Ever since I was a child, I loved beets, though I only had them one way, which was out of a can. I preferred the little whole beets to the sliced ones, and they had to be cold. No room temperature or even worse, hot, beets for me. I remember how fun it was to stick the whole little beet in my mouth and try not to stain my clothes with beet juice. As an adult, I still love beets and I still prefer them cold, though I am totally willing to eat them warm. I cook them all the time, even though my husband refuses to eat them!
Beets are super-healthy with vitamin C, folic acid and potassium, and they’re beautiful to look at in a wide range of colors, from deep red to bright gold to candy cane red and white stripes. Beets have a sweet and earthy flavor. They are like nature’s candy, and certain ways of cooking them, such as roasting, concentrates their flavor so they are even sweeter. Yet, they still taste savory at the same time. Beets are extremely versatile and can be cooked in multiple ways or eaten raw.
Selecting, Storing and Prepping Beets
When buying beets, look for ones with at least one to two inches of stem intact or with the leaves still attached. The stems keep the juice from seeping out during cooking. The beets should be firm with smooth, dry skin and no soft or dark spots or depressions. If you do buy beets with the greens attached (and you should), be sure the greens look dark green, crisp, and not wilted. Beets can be stored in the fridge for several days and smaller beets can last in a plastic bag in the fridge for well over a week. The greens need to be used the same day as they wilt very quickly.
Red beets can stain your hands, so you may want to wear gloves and/or cover your cutting board or work surface when working with them. Clean beets by scrubbing them with a vegetable brush and water. You can peel raw beets with a veggie peeler just like you would peel a potato, but I prefer to cook them first and then peel them because it’s easier. You can just rub off the skin of cooked beets with a paper towel or with your fingers under running water. Small baby beets may not have to be peeled.
Here’s a look at some amazing ways to enjoy beautiful beets.
1. Drink Beets
Raw beets can be juiced for a healthy drink. To make beet juice with a juicer, all you have to do is trim the ends, cut the beet in quarters and feed it into the juicer. If you don’t have a juicer, you can still make beet juice. Grate a few beets finely over cheesecloth. Gather the grated beets in the cheesecloth, twist the top closed and squeeze the juice into a large measuring cup. Transfer the juice to a container and keep in the fridge for up to 3 days. The taste of beet juice is significantly strong so it’s best mixed with other flavors like carrot, spinach and apple. Use beets along with pears, pineapple and ginger to make The Pink Lady or combine beets with carrots, celery, spinach, broccoli, cucumber, and ginger to make this juice called Salad Through a Straw. Marooned and Orange-Sunshine are cold-pressed juices with beets that will give your day a yummy start. Cast your spell on someone with this Love Potion – a Red Beet, Pear, Orange, and Apple Smoothie. When you plan your Halloween menu, be sure to include this Witch’s Brew Smoothie. Don’t forget that you can add the beet greens to your juices and smoothies for even more nutrients.
2. Eat Beets Raw
Beets are delicious raw. You can slice them, sprinkle some cumin, salt and lime on them, and eat them as a side dish or as a snack. Use a spiralizer to make pasta out of beetroot as in this Carrot Beet Angel Hair Pasta with Spicy Pine Nut and Pistachio Pesto and or a food processor for this Watermelon Gazpacho with Beet Noodles. All it takes is a blender to make this Beet and Avocado Soup with Cashew Cream. For a refreshing and easy appetizer, dip or sandwich spread, try this Beet, Fennel and Lime Pate.
Of course, salads are a perfect way to enjoy raw beets. Simply toss raw beet slices or shaved raw beets into a salad with celery, fennel and orange slices with a sweet and tangy citrus vinaigrette. Try this Kale and Golden Beet Salad and again, don’t forget to use the beet greens in your salad.
3. Boiled Isn’t Always Bland
Boiled vegetables have a reputation for being boring and bland. I myself have written that boiling isn’t usually the best way to get flavorful veggies. Beets, however, are one of the exceptions. Beets have such a strong flavor that boiling them doesn’t make cook away the taste. I make borscht or beet soup by boiling the beets. My Papa’s Borscht (named after my grandfather) is easy to make. Boil 6 red beets that have been peeled and chopped in 3 cups of salted water for 20 minutes or until fork-tender. Strain the beets and reserve the liquid. Let the beets cool and then cut them into chunks. In the same pot, heat 1 Tbs. oil and saute 1 minced red onion, 1 finely diced stalk of celery, 1 finely diced carrot and 1 minced garlic clove until tender, about 6-8 minutes. Add the beet cooking liquid, 3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth and 2 Tbs. apple cider vinegar. Simmer for about 30 minutes. Add 1 Tbs. fresh dill and kosher salt and black pepper to taste. For a smooth soup, strain the veggies out or keep them in for a chunkier soup. Serve hot or cold with a dollop of vegan sour cream. Use the beet greens to make a salad to go on the side of your borscht.
A beautifully impressive way to use boiled beets is to make this Beet Carpaccio, which is thin slices of beet dressed in oil, vinegar and herbs. This should be the centerpiece on any holiday table. Boiling is also the method by which you can make All-Natural Vegan Food Coloring for desserts and decorating.
4. Roast for Intensity
When you want to get the most flavor out of a vegetable, roast it. Roasting concentrates the flavors and caramelizes the natural sugars, which beets have a lot of. Roasting beets is easy. You can peel beets before or after you roast them; I prefer to do it afterwards. You can also roast them whole or sliced. If you roast them sliced, peel them first. Place the sliced beets in a foil-lined baking dish (beets stain) and drizzle with oil. For whole beets, I wrap each beet individually in foil after drizzling with oil. Roast 20-30 minutes for slices and up to an hour for whole beets. Once you have your roasted beets, try not to just eat them up right then and there. Cut the roasted beets into cubes and toss them in a light vinaigrette of lemon, olive oil and thyme. Use them in dishes like these Roasted Beet Burgers, Quinoa and Beet Salad with Hazelnuts, Roasted Beetroot and Ginger Chutney and this Sesame Roasted Beets and Greens.
Other great uses for roasted beets include adding slices to a sandwich and pureeing them into a spread. Swap the chickpeas for beets and make the prettiest hummus ever! Make beet noodles with a spiralizer and put them in the oven for a while to make this Spicy Moroccan Chickpeas with Beet Noodles. Make Beet Chips by using a mandolin to cut really thin slices of beets and roast them until they are crisp and delicious.
5. Beets on the Grill
Grilling beets brings out their earthy sweetness with an added smoky flavor. Their sugars become almost candied and charred. The method of grilling beets is almost identical to roasting them. To grill beets: Preheat the grill to medium-hot. Peel and slice the beets and place them on a piece of aluminum foil. Brush them with oil and season them with salt and pepper. Wrap the foil over the beets to make a packet. Cook for 30 minutes or until tender. Serve the beets warm or at room temperature. You can also add the grilled beets into dishes like this Grilled Beet Salad with Almonds and Dried Cranberries.
6. Fried Beets
I’m always happiest when cooking involves a skillet on the stovetop. While you can coat cubes or slices of beets with batter and deep fry them, there is a healthier way to enjoy fried beets. Beets can be simply pan-fried for a delicious dish. Peel 2 large beets and slice them into ¼-inch slices. Heat 2 Tbs. oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Lightly dust the beet slices with arrowroot powder or rice flour seasoned with ground cumin and thyme. Add the beet slices and cook for 4-5 minutes per side until browned and crisp. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and season with salt. Serve with vegan mayo mixed with hot sauce.
Another way to healthfully fry beets is to stir-fry them. Stir-frying is fast, so the food spends every little time in the oil, which means it doesn’t absorb much of it. For a tasty stir-fry, try this Stir-Fried Beetroot with Ginger, Lime and Toasted Spices.
7. Put Beets in Everything
Beets are a pretty and delicious addition to dishes, even if they aren’t the star of the dish. Make risotto and stir in shredded beets near the end of preparation for a beautiful main course. Add beets to Paninis and sandwiches. Shred beets into slaws for a sweeter side. Add beet cubes to your next veggie kebab. Puree beets and add them to pancake or waffle batters for a brighter breakfast like these Red Velvet Pancakes with Walnut Whipped Cream. Match colors in this lovely dish of Braised Red Cabbage with Beets. Slice golden beets with a mandolin and use the beet slices as the pasta to make this impressive Golden Beet Ravioli with Sundried Tomato and Italian Herb Filling.
8. Pickled Beets
Everyone should add some pickled foods to their diet, and beets are delicious when pickled. The tanginess of the vinegar balances the sweet earthiness of the beets. To make a quick batch of refrigerator pickled beets, peel one pound of golden or red beets and cut them into matchsticks. Toss the beets with 1 ½ tsp. kosher salt and let them sit for 15 minutes while they release their liquid. Rinse them and pat them dry. Transfer the beets to a bowl. In a small saucepan, bring 1 cup apple cider vinegar, 1 cup water, ½ cup sugar, a pinch of red chili flakes, 1 tsp. ground cumin, the peel of a lemon or orange, ¼ tsp. kosher salt and ½ tsp. black pepper to a boil. Pour this pickling liquid over the beets in the bowl. Let the beets cool. Cover them and refrigerate them for at least one day before eating. They will last about a week in the fridge. Enjoy them on top of your favorite sandwich or burger.
9. Beets for Dessert
Since beets are sweet, they work well in desserts. Not only do they add sweetness, but they add color, so they are a natural food coloring to make pink, red and red velvet desserts. Check out Here’s 3 Easy Ways to Make Vegan Ice Cream and use beets to make a beautiful batch of beet ice cream. Try these Chocolate Beet Cupcakes and these Beetroot Chocolate Frosted Cupcakes for a dessert that’s not only yummy but good for you. In this Fudgy Beetroot Chocolate Cake with Pink Frosting, the beets are used in both the cake and the frosting. For an amazing dessert that will have your guests amazed, make this Raw Layered Banana Ice Cream Cake. It has a chocolate layer, vanilla layer, mint layer and a beet layer with a coconut maple drizzle on top. Yum!
10. Don’t Forget the Beet Greens
I’ve been saying all through this article not to forget the beet greens. They are even more nutritious than the beets themselves. The greens can be eaten raw in salads or they can be cooked, added to soups, stir-fries and you can even make pesto out of them. In a food processor, combine 4 cups of beet greens (remove the stems), 4 cracked garlic cloves, ½ cup walnuts, 3 Tbs. vegan grated parmesan, ½ tsp. kosher salt and ¼ tsp. black pepper. Process the ingredients while streaming in up to ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil until you have the consistency you want. Store the pesto in an airtight container in the fridge. Try these Sauteed Beet Red Greens and these Beet Greens with Garlic and Toasted Almonds.
If you ever looked at fresh beets in the market and thought it was too much work to cook them, think again. Fresh beets are healthy, delicious and easy to cook in so many ways. What’s your favorite beet dish? Let us know in the comments.
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