31 Days of Vegetables

Beets: The Best Ways to Pick Them, Cook Them, and Eat Them

updated Jul 23, 2020
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Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

Perhaps one of the most Instagrammed vegetables, beets have had a major image overhaul in the last 20 years. While once they were relegated to little more than a borscht base, now they’re likely to show up roasted or raw in salads and slaws, and you can find them in veggie chip bags, pickle jars, and adding color to plates at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And it’s a good thing! Beets are full of flavor and fantastic to cook with. Here is all you could want to know about beets, plus some recipes that’ll have you wanting to stock up as soon as possible.

Is a Beet a Vegetable?

Like any other edible root, such as a carrot or parsnip, the beet is definitely a vegetable, both culinarily and botanically. But it’s good to note that it isn’t just the root that’s edible! The tender beet leaves are delicious raw in salads and the mature leaves can be sautéed or steamed like spinach or collard greens.

The Beet Top 5

Five beatific links for those who love beets:

  1. Here are ten of our favorite recipes around the web for cooking beets at breakfast, lunch and dinner.
  2. Peeling beets can be tricky, but here are a few tips for making it easier.
  3. Roasted beets? Classic. But poached beets? Sublime.
  4. Of course, if you have roasted a big batch of beets, here are five ways to use them.
  5. And here are some ideas for what to do with the greens!

What Do Beets Taste Like?

Beets are classically sweet. In fact, they’re so sweet you can

make sugar from them

How to Choose the Best Beets

According to the University of California at Berkeley, look for beets that are firm, with smooth skin — wrinkles or soft spots indicate that the beet is older, or that it’s lost some water content. If you’re buying beets with the leaves and stems attached, the leaves should be small, crisp, and dark green. And avoid beets over 2 1/2 inches around! The bigger ones tend to have tough, woody cores.

What Are the Nutritional Benefits of Beets?

Beets are a very nutrient-dense food. One cup (about 4.8 oz) has less than 60 calories and contains 15% of your daily value for fiber, 12% of your potassium, and 11% vitamin C. It’s also quite high in folate (B9).

How to Peel Beets

Though you can simply go to town on raw beets with a vegetable peeler, that method can be time-consuming and the results can be messy — beets will most definitely stain your hands, your clothes, your cutting board, and likely anything that walks past the kitchen while you’re cooking.

A simpler way to peel beets is to do it after they’re cooked, when the skins tend to slip off quite easily. This works best if you’re roasting or microwaving the beets. Once they’re cool enough to handle, a paper towel or pair of rubber kitchen gloves will help peel the skins right off.

What Are Beets Good For?

While some use beets (specifically the juice) to improve their running speed and endurance, others use it to lower their blood pressure and risk of heart disease. Still others use beets to, well, scare themselves later in the restroom (that effect, technically called beeturia, is what makes beets also good for dyeing fabric).

But our quite biased opinion is that beets are best for cooking with! They taste good, they’re pretty, they’re fun to eat, and being root veggies they will keep for a long time! What more could you want?

The Best Ways to Cook Beets

The very best ways to cook with beets.

Can Dogs Eat Beets?

Are beets safe for your dog to eat? According to the ASPCA they are non-toxic to dogs, cats, and even horses if you have any of those in the house. Rover.com notes that in some rare cases dogs can be allergic to beets, so it’s always best to check with your family veterinarian before feeding them something new. And of course if you do feed beets to your pet, don’t be surprised or scared if the dark red coloring shows up later when you’re walking her or him. Beeturia can happen to pets as well.

Are Beets Keto-Friendly?

Beets are root vegetables that are particularly high in natural sugars, meaning that they are not always the best choice for those who are trying to keep their net carb intake at an absolute minimum, and get (or keep) their bodies in ketosis. However, that doesn’t mean that they are entirely off-limits. If you love beets and are on the keto diet, enjoy them in moderation, and simply make sure that your total net carbs for the day stay under your goal: A standard 3.5-ounce serving of cooked beets has about 10g carbs (8 of which are from sugar) and 2g fiber, giving it 8 net carbs per serving.

No Fresh Beets? What to Substitute.

Because root vegetables keep so well, many grocery stores will carry fresh beets all year round. However, you can also buy pre-cooked beets canned, in pouches, frozen, or even riced.

Pre-cooked beets in cans and pouches are generally peeled and pre-cut, and can be used in place of fresh beets in most recipes that call for boiling or blanching. You may have to adjust the cooking times, as the beets will be soft and cooked through already. For other varieties of packaged beets, it’s best to follow the instructions.

The Best Ways to Use Up Leftover Beets

Leftover cooked beets will keep perfectly well in the fridge for a couple days, or in the freezer for a couple months (just be sure to fully thaw them before reheating). If you roasted or boiled too many beets for a recipe, the best thing to do is cube them or grate them and make them into a salad with some feta, onion, and a nice grain like barley!

Our Top 20 Beet Recipes

What’s your favorite recipe or use for beets? Any favorite way to cook it?

31 Days of Vegetables: How to fall in love with vegetables in 31 days. How many of these splendid veg have you eaten this month? Take a look at the whole list and take our July challenge to eat every single one!