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What Do Beets Taste Like? Bitter Dirt. Let’s Make Some!

Are you wondering what do beets taste like, those deep purple-red root vegetables? Welcome to the wide, wonderful world of beets! 

Glad to have you here. 

This corner of the grocery store tends to be the least crowded, but the vitamin C and nutrition in many fresh veggies is undeniable—and totally attainable. 

So let’s jump in, shall we?  

The taste of the beets, or lack thereof, is probably the biggest barrier to purchasing beets when those who do the cooking consider which veggies to select. 

In this post, we will explore some basic information about beets, give you descriptions of how they taste, and some tips for how to store and cook these root vegetables. 

Ready? 

Let’s get started!

Table Of Contents

What are beets?

Beets are a root crop vegetable, usually eaten steamed, boiled, pickled, or roasted with plenty of salt and an acid like wine, vinegar or citrus. 

The good news is that beet greens, beet juices, and beet stems are also edible and can be used in a variety of different recipes.

The beetroot is the taproot portion of a beet plant. What is the taproot, you ask? 

It is the main root that grows vertically straight down underground. Similar to how a carrot grows. 

There are four common varieties of beets.

The different types of beets include:

    • the garden beet, most often grown in vegetable gardens (also called beetroot)
    • swiss chard, which has stems and leaves that feature a lovely red pigment
    • the sugar beet, a source of sugar used in different packaged products
    • and the mangold which is often fed to livestock.

What does beetroot taste like?

There is a general consensus that the flavor of the beet has an earthy taste, almost a dirt-like flavor that may be reminiscent of plowed earth, with an organic compound that may be a bit bitter or a bit sweet, depending on what tastes your palate is accustomed to. 

And the cooking methods will change the flavor, too, with best results that can change the beet taste in wonderful ways, such as a potato-like texture that goes great with rich meats.

It can be difficult to nail down an exact comparison that a lot of people will agree upon. This is obviously a very subjective question. 

When properly prepared, they will need salt, some lemon juice, or seasoning to enhance the flavor of beets and disperse the dirt taste. 

You may also want to cook them in olive oil or deeply flavored coconut oil. 

Of course, the best way for home cooks to discover that earthy flavor is to give a thick slice of beet a try.

Be sure to give them a sniff before cooking so that you can get a good whiff of that dirt smell.

Are beets and beetroot the same thing?

The short answer is YES. 

Typically, Americans and Canadians refer to them as beets; however, in England, the vegetable is called a beetroot.

Other commonly used names for beet and beetroot are:

    • table beet
    • sugar beet
    • garden beet
    • red beets
    • raw beetroot
    • or dinner beet. 

What do golden beets taste like?

With so many varieties of beets, you may wonder what is the difference in taste between them. 

Golden beets, or yellow beets, are less earthy and more mellow in taste. 
They are a bit milder in “beet taste” than the red beet.  

Oftentimes, you might simply select the beet based on how you want to add color to your dish.

What do pickled beets taste like?

Beets typically have a sweet and tangy taste, depending upon how much sugar and/or vinegar is used in the canning process. Whether whole or sliced, they are generally not mushy but have a “meaty” texture. 

A lot of the mass production of beets is pickled, and are often packaged in cans or glass jars.

Also, the type of vinegar will change the flavor profile as will any additional ingredients like dill or mustard seeds or spicy peppers. 

I’ve found that the glass jars of Happy Harvest Sliced Beets Pickled from Aldi are as delicious as any other I have found for less than $3. But you can find them online if you want to give a different brand a try and see what you think about their flavor. 

I definitely prefer pickled beets over roasted beets or stewed beet greens, personally, and I grew up with the sweet and tangy flavor of Del Monte sliced pickled beets (my mom loved them). 

You can also use a kit to make your own. 

When serving it is recommended to pair them with something that has a bit of texture alongside a neutral taste to balance them out, for example, salad with croutons.

Can you eat beet leaves?

The green leaves of the beet are also edible. 

The smaller leaves can be added raw to salads for added color and micro-nutrients. 

Beet greens are also fantastic to blend into smoothies or add into pasta dishes or as an add-in ingredient into an omelet or your favorite stir-fry. 

The full-grown beet leaves can be served boiled or steamed, which gives them a taste and texture similar to spinach. 

They can be served alone, as a side dish, or wilted into a soup. 

Tips on picking out beets

Here is where the rubber meets the road so to say.  You are ready to try out a recipe using beets. 

You are at the grocery or market and need direction on how to make the best selection.  

Here are a few pointers. 

You are looking for beets that are small to medium-sized, firm, rich in color, smooth skins, and bright green leaves.  

You do not want beets that are bruised, shriveled, yellowed, spotted, have leaves that are wilted, rotted-looking, or very dry, or have grown too large, making them tough and less flavorful and we don’t want to lose that sweet flavor.

Tips on storing beets

When you first purchase your raw beets, it is not necessary to wash them. 

  • Cut the leaves from the beet to help prolong the life of both parts, about two inches above the bulbous root 
  • Raw Greens/Leaves: Slide the greens just as they are into a vegetable bag with as little air as possible and they should last in the refrigerator for up to four days.  
  • Raw Beets: Then put the bulbous beetroots in a different bag and seal them tightly. This will allow them to keep fresh in the refrigerator for up to three weeks. 
  • Cooked Beets and Greens: They can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three days. 
  • For longer storage, they will keep well in the freezer for up to twelve months.

Ways to cook beets

You can eat raw beets

Can you eat beets raw? Absolutely. Here’s how to eat beets raw:

    • Remove the thick outer skin with a vegetable peeler. 
    • Grate and sprinkle them into salads for a splash of color or onto the top of a bowl of soup as a garnish. 
    • Make a beet salad featuring goat cheese — it’s a popular beet recipe and a great way to work in the earthy taste of beets on the dinner table.
    • You can also juice them and add the juice to a refreshing smoothie.
    • Pickling is a way to add sugar, salt and vinegar to your fresh, raw beets. You can cold-pickle or heat-pickle beets.

You can eat cooked beets

Additionally, beets can be prepared by boiling, steaming, sauteing, roasting.

Properly canned, beets can be stored for future use for up to a year. 

If this seems a bit intimidating, visit this primer on How to Cook Beets.  

If you are short on time, yes, you can Cook Beets in a Microwave too!

Pro Tip:

Yes, the red/purple beet juice does stain, so it’s best to wear latex gloves when handling them, as well as an apron to help protect your clothes.  

Plenty of colored products use beet powder as part of their colorants.

You may also want to wrap your cutting board with wax paper to prevent it from turning pink.  

I do hope this has inspired you to begin your beet adventure today!

The bottom line

Beets offer an amazing array of nutrition and add a colorful addition to just about any dish you prepare. 

Maybe some of the ideas in this article have turned beet haters into beet lovers. 

I still believe the fastest way to use regular beets and highlight the natural sweetness of beets is to add them to a smoothie. 

But for flavor, I really like the sweet and vinegar taste of pickled beet slices.