Beets were unglamorous kitchen staples for generations, but now they’ve earned a spot on all the fashionable restaurant menus. Chalk it up to their deep, rich red color, sweet, earthy flavor and tender texture — it’s no wonder they’re favorites of chefs and home cooks alike. Read on for our best tips for choosing, prepping and cooking beets in a host of creative dishes.
Look for: Choose firm, rounded beets with smooth skins and no noticeable bruising. Fresh beets should have the greens attached and 1 to 2 inches of root end, which looks like a tail. Do not buy beets with wilted, browning leaves—the leafy greens indicate the freshness of the beets. The beets will not spoil if left at cool room temperature for a few days, but they do best when refrigerated for up to 10 days.
Prep Tips: Cut the greens from the beets as soon as you get home, leaving 1 to 2 inches of stem attached. Beet greens should be washed and cooked on the day you buy them.
Beets are best when cooked whole and unpeeled, then peeled and sliced, chopped or mashed afterward. Roasting beets intensifies their flavor and color; be sure to wrap them in aluminum foil first so you won’t have to clean the pan. If boiling beets, leave about 1 inch of the stem and the root end intact to keep the beets from “bleeding” into the cooking water. Once they are fork-tender, let them cool and then slip off their skins. When working with red and pink beets, be prepared for beet-red stains on your hands and countertops — you may want to work on waxed paper and wear gloves.
Uses: These festive looking vegetables are served warm as a side dish, cold in salads, pickled or made into the famous beet soup, borscht. Young, fresh-looking, bright green beet greens from small or medium-sized beets are delicious. Sauté or steam them as you would spinach. Find more ideas below!
|Chilled Beet and Cucumber Soup
This spin on Eastern European borscht makes a cool, festive and bright soup to cleanse the palate. For a party, garnish with tangy yogurt, a few feathers of dill and a dollop of caviar.
|Golden Beets with Smoked Trout and Dill
Perfect for a cocktail party, these bites layer cream cheese, smoked trout and roasted beets on water crackers.
|Beets & Crushed Avocado with Grapefruit
This recipe from Chef Jeremy Fox combines roasted beets with crushed avocado and Ruby Red grapefruit for a simple but colorful salad.
|Beet, Orange and Fennel Salad
The combination of beet, orange and fennel is perfect for a casual brunch, especially later in the fall and winter when citrus reaches its peak.
|Beet Salad with Mushrooms, Goat Cheese and Arugula
This hearty salad showcases roasted mushrooms and beets with tangy goat cheese. Top it with garlic chips for some crunch — read on to learn how to make them.
|Beet and Watercress Salad with Farm Eggs
Assertively peppery watercress is a good foil to the sweet, earthy flavor of beets. Use two colors of beets if you like, or even striped Chioggia beets, if they are available.
|Red Beet Risotto for Two
We developed this scarlet risotto for Valentine’s Day, but the rich flavors and beautiful presentation create a special occasion any day of the year.
|Grilled Coriander Poussin with Farro Verde, Roasted Carrots and Chioggia Beets
In this recipe from Chef Billy Allin, young, tender grilled chicken is paired with roasted beets, carrots and whole grains for a satisfying main course.
Pickled beets charm in salad preparations, lending color, texture and their signature flavor. Try them layered with fresh mozzarella and a drizzle of olive oil, or tossed with arugula and garnished with ricotta salata.
Root vegetables yield surprisingly mellow, sweet juices. Although these two ingredients may sound like a strange partnership, beets and oranges are a match made in heaven.