How to Cook Beets

Beets at market

Beets at market

by Cat, Dec 2010 (photo from Wikimedia Commons

Beets can be eaten raw (juiced, or finely shredded), and are especially good fermented (pickled beets).  But they can also be cooked.

There are two good ways to cook beets: roasting or simmering; but its important to note that you do NOT peel the beets before cooking.  This helps them retain their vital nutrients.  Plus its much easier to peel them after cooking.

See also: (1) Root Vegetables (About); (2) Borscht – Eastern European Beet Soup

To prepare them for cooking, trim off the leaves and the long skinny tip, but leave about 1 -2″ of the stems to help prevent nutrient loss..  (You can reserve the leaves for another use; the skinny tip can be saved for making veggie broth). Rinse off any crusted-on dirt, but do not peel (they are easily peeled after cooking).  Cooking time depends on the size of the beets; smaller ones will cook faster.

Roast Beets:

This is the standard method, but I rarely cook them this way because of aluminum exposure from the foil.

  1. Rinse beets to remove dirt and debris.
  2. Wrap beets tightly in foil, sealing the edges and  roast at 3250 F.  You can also add a clove or two of unpeeled garlic to the mix.  Cook beets until a toothpick can be inserted easily, 30 minutes to 1 hour, depending on size of the beets.
  3. Let them cool until you can handle them; then, using your fingers, slide the ‘skin’ (the outer layer) off the beets to ‘peel’ them.

Mercola has a slightly different method, using a “ceramic braiser” and coconut oil in a 3750F oven (5). This has the advantage of avoiding exposure to aluminum in the foil.

  1. Preheat oven to 3750F. Grease ceramic braiser with coconut oil on bottom and sides.
  2. Rinse beets to remove dirt and debris, then pat them dry.
  3. Place beets in braiser and drizzle with coconut oil.
  4. Cover braiser and roast in oven until tender. Test for doneness with toothpick or fork. Smaller beets take about 25 minutes; larger beets need more time.
  5. Remove braiser from oven and place on rack or pad to cool with the lid off.
  6. When cooled enough to handle, slide the ‘skin’ (the outer layer) off the beets to ‘peel’ them with your fingers.

Steamed Beets:

Steaming is the cooking method to use if you want to preserve as much nutritional value as possible (overcooking destroys much of the benefit). This method is best for small beets (dollar-size or less); larger beets need more time – 1 hour or more – to test done (by easily inserting a toothpick, fork or knife-tip into the beet).

I do not recommend cutting the raw beet into wedges before cooking, because all the nutrients will bleed out without the peel.

  1. Rinse off, but do not peel beets before cooking. If the beets are fresh from the garden or market with the leaves attached, cut off the stems about 1″ above the beetroot, to prevent excessive ‘bleeding’ of beet juice and nutrients while cooking.
  2. Fill the bottom of the steamer with 2 inches of water and bring to a rapid boil. Add beets, cover, reduce heat to low, and steam for 15 minutes. Beets are cooked when you can easily insert a toothpick, fork or knife-tip into the beet. (4)

Simmered Beets:

This is my usual way to prepare large beets (2-inches or more in diameter).

  • Place unpeeled beets in saucepan and cover with water.  Bring to boil, add pinch of salt, then reduce heat to simmer and cook until the beets are tender, 30 minutes to 1 hour, depending on size of the beets.   Test for doneness with a toothpick. As water boils down, add more water to keep the beets covered.
    • NOTE: If the beet is larger than 1-inch in diameter, I don’t simmer them long enough to be completely done, as I will cut them into serving size sections, and reheat in my steamer about 10 minutes when I want to serve them, until completely done.
    • NOTE: Mercola’s method (5): simmer for 30 min [or 45 min if greater than 2″ in diameter], then transfer to bowl of ice-water; if cannot easily remove peel with hands, return to simmering water and test again in ice water for a “few minutes” and test again.
  • Remove from heat.  Remove the beets from the water and rinse under cold water, or place in ice water, to make them easier to handle.  Using your fingers, slide the ‘skin’ (the outer layer) off the beets to ‘peel’ them.

These beets are excellent just as they are, or you can use them in one of my recipes.

See also Borscht – Easter European Beet Soup for another example of simmering beets.

Fermented Beets

See my post: Pickled Beets or Turnips for my method.

Pickled Beets

Mercola’s method (2) is different from fermented beets because they are not fermented but rather  cooked and then acidified with apple cider vinegar. I far prefer actually fermenting them, as the flavor is better and they provide the health benefits of fermenting.


  3. Wonderful Wonderful Danish Cooking by Ingeborg Dahl Jensen
  4. Worlds Healthiest Foods: Beets
  5. Mercola:

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