Learn How to Cook Beets with five easy methods, including microwaving, boiling, steaming, and two different roasting techniques.
Each process unlocks beets’ full flavor potential for salads, smoothies, appetizers, sides, and more!
Beets are a very nutritious vegetable. They are delicious, inexpensive, and easy to store.
Unfortunately, beets aren’t very popular.
Many people say that they don’t like beets. But I am convinced that if you know how to cook beets correctly, you will appreciate them more and include them in your diet as often as possible.
With that in mind, we’re digging up all the dirt in this article – including the best ways to cook beets on the stovetop, in the oven, and even in the microwave!
Plus, preparation do’s and don’t and serving suggestions that make this humble root vegetable’s unique taste and texture shine.
So, without further ado, welcome to the wonderful world of beets!
What are beets?
Scientifically known as Beta vulgaris, beets are hardy, cylindrical-shaped root vegetables with firm outer skin.
Red beets are the most common, but you’ll find beets in hues such as white, golden, and even colorful candy cane-striped patterns.
As for flavor, beets have a naturally sweet, slightly earthy essence with a hint of pleasant bitterness that intensifies when cooked.
What to Look for When Buying Beets
Here are the most important factors to consider when buying your next batch of beets:
- Color variety – The instructions in this post specifically pertain to red beets because I don’t have as much experience with the other types, but feel free to experiment. Whether red, white, golden, or rainbow-striped, the cooking methods generally remain the same.
- Beets with greens – Ultimately, this comes down to personal preference. Buying beets with greens is a good choice if you have immediate plans to sauté them or use them in other dishes like salads and soups, as the stems and leaves tend to wilt very quickly.
- Beets without greens – On the other hand, beets without greens are a better option if you won’t use the greens. Plus, they have a longer shelf life and are typically less expensive. Just be sure to pick beets that are firm and free of blemishes and soft spots.
- Size – Choose medium beets approximately 2 to 4 inches in diameter. Medium-sized beets work best because they’re easier to peel than smaller ones and have more flavor and better texture than larger ones. Additionally, try to select beets of uniform size so they cook at the same rate.
How to Store Raw Beets
After buying or harvesting beets, here’s what you need to do:
- Store the greens: Cut the greens off, leaving about 1″ of the stem attached. Rinse the greens under cold water and dry them well. Then wrap them loosely in a damp paper towel and refrigerate in the vegetable crisper for up to 3 days.
- Store the beetroot: Rinse the beets and dry them thoroughly. Then, place them in an airtight bag and refrigerate them in the vegetable crisper for up to 3 weeks.
It’s worth noting that the actual shelf life of both beet greens and beetroot may vary depending on the freshness of the produce at the time of purchase.
How to Prep Beets for Cooking
Remember, when working with red beets, you should be cautious of the released juice, as it can permanently stain fabrics and certain surfaces.
You can wear gloves, of course, but if you end up staining your hands, don’t worry – it will wash off eventually!
Here is how to prep beets for cooking:
- Trim: Cut off the beet greens if they’re still attached, leaving about 1″ of the stem.
- Wash: Rinse the beetroot under cool, running water to remove dirt or debris. Use a soft brush or your hands to scrub the surface if needed.
- Do NOT peel: To retain nutrients and flavor, do not peel the beets or cut off the long-rooted end. You can trim it if it’s too long, but keep the skin intact as much as possible.
How to Cook Beets
Whether you’re cooking beets for an appetizer, salad, smoothie, or side dish, leaving them whole and unpeeled and proceeding with one of the following convenient cooking methods results in soft, juicy beets bursting with flavor:
Boiling produces juicy, plump beets. But know that a lot of the red pigment leaks into the cooking liquid, so if you use this method, your beets may be less vibrant.
How to boil beets:
- Place the prepped beets in a large deep pot with enough water to cover them by at least 3 inches.
- Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until the beets are fork-tender (about 1 to 1 ½ hours).
Keep in mind:
The water will gradually evaporate, so check the water level periodically, adding more water to submerge the beets if needed.
Roasting beets in the oven is one of the most popular ways of cooking beets.
Roasted beets have rich concentrated flavor and work in many recipes.
The biggest disadvantage of using the roasting method of cooking red beets is that it takes a long time, usually at least two hours for medium-sized beets.
How to roast beets in the oven:
- Wrap each beet in aluminum foil or place the beets in a baking dish and cover it with a lid or foil. You can also roast them unwrapped.
- Roast the beets in the oven at 400℉ until tender (about 1½ to 2 hours).
Roasting beets in foil vs. without:
If you are roasting quite a few beets, wrapping each individual beet in foil might become wasteful.
So, if you don’t want to wrap every single beet in foil, you can place the beets into a baking dish and cover the dish with the foil instead, or simply use a baking dish with a lid.
Wrapping beets in foil helps to trap the moisture in the beets and also makes clean-up a breeze because beet juices won’t run onto your baking dish during cooking.
Another advantage is that you can roast your beets while you are cooking something else in the oven.
Just tack it somewhere in the corner while you are roasting a chicken or making a casserole.
If you don’t have any foil on hand, don’t want to waste it on the beets, or, like me, don’t like wrapping food in aluminum foil, you can roast beets without wrapping them in foil.
Just place the beets on a baking sheet, put them in the oven, and roast until they are done.
In the photo above, the beets on the left were roasted without foil, and those on the right were roasted with foil.
As you can see, the beets on the right are more succulent and plump, while those on the left have dry wrinkly skin. They are also not as plump as the beets that were roasted in foil. But their flavor is very rich and concentrated.
Steaming isn’t necessarily the best way to cook whole beets because they’re very dense, and it can take a long time to cook them through.
You can, however, steam smaller beets, especially fresh baby beets, quite successfully!
How to steam beets:
- Place the beets in a single layer in a steamer basket. Add water to the steamer and bring it to a boil.
- Cover and steam until the beets are tender (about 1 hour).
Keep in mind:
The water will gradually evaporate, so check the water level occasionally, adding more water to the steamer as needed.
Steam-roasting beets is a happy medium between boiling, steaming, and roasting them, and produces juicy beets with rich flavor.
Steam roasting is also faster than regular roasting. When I tested both methods, the steam-roasted beets were done cooking about 30 minutes sooner than the dry-roasted beets.
This is my favorite way of cooking beets.
How to steam-roast beets:
- Place the beets in a baking dish with about 1″ of water. Cover the dish with foil so it isn’t touching the beets. You can also use a baking dish with a lid.
- Create a small opening on the side for steam to release, and roast the beets at 400℉ until fork-tender (about 1 to 1 ½ hours).
Keep in mind:
The steam beneath the foil will be scalding, so please be careful when removing it from the baking dish. I usually turn off the heat and leave the baking dish in the oven until everything is cool enough to handle.
If you’re short on time, this method only takes about 20 minutes, making it the fastest way to cook beets.
Another advantage of this method is that the beets don’t produce any smell.
When you boil, roast, or steam-roast beets, you will often notice a distinctive aroma. Some people are very sensitive to it. So, if you or anyone in your household can’t handle this smell, try cooking beets in a microwave.
How to cook beets in the microwave:
- Punch holes in the skin with a fork, then place the beets in a single layer in a microwave-safe dish. Add about an inch of water and cover it with a lid.
- Cook on high for 10 to 12 minutes (depending on the size of the beets and the power of your microwave oven). When the timer stops, let the beets rest inside the microwave for 10 more minutes.
Here are a few tips to help you cook the most delicious beets possible:
Cooking Beets Takes Time
Beets can take up to 2 hours, sometimes even longer, depending on the size of your beets and the cooking method you decide to use.
That said, there’s nothing worse than an undercooked beet. So, always check for doneness, and when in doubt, keep cooking.
How to Check for Doneness
To check if the beets are completely done, insert a fork into the beet and push it to the center.
Don’t use a knife because it might just slice the beet, and you won’t really know if it’s done or not.
The fork should slide inside very smoothly without much resistance, and it should also come out easily.
Keep in mind that when you pierce the skin of the beet, it will start to release the juice through the holes, so don’t go overboard.
If you make too many punctures, the juice will seep through the holes, and you’ll lose nutrients, moisture, and flavor.
How to Peel Cooked Beets
Before peeling, let the beets rest until they’re cool enough to handle, or place them under cold running water or in an ice bath to speed up the process.
You can use a vegetable peeler, paring knife or simply peel the beets with your fingers or a paper towel.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are a few other related questions on cooking beets:
Do you have to peel beets?
While the skin on beets is edible, it isn’t always pleasant. So, I highly recommend cooking beets with the skin on and peeling them right before serving.
Should you slice beets before boiling them?
When sliced beets are immersed in water, they release a lot of juice, nutrients, and flavor. So it’s best to cook beets whole with their skin intact and then slice them after cooking.
What is the best way to cook sliced beets?
If you have already peeled and sliced the beets, I wouldn’t recommend cooking methods that require water, like boiling and steam roasting.
Instead, roast the sliced beets in the oven the good old-fashioned way.
How do you store leftover cooked beets?
Let the beets cool completely to room temperature. If desired, chop the beets into your preferred size and shape so they’re more convenient to use in recipes later.
Store the beets in an airtight glass container in the fridge for 4 to 5 days or in the freezer for 3 months.
How to Serve Cooked Beets
Now that you’ve mastered the art of cooking beets, it’s time to enjoy them in salads, appetizers, and side dishes.
Beets are great for making ahead because they keep very well in the fridge.
Cook a few beets on the weekend, put them in the refrigerator, and you will have a healthy side dish for weeknight dinners.
Beets taste great with just a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of sea salt.
You can also get creative with the complementary flavors and textures of goat cheese, feta cheese, fresh garlic, fresh parsley or cilantro, pistachios, pepitas, balsamic vinegar, quinoa, soy sauce, sesame seeds, and so on.
Here are a few beet recipes that call for cooked beets:
- Mediterranean Beets with Garlic and Olive Oil
- Beet Quinoa Salad with Goat Cheese and Grapefruit
- Detox Kale and Beet Salad
- Beet Salad with Walnuts
More Ways to Cook Beets
Cooking beets whole for salads, appetizers, and side dishes is the most popular way of using beets.
If you’re looking for more ways to incorporate beets into your diet, try the following:
- Make beet soup. Beet soups are delicious, filling, and comforting. They are also quite easy to make. If you’ve never cooked beet soup, try this Easy Beetroot Soup Recipe.
- Saute shredded or spiralized beets. As you can see, whole beets take a long time to cook, which requires you to plan ahead. But if you don’t have cooked beets on hand and would love to have them as a side dish, try these Sauteed Beets.
- Make a vegetable medley. Planning to roast some vegetables? Try adding beets! They taste delicious as a part of the roasted vegetable mix. Just follow the instructions in this Roasted Root Vegetable Recipe.
- Make a raw beet salad. Yes, you can eat beets raw! Raw beets are crunchy, juicy, and sweet. If you have never tried raw beets, this Raw Beet Salad Recipe will get you started.
- Sautee the beet greens. If you bought beets with stems and leaves, don’t let them go to waste! Try this Easy Sauteed Beet Greens Recipe.
Now It’s Your Turn
And just like that, we’ve reached the end of exploring different ways of cooking beets.
I’ve carefully tested the different cooking methods and enjoyed every beet, so I’m confident your next beetroot endeavor will succeed!
Now it’s your turn. Do you love beets? Have you cooked red beets before? Have you tried any of these methods?
What about other techniques like in an air fryer, slow cooker, or Instant Pot? Which one do you like best?
If you want to share anything about your experience cooking beets, I’d love to hear all about it, so please leave a comment below.
- 2 medium red beets (about 2 to 4 inches in diameter)
- If the beets still have the green leaves attached, cut them off leaving about 1 inch of the red stalks. Wash the beets and scrub them with a brush if needed.
How to boil beets:
- Place the beets in a deep saucepan and add enough water to cover the beets by at least three inches. Optionally, add 1 tablespoon of white vinegar to the water.
- Bring the water to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and cook the beets for about 1 to 1 1/2 hour or until they are tender.
How to roast beets:
- Option # 1: wrap each beet in aluminum foil or place the beets in a baking dish and cover it with a lid. Option #2: place the beets in a baking dish.
- Roast the beets in the oven at 400F for about 1.5 to 2 hours or until the beets are tender.
How to steam beets:
Use this method only for small beets!
- Place the beets in a single layer in a steam basket.
- Add water to the steamer, bring the water to a boil, cover, and steam for about 1 hour or until the beets are tender.
- Check on the beets every once in a while to make sure the water hasn’t evaporated and add more water if needed.
How to steam-roast beets:
- Place the beets in a baking dish.
- Add about 1 inch of water. Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil making sure the foil doesn’t touch the beets. Leave a small opening at one corner to let the steam out. You can also use a baking dish with a lid.
- Place the beets in the oven and steam-roast them at 400F for about 1 to 1 1/2 hour or until you can easily pierce them with a fork.
How to cook beets in the microwave:
- Make a few holes in the skin using a fork. Place the beets in a single layer in a microwave-safe dish. Add about 1 inch of water to the dish and cover it with a lid.
- Cook the beets on high for 10 to 12 minutes (depending on the size of the beets and the power of your microwave oven).
- After the microwave turns off, leave the beets inside for 10 more minutes.
How to check beets for doneness:
- Insert a fork into the beet and push it to the center. Don’t use a knife because it might just slice the beet and you won’t really know if it’s done or not. The fork should slide inside very smoothly without much resistance, and it should also come out very easily.
1. If you’ve printed this recipe card, please refer to the blog post for more information, pictures, and instructions.
2. Nutrition information is a rough estimate for 1 medium beet.
Nutrition InformationYield 1 portion Serving Size 1 beet
Amount Per Serving Calories 35Total Fat 0gSaturated Fat 0gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 0gCholesterol 0mgSodium 64mgCarbohydrates 7.8gFiber 2.3gSugar 5.5gProtein 1.3g
Nutrition facts provided on this website are an estimate and not guaranteed to be accurate. Please see a qualified health care provider for personalized diet advice and make sure that each of the ingredients is allowed in your diet.