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.
How to cook beets
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.
How to cook beets in the microwave
This is the easiest and quickest of cooking beets, 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—and when cooking beets, try not to overcook!
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.
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.
How to cook beets by not cooking them: use 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).
How to cook beets simply:
- When 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.
- Dress warm sliced beets in just a little lemon juice and agave nectar.
- 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 for how to cook beets; make sure to link to Beet Recipes — Easy, Vegan, and Delicious — for lots more!
- Vegan Beet Burgers
- Orange-Glazed Beets
- Raw or Nearly Raw Cold Beet Borscht
- Mixed Greens with Beets and Walnuts
- Hot Beet and Potato Borscht
- Beet and Red Cabbage Slaw
- Beet, Cucumber, and Orange Salad
- Roasted Beet Salad with Chili-Lime Vinaigrette
- Grated Beet and Carrot Salad
- Acai (with Beet) Smoothie
- Russian Beet and Potato Salad