White Borscht (Polish ‘Barszcz Biały’, pronoun.: ‘barsh-ch bya-we’) is a hearty soup that has graced Polish Easter tables for centuries.
Depending on the region, it’s soured with fermented wheat starter, sauerkraut juice or the leftover juices from fermented dill pickles.
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 this recipe, we’re using wheat flour starter. It might sound scary, but it’s easy to make at home.
Thanks to pork rib and white sausage, the soup has that meaty richness to it. Fragrant smoked bacon adds a pleasant, smoky vibe. Sourness of the starter is balanced nicely with sour cream and boiled egg.
If you enjoy Polish soups, why not try these ones next?:
Fun fact: White Borscht is often confused with Żurek soup, and no wonder – at a first glance, they’re similar. The latter is soured with fermented rye starter, and is much sharper in flavour as a result.
Do you need any special ingredients to make this White Borscht?
Yes, to make this recipe, you’ll have to shop around.
This soup is based on Fermented Wheat Flour Starter, or what we call ‘Zakwas Pszenny’ or ‘Żur Pszenny’.
🇵🇱 In Poland, ‘Zakwas Pszenny’ is sold at some bakeries and supermarkets, especially around Easter time. It’s sold in glass bottles or jars.
🌍 Internationally, you might get lucky and find ‘Zakwas Pszenny’ at a Polish deli.
If you can’t find it anywhere – fear not, it’s easy to make at home. All you need is a jar, some whole wheat flour, garlic, water and… a bit of patience. It takes 5 days to ferment.
Another ingredient that may be difficult to source is a Polish-style White Sausage (‘Biała Kiełbasa’). Quality is important here, a bad sausage can spoil the whole dish.
White Kiełbasa is a pork sausage, parboiled or raw (ideally, we’ll need the latter). It’s mildly spiced, often enriched with veal.
🇵🇱 In Poland, you’ll have no trouble finding it, any well-stocked meat store sells raw White Kiełbasa.
🌍 Abroad, try asking in a Polish store. When searching for alternatives, German-style Weisswurst will work too.
If you just can’t find any of the above, get a regular raw pork sausage from the local butchers, the highest quality you can afford.
I’m not being fancy here, but whatever you do – avoid vacuum-packed so-called “Polish kiełbasa” from a supermarket! It’s pre-cooked and full of unwanted additives. While it tastes fine when fried, it will definitely spoil your soup.
How should you serve this Barszcz Biały?
In this recipe, White Borscht is served with boiled egg (halved), slices of white sausage, some chopped root vegetables and a little meat off the rib. I garnished it with some fresh marjoram.
Every region and household serves White Borscht differently, so feel free to mix it up! Here are some serving suggestions:
- Eggs: sunny side up, boiled quail eggs, scotch eggs
- Potatoes: Chopped spuds (boiled or baked), a solid spoonful of mashed potatoes
- Farmer’s Cheese, crumbled or cubed, as a garnish
- Meat: fried bacon as a garnish
- Bread: croutons, serving in a bread bowl
What should you serve with White Borscht?
White Borscht is not a light appetizer – it’s a proper, hearty meal on its own right and no sides are needed. Serve it with some fresh bread on the side.
Can you make this Barszcz Biały another way?
Not really. There are many regional Barszcz Biały recipes, calling for additional ingredients, while skipping the others – but the core method remains the same.
In some regions, wheat ‘zakwas’ starter is replaced with sauerkraut juice. If you would like to give it a go, choose a ‘real’ sauerkraut – properly fermented, without any vinegar added.
What diets is this White Borscht suitable for?
This White Borscht contains meat and gluten.
If you follow a gluten-free diet, swap the wheat starter for sauerkraut or dill pickle juice. It’s also a traditional method and it tastes really nice as well. Add the juice gradually, tasting as you go.
How long can you keep this Barszcz Biały in the fridge?
Once Borscht is served, don’t keep it on the table for longer than 2-3 hours.
To refrigerate any leftovers, allow them to cool first. Keep them in a closed container – this could be a smaller cooking pot covered with a lid.
Barszcz Biały can be kept in the fridge for up to 2 days. To keep it fresh for a day longer, skip the sour cream from the recipe and add it just before serving.
Can I freeze this White Borscht?
Yes, Barszcz Biały can be frozen, but remember to:
- skip the (boiled) eggs, they’re not happy in the freezer
- if you kept kiełbasa as a whole link, slice it into rounds before freezing.
Once the soup has cooled completely, move it into a container with a lid. Label the box with the description and today’s date. Eat within 2-3 months.
How do I reheat this soup?
From chilled: Pour Barszcz Biały into a cooking pan and reheat slowly on low heat, until hot. Depending on the soup’s volume, this can take anywhere from 8 to 15 minutes.
Don’t reheat this soup in a microwave, the healthy probiotics won’t survive it.
From frozen: Allow the soup to thaw, ideally overnight. Reheat on the stove, cooking on a low heat until Barszcz Biały becomes hot throughout.
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