)


What's the difference between beet soup and borscht? ›

The Polish word barszcz means borscht, but this soup is slightly different. Whereas traditional borscht is an opaque purple and commonly includes meat, tomatoes, and cabbage, barszcz is more of a basic beet broth that is somewhat translucent, whether red or white in color.

How do you pronounce Lithuanian beet soup? ›

It's pronounced shalt-eh-barsh-chay and is incredibly popular in Lithuania especially on hot summer days as it is served cold, usually with a side of baby potatoes.

What is the origin of cold beetroot soup? ›

According to Lithuanians, the dish originated in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which existed until 1795 and included swaths of territory in present-day Belarus, Russia and Ukraine. However, Poland and Belarus are among those who contest its heritage. Pink soup has also become a star on social media.

Does beet soup lower blood pressure? ›

Beets contain a high concentration of nitrates, which can help lower your blood pressure levels. This may lead to a reduced risk of heart disease and stroke.

Is beet soup good for high blood pressure? ›

In fact, drinking beetroot juice or consuming beetroot in soups, salads or even as juices or healthy desserts can help in improving overall health and reducing hypertension and managing blood pressure levels naturally.

Why is beet soup good for you? ›

Beets are loaded with nutrients such as Folate, Manganese, and Copper. They have also been found to help lower blood pressure, while being very low in calories. This soup is a great vehicle to adding more beets into your life!

Should I peel beets for soup? ›

Sometimes beets are peeled before cooking. They may also be scrubbed and cooked until tender with their skins on; the skins slip off fairly easily after cooling. (Some people are happy to leave the skins on; they are fine to eat.) You can also pickle cooked beets.

What is the name of the Russian soup made from beets? ›

Borscht is a classic beet soup that's so comforting and delicious.

What does beet soup taste like? ›

Borscht is a beet soup that's warm, sweet, and sour all in one bowl. It has the umami and complexity of a well-developed chicken soup but the beets add a whole different flavor profile.

Is borscht Russian or Polish? ›

borscht, beet soup of the Slavic countries. Although borscht is important in Russian and Polish cuisines, Ukraine is frequently cited as its place of origin.

Who made cold beetroot soup? ›

It is believed that cold beetroot soup has been started to be eaten in Lithuania when there was no time to cook food. Liquid cold beetroot soup was made for mowers: vegetables - for vitamins, sour milk - to cool down, and water for thirst.

Which country invented beetroot? ›

Beets are believed to originate along the coasts of the Mediterranean (sea beets) and were first cultivated for their edible leaves. The Greeks, like the Romans, cultivated beets for their leaves, but ate them as food and called them teutlon or teutlion, because the foliage resembled squid tentacles.

How do you eat cold beets? ›

Yes, raw beets and beet greens are used in a variety of ways. Raw beet greens can be thinly sliced and used in a salad. Raw beets can be tough, so they must be sliced or grated ultra-thin to be crispy and edible. They're great in slaws, salads and relishes.

What is the name of the highly seasoned soup made of beetroot and cabbage and served with sour cream? ›

Borscht is a sour soup made with meat, vegetables, and seasonings, commonly enjoyed in Eastern Europe, and Northern Asia and has become popular worldwide. The name "borscht" is often closely tied to the Ukrainian variant, which features red beets that give the dish its iconic red color.

Is beet soup good for you? ›

Beets are loaded with nutrients such as Folate, Manganese, and Copper. They have also been found to help lower blood pressure, while being very low in calories. This soup is a great vehicle to adding more beets into your life!

What is the name of the soup made from beets? ›

Borscht is a soup, usually made with beets, originating from Central and Eastern Europe and Northern Asia. It is especially popular in the cuisines of Russia, Poland, Lithuania, Romania, Latvia, and Ukraine.

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