January 22, 2012

Caramelized Beets

by IsaChandra

Serves 6
Time: 1 hour || Active time: 10 minutes

Caramelized Beets

I have a bittersweet history with beets that starts in PS 272 Brooklyn NY, Mrs Sklar’s third grade class. We went on an outing to a farm in Queens (the farm is gone now) and everyone was assigned a vegetable to dig up. Little hands furrowed for potatoes, and pulled at the frilly green carrot tops. But when it was time to leave, I still had no vegetable. Instead of saying anything, I just went along with the rest of the class, them with their veggies still dripping with soil, me with nada.

When one of the pretty hippie girls who worked there realized that my hands were empty, she led me over to the nearest patch, which happened to be beets. We dug for a few minutes until we pulled out a beet as big as my head. I held it like a baby and the whole bus ride home was filled with intense jealousy from the other students and their lesser veggies.

When I got home, I left Beet on the kitchen counter and just stared at him. After a few weeks I had memorized every bump. I hadn’t ever seen a veggie fresh from the earth, never mind a beet. I had no intention of cooking Beet, it didn’t exactly smell like food to me (read: french fries or pizza) but I loved that he was all mine. Weeks went by and Beet was mostly okay. I noticed a little wrinkling, but no matter. One day I came home and Beet was gone and I cried and cried. And that’s my sad story.

It would be years and years until I actually tasted a beet, at a Polish diner, in a bowl of warm borscht. The flavor was a little shocking. Dirty, fresh and sweet and probably still too adult for my tastes. But it was a start.

Now I am a beet fanatic. I crave them fresh and raw in salads, potent and alive in juice. And even though my tastes are more grown-up now, I still want sweetness, especially as a way to punctuate an otherwise savory meal. These Caramelized Beets do the trick, and it doesn’t take many ingredients to get there. Use them scattered alongside mashed potatoes and seitan, or over your scrambled tofu, tossed into salads, or grains (beets and quinoa = heaven.) They’re crisp and sweet, with just a little tanginess to accentuate the flavors. When you eat them, think of Beet, looking down on us from where ever he may be.

2 lbs beets, peeled and sliced into 3/4 inch chunks
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (plus extra for drizzling)

Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

On the baking sheet, too the beets with olive and salt, to coat. Place in the oven and bake for 50 minutes, tossing every 20 minutes. Drizzle on the balsamic, toss the beets to coat, and cook for 10 more minutes.

Serve warm and drizzle with extra balsamic to taste.

  • January 22, 2012 at 7:25 pm: Vanessa

    I’ve got beets in the fridge right now. I’m all over this recipe. Thanks Isa!

  • January 22, 2012 at 7:30 pm: FoodFeud

    I’m roasting some up too! With a huge head of garlic. Love City kid meets Dirt stories.

  • January 22, 2012 at 7:59 pm: KristineCarlson

    I hate beets!

  • January 22, 2012 at 8:15 pm: jen


  • January 22, 2012 at 8:19 pm: Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar

    I love beets! This is a fantastic creation! Yum!

  • January 22, 2012 at 8:31 pm: FoodFeud

    BTW, I’m from Queens….just out of curiosity, do you remember what or where the farm was?

    • January 22, 2012 at 9:08 pm: IsaChandra

      I wish I did! I have a vague memory that it was next to a Sunnydale dairy farm but you know how memories can be.

  • January 22, 2012 at 8:55 pm: Erin

    I’ve never made fresh beets before – only from a can! :( Can’t wait to try this.

    • January 22, 2012 at 9:09 pm: IsaChandra

      You are in for a life altering experience!

  • January 22, 2012 at 9:49 pm: Becky

    The only beets I’ve ever had were the pickled ones my mom used to can when I was little in the late 70’s. My mom is a horrible cook — even she admits it. The dinner that went with beets was liver (which I drowned in A1 sauce) and rice. My mom can’t even cook rice. She puts sugar in it for some reason and it’s just a sticky mess. So I have beet trauma…maybe some post traumatic beet syndrome. I enjoy a wide variety of foods, but when people describe beets they say things like earthy, and I don’t know what I’m in for. Is there any other food you would describe as earthy?

  • January 22, 2012 at 11:26 pm: Monica

    I would call mushrooms earthy.

  • January 23, 2012 at 12:51 am: Maree

    I’m with you on the beet love. For me it started with the sweet tinned beetroot we eat here (Australia) on hamburgers. I’ve grown up now, and have a lovely little repertoire of beet curries, beet salads (one similar to this recipe- baking the beets, then soaking them hot in balsamic and oil) and borschts (my favourite is with buckets of chickpeas for thickness). Alot of people are surprised when they try these dishes- it seems to be one of those veges alot of people think they don’t like. I love proving them wrong.
    Great recipe, I will definitely give it a go!

  • January 23, 2012 at 1:21 am: jen

    i had a co-op stop in my plans for today and i added beets to my shopping list. i just pulled caramelized beets out of oven and they are fabulous! thanks for the great recipe.

  • January 23, 2012 at 11:19 am: cathy

    I can’t wait to try this. I love beets, but the raw beet salad I made last time I got groceries didn’t do it for me. Great kid + beet story!

  • January 23, 2012 at 12:02 pm: Katharine

    Yes! I’ve been staring at my beets for days now. Too cold for salad, too lazy to make anything else…

  • January 23, 2012 at 1:21 pm: Marie the frenchie

    I love vegetables and I love being vegan, but I will confess a shameful secret here: I hate beets! I hate quinoa! Does that mean I’ll never reach level 7 vegan? ;)

  • January 23, 2012 at 3:12 pm: Roog

    Awesome – I will try this tomorrow after I visit the local Farmer’s Market. Since moving from Portland, OR to New Orleans a year ago, I have taken interest in the wonderful winter and spring veggies down here. Beets were a big discovery for me this time last year, huge ones as you describe in your post. Needless to say, my cutting board is well stained from them.

  • January 23, 2012 at 3:13 pm: Luciana

    My first memories of beets were cold, pickled sliced beets from a can, served with raw onions. I didn’t even know they existed in the wild!Then, one day I had fresh, crunchy pickled beets in a falafel sandwich, and my mother-in-law peeled, then roasted some beets along with some other vegetables.

    I was finally brave enough to make the parsnip and beet salad from Vcon, and before long, I’ll be putting them in my juice. It’s just proof that all vegetables are delicious, if prepared the right way. I can’t wait to try this!

  • January 24, 2012 at 12:39 am: janet @ the taste space

    It was your oven roasted beets in AFR that got my hooked. I can’t wait to try this rendition! :)

  • January 24, 2012 at 12:39 am: janet @ the taste space

    ….and where did the beet go???

  • January 25, 2012 at 1:25 am: debbie

    where did you get that cute plate?

  • January 25, 2012 at 1:57 pm: ileana

    Are there any kids who like beets? Until recently I thought of them as a vegetable I simply stayed away from. But then I tried them roated. What a revelation. Now I eat beets (and beet greens!) all the time. So delicious. So good for you. Great post, Isa!

  • January 27, 2012 at 9:02 pm: aubade

    Haha you are so funny! Poor Beet.

  • January 27, 2012 at 10:20 pm: Bea

    I just finished making these to go with the Baked Falafel from Appetite for Reduction on a salad for dinner. I’m pretty excited because my house smells amazing right now!

  • January 28, 2012 at 3:10 pm: Lesley

    That is the best beet story ever.

  • February 7, 2012 at 1:45 pm: Margot

    I’m also a beet fanatic. My mother hated them so although I grew up with a modest garden in the back yard I hadn’t met one until a bowl of steaming Borsht either and at that time was sadly not “adult” enough for it either. Now I revel in their earthiness raw, pickled, roasted, and am always excited when I can find them with leaves still intact for sautéeing. :)
    Thanks for sharing your beet story.

  • February 11, 2012 at 12:25 am: Maarika

    Ohhhh, Isa, these are so good! So great. Thank you!

  • February 17, 2012 at 9:58 pm: cathy

    Not sure what I did wrong or if it’s just the low humidity at this altitude. 2+ hours at 375F, the beets were still hard and getting dried out. Another 30 min at 400F, the small pieces started to soften up, but the 3/4″ cubes were still pretty hard. Another 30 min at 425F, everything was soft enough to eat, and crispy and a bit like baked french fries. Think I’ll go back to baking in tinfoil, a la AFR, in the future.

  • February 27, 2012 at 9:52 pm: Linda

    THIS WAS SO GOOD- like eating candy!!!! Loved it!!!

  • March 2, 2012 at 10:37 pm: Rena

    I am Polish and my blood is made of beet juice. This is an amazing veg and should be appeciated.

  • March 13, 2012 at 1:46 am: Alx

    I was thinking about serving these with candied oranges as a dessert-ish finger food. Do you think I should replace the balsamic vinegar with rice vinegar instead? Or any other ideas?

  • May 3, 2012 at 12:12 pm: Chef Webinars

    Thanks, Isa for the wonderful piece of blog. Looks like will be a delicious recipe to enjoy the weekend with family.

  • August 1, 2012 at 8:29 pm: Siva

    I shed a tear when Beet was gone. Now with the personified beet in my head I will feel guilt and sadness along side my joy and happiness as I eat my caramelized beets tonight.

  • November 15, 2012 at 12:14 am: temple

    Much love to the hippy girl who made sure no one was left out and got you a prize winning size beet for your patience.

  • December 16, 2012 at 5:42 am: Sherry in Union, KY

    My husband made these for dinner tonight. They are very good, but the cooking time seemed to be just a tad too long, so watch your beets carefully. Thanks for the recipe!

  • December 20, 2012 at 11:04 am: Kelly Lehman

    Thanks for sharing the recipe; it must be mouth-watering to eat. I will try to make it this weekend with my family, hope this recipe make my weekend superior instead of going to restaurant. Keep sharing.
    Home Chef

  • February 22, 2013 at 6:57 am: Healthy Cooking Li

    Wow! It is great Isa. The recipe looks like a delicious and healthy. Thanks for share and keep it up.

  • March 8, 2013 at 12:17 pm: Liz

    I crave these beets! Thank you for giving me a new obsession.

  • August 6, 2013 at 2:34 am: Renae

    These were delicious and amazing! Thanks for the idea!

  • September 29, 2013 at 5:22 pm: strony www slask

    ກົດດັນທີ່ສຸດຫຼັງຈາກນັ້ນພວກເຮົາກ່ຽວກັບການປາກໄດ້. ແລະເຖິງແມ່ນວ່າການສົນທະນາທາງໂ

  • October 23, 2013 at 12:23 pm: Stephanie

    I made these last night and they were fabulous! Thank you, Isa, I have fallen in love with beets all over again!

  • November 7, 2013 at 10:02 pm: Rhianna

    You almost made me cry for a beetroot. ;(

    I have a few beets in the fridge right now so I’m going to roast them for breakfast!

  • November 21, 2013 at 4:39 pm: Beverley

    I’ve always loved beets I think – canned pickled as a kid, but also boiled with the greens added later, and all with butter, tiny bit of vinegar and tsp. of sugar – not the recipe I use now: oven roasted, with oil then salt and vinegar – apple cider vinegar is good too. BTW, for quicker roasting, I sometimes pre boil the beets for 10 minutes or microwave them a bit in lidded casserole with a splash of water, while the oven is preheating to about 400 f., then roll in the oil and proceed for 20- 25 minutes. Use the rinsed casserole to cook another part of the meal: parsnips and carrots & garlic with honey & lemon jce added at last minute? Yummers for winter vegs.

  • May 15, 2014 at 12:33 am: Judee@ Gluten Free A-Z Blog

    I saw your recipe over at Vegensaurus. Made it for dinner tonight! It was fabulous. Im now following your social media

  • May 20, 2014 at 6:48 pm: Mike

    I am one of the weird ones, growing up and loving beets. So reading about carmalizing beets was interesting. I tried them a couple of times but it was to work and time intensive. I have found peeling & placing 4+- whole beets on aluminum foil , salt, pepper, & a pad of butter then wrapping very tight in the foil. I cooked on the BBQ , between 350 & 400 for a hour, turning a couple of times . This turns out the best beets I have had.

  • November 21, 2015 at 11:40 pm: Karen

    Incredibly easy and very tasty!! Thank you! I’m just getting into roasting vegetables and have been addicted to beets lately. I was looking to get that carmelized look and flavor, this recipe is it!