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July 26, 2010

Recipe for chilled beet and tomato soup

Chilled beet and tomato soup 

When I think of beet soup, I think of borscht, one of the classics of eastern European and western Russian cooking. This beet soup is a lighter alternative, perfect for this time of year when, here in New England, the farm stands overflow with sweet, ripe tomatoes. I know it's cheating a bit, but I jump-started this soup with pre-cooked, peeled, ready-to-eat beets from my supermarket's produce department. I love roasting beets, and I don't mind the pink-stained fingers that come from peeling them, but honestly, for many uses including soups and salads, pre-cooked beets save time and mess in the kitchen. Trader Joe's sells these ready-to-eat beets, and now the little market in our town sells them, so I know they're becoming easier to find. The directions do explain how to start from scratch and roast the beets, too. This ruby-red soup, well balanced in flavor between the beets and tomatoes, needs to be served very cold; plan to make it in the morning so it has time to chill. 

Chilled beet and tomato soup

Adapted from Good Tempered Food by Tamasin Day-Lewis, this recipe, which can be made vegetarian by substituting vegetable stock for chicken stock, serves 6.


1 lb small beets, pre-cooked and ready to eat, or fresh beets
5 cups chicken stock, homemade or low-sodium storebought, or vegetable stock
3 large ripe tomatoes, cored, halved, seeds squeezed out, roughly chopped
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper, to taste
1-2 Tbsp lemon juice, to taste
2/3 cup sour cream
2 Tbsp chopped chives


If using pre-cooked beets, chop roughly and set aside.

If you're using fresh beets, preheat the oven to 375°F. Scrub the beets and trim the stems down to one-half inch. Wrap the beets individually in foil, place on a baking sheet, and cook for 15-20 minutes, depending on the size of the beets, or until just tender when pierced with a knife tip. The beets will finish cooking in the soup, so take them out of the oven and unwrap the foil. When the beets are cool enough to handle, cut them into large chunks.

In a 3-quart or larger stock pot, heat the chicken or vegetable stock over high heat. When the stock begins to shimmer, add the beets and tomatoes. Bring to the boil, then reduce to simmer and cook for 20 minutes, until the tomatoes have begun to collapse. Remove the pot from heat, and puree with an immersion blender (or let the soup cool a bit, and puree in a blender in batches).

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Place the soup in a container or bowl, covered, and refrigerate for at least two hours until well chilled. Just before serving, squeeze in the lemon juice, adjust with salt and pepper if needed, and ladle into soup bowls. Garnish each bowl with a small dollop of sour cream and freshly chopped chives.

Print recipe only.


Posted by: Kalynskitchen | July 26, 2010 at 12:51 PM

It sounds very good. I used to love Borscht, but haven't had it for years now. This sounds like it would be even better.

Posted by: Steph (The Cheapskate Cook) | July 27, 2010 at 11:18 AM

I think I've really been missing something. I've never tried chilled soups (not really by choice - just was never offered) and I stumbled upon your blog through Aimee's plug for you on Simple Bites today.
This soup sounds delish. Thanks for sharing!

Posted by: susan g | July 29, 2010 at 09:56 AM

Questions for your opinion:
What do you think of peeling vs not? If you blend the soup, why peel?
Canned vs fresh: why not?
Sour salt was used in the old recipes for borscht -- do you have an equivalence for the lemon juice? (I just got some.) (When you look at this recipe, I think the tomatoes have a sweet/sour function.)
I love my MIL's borscht, wish I had the recipe. This one sounds like a winner.

Posted by: Lydia | July 30, 2010 at 08:25 AM

Kalyn, I like this soup much better than borscht, which has a bit of a meaty undertone from the beef stock that's usually used. This one is light and bright.

Steph, chilled soups are like thin smoothies! There are so many wonderful possibilities in the summer. Gazpacho is one of my favorites, but this soup is delicious, especially if you're a beet lover.

Susan, if the beets are very new and the skins still supple, there's no need to peel. But most of us don't pull beets right from the garden, which means the skins we get are already starting to dry out a little bit. So I peel. No reason not to use canned beets, especially in soup. I don't know the equivalent sour salt/lemon juice amount, so I would go slowly, add just a bit, and taste. This soup, as I've said, is much lighter than borscht -- a different soup altogether, really, with only the beets in common. (There are so many family recipes that have been lost in our family. I wish I had my grandmother's pickled lox, kugel and flanken recipes.)

Posted by: Louise | August 14, 2010 at 01:19 PM

Lydia, I thought I had a recipe for cold borscht made with either canned beets or the precooked ones you can get at Trader Joe's, both of which I have in the house. But the recipe seems to have disappeared. Do you have any such recipe in your files that does not use stock or is it not possible to make without stock? Thanks much for your reply and for your blog which I read religiously.

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  • I'm Lydia Walshin, a longtime food writer who lives and cooks in a real log house. If I could, I'd eat Chinese noodles, grapes, ice cream and soup every day.
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