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How to Cook Beets (or use them raw)

how to cook 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.

How to cook beets

Varieties
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!

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
how to cook beetsRoasted 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.

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:

  1. cooking beetsWhen 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 for how to cook beets; 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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74 Comments

  • Reply
    jenny louis
    April 28, 2016 at 10:22 am

    i like this

  • Reply
    Glenna Lacock
    April 29, 2016 at 4:53 pm

    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.

  • Reply
    Ada
    August 29, 2016 at 3:44 am

    Hi , To make smoothies with Beets… Do you boil them after peeling off the back?

    • Reply
      Nava
      August 29, 2016 at 8:48 am

      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.

  • Reply
    Donna Craig
    August 31, 2016 at 3:02 pm

    I am assuming to juice beets, maybe adding to carrots & apples, you don’t have to cook them, right?

    • Reply
      Nava
      August 31, 2016 at 5:31 pm

      Yes, if you have a good juicer, it’s best to use your ingredients raw.

  • Reply
    Dee Williams
    September 5, 2016 at 10:51 am

    Thanks for the various ways to prepare beets. I like variety!!

  • Reply
    Mahee Ferlini
    September 18, 2016 at 9:27 pm

    Great ideas for preparing beets!!

  • Reply
    Mandy
    September 27, 2016 at 8:09 am

    Hi would i need to cook raw beets first to make soup or grate them raw?

  • Reply
    Chas H
    October 10, 2016 at 3:54 am

    how do you peel a beet?

  • Reply
    Kalpana
    October 27, 2016 at 3:02 am

    Excellent ideas for beets.I like roasted beets.Thanks for sharing your ideas with us.

  • Reply
    Mark Clulow
    November 30, 2016 at 4:06 am

    Thank you! I just bought a box or raw beetroot so I’m looking forward to trying out some of your wonderful recipes!

  • Reply
    abby
    December 5, 2016 at 11:37 pm

    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.

  • Reply
    Kathryn
    December 10, 2016 at 9:02 pm

    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.

  • Reply
    Katherine
    January 5, 2017 at 6:17 pm

    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.

  • Reply
    Cranky
    February 16, 2017 at 3:06 pm

    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.

    • Reply
      Nava
      February 16, 2017 at 4:58 pm

      Yes, cooking, even lightly (or roasting) does bring out the flavor of beets.

  • Reply
    William
    February 16, 2017 at 4:56 pm

    I don’t juice, I emulsify. Is the process the same?

    • Reply
      Nava
      February 16, 2017 at 4:57 pm

      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.

  • Reply
    Mary
    March 5, 2017 at 5:31 pm

    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.

  • Reply
    maRk
    March 15, 2017 at 11:53 am

    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

    • Reply
      Nava
      March 15, 2017 at 12:02 pm

      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!

  • Reply
    Princess
    December 16, 2017 at 11:07 am

    I want to know how to use white and golden beetroot for juice salads and more…..anyone here??

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