Soup for Sustenance: Golden Beet and Pancetta Borscht

The humble beet is a nutritional powerhouse for endurance athletes that improves cardiovascular efficiency and reduces inflammation.

Borscht (or Borsch) is a fantastic root vegetable soup that originated in the Ukraine. It was used to supply sustenance and a well-rounded supply of nutrients for hard-working people who needed to maintain endurance throughout the day. These endurance-enhancing properties make borscht an ideal meal for athletes.

Consuming beet juice prior to athletic performance is a current trend among athletes. Many studies have confirmed the humble beet’s ability to increase endurance via giving a boost to the cardiovascular system’s ability to carry and utilize oxygen. Eating the whole beetroot has similar benefits and can reduce inflammation. Beets also have a generous helping of fiber which aids the digestive system.

This soup is prepared with hearty root vegetables and has many different versions. The common components are always beets, carrots, potatoes, and onions. In this riff on borscht, I’ve used sweet potatoes in place of traditional white potatoes and added pancetta for a touch of protein and salty flavor. Traditional borscht uses white vinegar or lemon for an acidic punch, but I’ve substituted apple cider vinegar to give it some tang.

Golden Beet and Pancetta Borscht

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 1 hour

Yield: Serves 2


  • 2 golden beets, peeled and diced
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and sliced into small rounds
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 cups beef or chicken broth
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 4 ounces pancetta or bacon, diced (reserve a small cooked amount for garnish if desired)
  • 1 cup tomato sauce or puree
  • 1/4 head of red cabbage, sliced into thin strips
  • 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dill
  • 1 teaspoon salt, to taste
  • Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • Chives for garnish


  1. In a soup pot, combine beets, sweet potato, carrot, water, and broth.
  2. Boil vegetables for about 45 minutes until all are fork tender.
  3. While the vegetables are cooking, sauté pancetta, onion, and garlic in a frying pan until pancetta is cooked.
  4. Add cooked pancetta, onion, and garlic to the soup pot.
  5. Puree half of the soup mixture with an immersion blender or by ladling into a blender. Pour the puree back into the soup pot.
  6. Add remaining ingredients and cook an additional 15 minutes to combine flavors.
  7. Top with additional cabbage, chives, and pancetta and serve hot.


  • You can substitute red beets for the golden beets and you’ll end up with a beautiful crimson soup.

More Beautiful Beet Recipes:

Photo courtesy of Kari Lund.

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