With their vibrant hue and earthy flavor, beets are a versatile vegetable that can elevate any meal. Whether you're a seasoned cook or just starting out in the kitchen, learning how to cook beets is a skill worth adding to your culinary repertoire. From roasting to boiling and even baking, there are numerous methods to coax out the best from these underrated vegetables. In this guide, we'll walk you through how to make the most of this nutritious and delicious root vegetable. Get ready to unlock the potential of beets and bring a burst of color and flavor to your table.
Types of Beets
Beets come in many colors, flavors and sizes. To find the right beet for your recipe, check out these common varieties.
- Red Garden Beets: These beets are grown widely across North America, and they’re the ones you’ll find in most grocery stores. They’re sweet but earthy.
- Golden Beets: These beets have a near-identical flavor to the red beet. They can be used together with red beets for an elegantly varied presentation, or interchangeably in your favorite recipes based on availability.
- Chioggia Beets or Candy Cane Beets: Originally from Italy, these beautiful beets tend to be a bit sweeter than the average red garden variety, though they’re still deeply earthy. While roasting these beauties tends to fade their gorgeous color, they’re perfect for pickling or for making chips.
- Avalanche Beets: These beets are best for people who may be on the fence about trying them. They have a mild, almost sweet flavor. Plus, this variety won’t stain your hands.
Selection and Preparation
Before you get to enjoying your delicious root veggies, you’ll need to learn how to spot the perfect beets, and how to thoroughly clean and prepare them for your favorite cooking method. Here are some factors to consider when sourcing and preparing the versatile veggie:
While beets are available year-round in most grocery stores in North America, they typically reach peak-of-season freshness from mid-summer through the winter months. Younger, early-season beets are usually sweeter and milder in flavor, while beets harvested in winter will have a deeper, earthier flavor.
Can You Feel the Beat?
The best way to pick the right beets for your dish is to feel for firm roots and crisp leaves. Small- to medium-size beets that are heavy for their size will have the most flavor.
Cleaning and Prepping Your Beets
Once you’ve picked the freshest beets, start by giving them a good rinse to remove any dirt. Then, you can remove the beet greens and roots. Be sure to leave 1” to 2” of stem intact. If you’re boiling your beets, don’t worry about removing the skin before they’re cooked. When removing them from the boiling water, you can give them an ice bath or run them under cool water. If you’re preparing your beets to be enjoyed raw, roasted or cooked another way, you may want to peel your beets. While the skin is edible, many dishes call for it to be removed and discarded during the prep process. Grab some gloves to avoid staining your fingers, and use a vegetable peeler to remove the skins.
How to Roast Beets
Roasting is the best way to let the rich, earthy flavors of your beets really sing. Cut your beets into cubes and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper before putting them into an oven at 375°F for 35-45 minutes or until tender. Made this way, they keep their jewel tones and deep flavor. Roasted beets are perfect on top of arugula for a warm salad or as an elegant side like this roasted beets with pomegranate and goat cheese dish. But don’t relegate them to just side dishes - try some of these other ideas as well.
- Beet and Goat Cheese Tart
Use roasted beet slices as a topping for a savory tart along with creamy goat cheese and fresh herbs. This makes for a visually stunning and delicious dish.
- Beet and Feta Flatbread
Spread a layer of hummus or yogurt on a flatbread, then top it with roasted beet slices, crumbled feta cheese and a drizzle of olive oil. Bake until heated through.
- Beet and Quinoa Bowl
Create a nourishing grain bowl by pairing roasted beets with cooked quinoa, avocado slices, chickpeas and a tahini dressing. This makes for a satisfying and nutritious meal.
- Beet and Bean Burgers
Mash roasted beets and mix them with cooked beans, breadcrumbs and seasoning to form flavorful vegetarian burger patties. Try these beet and bean burgers for a delicious meatless option.
- Beet and Herbed Goat Cheese Crostini
Spread herbed goat cheese on toasted baguette slices and top with roasted beet slices. Garnish with fresh herbs like dill or chives for an elegant appetizer.
How to Boil Beets
Boiling beets can be one of the easiest ways to cook them. After removing the stem and roots, just pop the beets in some water that has been seasoned with a dash of vinegar and a bay leaf. Smaller beets will take about 20 minutes, but larger ones can take up to 40. Once they’re tender, the skin will peel right off. Remember to wear gloves when peeling, even after boiling.
Here are a few ideas for using your beets now that you’ve boiled them.
- Beet Salad
Dice or slice boiled beets and toss them with a vinaigrette dressing, along with ingredients like mixed greens, feta cheese, walnuts and fresh herbs for a vibrant and nutritious salad. Or, try this beet carpaccio salad to showcase your beets.
- Beet Hummus
Blend boiled beets with chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, garlic and olive oil to create a colorful and flavorful beet hummus. Serve it as a dip with pita bread or vegetable sticks.
- Beet Soup
Purée boiled beets with vegetable broth, onions, garlic and herbs to make a hearty and visually stunning beet soup. You can add a dollop of yogurt or sour cream for creaminess.
- Beet Sandwiches or Wraps
Slice boiled beets and use them as a filling for sandwiches or wraps. Pair them with ingredients like goat cheese, arugula and a spread like pesto or hummus for a tasty vegetarian option. For a deliciously cheesy pairing, try this beet and arugula grilled cheese.
- Beet Salsa
Dice boiled beets and mix them with chopped tomatoes, red onion, cilantro, lime juice and salt to create a unique beet salsa. This can be served with tortilla chips or as a topping for grilled fish or chicken.
- Beet Pasta
Purée boiled beets and mix them into pasta dough to create vibrant beet pasta. You can use it to make dishes like beet ravioli or beet linguine.
- Beet Gratin
Slice boiled beets and layer them in a baking dish with cream, cheese and breadcrumbs. Bake until bubbly and golden for a delicious beet gratin.
- Beet Smoothie
Blend boiled beets with fruits like berries, bananas and yogurt for a nutritious and energizing beet smoothie. Beets add natural sweetness and a beautiful color to this beet and berry smoothie.
- Beet Chips
Thinly slice boiled beets and bake or air-fry them until they turn crispy. These beet chips are a healthier alternative to regular potato chips.
Baking with Beets
Beets can be a delightful addition to baked goods, adding natural sweetness, moisture and a beautiful pink or red hue. Here are a few sweet ideas for using beets in your baking.
- Beet Purée
You can substitute part or all of the liquid in your recipe with beet purée. This works well in cakes, muffins and even brownies. Simply roast or boil your beets until they're tender, peel them and blend them into a smooth purée using a food processor or blender.
- Beet Juice
You can use a juicer or grate the beets and strain them over a bowl to collect the juice. Add the beet juice to your batter or dough to infuse a vibrant color and subtle sweetness.
- Grated Beets
You can grate raw beets directly into your batter. This method works especially well with recipes like carrot cakes or zucchini bread, where the texture of grated vegetables blends in nicely.
- Beet Powder
Dehydrated beets can be ground into a fine powder and used as a natural food coloring or to infuse a mild beet flavor into baked goods.
- Chocolate and Beets
Beets and chocolate complement each other surprisingly well. The natural sweetness of beets pairs nicely with the rich flavor of chocolate. You can add beet purée or beet juice to chocolate cake or brownie recipes.
- Beet Frosting or Icing
Mix beet purée or beet juice into powdered sugar and butter to create a naturally tinted and subtly flavored frosting. This works particularly well with cream cheese or buttercream frostings.
The Beat Goes On
Whether roasted to tender perfection or puréed for vibrant creations, mastering beet preparation is a journey of flavor and creativity. Now that you know how to cook beets, you’re ready to infuse your dishes with the earthy sweetness and striking color that only beets can offer.