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Šaltibarščiai – Lithuanian Cold Beetroot Soup

Šaltibarščiai is a Lithuanian cold soup made from beetroots, kefir and milk, and served with boiled potatoes. This is a vegan version of the pink soup, made with naturally fermented soy yoghurt and oat milk.

If you’d like to make the traditional version of this cold beet soup, you can still follow this recipe and just use kefir and milk instead of soy yoghurt and oat milk.

I love to travel and try new dishes, discover different ways to prepare already familiar foodstuffs, cook with the local people and explore traditions related to food (among other things), because they often bring people closer together in a way.

And sometimes, the world kitchen comes to you. I have never been in Lithuania, and the closest to Baltic-related food was a bowl of borscht in a small Georgian village on Caucasus. Right. Not too close except, well, the beetroot…

My first encounter with Lithuanian cuisine happened all the way in Norway, while I was living there. Open and straight-forward Croatian savage that I am, I found most of Norwegian people a bit distant, reserved and not that easy to approach at first. I guess that’s why it was no wonder that my first friends there were in fact a Lithuanian couple (and as we came to realize a bit later, Baltics and Balkans actually have a lot in common) – Laura and Tomas, people of many skills, one of my favourites being Laura’s vegan cooking.

After we had shared many talks about food, plant-based cooking and many other topics while the guys were outside smoking, one day she sent me a video of a bowl with what seemed to be pieces of beetroot being mixed with something that looked like yoghurt. A bit confused, i asked if it was a beetroot soup; she said it is a Lithuanian national dish.

I often fall in love with all things pink (yes…). Pink skies, pink sand, pink flowers, fruits, cakes, pink food in general (as long as it is naturally that way). So with this soup, I think it was love at first sight, even before the first spoon.

But the spoon didn’t disappoint either. It was really tasty, fresh and slightly sour, a perfect summer food. Originally, šaltibarščiai is made with milk and kefir, and often contains eggs. Laura made it with oat yoghurt because it was the best one we could find here.

Also, instead of eggs, you can play with other energy-rich ingredients such as tofu or avocado. Besides the beets, the main fresh ingredients of this soup are cucumber and dill leaves. Combined with slight acidity from the yogurt, they give this dish great refreshing and cooling properties, and that’s why this is a very common dish in Lithuania during the summer.

In case you thought – nice, but that can’t be a fulfilling meal, Lithuanians are already a step ahead of you: this soup is traditionally served with freshly boiled potatoes on the side.

To wait no longer, here is the recipe for the glorious soup. I hope it brings a dash of pink freshness into your summer days!

Yield: 2 portions

Šaltibarščiai

Šaltibarščiai
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Additional Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 25 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 small beetroots*
  • 1/2 (bigger) fresh cucumber
  • 1 handful fresh dill leaves
  • 1 small to medium sized spring onion
  • 2 pinches Himalayan salt
  • juice of 1/2 big lime
  • 1 cup naturally fermented plant yogurt**
  • 1 + 2/3 cup soy milk
  • around 60 g firm or semi-soft tofu (optional)
  • 400 g potatoes

Instructions

  1. Cut the beets in very thin slices. Alternately, you can coarsely grate them.
  2. Cut the cucumber into small cubes.
  3. Chop the dill and spring onion.
  4. Put everything into a bowl, add plant yogurt, soy milk, lime juice and Himalayan salt and mix everything with a spoon.
  5. You can also add some cubed tofu.
  6. Let it sit covered for an hour or longer.
  7. Serve with cooked or steamed potatoes on the side.

Notes

* I baked the beets (with skin) for about an hour on 180 °C to bring out the sweetness and flavour a bit more, cooled and peeled them. You can also use raw, cooked or steamed beetroots if you prefer.

** I used oat yogurt, but have I had the chance, I would have gone for a plain, natural 2-ingredient soy yogurt (made only from water, soy and living microorganisms)

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