Botwinka: Beet Greens Soup with Egg and New Potatoes

Zupa Botwinka z Jajkiem i Ziemniakami

Beet greens have been scandalously underrated in the world’s kitchens. Quite often, they get discarded even before they get a chance to leave the farm. Not in Poland though.

Here, young beets with their greens are impatiently awaited and eventually, celebrated. As soon as they hit the produce stalls, they’re transformed into a variety of dishes. One of the best ones is this delightful Beet Greens Soup. Served with new potatoes, hard-boiled eggs and fresh herbs, ‘Botwinka’ is the definition of a Polish spring.

For the full list of ingredients & detailed instructions, please see the recipe card at the end of this post. But before you scroll, there’s important stuff to know below.

In Polish, young beets with leaves are called ‘botwina’ (pron.: ‘bot-vinah’) or ‘botwinka’ (‘bot-vincah’); and this classic soup shares their name. 

As the temperatures are rising, and you’re looking to cool yourself off, try this Chłodnik Litewski (Cold Beet Soup) recipe next time.

Do you need any special ingredients or equipment?

Some ingredients may be tricky to find, but there are substitutes available.

Young beets with greens

You’ll need two bunches, both weighing roughly 1.3 pounds in total (600 g) – half of which (10.5 oz, 300 g) came from small beetroots, and the other half came from all the stems and leaves. Pick the bunch with the nicest, freshest-looking leaves.

Włoszczyzna

Włoszczyzna is a set of vegetables used as an aromatic flavour base for the broth.

In Poland, it’s sold as a bunch, tied together with a rubber band. Internationally, simply buy them loose – you’ll need carrots, parsley roots, a leek and a piece of celeriac.

Veal

For the broth, you’ll need around a pound (450-500 g) of bones and meat scraps, preferably lean. Duck or goose meat makes a wonderful alternative, although a bit stronger in flavour.

How to serve it?

In this recipe, Botwinka is served with baby potatoes, hard-boiled eggs, fried bacon rashers and chopped fresh herbs.

Some popular recipes for this soup call for cream. If you enjoy richer, creamer soups, add a dollop or two at the very end. Stir it in, or leave it as-is.

What to serve it with?

In Poland, Beet Greens Soup is most commonly served for a springtime lunch; or as an appetizer, right before the main course.

If you decide on the latter, you might want to skip the potatoes – otherwise, it will be tricky to fit any more food afterwards.

Can you make it another way?

Yes, here are a few ideas:

  • for a vegetarian Botwinka, skip the veal and brew a vegetable stock instead. Omit the bacon rashers at the very end as well.
  • eggs can be served in another way. Instead of hard-boiling, you could soft-boil, poach or fry them.
  • swap boiled/roasted baby potatoes for a thick potato mash, served in the middle of the plate.
  • cook the broth with different vegetables, for example, using celery stalks, onions, mushrooms, fennel bulbs…

What diets is it suitable for?

This recipe is suitable for a traditional diet.

How long can you keep it in the fridge?

Once served, ideally, you should eat it within 4 hours.

If you allow any leftovers to cool, make sure to refrigerate them in a container with a lid. You can keep the soup in the fridge for approximately 3 days or so.

Can I freeze it?

Yes, this recipe can be frozen, but it’s best to do so without the garnish (eggs, potatoes, bacon, herbs).

Freeze the soup as soon as it is cold enough. Use a freezer-friendly container or a zip bag. Don’t forget to add a label with the description, and on what date you put it in the freezer.

How do I reheat it?

From chilled

Move the soup into a microwave-proof container with a loosely fitting lid and heat for 4-7 minutes. Alternatively, reheat on the stove on medium heat, until reheated throughout.

From frozen

Allow to defrost, and heat covered in the microwave for 2-4 minutes, then stir (be careful here, it will be hot). Cook for another 4-7 minutes until piping hot.

Botwinka (beet greens) soup

Recipe: step by step

Botwinka (beet greens) soup

Botwinka: Beet Greens Soup with Egg and Potatoes

Yield: 4
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 35 minutes

Ingredients

For the veal broth

  • 1 bunch włoszczyzna (it’s a vegetable set: 3-4 carrots, 2-3 parsley roots, ⅓ -½ celery root, 1 leek)
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil, can be substituted with olive oil
  • 1 lb (450-500 g) veal bones and meat scraps, preferably lean
  • 3 bay leaves, dried
  • 4 allspice berries
  • 1-2 twigs fresh lovage; optional

Beets

  • 2 bunches young beets with greens (approx. 1.1-1.3 lb, 500-600 g)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt; for seasoning
  • Black pepper, ground; for seasoning
  • Pinch of sugar, for seasoning
  • Lemon juice, for seasoning

Garnish

  • 12 small baby potatoes
  • 4 eggs
  • 3.5 oz (100 g) bacon rashers; optional
  • ½ bunch fresh dill
  • ½ bunch fresh chives; can replace with spring onions

Instructions

For the veal broth

  1. Peel all włoszczyzna veggies, chop them roughly.
  2. In a heavy-bottomed cooking pot, heat up a tablespoon of high-quality canola oil. Add peeled vegetables, and let them brown for a bit.
  3. Add veal bones and meat scraps, bay leaves, allspice berries and lovage. Pour in 2 quarts (roughly 2 litres) of water, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer on medium-low for an hour.
  4. Strain the broth. Discard the vegetables or keep them for sałatka jarzynowa. Separate the veal meat off the bones, keep it aside for serving with the soup (or use it for something else, e.g. pierogi filling).

Prepping garnishes

  1. As you wait for the broth to cook, hard-boil 4 eggs. Alternatively, you can poach or fry them (sunny-side up).
  2. Cook (or roast) the potatoes until soft.
  3. Fry the bacon until golden, and set aside.

Adding young beets & greens

  1. Thoroughly wash the beets (with their greens) under cold running water.
  2. Cut off the beetroots, peel and grate them using the largest holes of a box grater. Chop the leaves finely, set aside.
  3. In a deep skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of butter, add grated beetroot, sautée for 5 minutes until soft. Add in beet greens, sautée them for a little while until soft.
  4. Combine the veal broth with sautéed beets and beet greens, cook together for 5 minutes on low heat. Season generously with salt, a generous pinch of sugar and black pepper, as well as a solid squeeze of lemon juice.

Serving

  1. Divide the soup equally between bowls or soup plates. Add the garnishes: quartered baby potatoes, hard-boiled eggs (halved), chopped herbs (dill and chives), and fried bacon rashers. 
  2. Finish off with a sprinkle of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve immediately.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 764Total Fat: 26gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 15gCholesterol: 237mgSodium: 878mgCarbohydrates: 107gFiber: 15gSugar: 16gProtein: 32g

Polish name: Botwinka
Pronunciation: bot-vincah
Cuisine: Polish
Region / Subregion: all-Polish
Other traditional or regional names: botwina, boćwina, boćwinka
Also known as (including misspellings): Polish beet green soup