Skip the pre-cooked beets at the store and learn how to cook this vibrant, earthy root vegetable.
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Peeled beetroot in bowl
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Compared to sweet potatoes or carrots, beets aren't winning any popularity contests. They can take a while to cook, their sweet yet earthy flavor might make people dislike them, and (if not handled properly) they will dye your hands red. But beets are also one of nature's most beautiful vegetables, and they're highly nutritious, versatile, and tasty too. 

The most common beet you'll come across at the supermarket is the striking red beet with its garnet red color, but you'll also find golden beets, and the reddish-pink and white Chioggia beet, which is more commonly known as the candy cane beet. This root veggie is rich in antioxidants, folate, and manganese, making it an excellent addition to healthful meals. Bonus: The veiny, leafy tops are edible and can be simply sautéed like any other leafy green.

Despite their beauty and adaptability, beets have the tendency to scare off home cooks. If you're one of them, consider these three simple solutions: Shop for small to medium beets, which tend to be more tender than larger ones (and they cook quicker as well), inject flavor from herbs and spices, and peel beets after cooking by gently rubbing off the skin with a paper towel. Ta-da! Now you can get to cooking that gorgeous bunch of beets.

To prepare beets, cut away the greens to reserve for sautéing, then give the beets a good wash. The size of the beets will affect the cooking time. Beets should cook until they're tender when pierced with a fork.

Beets turn silky when cooked. Toss beets into a salad or top off a grain bowl, serve as an appetizer with ricotta, feta, or yogurt, blend into a colorful dip or use as a spread on a sandwich. Beets pair well with olive oil, salt, pepper, and fresh and woody herbs. And fun fact: Beets can be thinly sliced and enjoyed raw.

If meal-prepping, cooled beets can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to five days.

Roasting

Roasting concentrates the beet's sweet and earthy flavor. All you need is a hot oven and aluminum foil for this popular cooking method.

  1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  2. Loosely wrap prepped beets individually in aluminum foil and place on a rimmed baking sheet. (If roasting small beets, wrap them together in aluminum foil).
  3. Roast, checking halfway through, until tender when pierced with a fork, 45 to 55 minutes. If beets look like they're drying out, sprinkle with a bit of water, re-wrap in foil, and continue roasting.
  4. Set beets aside until cool enough to handle. Hold one beet using a large piece of paper towel and rub off the skin with the paper towel to peel; discard the skin. Trim ends if needed. Continue with the remaining beets.
  5. Cut into wedges, slice, or chop, and dress with olive oil, salt, and pepper, if desired.

Oven-Steaming

For cooking batches between one to four pounds of beets, steam-roasting is a go-to and prevents the root vegetable from drying out.

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Place prepped beets and 3 tablespoons to ¼ cup water in a shallow baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Add rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, or sage, if desired. Cover tightly with aluminum foil, and bake until beets are tender when pierced with a fork, 45 to 60 minutes. Set aside until cool enough to handle.
  3. Rub off skins with paper towels to peel; discard skin. Trim ends if needed.
  4. Cut into wedges, slice, or chop, and dress with olive oil, salt, and pepper, if desired.

Steaming

For cooking batches of one to four pounds of beets, steam-roasting is a go-to and prevents the root vegetable from drying out.

  1. Add about 2 inches of water to a saucepan with a lid.
  2. Set a steamer basket in a saucepan, making sure the water does not touch it.
  3. Add prepped beets, bring water to a boil over high, and cover. Cook, until beets are tender when pierced with a fork, 30 to 45 minutes. Set aside until cool enough to handle.
  4. Rub off skins with paper towels to peel; discard skin. Trim ends if needed.
  5. Cut into wedges, slice, or chop, and dress with olive oil, salt, and pepper, if desired.

Boiling

Quick and easy. Keep about 1 inch of the stem attached to the beet to prevent loss of nutrients as it boils.

  1. Place prepped beets in a large saucepan and cover with water. Add a large pinch of salt.
  2. Bring water to a boil over high and cook beets at a rolling boil, until tender when pierced with a fork, 30 to 45 minutes. Set aside until cool enough to handle.
  3. Rub off skins with paper towels to peel; discard skin. Trim ends if needed.
  4. Cut into wedges, slice, or chop, and dress with olive oil, salt, and pepper, if desired.

Grilling

The best way to grill beets is in a neat foil package, much like roasting in the oven. This ensures beets stay tender and prevents them from drying out and turning chewy if sliced and grilled. Any size beets work, but this is when small beets really pay off.

  1. Preheat a grill to medium-high (375 F to 450 F).
  2. Stack two large pieces of aluminum foil and place prepped beets, preferably small, on top of the double-layered aluminum foil. Add rosemary, thyme, sage, or bay leaves, if desired.
  3. Drizzle beets with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Fold and seal all sides of aluminum foil to create a package. Cut a few small vents on the package to help release steam when cooking.
  4. Place on grill grates and grill, until tender when pierced with a fork, 30 to 50 minutes. Set aside until cool enough to handle.
  5. Rub off skins with paper towels to peel; discard skin. Trim ends if needed.
  6. Cut into wedges, slice, or chop, and dress with olive oil, salt, and pepper, if desired.

Sautéing

Quickly cooking beets in a hot pan allows for an extra dose of flavor, plus other veggies or beet greens can come along for the ride. It's a great method to give new life to pre-cooked and leftover beets, or trim and peel beets with a Y-shaped vegetable peeler then thinly slice into half-moons.

Quickly cooking beets in a hot pan allows for an extra dose of flavor, plus other veggies or beet greens can come along for the ride. It's a great method to give new life to pre-cooked and leftover beets, or trim and peel beets with a Y-shaped vegetable peeler, then thinly slice into half-moons.

  1. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high.
  2. Add about 3 prepped medium beets and season with salt and pepper. Stir in chopped fresh rosemary, thyme, or sage, or the dried seasoning of your choice such as Italian seasoning or herbs de Provence. Cook, stirring, until warmed through (if using pre-cooked beets), 2 to 3 minutes. If using raw beets that are peeled and cut into half-moons, add 3 tablespoons of water to skillet and cover. Cook, until beets are just tender, five to 10 minutes.
  3. Add greens and cook, stirring throughout, until greens are wilted, about five minutes.

Cooking in an Instant Pot

If you can, take advantage of the efficiency of an Instant Pot. It shaves off time when cooking beets and keeps them smooth and tender.

  1. Add 1¼ cup of water to the Instant Pot. Fit steamer insert inside the Instant Pot and place the prepped beets on top.
  2. Lock the lid and turn the pressure release valve to seal. Select to cook on Manual, at High Pressure, for 15 minutes.
  3. Turn off Instant Pot and wait about 10 minutes to partially depressurize. Release remaining pressure, remove lid, and transfer the steamer insert with the beets to a work surface covered with paper towels. Set aside until cool enough to handle.
  4. Rub off skins with paper towels to peel; discard skin. Trim ends if needed.
  5. Cut into wedges, slice, or chop, and dress with olive oil, salt, and pepper, if desired.

Air Frying

Using an air fryer essentially roasts beets, but saves you a significant amount of time. The catch is that, unlike most other cooking methods, it's preferred to peel the beets before cooking. Peel using a vegetable peeler (Y-shaped peelers are heaven-sent), and then chop beets into equal-sized pieces for even cooking. To avoid stained hands, use disposable gloves or peel beets with hands submerged in cool water.

  1. Heat an air fryer to 400 F.
  2. Trim and peel two pounds of beets. Cut into 1-inch pieces.
  3. Toss with a drizzle of olive oil, and season with salt and pepper in a large bowl.
  4. Arrange in an even layer on air fryer basket and air-fry for 8 minutes. Toss and rearrange in an even layer and cook, until beets are fork-tender, about 10 minutes more.