Ukrainian Christmas traditions: borscht on Christmas Eve

Ukrainian borscht holds a unique status and profound cultural significance. It’s globally recognized and even listed by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage worthy of protection. Borscht is the Ukrainians’ all-time favorite food, prepared for daily meals and special festive occasions.

According to a study, 63% of surveyed Ukrainians consider borscht a staple for everyday dining. However, festive borscht holds a significant place in Ukrainian tradition. Holiday borscht recipes differ from everyday ones; for instance, during Christmas, lean borscht is made with mushrooms, vyshky (small dumplings made of lean dough with filling), sauerkraut, or other distinct ingredients.

What does Ukrainian borscht on the Christmas table symbolize? It embodies the victory of good over evil. Lean borscht is crafted from simple, earth-given ingredients like cabbage, beets, and beans. In the same way, Orthodox Christians strengthen their resolve through daily good deeds, aiming to foster greater goodness in the world.

Here, we present three wonderful recipes for Ukrainian beetroot soup, each suitable for serving on the festive table on Christmas Eve.

Lean Christmas borscht without meat

This recipe is the simplest version of Christmas borscht, prepared exclusively with lean ingredients.


  • potatoes – 3-4 pcs.
  • half a carrot
  • onion – 1 pc.
  • medium beetroot – 1 pc.
  • sweet pepper – half
  • sauerkraut with brine – 200 g
  • honey – 1-2 tbsp. l.
  • tomato paste – 2 tbsp. l.
  • sunflower oil – 1 tbsp. l.
  • salt and pepper – to taste


1. Prepare a vegetable broth. Begin by cleaning the beetroot, halving it, and boiling it in water for about 40 minutes. Then, add half of the chopped onion, potatoes cut into small cubes, and carrots cut into strips to the boiling mixture.

2. Dice half the onion and half the sweet pepper, then sauté them in oil in a pan. After 5 minutes, add the tomato paste.

3. Once the beets are cooked, remove them from the broth, cool them, and cut them into arbitrary pieces. Return the beets to the broth, adding the sautéed mixture.

4. When the vegetables are ready, add sauerkraut to the pan and cook the borscht for another 3 minutes. Season with honey, salt, and spices to your taste, and let the pot sit for 20 minutes to allow the Christmas borscht to infuse.

Christmas borscht with ears

This recipe is common in Galicia. The so-called ears are somewhat similar to Italian ravioli.


For the base:

  • dried mushrooms – 150 g
  • beetroot – 3 pcs.
  • carrot – 1 pc.
  • vinegar – 1.5 tbsp. l.
  • flour – 50 g
  • oil – 5 tbsp. l.
  • salt, ground black pepper – to taste

For “ears”:

  • flour – 1.5 cups
  • water – 1/2 cup
  • oil – 2 tbsp. l.
  • dried mushrooms – 200 g
  • onion – 1 pc.
  • salt, oil – to taste


1. Prepare the vegetables. Peel the beets and carrots, then boil them in a large pot. Wash the dried mushrooms, and cook them in another pan.

2. Remove the cooked beets and carrots from the broth. Add the mushroom broth to the same pan. Let the future borscht simmer over low heat. Cut the beets and carrots into strips and return them to the broth.

3. Heat 5 tbsp. of sunflower oil and fry the flour on it, stirring constantly, for 1-2 minutes. Season the borscht with salt, pepper, vinegar, or beet kvass (400 ml) and then add the pan-fried flour. Boil the borscht thoroughly and let it infuse.

4. Clean and cut the onion into small cubes. Heat oil in a pan, lightly fry the onion, then add the boiled mushrooms.

5. Make the “ears.” Combine flour, water, oil, and salt in a deep bowl, kneading the dough. Roll out the dough into small circles. Fill the center of each circle with the mushroom mixture, shaping them like dumplings. Boil the “ears” in salted water for 1 minute.

6. Serve the borscht in serving bowls, garnished with the desired number of “ears.”

Christmas borscht

Another fascinating recipe for Christmas Eve involves cooking borscht in pich (masonry stove in Ukrainian village houses where food was cooked), although modern variations allow stovetop cooking.

There isn’t a specific list of ingredients or proportions for this Christmas borscht. When the water in the pot boils, the main ingredients – fish and mushrooms – are added.

Boil the borscht broth for half an hour, then add cabbage and beans. Separately, sauté the onion and add it to the pot. Christmas borscht is cooked in pich for 3 hours, approximately the same amount of time is needed for cooking above pich.

While the Christmas borscht cooks, yeast doughnuts (pampukhy) are prepared. Once hot, they’re sprinkled with garlic, covered with a towel, and left to cool. At the festive table, these doughnuts accompany the Christmas borscht.

Indeed, festive Christmas borscht is a unique dish. Try these recipes and immerse yourself in this experience!