Šaltibarščiai (Lithuanian Cold Beet Soup)

Can you believe the color of this soup? I have never seen anything like it! I was looking for new ways to use beets and came across this most unusual Lithuanian soup. It’s pronounced shalt-eh-barsh-chay and is incredibly popular in Lithuania especially on hot summer days as it is served cold, usually with a side of baby potatoes. The base of the soup is kefir which can be substituted with buttermilk or a combination of buttermilk and yogurt. Kefir is high in beneficial bacteria and yeasts so is good for your digestive system.

These beets at the Annapolis Farmer’s Market are what prompted me to search new recipes. My fallback was to make Borscht, but when I saw this Šaltibarščiai recipe I thought I’d give it a go. Not to try to improve on a traditional recipe I kept the recipe as is, and all Šaltibarščiai recipes are generally the same. It is unusual tasting and not to everyone’s liking, but since it was so crazy popular in Lithuania I figured this Galley Pirate should try it.


2 medium beets (about 1 lb)
2 pickling cucumbers (or one regular, seeded)
6 scallions
1/4 cup fresh dill, plus extra for garnish
4 cups Kefir or buttermilk
2 eggs
salt & pepper to taste

Hard boil 2 eggs and set in the icebox to cool.

Boil the beets until they can be easily stabbed with a fork. This take about 30 minutes. Drain and let cool. Slip the skins off using your fingers and some paper towel. If the skin doesn’t come off by just rubbing them, use a vegetable peeler.

Julienne the beets and cucumbers by slicing them into thin “matchsticks.” Dice the scallions and mince the dill.

Pour the Kefir into a large, sealable container. Add all of the ingredients except the eggs and mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Put in your icebox to chill for at least 5 hours. Overnight is even better. Stir well before serving to mix in the flavors and especially the color.

Peel the hardboiled eggs and roughly chop into 6 or so pieces. Ladle the soup into bowls and place the chopped hardboiled eggs on top. Garnish with dill and serve cold, traditionally with boiled potatoes.

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