While I’ve eaten beets for many years (including those I grew myself), it was only recently that I discovered how much more delicious they taste roasted instead of steamed.
A long, slow roasting deepens their natural sweetness, and in the method explained below, whole beets are cooked in a sealed foil packet, trapping their natural moistness — in essence, steaming them in their own juices.
From there, you can proceed with whatever recipe tickles your fancy, from a simple marinated salad to an earthy soup or a gorgeous purply-pink hummus. Beets can make their way into potato latkes and gnocchi, sandwiches and tacos, carpaccio and tartar. Like other root vegetables, they blend well with many flavors.
That decadent ruby red color belies their host of health benefits: beets boost immunity, fight inflammation, increase metabolism, cleanse the liver and help detox the body.
If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to find different varieties of beets, in a rainbow of colors: yellow-gold, orange, even white. Chioggia beets (pronounced kee-oh-gee-ah) have concentric circles of red and white throughout the bulb and are particularly eye-catching. Smaller, younger beets will be more tender and sweeter.
You’ll notice oftentimes that beets are paired with ingredients that balance out their natural sweetness. That’s why you’ll often find citrus, mustards, goat, feta or other tangy cheeses, as well as vinegars and ginger usually included in recipes with beets.
The Hot Pink
Shrub syrup ingredients:
- ¾ cup celery, sliced into ¼-inch pieces
- 1 medium beet, peeled and grated
- 1 Tbsp. grated fresh horseradish
- 1 cup sugar
- ¼ tsp. salt
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- ¾ oz. shrub syrup
- 2 oz. Tanqueray gin
- 3 oz. seltzer
To make the shrub syrup: Combine celery, beets, horseradish, sugar and salt in quart jar. Shake to combine. Refrigerate 72 hours, shaking once a day to help dissolve sugar. Strain through fine-mesh sieve, pressing to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard solids. Add vinegar. Refrigerate until ready to use.
To make the cocktail: Fill cocktail shaker with ice. Add shrub syrup and gin. Shake about 20 seconds until well chilled. Strain into ice-filled highball glass, top with seltzer, stir to combine and serve.
Best Roast Beets
Remove stem and root ends of beets. Scrub under cold water. Keeping their skins on, toss your whole beets in olive oil, salt and pepper. Fold a 12 x 18-inch piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil into a square; crimp edges firmly so steam won’t escape. Leave one end open; place beets inside. Fold final edge and seal tightly.
Place on cookie sheet or pan and bake at 375 F (190 C) for about 1 hour till toothpick can be easily inserted into a beet through the foil. Slit open foil, spreading packet open; let rest 30 minutes.
Slip off the beet skins. Proceed with any recipe calling for roasted beets or simply quarter them, drizzle with olive oil and honey and sprinkle with parsley.
Roasted Beets with Balsamic Maple Syrup Glaze
- 6 medium beets (about 3½ lbs.)
- 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 Tbsp. maple syrup
Roast beets (see above recipe). Cut into 1½-inch chunks. Combine vinegar and maple syrup in small skillet. Cook over medium heat until liquid is reduced by about half (it should lightly coat the back of a metal spoon). Pay close attention and be sure not to over-reduce; it goes from sweet/syrupy to burnt/hard very quickly.
Toss glaze with the roasted beets; chill until serving.
- 12 (2-inch) beets, trimmed
- 1 cup crumbled goat cheese
- 2 Tbsp. minced shallot
- 1/3 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh mint
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1½ tsp. sugar
- Salt and pepper
- ¼ cup chopped fresh chives
Roast the beets (see recipe above) and keep whole. Using a sharp knife or mandoline, slice beets very thinly. Place the slices, slightly overlapping, on serving dish. Sprinkle with cheese, shallots, salt and pepper. Whisk together vinegar, mint, oil and sugar. Add more salt or pepper as needed. Drizzle the liquid mixture over the beets.
Sprinkle with chives and serve at room temperature or chilled.
Beet & Ginger Soup
- 1 cup cooked beets (or one 15-oz. can, drained)
- 2 tsp. minced/grated ginger
- 1 cup hot vegetable broth
- 4 tsp. lemon juice
- Salt and pepper
Roast (see above recipe) or steam beets. Chop roughly. In blender, process carefully with ginger, hot broth and lemon juice. Purée till smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Serve at room temperature or heat.
- 2 large beets, cut into ½-inch cubes
- 1 (15 oz) can garbanzo beans, drained
- Juice of 1 lemon or 3 limes
- 2 garlic cloves, minced)
- 2 Tbsp. tahini
- ½ tsp. smoked paprika
- ½ tsp. olive oil
- Optional: ¼–½ tsp. sriracha
Steam beets until tender (or use roasted beets); cool and remove skins. In food processor, mix garbanzos, lemon/lime juice, garlic, tahini, paprika, sriracha (if using), olive oil and salt. Set aside. Add cooled beets and purée till smooth, adding more olive oil or more lemon/lime juice a few drops at a time if needed.
Roasted Beets with Citrus, Feta & Nuts
- 6 medium beets (about 1½ lbs.)
- 1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
- 2 oranges, cut into segments
- 2 grapefruits, cut into segments
- ½ cup crumbled feta
- ½ cup chopped walnuts/pecans, toasted
- 3 scallions, finely sliced
Roast beets as directed in above recipe, then cool and cut into thin 1/8-inch slices with a mandoline or knife. In small bowl, whisk remaining 3 Tbsp. olive oil and red wine vinegar. Toss beets, citrus fruits and dressing together in a bowl; season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving platter and drizzle with juices from the bowl. Sprinkle with feta, nuts and scallions and serve.
- 2 medium beets
- 1-2 tsp. olive oil
Preheat oven to 375 F (190 C). Cut off stem and root ends and peel beets. Cut into slices 1/16-inch thick, using a mandoline or a knife (carefully!). In a large bowl, toss beets with olive oil and salt.
Arrange beets in a single layer on rimmed cookie sheet; stack another baking sheet on top. Bake about 20 minutes, until edges of beets begin to dry out. Uncover and rotate. Bake 10–20 minutes more, removing chips as they lighten in color.
Transfer to a wire rack; chips will crisp up as they cool. Sprinkle with more salt if desired.
Janet Blaser is the author of the best-selling book, Why We Left: An Anthology of American Women Expats, featured on CNBC and MarketWatch. She has lived in Mexico since 2006. You can find her on Facebook.