How to Cook Beets (or use them raw)

Orange-glazed beets

Here are some tips on how to cook fresh beets (or use them raw). Cooking or roasting beets brings out their natural sweetness. There are three main ways to prepare beets (other than not cooking them at all): microwaving, cooking, and roasting. Beet lovers can also explore our complete listing of beet recipes —easy, vegan, and delicious. There you’ll find lots of unusual salads, borscht recipes, beet burgers, sides, and juices.

Beets are one of those veggies that inspire passion one way or the other—you either love them or loathe them. If you’re firmly in the “love them” category or want to be, here are some tips on how to cook beets or use them raw.  If your beets come with the greens, save them and use as you would chard, which they greatly resemble.

See lots more tips from readers on how to cook beets (including grilling) in the comments below this post.

Varieties
beet varieties — red, golden, chiogga
Aside from the common red beets, try golden beets if you can find them—they’re not as common as their magenta counterparts, but they’re even sweeter (and a bit less messy). Even less common than golden are chioggia beets, an Italian heirloom variety with red-and-white stripes—as sweet as it is gorgeous, and formanova, which, with its long, cylindrical shape is great for getting uniform-sized slices. You might look for unusual beet varieties at farm markets, or if you’re a gardener, cultivate them yourself.

Microwaving beets
This is the easiest and quickest cooking method, providing that you don’t object to microwaving. Rinse the beets and cut away all but an inch of the stalks. Place beets in a deep microwave-safe container with a half inch or so of water at the bottom. Cover securely with the container’s lid and microwave for 2 to 4 minutes per beet (2 minutes for small beets, 4 for medium-large). This is a general guideline; depending on your particular microwave unit. Best to start with less time and check for doneness).

Don’t use too much water, otherwise it will boil up and get all over your microwave. If the beets aren’t done when you check them, turn them over and go for another minute per beet. They’re done when you can just pierce them—try not to overcook!

Cooking beets
 It’s best to use small or medium beets if you want to cook them conventionally, otherwise it takes forever. Rinse the beets and cut away all but an inch of the stalks. Combine in a large deep saucepan with water to cover; bring to a boil, then simmer until just tender. How long this will take varies greatly upon the size of the beets; start checking after about 20 minutes, but don’t poke too many test holes into them, or they’ll bleed like crazy! When done, drain.

To finish: Whether you’ve microwaved or cooked beets, once just tender, plunge into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process.Once the beets are cool enough to handle, peel them over the trash or compost container, then and dice or slice as desired. To prevent discoloration of your cutting board, you can cover it with a piece of wax paper.

Roasting beets
Multicolored Beets - detox veggiesRoasted beets are delicious, but the prep makes a bit of a mess, since it’s best to peel and slice or dice them while raw.

That said, if you partially microwave or cook them ahead of time according to the directions above (and let cool for a while) it will be easier to peel and chop them. Roasting time will be reduced as a result.

Either way, to minimize the mess, peel over the trash or compost container, and slice them on a cutting board covered with wax paper. Place sliced raw beets (allow 1 medium beet per serving) in a foil-lined baking dish and drizzle with a bit of olive oil. Bake at 400 or 425º F. for 20 to 30 minute or so, until tender to your liking. Stir once or twice during that time. Beets are nice roasted with other root vegetables, including carrots and sweet potatoes. See this recipe for a roasted root vegetable medley.

Using beets raw
That’s an easy one — simply peel them and cut into small thin pieces or grate them to add to salads; peel and cut into chunks to put through your juicer or to add to your smoothies (a high-powered blender is best for the latter).

Simple ways to use beets:

  1. Beet and red cabbage slaw recipeWhen beets are are at their most flavorful, usually in late summer, they need no embellishment. Just serve them plain, sliced and served on a plate, or in salad.
  2. Dress warm sliced beets in just a little lemon juice and agave nectar.
  3. As mentioned above, raw beets are wonderful grated and tossed into salads or combined with other grated roots, as in Beet and Red Cabbage Slaw.

Here’s just a sampling of recipes; make sure to link to Beet Recipes — Easy, Vegan, and Delicious — for lots more!

Nearly raw beet borscht

Raw or nearly raw beet borscht; photo by Hannah Kaminsky

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73 comments on “How to Cook Beets (or use them raw)

  1. Glenna Lacock

    I love your website. Thank you. I didn’t know how or how to use beets. Came across your website. Love the suggestion using the microwave, briefly for cutting and peeling. Made it so much easier.

  2. Nava Post author

    Ada, if you have a high-speed blender like Vitamix, you can just add chunks of raw peeled beets. But for a regular blender, you’d want to use cooked beets.

  3. abby

    Thousands of articles and videos on how to prepare beets one way or the other. But I can find none on how to prepare them for juicing. I need a step by step video of this. From the time you by them from the store until the time you pour it into your glass. I’ve never bought fresh beets before, so I’m lost. It seems no one really knows.

  4. Kathryn

    Abby,

    I juice beets all the time, just wash them, leave the tops and all and push them into the juicer chute! Others prefer to peel them first, I do not. My favorite blend is 1 lemon, 3 oranges, 1 medium beet with tops, 1 cucumber, 1 sweet apple, and about a thumb sized piece of ginger.

  5. Katherine

    Roasted beets are super easy to peel if you do it while they’re still quite hot. I hold them under cold running water and rub the skin off. It comes off easily and neatly.

  6. Cranky

    I just tried eating one raw. I used a potato peeler to remove the skin and then cut it into thick slices. Unfortunately, this proved a bit messy with staining of hands, and it didn’t have much taste either, even though it was organic. Next time I’ll try the microwave method.

  7. Nava Post author

    William, by emulsify, I assume you mean blend; so yes, the process would be the same. If you have a high-speed blender, though, you could probably just use the beets raw after peeling and cutting into chunks.

  8. Mary

    Just today I sauteed the beet greens along w/stems in oil. Added minced Garlic. Wowza. For an extra punch, I spiced it up with Sriracha when served. Now onto roasting the Beets. I think I’ll try roasting as Fries.

  9. maRk

    Hi there, I just wanted to ask if you should pierce the skin of the beetroot first if microwaving them whole? I do this with potatoe obviously and fear the beetroot may explode from steam build up if I don’t do this? And there is no need to add water to the bowl if microwaving whole I assume?
    Thanks for any advice,
    Mark

  10. Nava Post author

    Hi Mark — I’ve never found piercing to be necessary, since I cover the container snugly (just added that info) I do put a little water at the bottom of the container, though — an half inch to an inch, depending how many are being cooked at a time. Otherwise I’ve found that the container can get scorched until such time as the beets are done enough. Hope that helps!

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