After the long, hot days of summer, we always look forward to the cooler, calmer days of root vegetable season (also known as fall).
Hearty winter vegetables like squash and potatoes are often top of mind when weather turns brisk, but we’re here to tell you that beets—a seriously underrated root vegetable—should be prominently featured on your grocery list this fall. With their rich hues, mildly earthy flavor, and soft, buttery texture, beets are an incredibly versatile and delicious addition to sweet and savory dishes alike.
Though beets come in a variety of shapes, colors, and sizes, these are four of our favorite types to know before heading to the market: red, golden, chioggia, and baby beets.
Types of Beets
Red beets are the most common variety found on restaurant menus and in grocery stores alike. Aside from their sweet, earthy flavor, red beets are great for adding a pop of ruby color to cooking and baking projects!
Golden beets tend to have a milder, less sweet flavor—and, of course, a more golden, orangey hue—than their red beet counterparts. We love how intermixing red and golden beets in a dish can create both a nice balance of flavor and a rainbow of color.
Chioggia beets (also known as candy stripe beets) may look like they came straight out of a Dr. Seuss book (or a curated Instagram post), but we promise those wild stripes are all-natural—and delicious! From the outside, Chioggia beets look similar to red ones, so if you’re looking for that vibrant stripe on your plate, you’ll need to double-check the produce labels. It’s important to note, these beets only maintain their candy cane stripes when raw and are typically shaved thin with a mandolin to be used as a colorful garnish.
Baby beets get their smaller size (and thus, name) from being pulled from the ground before they have time to fully mature in the earth—farmers routinely do this to make the soil less crowded and leave room for more beets to grow to full maturity. Because of their smaller size, baby beets take less time to cook than full grown beets, so adjust your timers accordingly!
Overall, the different varieties of beets are fairly interchangeable in recipes, but it’s good to keep these subtle shifts in flavor in mind when choosing which beet to cook with.
Before we dive into what to make with your new beet bounty, first we need to establish how you should be preparing these tasty root vegetables.
A note on peeling…
Before you even think about cooking preparations, you have to tackle those pesky skins. When it comes to removing beet skins, there are two camps: those who encourage peeling beets before they’re cooked, and those who swear by peeling post-boil or roast.
There are pros and cons to each side: Cooking loosens the skins—thus making them easier to remove—but also releases juices, making clean up more of a hassle. Pre-peeling can be a good option if you want to present a finely diced beet in your final presentation, and want to spare yourself the stained hands and messy clean up! One con here, the color will bleed when cooking pre-peeled beets so it may not be as vibrant.
Now that you’ve made a firm decision about peeling, you have a few options when it comes to cooking your beets.
The most common way to prepare beets is to roast them in the oven on high heat (400 °F). You can either roast your beets whole (if you’re not pre-peeling) or pre-peel and cut them into your desired shape before they go into the oven. Note that your cook time will adjust accordingly!
To roast whole: scrub each beet thoroughly, rub with olive oil, and wrap loosely in aluminum foil. Place the foil-covered beets directly on the top rack of your preheated 400 °F oven for 50-60 minutes. You’ll want to position a baking sheet on the rack below the beet, to catch any escaping juices from dripping and burning on your oven floor. The beets are fully cooked when a fork easily pierces the skin and flesh. Let beets cool slightly before using your hands, a paper towel, or cloth to gently massage the skin off the beet. Once all skin has been removed, you can slice and dice your beets to their desired shape and size!
To cut and roast: remove skin with a vegetable peeler, and cut beets to your desired shape and size. Coat with 1-2 tbsp of olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and arrange on a baking sheet. Roast in a preheated 400 °F oven for 40-50 minutes, until a fork easily pierces the biggest pieces.
Boiling is another great option for cooking beets without the addition of any oils or seasoning. This is a great preparation method if you want to use beets as a base for a sweet or more neutrally-flavored dish.
To boil: Place beets in a large saucepan and add enough water to cover beets by 2 inches. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer, cooking until beets are tender, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. When beets are easily pierced with a fork, remove saucepan from heat and run under cold water until beets are cool enough to handle. Once cool, peel the skin off the beets with hands or a towel.
Pickling beets (or any vegetable, really) is a great way to transform the vegetable into a delicious, easy side dish, garnish, or snack.
Start by peeling, cutting, and roasting or boiling your beets to desired shape and size. Place prepared beets in a large jar. Prepare a pickling juice of 2 parts vinegar (we like to use cider vinegar, but white or red wine vinegar would work here too) to one part sugar, and stir in a generous pinch of salt, adjusting proportions to fill the jar, covering the beets. Allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes before serving.
Now that you’re well versed on preparing your beets, let’s dive into how you can incorporate these small but mighty vegetables into your daily meals, all day long!
Blend into a smoothie
Starting your morning off with beets is a great way to inject both color and nutrients into your daily routine! We like blending simply boiled (and cooled) beets with strong, acidic fruit flavors—like red berries, lemon, and ginger—to balance the beets’ earthiness.
Dress up your eggs
Don’t forget that those beet greens have as much cooking potential as the beets themselves! We love swapping beet greens in for some (or all) of the basil in our favorite pesto recipe and then using it to dress up eggs like this Italian-Style Baked Eggs recipe. Not only does this recipe reduce food waste, it also paves the way for a bright, zesty breakfast!
Pair with other red-hued ingredients
We love how this Salmon Beet Risotto recipe combines many shades of red on the same plate—from the pink salmon to the deep red wine and ruby red beets. Beyond being aesthetically pleasing (who doesn’t love a pink plate?), this dish is a rich, creamy, flavorful dream.
Make your own market plate
If you’ve ever ordered a salad or market plate from a restaurant and thought “I could make this at home,” we’re here to help you make that dream become a reality. This Za’atar Carrot, Kale, and Bulgur Salad is served on a bed of red beet and white bean hummus, which offers a splash of color and creamy flavor to every bite. Throw in some super seasoned carrots, a drizzle of tahini, and some choice, complementary vegetables, and you’ve got yourself a #notsaddesklunch. Or dinner! Or brunch!
You’ve probably heard of zucchini noodles (often lovingly referred to as “zoodles”) and perhaps even sweet potato noodles. But with a little help from a spiralizer or vegetable peeler, you can transform raw beets into beet noodles, too! We recommend pairing beet noodles with a homemade pesto or another bright, zingy sauce, to combat the sweetness of the vegetable noodles.
Go whole hog
We’re always looking for ways to incorporate nose to tail (or root to stem, as the case may be here) cooking. Not only does this help reduce food waste—it also challenges us to stay creative in the kitchen! One of our favorite nose to stem dishes is roasted beets served with sautéed beet greens alongside creamy elements like feta and yogurt. This recipe works great as a side alongside a main dish, or as the star of a lighter, vegetarian meal (plus, you can always add a fried or poached egg on top if you want a heartier main).
Borscht might look intimidating on first glance (it’s a sour, pink soup, after all) but it’s actually incredibly easy to make, thanks to its relatively small ingredient list and and quick cook time. While you can definitely serve your borscht warm and fresh, directly from the pot, we also love serving up a chilled bowl with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt if you’re looking for a cooler dish.
Mix and match with other fall fare
Why have one root vegetable when you can have three? When we’re really feeling the fall vibe, we like to break out the sheet pans and make Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Roasted Beets and Acorn Squash. We like how crisp, raw shaved Brussels sprouts offer a counterbalance in flavor and texture to the smooth, buttery bite of the roasted beets and squash.
Bake a sweet surprise
Why bake with red velvet food dye, when you can incorporate color straight from the source? Our team favorite chocolate cake calls for mixing beet purée straight into the batter. The subtle earthy flavor of beets enhances the rich, almost bitter flavor of the cocoa powder, creating a dessert with a huge depth of flavor and rich silky texture. Pair it with some fresh whipped cream and a sprinkling of berries, and you have yourself a show stopping dessert.
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