I can’t stand beets. Honestly, it’s the flavor: it’s so off-putting to me. Sometimes I’ll see something really enticing on the menu, like a salad with goat cheese, walnuts, and honey, and then I’ll stumble upon the word “beets” and immediately look for something else.
That being said, beets are wonderful, not only for your body but also for your baking. When I first started using beets in baking, I realized I could have my cake and eat it, too, without worrying about that taste I hated so much.
And for those of you who like the flavor of roasted, raw, or boiled beets, then the points in the article really just enforce something that’s already good. It’s a win-win situation!
Health Benefits of Beets
There is still research being done about the elements that make up the vivid beetroot and how they impact our health, for better or worse. I could probably spend tens of thousands of words writing about the minerals and nutrients in beets and their benefits for us, but I’ll keep it short and simple:
Beets contain magnesium, iron, copper, betaine, glycine, and more, all of which help fight inflammation. Goodbye, soreness and swelling!
Muscle and Tissue Growth
Phosphorus, in addition to the iron and glycine mentioned above, helps promote strong muscles, sturdy bones, and healthy tissue growth. Iron helps fight anemia while phosphorus concentrates primarily on bones and teeth.
The old joke goes, “Carrots are good for your eyesight.” “How do you know?” “Have you ever seen a rabbit wearing glasses?”
It’s true, though: carotenoids and anthocyanins, which give the distinctively vibrant colors to carrots, beets, tomatoes, and more, help not only your eyesight, but carotenoids are shown to help fight cancer, too.
Some additional benefits include Vitamin C (good for your skin) and dietary fiber (helps you poop!) Copper also helps your skin and phosphorus helps your kidneys filter out waste.
As with any food or anything “healthy,” there is a limit to how much is beneficial. The best way to eat beets is in moderation.
And last, but certainly not least: you can substitute beets for sugar in a lot of sweet recipes. We all know how much I love sugar but sometimes I just want to make my chocolate cake with vegetables instead.
Using Beets in Baking
Beets make four major contributions in baking: sugar, color, water, and fat.
Whether you use fresh beets (roasted or boiled before using), or find beet sugar in a market somewhere, you can use the root for a different kind of sweetness. Use them in your brownies for a subtle, but still noticeable, sweetness.
Not all beets are red, but if you use the common red variety, you can alter the color of your pastries. What about red velvet cake made with beets? The caveat here is that the color of cocoa powder overpowers the color of beets a little, so if you really want something red, use beets in a pastry that isn’t chocolate (red velvet beet cake is great, but it won’t be quite as red as you expect…unless you can find/make a really rich food coloring from beet juice.) What about something like a beet poppyseed olive oil cake?
Water may not seem like much, but in baking, it’s everything. Boil and puree your beets, then fold them into your pastry batter, and you won’t have to add other liquids, like water or milk. An added benefit is that beet puree acts as both your liquid and your fat. Nearly any kind of fruit/vegetable puree you can think of will substitute for fat (and some even for eggs, like applesauce)! Those brownies I mentioned before? Guess what you can swap out for the beets? (Hint: the brownies are vegan…you can leave out the butter and eggs.)
Using beets in baking isn’t just for health benefits. They also provide a different kind of taste experience: your chocolate cakes and brownies will be significantly lighter, but still rich, dark, and flavorful. The subtle sweetness of the beets, like the flavors of red wine and raspberries, blend in seamlessly with chocolate and even pair well with most other types of sweets. As mentioned above, by using beets, you can easily make vegan pastries with whole ingredients.
And finally, for those of you who, like me, actually can’t stand beets, the stereotypical beet flavor disappears into your pastries. Those brownies won’t taste like borscht, is what I’m saying.
More often than not, your pastry recipe will call for roasted and peeled beets. It’s easy to remove the skin from roasted beets and even easier to puree the root. Also, roasting really intensifies and concentrates natural flavors in produce. You can boil the beets, too (though I recommend at least giving roasting a shot.) If you do boil the beets and the water turns dark pink, it may be useful as food coloring.
Beet Pastry Recipes*
*Note: the flavor that pairs the best with beets is chocolate, so the vast majority of recipes that you’ll find on the internet are for chocolate recipes.
Beet Cake with Bourbon Custard Sauce (Food&Wine)
Caramelized Beetroot Tarte Tatin (Manger)
Chocolate Beet Cake (Taste of Home)
Dark Chocolate Beet Brownies (Sacramento Magazine)
Dark Velvet Beet Cookies (MomTastic)
Fudgy Vegan Beet Cupcakes (Minimalist Baker)
Gluten-Free Chocolate Beet Coconut Pudding (Steph in Thyme)
Luscious Ginger Beet Sorbet (Boulder Locavore)
Mini Lemon Sour Cream Poundcakes with Beet Glaze (Hummingbird High)
Vegan and Paleo Beet Chocolate Pudding (The Roasted Root)
Ehrlich, S. (2015.) Phosphorus. University of Maryland Medical Center.
“Food for life cancer project: How carotenoids help protect against cancer.” Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.
Lienard, S. (n.d.) “What are anthocyanins and why are purple foods so healthy?” BBC Good Food.
Nichols, H. (n.d.) “25 science-backed health benefits of beets.” Well Being Secrets.com.