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How to Eat Beets Raw, Pickled, or Cooked (Beets Aren’t Boring!)

Wondering how to eat beets?

You can always snag beet chewables, but nothing beats a homemade meal sometimes. Read on for the health benefits of beets, the different kinds available, and the classic ways to eat them, plus the very best beet recipes.

For the heart, beets are a good source of dietary nitrate, a compound that your body uses to produce nitric oxide.

Nitric oxide supports healthy blood flow and blood vessels, can lower blood pressure, and support natural energy.

The betalains contained in beets have also shown great promise in helping the body’s response to inflammation on a cellular level. They also may help with recovery and soreness that occurs after exercise

The antioxidant properties found in beets are actually increased by cooking. Now that you know some of the vast and varied benefits of beets, let’s look at each type!

 

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Types of Beets

Red Beets

This version of the root vegetable is what most people think of, with a beautiful reddish-purple hue and an earthy flavor. These are the most accessible and widespread, easily found in grocery stores. While red beets are delectable, they tend to bleed their vibrant tint, which can stain hands, fabrics, and surfaces without proper preparation.

For this reason, beet juice is often used as a vegetable dye. This natural form of coloring is safe for everything from food to clothing. 

The flavor profile of red beets is distinct. The earthy, slightly bitter notes in these vegetables can add much-needed diversity to a boring plate. Cooks claim that only get that earthy, dirt-like flavor when beets are prepared improperly.

Try balancing out the earthy taste with some contrasting tastes, like bright citrusy notes, sweeter flavors, and fresh-tasting ingredients. 

 

Chioggia Beets

Chioggia beets may look like your average beet on the outside, but they hold a sweet surprise. When you cut into a chioggia beet, you’ll see a “candy cane” pattern of red-and-white-striped flesh. 

And if you take a bite, you’ll be pleasantly surprised– chioggia beets have the highest natural sweetness of any beet variety. Bred as heirloom vegetables and hailing from Italy, these chioggia beets are full of surprises and a visual treat.

Golden Beets

Golden beets are easy to spot by their carrot-like coloring, hence their name. One differentiating factor between these beets and other varieties is that they do not bleed once cooked. Your surfaces and hands are safe with these. Their milder flavor and lessened sweetness make them a more delicate flavor profile. 

White Beets

White beets have the most subtle flavor of all. Passing by them at a farmer’s market, they could be easily mistaken for turnips in both color and size. They have less sugar content than red, chioggia, or golden varieties, and provide less of an earthy taste than the others. 

Like golden beets, their color doesn’t bleed. These can be an easy answer for how to eat beets for those who want a milder flavor.

 

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4 Ways to Eat Beets

Did we mention how nutritious beets are? One cup of raw beets contains 3.8 grams of dietary fiber, no cholesterol, nominal amounts of fat, and are a great source of folate and vitamin C. 

Just as impressive as their incredible nutritional value, there’s no shortage of ways to prepare your beets. Here are some of the best ideas on how to eat beets.

 

Raw

Raw beets are one of the most common ways to eat beets. To ensure your beets are of the highest quality, select small to medium-sized beetroots. Some varieties of beets can grow tough and overly fibrous when they reach a large size. Bigger isn’t better when it comes to beet selection.

The beets should have a uniform appearance (no blotches or spots) and a deep, developed color. Golden beets should be a warm orange-red and red beets should shine a rich ruby. If a beet has a large bruise or is “bleeding” juice, it’s not the quality you want. 

Raw beets are simple to prepare; they just need to be washed and sliced before enjoying them. Some people prefer to peel them, but it’s not necessary if you buy organic, just a matter of taste. Pat dry with a paper towel.

Looking for a way to make this snack a little more interesting? Squeeze on a dash of lemon juice, crack some black pepper over the top, or spice things up with some cayenne powder for a tasty treat. 

 

Pickled

Pickled or canned beets are another frequent staple in salads and snacks. The pickling process involves a bit of sugar and vinegar, which make sweet and tangy counterparts to the rich earthiness of beets’ flavor profile. This style of beet preparation offers more balanced flavors than a raw beet does. 

The type of vinegar is entirely up to you. Recipes commonly call for apple cider vinegar, sweet-sour vinegar, or even tarragon vinegar. Don’t be afraid to experiment to find your favorite. Slice the roasted beets thinly before pickling, and store in the refrigerator for a few days before serving. 

Pickled beets are fabulous in salads, charcuterie, bruschetta, and more. If you’re looking for an unusual flavor in an appetizer or grain bowl, these may be your magic ingredient. Less cook time when roasting will lead to a crunchier texture, so cook to your desired texture if you choose to batch up a jar or two.

 

Fermented

Fermented beets are less talked about, but have potent health benefits. When eaten in this form, they have the incredible probiotic properties of other fermented foods. Fermented beets are beneficial for your gut health, add good bacteria, and even boost your immune system function. Though the process of fermenting your beets may be a little odd, the health benefits are more than worth the trouble.

To ferment your beets, there are a few steps. First, peel and slice your raw beets, then pack them into a jar along with any seasonings you’d prefer. Then, pour the brine over the top. This differs from pickling because it excludes both the cooking aspect and the vinegar. 

Your beets may ferment anywhere from three to twelve days before you transfer them to the refrigerator. Wondering how to season this fermented fun? Horseradish, garlic, cardamom, or rosemary are all unexpected twists that add to the bold flavor.

 

Cooked

Beets can be prepared a variety of ways: roasted beets, boiled beets, and steamed beets. While it can alter the nutritional content slightly, it’s nothing too concerning if done correctly. What’s more, as mentioned previously, cooking beets may even increase their antioxidizing ability– so don’t be afraid to turn up the heat.

If you’ve had beets, it’s very possible they were served roasted with goat cheese. This savory combination is a beautiful balance of the rich creaminess of the cheese with the deep earthiness of the beets. No wonder it’s a staple in some southern cooking. 

However, don’t count out boiled beets. These can be perfectly tender and soft, though some of the coloring and nutrients can potentially escape into the water. 

Steaming beets keeps more of the nutrient content, but doesn’t provide the melting texture that you’d get with boiled beets or when you roast beets. However, these can be served on their own as a simple side dish. Play around with different kinds of cooked beets to see what you like best, and get your nutritional value a variety of ways.

 

Recipes

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Big, Bold Beet Salad

This American southern classic is packed with citrus and earthy flavors and is a perfect appetizer for a summer meal.

What you need:

  • 1 cup of roasted beets, cut into small wedges
  • 1 pinch of finely chopped rosemary
  • ½ teaspoon of raw honey
  • ½ cup of salt and pepper pistachios
  • 1 tablespoon of orange zest
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 orange
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Step 1: Combine the beets, rosemary, honey, and juice from a few orange slices. Allow to marinate for one hour. 

Step 2: Drizzle a little olive oil onto a plate. Add the beet mixture on top.

Step 3: Top with pistachios, pepper, lemon juice, and orange zest. Optionally, serve dressing of choice on the side.

 

Beet Borscht

This beet soup is Russian in origin, and brings out the hearty and sweet flavors in beets.

What you need:

  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 3 diced carrots
  • 2 diced celery stalks
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 ½ pounds of beets– ½ pound shredded, 1 pound finely chopped (red beets are traditionally used, but feel free to experiment)
  • 1 pound of beef, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 cups of beef broth
  • 4 large cloves garlic minced
  • ½ teaspoon coarse kosher sea salt (use a bit less if using fine salt)
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup of finely chopped dill
  • ½ pound of shredded Savoy cabbage
  • 1 large potato

Step 1: In a large pot, cook beef in oil over medium-high heat on the stovetop, heating until just browned on both sides. Add two cups of beef broth and bring to boil. Once boiling, reduce to simmer, cover, and leave for 45 minutes.

Step 2: Chop vegetables while mixture simmers. After 45 minutes have passed, add the chopped beets to the pot, and repeat the boiling, simmering, and covering method. Leave for ten minutes. 

Step 3: After ten minutes, add remaining vegetables to pot and cover. Bring to a boil, then turn down and leave covered on simmer. Leave for around 35 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. 

Step 4: Turn off the heat and add in the dill and add in the vinegar. Serve in bowls with a dollop of sour cream if desired.

 

Beet and Blueberry Oat Muffins

This American southern classic is packed with citrus and earthy flavors and is the perfect appetizer for a summer meal.

What you need:

  • 2 ½ cups baking flour
  • 2 ½ cups rolled oats
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon beetroot juice
  • 2 ½ teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups applesauce
  • ½ cup of honey
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup of water
  • ½ cup fresh blueberries
  • ½ cup shredded peeled beets

Step 1: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Step 2: Mix dry ingredients, other than berries and beets, in a bowl.

Step 3: In a separate bowl, mix oil, applesauce, juice, eggs, beet juice, and water. Then fold into the dry ingredients.

Step 4: Stir in blueberries and beets, then spoon batter into muffin tins. Bake for 25-30 minutes.

In Summary

  • Beets are packed with nutritional value, anti-inflammatory properties, antioxidants, and cardiovascular health benefits.
  • There are four major types of beets: golden, chioggia, red, and white, each with a specific flavor profile.
  • The most common answers for how to eat beets are: roasted, boiled, steamed, fermented, pickled, or raw. All of these preparation methods have their own benefits, and you can try beets many different ways!
  • Delicious creations like beet borscht, beet and blueberry oat muffins, and big, bold beet salad are great starter recipes to begin incorporating beets into your everyday cooking. 
  • Try your own unique twist on your favorite recipes using beets, and see what you can create.

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