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!
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What Does the Word “Kissel” Mean?
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.
The Story of Kissel
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).
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.
What Ingredients Do I Need to Make Kissel?
Strawberries – or your preferred sweet fruit
The lemon zest and cinnamon are not typical of Kissel in Belarus normally, but I really loved how they liven up the flavor! The entire batch of Kissel tasted like lemony, cinnamon-y goodness.
How to Make Sweet Kissel
This Kissel recipe is incredibly easy to make!
Blend strawberries or preferred fruit in a blender with water and lemon zest.
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!
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.
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. Potato starch 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!
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 it 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 make this dessert? Don’t forget to post a photo on Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag #TheForeignFork and tag @TheForeignfork. Don’t forget to leave a comment on this post letting me know what you thought!
If you liked this recipe, don’t forget to also check out these other recipes that I love:
- Kaiserschmarrn from Austria
- Bahama Mama cocktail
- Canadian Christmas Fruit Cake
- Strawberry Bread Recipe
- Strawberry Tiramisu Recipe
- Dulce de Leche in the Instant Pot
Strawberry Kissel (Belarus)
- 1 lb strawberries
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 4 tbsp cornstarch
- zest from ½ of a lemon
- ¼ tsp cinnamon
- In a blender, blend strawberries, lemon zest, and cinnamon.
- In a medium pot on the stove, add blended strawberries, ½ cup water, and sugar. Cook over medium heat for 7-10 minutes.
- 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.
- 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!