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How to Cook and Serve Beets

Beet root1

Beets and carrots baking sheetBeets have a sweet, earthy taste. They can be eaten raw or cooked.

If you bake or roast beets in their skins, you can enjoy that flavor at its most intense.

How to Choose Beets

  • Select beets that are firm with smooth skins and are heavy for their size. Avoid beets that are soft, flabby, rough, or shriveled.
  • Small and medium-sized beets will be tenderer than large beets. Beets that are large or long are likely to have a woody or fibrous texture.
  • To ensure even cooking, choose beets that are similar in size.
  • Beets should have about 2 inches (5 cm) of stem or greens attached. This will keep the root from “bleeding” or losing interior juices.
Beet root and greens
Beetroot and greens

How to Store Beets

  • Beets will keep in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.
  • Unwashed beets greens will keep for 3 to 5 days.
  • Beets will also keep in moist sand or damp sawdust at 32° (0°C) for up to 3 months. Beets can also be canned or pickled and stored for up to a year.

How to Prep Beets

  • Just before using, wash beets under running water to remove dirt or sand.
  • Scrub beets delicately and be careful not to bruise them.
Beet salad with walnuts
Beet salad with walnuts

Serving Uncooked Beets

  • Beets can be eaten raw or cooked.
  • Raw beets add texture to salads. To serve beets raw, peel and then slice or grate them and season.
  • Toss shredded raw beets with vinaigrette and chopped parsley.
  • Serve shredded raw beets with shredded raw celeriac adding a dressing made with yogurt.

Preparing to Cook Beets

  • Cook beets whole without peeling or bruising.
  • Never peel a beet before cooking or it will bleed.
  • Cut off the stem an inch above the bulb and leave the roots on.
Roasted beets
Roasted beets with garlic and rosemary

How to Roast Beets

  1. Roast beets wrapped in foil.
  2. Coat the beets with butter or cooking oil and seasoning before wrapping them in foil.
  3. Place in a baking dish at 350 to 400 degrees F (180-200ºC)
  4. Cook in the oven for 1 to 2 hours or until tender. 

How to Bake Beets

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
  2. Wash the beets without bruising or tearing the skin.
  3. Trim the top leaving about an inch of the stem in place. The leaves can be cooked separately.
  4. Wrap each beet in aluminum foil; leave the stem protruding from the foil.
  5. Bake beets in a dish with a tight-fitting lid and 4 to 5 tablespoons of water.
  6. Bake on the middle rack until tender, about 1½ to 2 hours.
  7. Baking beets will preserve their flavor and enhance their color.

How to Simmer Beets

  1. Simmer whole small, unpeeled beets in an uncovered container for 20 to 40 minutes or until fork-tender.
  2. Large beets may have to cook as long as 3 hours.
  3. Rub the beets gently under running water to peel them after cooking.
Boiled whole beets
Boiled whole beets

How to Boil Beets

  1. Boil beets in a covered saucepan in water.
  2. Small beets will take 25 to 30 minutes; large beets will take 35 to 40 minutes.
  3. Add salt only at the end of cooking, otherwise, the beets will turn pale.
  4. Beets are done cooking when they are easily pierced with the end of a sharp knife.
  5. Drain and cool al little until you can peel them by slipping off the skin.
  6. Leave whole if small or slice or cut into thin strips.
  7. Serve hot with butter or cold in salads. Beets go well with slightly bitter greens such as endive.
Steamed beets
Steamed beets

How to Steam Beets

  1. Place a steamer basket in a saucepan. Add water to just below the bottom of the basket.
  2. Bring water a boil.
  3. Add beets to the steamer basket. Cover and reduce heat.
  4. Steam beets until tender about 30 to 45 minutes.
  5. You can pierce a beet with a fork to check doneness, but this may cause the beet to bleed.
  6. Another way to know if beets are ready is to hold them under a thin stream of running water. If the peel detaches itself, the beet is done.
Beets with firsee and blue cheese
Beets garnished with cherry tomatoes, frisee, and blue cheese

Cooked Beets Serving Suggestions

  • Cook beets only until they just lose their rawness. Once beets have been cooked, you can peel them while still warm.
  • Once tender, beets can be sliced or diced to use in salads, risottos, and vegetable side dishes.
  • Serve beets warm with a dressing of butter, lemon juice, and seasoning or dress them with orange juice topped with slivers of green onion or glazed with orange marmalade.
  • Serve cooked beets warm or cold peeled, sliced, and served with oil and lemon or with vinaigrette. Top beets with plain or flavored butter or margarine, lemon juice, vinegar, vinaigrette dressing, sour cream, or plain yogurt.
  • Season beets with salt, pepper, allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon, savory, bay leaf, anise, caraway, clove, dill, ginger, mustard, or thyme.
  • Serve beets with meat, fish, grains, fruits, nuts, celeriac, fennel, or bitter greens.
  • Beet greens and thinnings can be eaten raw in salads or mesclun. Beet greens can be cooked much like spinach.

Beets Flavor Partners

  • Beets go well with basil, goat cheese, herring, orange, potatoes, slow-cooked beef or ham, sour cream, spinach, tarragon, vinegar, and yogurt.
  • Cooked beets can be matched with strong flavors: biting (horseradish, chili, ginger, mustard greens), bitter (chicories, watercress), acid (balsamic or fruit vinegar, citrus fruits), spicy (Sichuan pepper, curry, caraway), salt (olives, caper, anchovies).

Beets Nutrition

  • Beets contain vitamins A and C and also potassium, calcium, phosphorus, iron, and protein. There are about 35 to 40 calories in ½ cup of beetroot.
  • Beets can be eaten to relieve headaches and to combat colds and anemia.

How to Remove Beet Juice

  • Beets contain betacyanin a pigment that causes their red color. When beets are bruised or cut they can release or “bleed” their red juice. Lemon juice can be used to remove beet juice stains from the hands.
Beets harvest late spring through autumn
Beets come to harvest late spring through autumn

Get to Know Beets

  • Beets—which also are called garden beets or beetroot—are a biennial vegetable grown as an annual. Their peak season is late spring through autumn. The first small “baby” beets will come to your farm market in late spring.
  • Beets can be round or cylindrical in shape and from 2 to 10 inches (5-25 cm) in diameter. The most flavorful beetroots will be about 2 to 3 inches (5-7.5 cm) in diameter.
  • The common garden beet is deep red-colored. The golden beet has an orangey skin, and the albino beet is white. The Chioggia (pronounced kee-oh-ja) beet is the traditional Italian beet. It is named for the Chioggia region in Italy and has candy cane concentric rings of red and white. The flesh of each of these corresponds in color to the skin.
  • Beet leaves—which are edible–grow from the crown of the root on short stems to 15 inches (38 cm) high and 10 inches (25 cm) wide. Beet greens have a delicate flavor, not as strong as spinach.
  • Beets are descended from a wild seashore plant called the sea beet. The beet originated in prehistoric times along the shores of Southern Europe or North Africa. Over thousands of years, it was cultivated and selected for its edible root.
  • The Romans used beets mostly for their leaves not roots. By the Middle Ages, beets were known as “Roman beets” in Northern Europe. By the sixteenth century Northern the Germans and English began to use beets as a vegetable.
  • The beet is a close relative of the Swiss chard.

The botanical name of beets is Beta vulgaris.

Also of interest:

How to Grow Beets

How to Harvest and Store Beets


Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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