Strawberry Kissel from Belarus

Strawberry Kissel on Ice Cream

Kissel is a common dessert in Russia, Poland, and, of course, Belarus! This Kissel recipe is made by cooking pureed fruit with sugar and then using cornstarch to thicken into a thick, sweet sauce. It can be enjoyed with cream, on ice cream, eaten with a spoon, or even served as a drink!

strawberry kissel over ice cream pinterest graphic

The Story of Kissel

I read a story once about the origin of Kissel. First of all, the word comes from a Slavic word meaning “sour,” and that’s because before the word meant “fruity dessert,” it actually described a leavened form of grain, beans, or oats.

In the ancient story, the city of Belgorod Kievsky was under siege in the year 997 by the Pechenegs. The people of Belgorod were starving and they were going to surrender to the Pechenegs so that they could receive food. They discussed this decision at a town hall meeting, and the entire city was in agreement… Except for one old man. That old man went to the town elders and demanded that they wait three days before agreeing to a surrender and to follow his orders in the meantime.

The old man ordered the elders to collect two barrels. One was to be filled with Kissel (at this point still signifying a grain) and the other was to be filled with a mead (a fermented honey drink). The barrels were then buried in the ground, and fake wells were built over the tops of them. The citizens went to collect the Pechenegs, and brought them to the wells. The people of the town were surrounding the wells, eating and drinking the Kissel and mead from the contents of the barrel. They even offered some to the Pechenegs.

The Pechenegs were fooled and thought that the Belgorods had figured out how to extract food from the earth. They began to believe that no matter how long they laid hold on the town, their siege would be unsuccessful. Bologorod would never run out of food and surrender! A few days later, the siege was lifted and the city of Bologorod was freed. All thanks to Kissel! (Link to source here).

strawberry kissel and cream side shot

Modern Day Kissel Recipe

Of course, the form of Kissel that we are making today is not a leavened grain. It is actually pureed fruit mixed with sugar and then thickened with cornstarch. I chose to make my Kissel with strawberries, but I suspect that you can make it from any berry that you desire. Raspberry would be great as well, though perhaps it would have a few more seeds.

There are just a handful of simple ingredients you need:

  • Strawberries – or your preferred sweet fruit
  • Water
  • Sugar
  • Cornstarch
  • Lemon zest
  • Cinnamon

The lemon zest and cinnamon are not typical of Kissel in Belarus normally, but I really loved how they livened up the flavor! The entire batch of Kissel tasted like lemony, cinnamon-y goodness.

strawberry sauce over ice cream with a strawberry

How to Make Sweet Kissel

This Kissel recipe is incredibly easy to make!

  1. Blend strawberries or preferred fruit in a blender with water and lemon zest.
  2. Add this mixture to a small saucepan with water and sugar, and cook on the stovetop on medium high heat for 7-10 minutes. Be careful not to let it boil over!
  3. In a separate bowl, mix together the cornstarch and water. Next, add this slurry to the stovetop mixture. Cook for 3-4 minutes while stirring frequently, until the Kissel has thickened to your desired consistency.
  4. Lastly: Enjoy!
strawberry kissel and cream overhead shot

How to Store Kissel

This incredibly sweet, satisfying, want-to-pour-on-everything Kissel will keep well for at least a week in the fridge if sealed in an airtight container.

Be sure to cool completely before storing and putting in the refrigerator.

Possible Recipe Swaps

I like using cornstarch as a thickener for Kissel as it is easily available and doesn’t really have a taste. However, if you prefer a corn alternative you can use potato starch, which is quite traditional and makes an even thicker recipe but does have a slight earthy flavor.

You also can use arrowroot powder, although I have no tried this myself. If you do try it, please let me know how it turns out in the comments!

If you don’t have fresh fruit, you can definitely substitute with frozen fruit. Which is especially great if what fruit you are craving isn’t in season!

Feel free to use whatever granulated sugar you prefer in this Kissel recipe. Because the fruit is naturally sweet, you’ll still have a great dessert if you use a coconut or other alternative sugar in place of traditional white sugar.

I wouldn’t recommend using liquid sugar alternatives however, like maple or agave syrup, as this will make your Kissel very soupy and might need far too much thickening agent to get a nice consistency. But if you’re planning to make as a drink anyway, give it a try!

Strawberry Kissel Pinterest graphic

Suggestions for Enjoying Your Dessert

You can enjoy your Kissel in a variety of manners, but my favorite is to spoon it over ice cream with some fresh strawberries. The Kissel forms a sweet, syrupy strawberry sauce that is just a match made in heaven for some vanilla (or oooooohhhhhh even some chocolate!!!) ice cream.

The more traditional route to take is to spoon the Kissel into serving glasses and top them with cream. You can then eat the Kissel with a spoon.

If you choose to thicken your Kissel slightly less, you can also drink it either by itself or mixed with a splash of soda water! Try topping with a dollop of whipped cream.

Did you enjoy this dessert?!?! I think you should also try this Kaiserschmarrn from Austria, then. Or maybe even this Bahama Mama cocktail from The Bahamas. If you enjoyed this dessert or if you have questions, leave a comment on my post!

Strawberry Kissel (Belarus)

Kissel is a common dessert in Russia, Poland, and, of course, Belarus! This Kissel recipe is made by cooking pureed fruit with sugar and then using cornstarch to thicken into a thick, sweet sauce. It can be enjoyed with cream, on ice cream, eaten with a spoon, or even served as a drink!

Course Dessert
Cuisine Belarus
Keyword dessert, kissel, strawberries
Prep Time 2 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Servings 2 cups

Ingredients

  • 1 lb strawberries
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 tbsp cornstarch
  • zest from ½ of a lemon
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon

Instructions

  1. In a blender, blend strawberries, lemon zest, and cinnamon.
  2. In a medium pot on the stove, add blended strawberries, ½ cup water, and sugar. Cook over medium heat for 7-10 minutes.
  3. In a separate bowl, dissolve cornstarch in remaining 1/2 cup water. Pour this mixture into the pot. Cook for an additional 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens.

  4. Pour into serving glasses and let cool in the refrigerator. Garnish with fresh strawberries and whipped cream to serve. You can also spoon the mixture over ice cream!

Recipe Notes

Keep stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.

Recipe copyright The Foreign Fork. For educational or personal use only. 

Let me know in the comments if you give this recipe a try!

Did you like this Kissel recipe? Post a photo of your Kissel creation on Facebook or Instagram and tag @TheForeignFork or hashtag #TheForeignFork.

Don’t forget to come back each week for more recipes from around the world!

Looking for More Delicious Desserts?

Borscht Soup Recipe from Belarus

Borscht Soup

This brightly colored Borscht Soup is a classic recipe from Belarus. Made with beets, potatoes, tomatoes and more, it is best served with sour cream, dill, and, if you’re feeling adventurous, even a hard-boiled egg!

During the summer of 2017, I worked part-time as a waitress at an upscale restaurant in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The food at this place was DELICIOUS, and they were especially famous for their awesome soups, particularly their cream of mushroom.

Every day that there was a new soup on the menu was a great day, because it meant I got to try something new (plus, the soups were the only things the servers were allowed to eat without paying… That summer, I ate A LOT of soup.)

One day, I saw a soup on the menu that I had never heard of before… Borscht. When I asked one of the food runners how I should describe it to customers he said “it’s a cold beet soup… we serve it with hard-boiled eggs.”

If I could have run out of the restaurant at that very second, I would have run faaaarrrr away from this soup. Everything about that description made me anxious. Cold soup? Made out of beets? Topped with eggs?!?! No thank you!!!!

So, of course, the Borscht Soup was the only soup that summer that I didn’t try.

Borscht Soup

Borscht Soup from Belarus

Now here we are. It’s Belarus week, and Belarusians LOVE their Borscht. So, I swallow my pride, employ Mama Foreign Fork to grate me up some beets, and throw a pot on the stove.

This soup is bomb. The color is gorgeous; the taste is delicious, and I am quite the fan! So, my readers, don’t run from this soup. Embrace it. Try it. It’s delicious and you’ll thank me for this advice.

What is Borscht Soup?

I’m going to try to describe this better than my coworker did two years ago. Borscht is made by simmering beets, carrots, potatoes, and tomatoes on the stove with some broth. Eventually, the vegetables break down, the soup thickens, and out comes a thick, yummy soup that is the most beautiful color I have ever seen.

Now, Borscht soup is a Belarusian/Russian dish, so it has an acidic taste. The beets mixed with tomatoes and apple cider vinegar give a different flavor profile than I’m used to in my soups, but it’s incredible! This acidity is great to enjoy, but the toppings on the soup can help bring your soup to your level of comfort.

Borscht Soup

What Ingredients are In this Recipe?

Butter
Garlic
Onion
Beets
Carrots
Chicken broth
Idaho potatoes
Tomato
Salt
Pepper
Dried dill
Apple cider vinegar
Tomato paste
Hard boiled eggs
Fresh dill weed for garnishment

For full ingredient measurements and step by step instructions, visit the recipe card at the bottom of the page.

How to Make this Recipe

In a large pot, melt the butter. Cook garlic and onion in the butter until translucent, or about 5 minutes.

Add the beets and carrots to the pot along with the broth.

Cover and bring the broth to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes.

Stir in potatoes, tomato paste, apple cider vinegar, dill, salt, and pepper. Cook, uncovered for about 30 minutes, until the soup reduces and gets a bit thicker.

About five minutes before the soup is done, add the tomatoes.

Garnish with sour cream, fresh dill, and a hard boiled egg. Enjoy!

Is Borscht Soup Served Cold or Hot?

Honestly, I liked either. I think I’m a little more partial to the warm borscht, but you can serve it either way!

Some recipes for borscht can include meat or fish. If you choose to add any of those additions to this recipe for Borscht soup, you may want to serve the soup hot.

However, if you follow the recipe as is, keeping it purely vegetarian, I would advocate for you to eat it cold. Whenever I’ve seen Borscht Soup served in restaurants, it has always been cold as well.

Borscht Soup

How to Serve Borscht

As mentioned above, you can serve your soup hot or cold, depending on personal preference.

Arguably even more important is the toppings! You can choose to top your Borscht Soup with whatever you’d like, but I would recommend some fresh dill, a dollop of sour cream, and some chopped hard boiled eggs.

When topping the soups, make sure to ladle them into individual bowls and distribute the toppings from there. You don’t want to add the toppings to the entire pot of soup, or they may sink or be lost by the time the entire pot is eaten.

My brother likes to mix his soup together to spread that sour cream throughout the entire bowl! If you’d prefer to eat your soup without toppings, you can do that as well!

How Do You Shred Beets for Borscht?

To shred your beets for your Borscht Soup, peel the beets using a vegetable peeler. Take care not to wear any clothes that you care a lot about, as the beets will dye your hands red and it can easily stain clothing as well.

Once the beets are peeled, use a cheese grater to grate them. Use the largest side of the cheese grater, and rub the beet along the side of it, the same motion you would use to shred cheese! Your beets are now grated.

Try making this Borscht Soup yourself! If you do, post a photo of it on Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag #TheForeignFork. Don’t forget to leave a comment on this post letting me know what you thought!!

If you want to try some more Foreign Fork recipes, make sure to check out these recipes I’ve picked out just for you:

Borscht Soup

This brightly colored Borscht Soup is a classic recipe from Belarus. Made with beets, potatoes, tomatoes and more, it is best served with sour cream, dill, and, if you’re feeling adventurous, even a hard-boiled egg! 

Course Appetizer, Main Course, Soup
Cuisine Belarus
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings 10 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp butter
  • ½ tbsp garlic
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 4 medium beets peeled and shredded
  • 3 carrots peeled and shredded
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 2 medium idaho potatoes cubed
  • 1 large tomato peeled and diced
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • ½ tsp dried dill
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 6 oz. can tomato paste
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Fresh dill weed for garnishment

Instructions

  1. In a large pot, melt butter. Cook garlic and onion in the butter until translucent, or about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the beets and carrots to the pot along with the broth.
  3. Cover and bring the broth to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes.
  4. Stir in potatoes, tomato paste, apple cider vinegar, dill, salt, and pepper. Cook, uncovered for about 30 minutes, until the soup reduces and gets a bit thicker.
  5. About five minutes before the soup is done, add the tomatoes.
  6. Garnish with sour cream, fresh dill, and a hard boiled egg. Enjoy!

Recipe Notes

Recipe copyright The Foreign Fork. For personal or educational use only.

Potato Pancakes (Draniki) from Belarus

Potato Pancakes with Sour Cream

Potato Pancakes (Draniki) are a Belarusian staple. This blog post will teach out all about the best potatoes to pick, the best seasonings to add, and, most importantly, how to make sure you end up with crispiest, most delicious Potato Pancakes (Draniki) Belarus has ever seen.

Ah, Belarus. I love you. I love you for your grit; I love you for your perseverance; I love you for your fun festivals and traditions. But mostly, Belarus? Mostly, I love you for bringing me this Potato Pancake (Draniki) recipe.

I almost didn’t make Potato Pancakes (Draniki) for Belarus week. I was going to wait for Poland to roll around sometime in like…. 2024, and then FINALLY I was going to bless your lives with a killer recipe for Potato Pancakes.

But, really, do any of you want to wait until 2024 for a good Potato Pancake recipe? Yeah, me either.

So, here we are. 5 years ahead of schedule. Youuuuureeee welccoommmemee.

Origin of Potato Pancakes (Draniki)

Potato Pancakes (Draniki) are popular in Belarus for one specific reason. Belarus shares a border with Poland! And since Belarus gained its independence from the USSR, it hasn’t had much time to form its own true traditions and recipes yet. It’s working on it, that’s for sure! But Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was the flavor profile of Belarus.

Belarusians are smart though, because they took one of the best foods from Poland and made it their own (some may argue that Potato Pancakes actually originated in the USSR as well, in which case, Potato Pancakes are entirely Belarusian by default. I’ll leave it up to you what you decide to believe).

So… are Potato Pancakes just… Pancakes?

Well, not quite. Potato Pancakes(Draniki) bear no resemblance to what we consider “pancakes” here in America. Potato Pancakes are made by grating potatoes, mixing them with an egg, some cornstarch and some seasonings, and then frying them on the stove. They’re normally eaten with sour cream and maybe a side of meat, but if you’re in the mood for a little sumthin’ sweet, you can also top your Potato Pancakes (Draniki) with applesauce.

What’s the Secret to a Good Potato Pancake?

Explaining starch

Simple! You have to pick a potato with a high starch content, and then you need to make sure that starch sticks around. Potatoes like idaho potatoes, russet potatoes, etc, are great options for making potato pancakes. These potatoes have a high starch content and therefore crisp up quite nicely. On the other hand, potatoes with a low starch content, like a redskin for example, tend to not be the best for this type of recipe.

Without getting TOO technical, I’ll tell you that this is because in potatoes with a high starch content, the dense starch cells grow and separate when you are cooking. When they separate, it’s easier for the potato to crisp. When the starches all stick together in potatoes with low starch content, the crisp is a lot harder to achieve.

What to Do Once You Pick a Good, Starchy Potato

So once you’ve picked out a nice, starchy potato, peel it and grate it. I normally choose the larger side of the grater. As you grate each potato, put them in a bowl of water to keep them from browning. Once you’ve finished grating all of your potatoes, remove them from the water, put them in a paper towel, and squeeze out all of the water.

Don’t just drain the potatoes into the sink though. Make sure that you squeeze that excess water into an empty bowl. Here’s where the magic happens. Once the water settles, you should find (in both bowl… the one that you first soaked the potatoes in AND the one that you squeezed the water into) a cloudy, white substance has settled at the bottom of the bowl.

Drain that extra water out but DO NOT discard this white substance. This is the leftover starch, and it should immediately be put right back into your shredded potatoes. You need this starch to make your Potato Pancakes (Draniki) nice and crispy. Viola.

Potato Pancakes

Flavoring Your Potato Pancakes

Every recipe for Belarusian Potato Pancakes (Draniki) is incredibly simple. Potatoes, onion, maybe an egg. None of the recipes I found had any seasonings or, truthfully, any flavor. I made one Potato Pancake like this and thought “NO WAY, JOSE. I NEED SOME FLAVOR IN THESE, STAT!!”

So, in went the salt, the pepper, the onion powder, the garlic powder, the paprika, the sour cream. Ahh… that’s more like it. Scrumptious with a hint of that sour cream flavor packed right in. Just the way I like it.

Fry Em Up

Frying is hard, man. It’s really difficult to just look at a big pot of oil over a flame and decide “eh, that looks hot enough.” I’ve tried this quite a few times, and it’s not really the best tactic.

My favorite method for figuring out if your oil is hot enough is as follows… When you want to check your oil, use a wooden chopstick. If you stick the tip of the chopstick straight down into the oil and little bubbles start to form around the wood within 3-5 seconds, you’re good to go. If it takes a little longer or no bubbles come at all, heat the oil up a bit more.

Phew! I think you know everything about Potato Pancakes (Draniki) there is to know. But if you don’t, leave me a comment. I’d love to answer any more questions you may have. If you like the recipe, post a photo to Facebook or Instagram and tag @TheForeignFork or hashtag #TheForeignFork. If you liked this potato recipe, also check out my recipe for Jeera-Aloo from Bangladesh. Thanks for stopping by! I’ll see you soon.

Potato Pancakes/Draniki (Belarus)

Potato Pancakes are common in Poland, Russia, and Belarus. They are made my grating potatoes with onion, an egg, and some seasonings and then frying in oil. Best enjoyed with sour cream or apple sauce, Potato Pancakes are great for any meal. 

Course Side Dish
Cuisine Belarus
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 12 pancakes

Ingredients

  • 6 idaho potatoes
  • 1/2 sweet onion
  • 1/2 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tbsp sour cream
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • vegetable oil for frying
  • sour cream for topping optional
  • applesauce for topping optional

Instructions

  1. Peel and grate the potatoes. Place grated pieces in a bowl of water. 

  2. When all of the potatoes have soaked in the water, lay out a piece of paper towel. Fill the paper towel with the potatoes, bring the corners together and squeeze the excess water out of the potatoes and into a separate bowl.

  3. Once the water settles, discard the brown water at the top. At the bottom of each bowl (where the potatoes originally soaked and where the extra water was squeezed into) there should be a white, cloudy substance at the bottom of the bowl. Scrape out this substance and put it back into the potatoes. 

  4. Mix the rest of the ingredients into the potatoes as well. 

  5. Heat the oil on the stove. When oil is hot enough (for tips, see blog post above), add about 2 tbsp of potato mixture to the oil. Flatten with a spatula, and fry until brown. Flip and fry until the other side is brown. Drain on paper towel to remove excess oil. Serve with sour cream or apple sauce. Enjoy! 

Recipe Notes

Recipe copyright The Foreign Fork. For educational or personal use only.