Learn several different methods to prepare these jewel toned root vegetables.
Beyond simply being a beautiful root to behold, beets are a versatile vegetable. Maybe best known as the main ingredient in borscht, they lend themselves to a wide variety of dishes beyond the ruby-hued soup. You may think of beets as only red, but they also come in gold and chioggia, which have a red and white striped interior.
Beets can be pickled, added to plant-based burgers, served as a side, or even eaten raw. Here, we discuss three of the most popular ways to prepare them, including our favorite. Discover your new favorite way to cook beets and find the right tools for each below.
Boiling is the most simple way to prepare beets. It yields tender results, though you’ll lose out on some color and flavor. We recommend this method if you’re trying to tone down the earthy flavor of beets so they can blend in more with other ingredients, for example if you’re blending them into a dip like hummus.
To boil beets, begin by trimming off the taproot (the tapered root at the base) and leave about 1 to 2 inches of stem intact to preserve nutrients. Reserve the greens at the top of the beet for later. Place your beets in a large Saucepan or Stock Pot, depending on the size and quantity of your beets. Cover the beets with water, and add a tablespoon of vinegar. This will help them retain their color. Bring it to a boil.
Alternatively, you could boil the beets in stock to impart more flavor. Reduce the heat to a simmer and let the beets boil until they can easily be pierced with a knife. This can take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour depending on the size of your beets.
Another healthy way to prepare beets is by steaming them. This method is more nutritious than boiling as the nutrients stay locked into the beet instead of releasing into the boiling liquid. Steamed beets make a nice side dish on their own or sliced up as a topping for a grain bowl.
Start by removing the tops and taproots from the beets. For a traditional, stovetop steam, bring a small amount of water to boil in a Saucier. Carefully place a metal or bamboo steamer basket and cover either with the lid of the pan or the steamer depending on which type you’re using, and put the beets inside. Reduce the heat to low, making sure the water isn’t touching the steamer. Allow the beets to steam for about 30 minutes or until knife tender.
To oven steam beets, begin by preheating your oven to 425F. Pour a small amount of water (3 tablespoons to ¼ cup depending on the amount of beets) into the bottom of a Roasting Pan. Remove the tops and taproots from the beets and place in the pan, fitted with the Roasting Rack so they rest above the water. You can add seasoning such as salt, pepper, olive oil, and even aromatics at this stage if you like. Cover tightly with foil and bake until beets are knife tender, about 40 to 60 minutes.
We’ve saved our personal favorite preparation for last. Roasting brings out the natural sweetness of beets, letting them caramelize in the pan. While it takes a bit of time, it’s well worth the wait and gives you the time you need to prepare any accompanying dishes.
To roast beets, begin by preheating your oven to 350F. Line a Sheet Pan with aluminum foil, and coat it with oil. Remove the tops and tap roots from your beets before sprinkling them with salt. Cover with more foil to form an airtight seal and roast for 2 ½ to 3 hours or until they’re knife tender.
If you’re looking to add more smoky flavor and some char to your beets, grilling them is a great option. Because of how dense they are, we recommend cooking them in one of the other methods listed above and then throwing them on the grill to develop some color. Grilled beets are especially well suited to salads, where they can be paired with soft cheeses and bitter or peppery greens.
To grill beets, start by par cooking them to soften them up. We like to steam (either method) or roast the beets. Once you can pierce them easily with a knife, remove from heat and let cool until you can handle them safely. Using your hands, gently remove the skins and cut into desired shape. Heat up a grill and place our Grill Frying Pan over a medium high flame. Toss the cut beets in a bit of neutral oil and add them to the pan. Cook, stirring frequently, until the beets are charred on all sides.
Once you’ve cooked your beets, how you prepare them is up to you. You don’t have to peel beets but there are lots of nutrients in the skin. Plus, unlike some vegetables, the skin is not overwhelmingly bitter and is thin enough to eat. If you choose to leave the skin on, make sure you’ve thoroughly scrubbed the beets before cooking them. If at all possible, buy them locally, so you have a better idea of where they came from.
For some dishes you may want to peel your beets. For example, if you’re pureeing them, you’ll want to keep the mixture as smooth as possible. Whether you’re peeling them, or not, we recommend cooking beets with the skin on, which will make them easier to peel later if you choose to do so.
Once the beets have cooked and cooled enough to handle, you can easily slip the skins off with your hands. Be aware that beets, especially the red variety, will stain your hands, so you may want gloves for this.
Beet greens are often discarded but they make a delicious accompaniment to any of the preparations listed above. You can slice them raw and serve them in a salad, but we like them sautéed. While the roots are cooking, remove the inner ribs of the greens and slice thinly. Roll the leaves together and chiffonade into thin ribbons.
Place a Stainless Clad Frying Pan over medium heat and add a generous amount of olive oil. Add a few cloves of thinly sliced garlic and cook until fragrant but not burnt. Next, add in the ribs and saute for a few minutes more, letting them soften. Add in the greens with a little more oil and season with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the greens are wilted and soft, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
Beets can be prepared and enjoyed any of the three ways above, but if you’re looking for a recipe that really allows them to shine check out Chef Amanda Turner's Grilled Beet Salad, which features peppery arugula and sweet strawberries to create a salad that’s as visually stunning as it is delicious.