A recipe for traditional cold beet soup


From The Book of Jewish Food, published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Reprinted with permission.

This cool sweet-and-sour soup, which was particularly popular in Lithuania, has become one of the great Jewish standbys of the restaurant trade. It is one of my favorites.


  1. 1 cup (250 ml) sour cream to pass around
  2. 6 peeled boiled potatoes (optional)
  3. Juice of 1 lemon
  4. 2 Tablespoons sugar or to taste
  5. 2 lbs (1 kg) raw beets
  6. A little salt and pepper


Peel the beets and dice them. If they are young, that is easy to do. If they are old and too hard to dice, simply cut them in half and, when they have softened with boiling, lift them out, cut them up, and put them back in the pan. Put the beets in a pan with 9 cups (2 liters) of water and salt and pepper and simmer for 1-1/2 hours.

Let the soup cool, then chill, covered, in the refrigerator. Add the lemon and sugar to taste before serving (these could be added when the soup is hot, but it is more difficult to determine the intensity of the flavoring). Remove some of the beet pieces with a slotted spoon if it seems like there are too many of them and keep them for a salad.

Serve, if you like, with a boiled potato, putting one in each plate. Pass around the sour cream for all to help themselves.

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Claudia Roden is one of England's leading food writers. Her works include the James Beard Award winning The Book of Jewish Food and A Book of Middle Eastern Food.

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