Amazing ways to cook with beets

If you're not eating beets on the reg, you might consider incorporating these versatile and delicious root vegetables into your diet.

In addition to being a tasty addition to any cook's repertoire, beets are good for you. With low levels of both sodium and fat, they are chock full of B vitamins that optimize brain health, keeping you mentally at your best. They are also known to stave off chronic illnesses, thanks to their abundance of betaine. Beets also possess desirable anti-inflammatory properties as well as loads of antioxidants to counter the effects of aging. Awesome, amiright?

While beets are associated with winter, I love eating them year-round. There are countless ways to prepare beets to create amazing dishes you'll savor any time of the year. And no matter how you cook them up, you should be pleased to know that, with beets, the possibilities are endless.  

Eat 'em raw

Beets are surprisingly tasty just the way they are. I like to shave them up and toss them with good sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and one or two squeezes of lemon juice. Here are some raw beet recipes to get you inspired.

Raw beets are perfect for simple preparations like this one concocted by Mark Bittman for The New York Times. As beets are the main feature, you'll soon discover if you love their unique flavor. After peeling and grating, the beets are tossed with salt, pepper, mustard, oil, and vinegar. Garnish with fresh green herbs and enjoy on a sweltering day. 

This recipe from Cannelle Et Vanille is downright stunning and tastes like a fresh garden dream. Candy cane striped beets are magically transformed into eye-catching ravioli. The beets are thinly shaved and filled with an herbaceous goat cheese mixture seasoned with fresh parsley and thyme. Topped with a bright vinaigrette, this is a meal that speaks to both your eyes and your tastebuds.

Roast 'em up

Roasting beets is a wildly popular and extremely simple way to eat these beautiful multi-colored orbs regularly. Roasting caramelizes the beets and enhances their natural sweetness. They become perfectly fork tender and succulent. While you can devour an entire plate of beets roasted in just olive oil, salt, and pepper. There's no limit to what you can do with this easy preparation.

This recipe from Bon Appetit explodes with flavor and textures. Roasted beets are lightly seasoned with vinegar and salt, then tossed with tender roasted shishito peppers and toasty pecans. To top it all off? A drizzle of chili oil, salty Pecorino cheese, and thinly sliced red onion. The resulting dish is full of depth and savory goodness.

This bright monochromatic dish from Bev Cooks is perfect for date night. Short, perfectly al dente penne pasta is coated in a surprisingly nuanced beet sauce. Yes, beet sauce! Roasted beets are blended in a food processor with garlic, balsamic vinegar, vermouth, Parmesan cheese, and olive oil, resulting in a kicky sauce comparable to pesto. Pasta night can get boring, and this dish is a fun and healthy way to change it up.

Give them the pickling treatment

Beets are ideal for pickling, as their earthy flavor pairs exceptionally well with the tangy acidity of vinegar along with a bit of sweetness. Make a jar of pickled beets and you have yourself an eye-catching garnish for fish tacos, or a perfect crunch tucked into a sandwich. Here are a few pickling ideas to get you excited.

This recipe from Haniela's combines the naturally earthy, sweet flavor of beets with a nuanced, deeply seasoned brine. The beets are first cooked—steamed or roasted—then peeled and thinly sliced or grated. The brine imbues the beets with incredibly tart, savory, and sweet notes, while the bottom layer of horseradish lends kicky oomph.

For a classic take on pickled beets, try this recipe from Epicurious. While it requires a few extra steps and some planning ahead, the result is totally worth the effort. The ingredients for the brine are boiled, cooled, and chilled covered for a day to allow the flavors to meld. Add the beets and wait for the magic to happen—and all in a jar, too.

Put them in your salads

Beets have the unique ability to elevate any salad. They lend a pop of color, an air of substance, and whiff of elegance. They pair well with any number of ingredients, making them a terrific addition to anything from a leafy green mix to a hearty grain salad. Here are some terrific salads that include beets in mouthwatering ways.

I absolutely love for this grain salad from The New York Times. Nothing goes to waste here since both the beets and the beet greens are used to great effect. Paired with ancient grain farro, the dish is undoubtedly healthy, hearty, and vibrant. Throw in crumbly cheese toasty nuts, and a vinaigrette and you have yourself a nutritious dinner that tastes amazing.

If you're crazy about eating colorful foods, try out this recipe from Cookie and Kate. The dish incorporates nutritious greens, heart-healthy grains, root veggies, and a bright herbaceous vinaigrette. It's a dream dish when you want to enjoy something as beautiful as it is delicious.

Fry beets? Yes!

I realize how crazy frying beets sounds, but trust me on this one. You know how everything else tastes indulgently more delicious when fried? Well, yeah, same goes for beets. Whether you pan-fry or deep-fry beets, the results will undoubtedly be amazing: crisp, a bit sweet, a lot savory, and always gone from the plate all too soon.

When you want to indulge—as much as one can indulge with vegetables—try this recipe from Good Food Stories. Deep-fried beets taste like fries, only better. Golden beet cubes are seasoned with toasty furikake, a Japanese seasoning made with ground fish and sesame seeds. Served with spicy mayo, the dish is reminiscent of delicately fried tempura.

This recipe from Food52 combines lightly fried smashed beets with leafy spring greens and hard-boiled egg in a salad that gets a big dose of flavor from a clever vinaigrette made with the water used to boil the beets! I love when recipes find creative ways to add flavor to a dish and I have a feeling you'll love this light dinner, too.

Hide them in your favorite desserts

If you think beets are just for savory dishes, think again. They can be found in some pretty amazing desserts, too. These exceptionally nutritious vegetables also happen to be a killer secret ingredient in sweet dishes — they add moisture and sweetness without affecting the taste very much.

Try this recipe from Joy the Baker when you want to infuse heaps of antioxidants into your diet and eat chocolate cake all the same. Moist as can be and layered to perfection, I recommend making this cake to share with people you really enjoy.

This recipe from Letty's Kitchen is simply divine. It yields a batch of unapologetically chocolatey cookies that taste just like your favorite red velvet cake. A cookie-cake hybrid is something we should all support.

Use their natural redness to color foods

With their bright red color, beets are an ideal choice for making natural food coloring. I love decorating cakes with richly hued pink and red tones but hate to think about all the distasteful chemicals that go into the food coloring tubes I see at the grocery store. You can achieve a wide range of pinks and reds using beets, which are all beautiful when applied to your favorite frostings. You can even use the coloring for dyeing eggs come the holidays.

Here's everything you need to know about how to make natural food coloring using beets. There's no turning back now.

Just boil

Boiling beets is one of the easiest ways to get them cooked and ready to incorporate into almost any dish. When boiling beets, keep the skin on for best results, helping them to retain their flavor. To ensure that the flavor and juice stay intact, keep a bit of the stalk and root ends for the boiling. Simply submerge in a pot of water and simmer away. 

If you feel you absolutely need clear instructions on how to boil beets, let Garlic Girl show you how here. Spoiler alert: It's super easy.

This recipe from The New York Times turns humble boiled beets to into a dish that's bursting with Moroccan-inspired flavors derived from cumin, lemon, and garlic. This is an easy beet preparation that requires little thinking, few ingredients, and zero stress, which makes it one of my favorite go-tos.

Use the beet greens

Before you toss the beet greens into the compost bin, you should probably know that they too are chock full of nutrients and totally worth cooking up. Like any other leafy green, they are wonderful when gently braised, sauteed, or simmered in soups. Besides, using up every part of the vegetable is just so satisfying.

This simple recipe from Martha Stewart shows you how to easily saute beet greens with garlic. While the dish is pared down and delicious, keep in mind that a recipe like this is begging for improvisation. Season your greens with whatever you feel inspired by or make it complement your main course.

Now that you're privy to just how versatile beets can be, time to get in the kitchen and play!