Cold Beet Borscht Soup for Summer

Let’s call this a soup,
even though I grew up drinking it out of a glass, and at Yonah Shimmel’s Knishery in New York (est.1910) they were still serving it on tap, for $1.25, along with home made Kefir, in little plastic institutional juice glasses when I visited last, about 10 years ago.

This is the closest I can get to Yonah Shimmel’s cool, sweet, sour beverage, with some modifications of my own that take into account a Russian influence (add dill) and my Ayurvedic background (add black and white pepper).

And its so EASY to make, and really refreshing in the hot weather.


4-5 whole dark red beets, depending on their size (enough to fill a blender to the top before pureeing)
1 medium white or yellow onion, but not a sweet onion
(since the beets are already sweet)
Salt, and fresh ground black and white pepper to taste (start with a 1/2 tsp)
1–2 tbsp fresh or dried dill–start with 1 and see how you like it
1 cup or more fresh sour yogurt or kefir or some of each
for this I like homemade or from the store either Pavel’s low-fat or Lifeway low-fat Kefir, both of which have the necessary Russian taste.


Boil the beets and peeled onion whole. When the beets are soft enough for a fork to pierce, wash in cold water and remove skin easily by cutting al little off each end and peel under running cold water with even a butter knife.

Place the peeled beets and onion in the blender (or a food processor) with all the other ingredients. Puree till you have a lovely bright rose-red pureed soup. If it is not sour enough, use a more sour kefir or add a little lemon. The trick is to have the right balance of salt, sour, sweet, spicy, and hot.

How to Serve:

Served in a bowl with a dollop of sour cream and some chopped boiled potato with a sprig of fresh baby dill.

Serve in bowl with some diced cucumber and slices of hard-boiled egg (the latter which goes great with the potato, too).

Or be like me and drink out of a juice glass after a long afternoon walk in the sun.

P.S. Some people like to puree it less, so that there are little chunks of whole beet.


Ayurvedic Analysis

This soup is fundamentally sour, sweet, and salty. And then there is the kefir/yogurt which is heavy and unctuous. This makes it perfect for pacifying light, rough Vata. But Vata is cold, so keep this as a summer beverage, and for an aggravated Vata serve cool, but not right out of the frig. A balanced Vata could have it cold in hot weather. And of course the onion and pepper warms it up a bit, too. This is a way to cool the system, while protecting Agni/Digestive Fire

This is also excellent for Pitta, which is cooled and pacified by the sweet cool beetroot. For an unbalanced Pitta, leave out the pepper, but again for a balanced Pitta, this is a great summer beverage, as its chief property is that it is cooling. Too much sour flavor or sour yogurt can aggravate Pitta, but very little American yogurt is that sour.

This is fine for Kapha in Summer, as, again, the dominant Pitta dosha of summer is already acting to pacify Kapha. But for an unbalanced Kapha, one might add more pepper, or even some hot sauce like Tapatio from Mexico.

Caution: For diabetics, be conscious of the high sugar content in this soup, which being pureed makes it raise the blood sugar pretty quickly.

copyright eyton j. shalom, san diego ca, july 2010, all rights reserved, use with permission

Ayurveda, Acupuncture, and Chinese Medicine in San Diegohttps://www.bodymindwellnesscenter.com

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