Ingredient Focus: Beets

This is part of a series where we discuss a special ingredient and how it can be used in the kitchen.
This is part of a series where we discuss a special ingredient and how it can be used in the kitchen.

Is it just me, or did beets have a bad reputation when I was growing up? Maybe it was because I only saw them come out of a can – unadorned and steamed or boiled to a dull red-purple color. Like so much produce these days, we’ve learned to eat them fresh and put them front and center. My mom recently apologized to me and my siblings for not raising us on healthier food – “We didn’t know!” She’s making up for it now, though, by always preparing a large, colorful salad and prominently featuring her new favorite root.

If only my mom knew sooner that beets are a super food full of nutrients, especially betalains – phytonutrients that provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxification properties. But the betalains in beets are unstable, so their nutritional value dissipates the longer and hotter it cooks.To keep in as many nutrients as possible, try steaming them for less than 15 minutes, and keep roasting under 1 hour. They are also great sources for folate, fiber, manganese, potassium, copper, vitamin C, iron, and vitamin B6.

While beets dishes are popular in Russian and Eastern European cuisine (think borscht), we wanted to think of something a little more creative than boiling or roasting them and throwing them into a salad.  Nothing sounds more Californian-inspired than a beet burger. I developed a recipe with edamame, cannellini beans, and mushrooms to add meatiness and texture. Cornmeal flour and egg help bind it.

When selecting beets, select ones that are unscarred, firm (no soft spots), and unwrinkled. Shriveled ones are likely older, tougher, and fibrous. If you have not handled beets before, keep in mind that they will stain your hands once the skin is peeled. Wear kitchen gloves if you want to avoid hand stains.

Beet Burger (Yield: 6 servings)



2 small beets, roasted and grated or finely chopped
1 cup edamame (shelled)
1 egg
1 eight oz. can of cannellini beans, drained
2 tsp soy sauce
1 cup fine cornmeal flour (you can substitute other flours made from quinoa, oatmeal, or chickpeas)
¼ cup parsley, chopped
8 oz. mushrooms, minced
½ T butter
1 tsp salt, plus extra
1 T lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, minced


1 avocado
2T sour cream
2T fresh lime juice
1 garlic clove
1/4 tsp salt

1 ½ – 2 cups arugula
6 buns


  1.    Peel and cut beets into 2” chunks and roast beets at 350F for 20-30 minutes. Grate or blend in a food processor until finely chopped.
  2.    Puree edamame, beans, lemon juice, and egg. Leave some chunks for texture. Mix with grated beets in a  medium size bowl.
  3.    Mince mushrooms and cook over a stove top in a small pan with butter over medium heat. Sprinkle salt and stir until softened. Pour off excess water, and add mushrooms to bean and beet mixture.
  4.    Mix in the rest of the other ingredients. Moisten hands to shape into ½” thick patties. Add more cornmeal flour as needed to be able to form them into patties.
  5.    Brown each side for 2-3 minutes over medium heat. Remove.
  6.    Avocado sauce: smash avocado, and blend with rest of ingredients.
  7.    Assemble burgers with avocado sauce, beet patty, and fresh arugula on a bun.



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