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What Do Beets Taste Like? Your Ultimate Guide To Beets.


Beets may look intimidating and not at all appealing. For this reason, many people who are unfamiliar with them shy away from buying them and never try them altogether without even considering their taste.

This brings us to the question: what do beets taste like? Well, it depends on who you are asking. Beet lovers say they have a sweet, rich, earthy flavor, but beet haters say they taste like dirt. Which statement is true?

cutting board with sliced red beets

What Are Beets?

Beets are root vegetables that come as round bulbs with leaves. They have a shape similar to radishes and turnips. The main root of beets grows vertically under the ground, similar to carrots. 

In North America, they are called beets. In British English, they are called beetroots. 

Their color varies, but they are usually deep red to bright purple. However, they can also be yellow and white. There are also striped beets which are most commonly called Chioggia beets. 

A beet ready for harvest is about the size of a tennis ball, but some grow larger depending on their variety and their maturity. Raw beets are crunchy, so they can add crispiness to your dish. However, they become creamy and soft after cooking. 

Canned beets also exist, and they taste sweeter than fresh beets. You can find them in most grocery stores. Beets can be eaten without being cooked; most people even say that raw beets taste better than cooked ones.

What Parts Are Edible?

All parts of the beet are edible – bulbs, leaves, roots, and stems. The whole beet can even be eaten raw. 

Roots

People know the roots of a beet as the beet itself. Beetroots can be eaten raw and added to salads. You can roast, steam, bake, pickle, juice, or blend them in your smoothies.

Leave at least two inches of the stem when you separate the beets from the greens so they will not bleed their red color.  It is also best to reduce cooking time when the beets are smaller than two inches.

Skin

Some find it challenging to peel beets, but the good news is that there is no need to peel them at all because their skin is edible. Just ensure that you wash off the fibrous threads and dirt from the beet skin before eating them.

However, if you must peel beets, it is best to cook them first because the skin will peel off easily after cooking.

Leaves

Also called beet greens, the leaves of beets are most often thrown away because it is not widely known that they are edible. Beets have small, tender leaves ideal for salads. They can also be sautéed, steamed, boiled, or added to smoothies. Beet leaves are also fine additions to your pasta, egg scrambles, or omelet. 

Stems

Fresh beets have small stems that are not too fibrous. These stems can be eaten raw or cooked, but they are best when sautéed in olive oil, garlic, and lemon juice. Steamed beet stems are also a popular ingredient in soups, while the raw stems are great when added to smoothies or making pickle beet stems. 

What Do Pickled Beets Taste Like?

Pickled beets mostly have an earthy taste, a delicate balance between tanginess and sweetness. However, this taste can change depending on how you pickle them because the flavor of pickled beets also depends on the other ingredients of your recipe. 

Pickling involves mixing food in an acidic solution containing salt, vinegar, and sugar. This process helps preserve food and produces an intense flavor. Some only add sugar and salt minus the vinegar, while others add garlic and pepper seeds or spicy peppers. 

The sweet, spicy, sour, and hot combination of pickled beets will initially confuse your taste buds, but it is an excellent garnish for your tacos. They are also good substitutes for cooked beets. 

What Does Beetroot Taste Like?

When you wash and properly prepare fresh beets, they will have a sweet, earthy, and slightly floral flavor. The sweetness becomes more distinct depending on the beet variety and preparation. 

Geosmin is an organic compound produced in the soil by microbes that is responsible for the earthy taste of beets. Other vegetables such as mushrooms, spinach, and lettuce also have high levels of geosmin. That being said, if you love mushrooms and spinach, you will most likely love beets. 

What Do Roasted Beets Taste Like?

Roasting brings out the concentrated flavor of beets, adding a sweet taste to the beets while removing their earthy, dirt-like taste. Because of this, roasted beets mostly taste sweet, with only just a hint of bitterness.

It is easy to make roasted beets, which are an excellent ingredient in many recipes. This process takes about an hour for whole large beets, but cutting them into wedges or quarters speeds up the roasting time.

Red Beets vs. Golden Beets

The difference between red and golden beets is minimal, so they can be a substitute for one another if color is not an issue. However, there are some differences worth noting.

Red beets have rounded to ovate shape and a small taproot extending from its end. They turn soft and tender after cooking and have a sweet, earthy taste.  

On the other hand, golden beets are a variety of beets that lack red pigments and have a semi-rough skin. They are round with an irregular, flat shape, and their roots are connected to their long, crisp green stems. 

Red beets have a rougher texture than gold beets, so it is softer to peel and cut golden beets than red beets. 

Golden beets taste slightly milder and sweeter than red beets but have a less earthy taste than their red counterparts. For this reason, if you do not like red beets that much, there is a very good chance that you will love golden beets.

Lastly, red beets bleed while golden beets do not.

How To Make Beets Taste Good

Some people are sensitive to the aroma of beets, influencing their dislike for this root crop. Others also dislike the taste of beets because they do not look good with their roots dangling; worst, some people compare eating beets to eating dirt.

If you think beets taste good and delectable, good for you. However, for people who dislike them, the good news is that there are some ways to make beets taste better. 

Here are a few tips to make beets taste milder and, therefore, more appealing:  

  • Season beets with salt and pepper. 
  • Add vinegar to your beets to reduce their earthy taste while making them remain fresh and easy to digest. 
  • Puree the beetroot and cook it in broth with full-fat coconut milk or heavy cream. This will bring out the sweet and delicate flavor of the beet.
  • Slice the beets and toss them into your soup. This way, the beets will taste as good as the other vegetables in your soup.
  • Toss the beets with dill or other herbs, such as rosemary, in olive oil and combine all the flavors nicely. 
  • Add beets to cacao and make a nice chocolate smoothie. 
  • Mix beets, ginger, and lemon to make a refreshing beetroot juice. 
  • Expose the beets to heat and bring out their natural sugar content. 
  • Use raw red beets in your salads and let their flavor blend with the other ingredients.
  • Roast red beets, add them to your burgers, make soup with beets, add them to pasta, and make them into sauces.
  • Make beet wedges into chips and dunk them in a dip of your preference. 
  • Put them in cakes, tarts, and lemonade.

What to Pair the beets with

Pair the beets with these ingredients to mask their dirt-like taste:

  • Herbs. Thyme, tarragon, parsley, cilantro, dill, and basil. 
  • Spices. Curry and Cumin.
  • Vegetables. Onions, potatoes, and onions. 
  • Fruits. Apples, oranges, lemons, and limes. 
  • Dairy. Yogurt, sour cream, blue cheese, and goat cheese. 

Cooking Beets Methods

Beets can be cooked in various ways, making them versatile vegetables. Boiling, steaming, and roasting are among the most popular ways to cook beets.

Boiling

Boiling will subdue the flavor of the beets, making them ideal for use in many of your meat recipes. It also softens the beets making them easy to use in your soups, smoothies, purees, and cake or cookie dough. 

Here is the proper way to boil beets:

  1. Place the beets in a pot.
  2. Cover them with one to two inches of water.
  3. Bring the beets to a rolling boil over high heat. 
  4. Simmer the beets until they are fork-tender.
  5. Transfer the beets to an ice water bath. 
  6. Peel off the skin. 

While boiling is the fastest way to cook the beets, be mindful that boiling them will cause water-soluble nutrients to leech out. 

Roasting

Beets contain a lot of sugar. When roasted, the heat releases their natural sweetness and brings down their earthy flavor.

Here are the steps to properly roast beets: 

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. 
  2. Thoroughly wash the beets. 
  3. Drizzle the beets with olive oil. 
  4. Wrap the beets in foil. 
  5. Place the wrapped beets in a baking dish. 
  6. Roast the beets in the oven for 45 minutes or until soft. 
  7. Remove the beets from the oven. 
  8. Allow them to cool. 
  9. Peel off the skin. 
  10. Rinse the beets in cold water. 

Steaming 

Small to medium-sized beets are the best beet sizes to steam. It is also best to steam the beets whole. 

Follow these steps to stem beets:

  1. Thoroughly clean the beets. 
  2. Fill a saucepot halfway with water. The water level should be below the steamer basket. 
  3. Place the steamer basket inside the saucepot. 
  4. Fill the steamer basket with the beets. 
  5. Bring the water to a boil and turn it down to low heat. 
  6. Steam the beets until they become fork-tender. 
  7. Remove the beets from the steamer basket. 
  8. Peel them after they have cooled.

Steaming uses the same process as boiling. In steaming, though, the beets lose fewer nutrients because the beets do not get in direct contact with the surrounding water. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Are beets and beetroots the same?

Yes, they are the same. Americans and Canadians call these root crops beets, whereas people call them beetroot in England. Beet or beetroots also go under these names: 

  • Red beet
  • Sugar Beet 
  • Raw beetroot
  • Table beet
  • Dinner beet

Can I eat raw beets? 

Yes, you can eat raw beets. In fact, eating them raw is the healthiest way to consume them because, this way, all their nutrients remain intact.

Grate raw beets and add them to your grain bowls, sandwiches, and salads. Sliced beets will give your dishes an extra crunch. Raw beets can also be pickled.

What is the best way to cook beets? 

The best way to cook beets is to roast them because by doing this, they lose very little of their nutrients during the cooking process. Boiling them causes most of their nutrients to leech into the water, rendering you with a bland flavor and a less nutritious vegetable.

On the other hand, steaming does not make beets lose most of their mineral content but takes longer than roasting. Because of this, roasting is considered the best way to cook beets in terms of nutrition and cooking time.

Final Thoughts

If you have ever asked the question ‘What do beets taste like?’, the answer depends on how you eat, prepare, and cook them. 

Most people dislike beets because of their earthy flavor, but with proper preparation and cooking, you can alter the taste of beets to suit your preferences. Indeed, there are many ways to prepare and cook beets to make them taste better. 

If you have yet to taste beets, do not believe everything people say about this root crop. They can be delicious, and they can also make many of your dishes taste better, too.

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Natalia is a recipe developer, food photographer, and home cook. She started Flavorful Home to document her recipes and share home cooking tips. She loves creating flavorful and nutritious meals while keeping the cooking process simple and joyful!

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