Beet and Fennel Soup with Kefir


This soup proves that it’s possible to eat something pink on Valentine’s Day and not feel like an idiot.

Jesse and I always cook at home on Valentine’s Day, avoiding restaurants at all costs. But so many Valentine’s Day menus and recipes are way too filling. Nothing says “I love you but I need to pass out on the couch right now” like steak, creamy potatoes and chocolate mousse.


Other recipes are so complicated and fussy that by the time you are done cooking, you are exhausted and cranky (and, once again, likely to end up passed out on the couch…)


It’s not like hairy root vegetables are particularly romantic, either. But what this recipe lacks in glamor it makes up for by being light and surprisingly easy. It was earthy and savory and the tartness of the kefir kept the beets from being too sweet and monotonous. With some bread and cheese and a salad, it was the perfect meal. Even if it is bright pink.

Beet and Fennel Soup with Kefir (from Bon Appetit, January 2010)

I kept this recipe pretty much as-is, except that I used vegetable broth instead of chicken broth and I left out the 1 1/2 teaspoons of fennel seeds mostly because a) I don’t have fennel seeds and didn’t want to buy them and b) I didn’t want too strong of a fennel flavor.

One thing to remember is that beets stain, and quickly too. Make sure to wear an apron and wash your cutting board as quickly as possible after chopping.  


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 small fennel bulb, chopped
  • 2 large (2 1/2- to 3-inch-diameter) beets, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup unflavored kefir (which I just so happen to have fermenting in my pantry)
  • Fennel fronds (for garnish – keep them from your fennel bulb)


1) Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.

2) Add chopped onions and fennel, saute until soft, about 5 minutes.


3) In the meantime, peel and cube the beets, being careful not to stain every single thing in your kitchen.


4) Add cubed beets to the pot and stir. Then add vegetable broth and bring to a boil.


5) Once boiling, cover pot and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook for about 18-20 minutes, until beets are tender. A fork should be able to pierce them easily.

6) Let the soup cool, then transfer in batches to a blender, Magic Bullet, Cuisinart, or other covered, enclosed blending mechanism. Don’t do what I did and try to use your hand blender, thinking it will save time. I thought I was being so careful, and yet I still ended up with beet splatter over my entire stovetop, backsplash, and half of the side of my refrigerator. It was one of those great ideas that you only realize the dumbness of after trying it out.


7) Blend the mixture to a smooth puree. I was disheartened after my blending fiasco and so probably didn’t puree mine enough. When I make this again, I’ll take another couple of minutes to make it smoother.

8) Return mixture to your pot and then add the 1 cup of kefir. Stir in. Add salt and pepper to taste (though mine needed very little of either). Rewarm the soup.


9) Serve with a drizzle of kefir (you can even make heart shapes if you’re feeling ambitious) and a sprinkle of fennel fronds.


2 thoughts on “Beet and Fennel Soup with Kefir

  1. mmm, love this…looks very yummy! Maggie, there’s a secret tool that makes soups really easy without the mess of pouring into a blender or cuisinart. It’s different than a hand blender with detachable blades. This is made by Toastmaster and you can blend right in the pot.

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