Beets are one of the healthiest vegetables in the world, but their intense flavor and rich color can deter some eaters. If you’ve never cooked with beets, it can seem a little daunting, as these humble root veggies can be a little tough to eat. Never fear: our easy beet recipes will get you loving those beautiful red veggies in no time.
Why Should we Eat Beets?
Beets are a great source of manganese, potassium, copper and fiber, and according to Traditional Chinese Medicine, beets are excellent blood building foods, good for when you’re feeling low energy or depleted. I just finished reading How Not to Die by Dr. Michael Greger, and he explains that beets are incredible for endothelial functioning, and the nitrites found in beets (and leafy greens) are an important ingredient for heart health.
Beets can be enjoyed raw, juiced, cooked, or fermented, so there’s really a lot of options for the novice beet chef. Beet roots – the round, nubby, often dirty roots that you’ll likely find in the store, are edible, as are the bright green beet green tops. If the greens and stems look healthy and vibrant (not wilted or yellowed), the beet greens are a very tasty bonus. Beet greens are more likely found earlier in the season, as by the end of harvest season the greens will have wilted, and the roots will be the most important part of the veggie.
Note that while beet greens are edible, they are best eaten cooked. Both beet greens and beet stems contain a high concentration of oxalates (or oxalic acid), naturally-occurring compounds that can crystallize and cause health problems for those with kidney or gallbladder problems.
How to Buy Beets
If you’re buying beets with greens and stems attached, choose vibrant green leaves that feel thick and soft. If buying only roots, choose roots that are heavy for their size, free of soft spots, and anywhere from the size of a golfball or a baseball. Anything larger and the beet might be woody and harder to eat.
Beets, as they grow underground, will often have some soil still attached to them. Be sure to wash them well (I like to scrub with the dish sponge), and remove any mushy or straggly stem remnants. There is no need to peel beets.
To eat your beets, here are my basic tips: when raw, it’s best to slice or shred the beets finely so that their earthy flavor doesn’t overpower whatever you’re eating. But if you’re cooking, beets can be roasted, boiled, or steamed while still whole or chopped up. Once cooked, they can be refrigerated for a few days to be added to salads or eaten as a snack.
There are lots of types of beets, and I think they mostly taste the same. The most common type is the dark red beets, with dark pink stems. These are rich red inside and will stain nearly everything temporarily (including your lips, so try it out as a quick, natural lipstick!). You can also find golden beets, which are a warm yellow color, and candy can or chioggia beets, which are striped red and white. The chioggia beets are prettier when raw, as when they are cooked they turn dark pink and the stripes disappear.
How to Cook with Beets
Below I’ve compiled a few simple recipes with minimal ingredients to let the beets shine! Note that whenever you’re working with beets in the kitchen, you’ll be staining everything pink – including fingers, cutting boards, and clothing. Wear an apron or old clothes, and be sure to be cautious around anything white.
It must be said: what goes in very red will come out very red, too. If you eat a lot of beets today, don’t be alarmed if tomorrow you see some red in the toilet. This is totally normal, and actually helpful, as it helps you track your digestive transit time. As with all good things in life, there is even a Portlandia episode about it.
These recipes are compiled from my years of cooking classes, and unfortunately I don’t have great images for them, so I’ve chosen to use to some stock images!
4 Easy Beet Recipes
Beets lend themselves well to the cooler months, as they are in season and feel appropriately warm, nourishing, and grounding. Enjoy these four simple recipes to get more beets into your diet this season.
Beets & Greens Sauté
3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chopped beets and stems, chopped about 1-cm or half an inch
4 cloves garlic, chopped roughly
2 cups thinly sliced beet greens (or Swiss chard, spinach, or kale)
Pinch coarse sea salt (optional)
- Warm olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat.
- Add chopped beets and stems, cook for 10 minutes, tossing every few minutes.
- Add chopped garlic to skillet and cook until browned, about 5-8 minutes.
- Add greens to skillet, toss to combine, and cook until greens are just wilted.
- Remove from heat, and sprinkle with sea salt. Toss to combine.
- Serve with a large salad, with mashed potatoes, rice, or a good crusty bread and olive oil.
Yield: 3-4 small servings
Roasted & Herbed Beet Salad
2 cups finely chopped beets and stems
1 cups finely chopped fresh carrots
A few stalks green onions or chives, minced
2 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
Salt and Pepper to taste
½ cup each minced fresh dill, cilantro, and basil
1 Tablespoon honey or maple syrup.
- Toss beets, carrots, green onions and 2 Tablespoons olive oil together in a baking dish.
- Bake at 400º for 15 minutes, until veggies begin to brown and are tender.
- Remove from oven and drizzle with remaining oil, fresh herbs, and honey. Toss to combine.
- These can be eaten immediately, or you can let them cool to room temperature. You can also chill them fully and add to green salads or grain salads.
Quick Pickled Beets
Pickling is a great way to make the best use of a beet abundance. This quick pickling method uses just a few staple ingredients and comes together quickly and ensuring that you have hot pink veggies for months!
This recipe is not exact because it can be made with one beet or a dozen beets! Try this basic recipe and then go crazy experimenting with flavor variations by adding other seeds, herbs, and other vegetables to your pickling mix. You can also add up to a cup of shredded beets to my favorite sauerkraut recipe.
Organic white vinegar
- Wash beets well, and trim nubby ends. Using a mandoline or a very sharp knife, slice beets as thinly as possible. Place beet slices into a large bowl and sprinkle with a few teaspoons of sea salt, then toss to cover in salt. Let stand 10 minutes.
- Once beets have rested in the salt, pack into a jar or jars (size depends on how many beets you have). Fill half the jar with vinegar, and the remaining half with filtered water. Add in a few pinches of sugar and a few peppercorns for spice.
- Cover tightly, and let beets rest at room temperature for one week. After one week, store in fridge indefinitely.
- To use Pickled Beets: chop and add to salads, serve alongside rice or quinoa pilaf, or chop into vegetable stir-fries for a unique flavor.
Maple Roasted Beets & Roots
6 cups chopped beets (or mix with potatoes and other firm veggies like in the photo)
1 cup thinly sliced red onion
3 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
Pinch each salt and pepper
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon maple syrup or agave nectar
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
- Preheat oven to 375°.
- Add beets and onions to a large bowl. Toss with 2 Tablespoons olive oil, salt, and pepper. Toss to coat.
- Pour vegetables into a 9×13 baking dish and bake for 30 minutes. Toss vegetables, and bake 15 minutes more, or until veggies are fork-tender.
- In a small bowl, whisk together 1 Tablespoon olive oil, vinegar, maple syrup, and mustard. Set aside.
- Immediately after removing vegetables from the oven, pour dressing and stir quickly to coat. Let stand at least 10 minutes before serving.
Yield: about 6 servings
I don’t have time to take pics of all my recipes any longer, so… here are image credits. beet/tomato salad Photo by Toa Heftiba; roasted beets Photo by Edgar Castrejon; leafy greens salad Image by Bernadette Wurzinger and feature imag by Jill Wellington. Other images by Natalia Fogarty on Unsplash