No one will ever fault you for disliking those limp, jelly-like slices of so-called beets that flop out of the can. But if this is the only iteration of beets that comes to mind when you think of these gems, you’re missing out big time.
Beets are nutrient-packed, antioxidant-rich root vegetables. So when we slice them, dice them, roast them, pickle them and enjoy them, our bodies reap all kinds of nutritious benefits, too. Plucked from the earth and covered with dirt, these round little guys don’t look very delicious, and that can be intimidating. But, like anything, when you arm yourself with a little know-how, the world opens. When roasted, baked, steamed or sliced, the earthy, sweet flavors are easy to coax and a dream to pair with other flavors and foods.
Here’s what you need to know to buy, prep, cook and eat beets:
Beets grow throughout most of the year (though, they’re sweetest in the fall), and you can find them at most grocery stores bunched with their greens attached or loose with the greens removed. Beets grow in a variety of colors, but the flavors are quite similar regardless of their color. Golden beets, red beets and Chioggia (or white and red striped beets) are all sweet, earthy and easy to cook.
PREPPING AND COOKING BEETS
Cooked beets are typically easier to digest for most people than raw, but cooked beets take time. The good news is you can make a big batch to last the week.
Regardless of how you decide to prepare your beets, get ready for a little bit of pink on your hands and surfaces. Avoid stains by wearing a pair of disposable gloves or washing your hands and surfaces with baking soda and dish soap when the preparation is done.
Here are some nutritious, fresh, favorite ways to prepare (and enjoy!) beets:
Raw: Beets can be eaten and enjoyed raw, but it’s necessary to peel the paper-thin skin off first. To prep: Use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin, then your beet is ready to slice and eat. Beets are most enjoyable when sliced thinly with a mandolin or a knife. You can also toss them into smoothies or beet hummus when raw. This is one way you could prep beets for a salad.
Steam-Roasted: Roasting beets in the oven is one of the most flavorful ways to prepare them because the heat from the oven starts to caramelize the natural sugar in the vegetable. To roast: Preheat your oven to 400°F (200ºC). Next, toss whole beets with olive oil (roughly 2 tablespoons oil for every pound of beets) and season with a pinch of sea salt. Place the beets in a medium-sized glass or metal baking pan, and fill the pan with barely enough water to cover the bottom of the pan. Wrap the entire pan tightly with aluminum foil. Bake the pan of beets until a paring knife slips easily through the flesh of the beets, roughly 65–70 minutes. Allow the beets to cool, then rub off the skins with paper or cloth towels (Note: The color will transfer to the fabric so use a dark-colored towel or one you don’t mind staining.)
Pressure-Cooked: If you’re short on time, cooking your beets in a pressure cooker is a great option. The cooking time depends on their size; the smaller the beet, the shorter the cooking time. For the recipe below, medium/small beets are suggested (roughly 5–6 inches in circumference). Though the instructions are written for an electric pressure cooker, a stovetop cooker would work beautifully. To pressure cook: Wash beets under cold water. Trim any stems or greens that are attached and discard them. Pour 1 cup (250ml) cold tap water into your pressure cooker. If you have a trivet or steamer basket that fits your pressure cooker place it in the bottom. Place the washed and trimmed beets on top of the trivet. Close the lid of the pressure cooker and cook the beets on high pressure for 15–21 minutes (15 minutes for firm, slightly crunchy beets; 21 minutes for soft, chewy beets.) Once the beets are done cooking, quick release the pressure. Carefully open the lid and allow the beets to cool slightly before rubbing off the skins, slicing and enjoying.
And still, there’s more! Once your beets are prepared, there are myriad ways you could enjoy them in your meals. Here are a few favorites:
- Bake roasted beets into beet brownies.
- Toss raw beets into your favorite salad.
- Spoon them into your favorite grain bowl.
- Bake a beet cake!
DARK CHOCOLATE BEET CAKE WITH COCONUT FUDGE FROSTING
For the cake
- 4 cups (384g) almond flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/2 cup (125ml) coconut oil
- 3 ounces (90g) vegan baking chips (such as Lily’s), melted
- 1 1/4 cups (225g) beets, boiled until soft, skin removed and diced
- 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
For the coconut fudge frosting
- 8 ounces (240g) vegan baking chips (such as Lily’s)
- 1/2 cup (125ml) coconut oil
- 1 cup (250g) coconut butter
- 1/2 cup (125ml) coconut milk (or almond milk)
- 1/2 cup (50g) unsweetened shredded coconut
- 2 tablespoons freeze-dried raspberries, crushed to powder
First, prepare the frosting: In a small, heavy saucepan over medium heat, melt the chocolate and coconut oil, stirring constantly. Remove the pan from the heat as soon as the mixture is melted and smooth. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer and beat in the coconut butter and milk until a thick, smooth frosting forms. For a fluffy frosting, refrigerate the frosting for 8 hours, then bring to room temperature and beat with an electric mixer until creamy and spreadable.
Now, prepare the cake: Preheat the oven to 350°F (180ºC). Line a 9-inch or two 6-inch cake pans with parchment paper rounds, then generously grease the sides of the pan with coconut oil. Set aside.
In a large bowl, mix together the almond flour, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade attachment, puree the diced beets, melted chocolate and coconut oil until smooth. Add the eggs and continue to blend. Add the vinegar, lemon juice and vanilla and blend until completely combined. Pour the beet mixture into the dry ingredients and mix with a spatula until a batter forms.
Transfer the batter to the prepared pans and bake for 30–40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan for 5–10 minutes, then invert the cake onto a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.
To assemble: Slice the cake horizontally in half using a serrated knife to create two cake rounds. (If you baked the cake in two 6-inch pans, you can skip this step.) Place one round on a plate and top with half of the frosting, spreading evenly. Place the second cake round atop the iced round, lining up the sides of the cake so the rounds stack. Top the second round with the remaining frosting, spreading evenly over the top and down the sides of the cake with a spatula. Sprinkle the top of the cake with unsweetened coconut and freeze-dried raspberries.
Store the assembled cake in the refrigerator.
Serves: 18 | Serving Size: 1 slice
Nutrition (per serving): Calories: 379; Total Fat: 29g; Saturated Fat: 22g; Monounsaturated Fat: 1g; Cholesterol: 31mg; Sodium: 390mg; Carbohydrate: 31g; Dietary Fiber: 2g; Sugar: 22g; Protein: 3g