what to do with beet greens

Beet greens, that misunderstood green

Poor beet greens. They get so little love. Or probably more realistically, they are misunderstood. Most of the time, they go straight from the grocery bag to the trash bag.

But beet greens are so much more than just leafy tops of beets. They come with such great potential that they give their famed roots a run for their money.

Beet greens are as versatile as your imagination will allow. They are great in soup – in making a cold borscht, I always add beet greens to the mix. They add a nice, chewy heft to the soft beets.

If you’re not a lover of borscht, you can blanch beet greens, and tuck them into your morning omelette (with some crumbled goat cheese); or make a tartine with a hardboiled egg, olive oil, beet greens, olive oil and some sea salt. I’ve been playing around with pasta, beet greens and anchovy bread crumbs – delicious. You can even add beet greens to whatever curries or stews you’re making. Perhaps where they lack in authenticity, they’ll make up for in texture and taste.

They can be a little (okay, a lot) gritty when you get them. Soak them in several changes of cold water (the cold water will also perk them up a bit). It’s a little fussy, but the fussy-ness is mostly hands-off, which to me passes as totally manageable. I tend to do a lot of this prep as soon as I get my groceries – if I postpone it, I never seem to get around to it. In some ways, prepping the beet greens makes me feel über-efficient; while the beet greens are soaking, I’m doing something else in the kitchen in the apartment, and I’m heating water for blanching. That’s three (three!) things that I’m doing at once.

If you can manage it, try to go with an organic beet. The amount of not-so-good for you chemicals, to put it mildly, that a conventional beet absorbs is mind-boggling. Sometimes, however, the only way to an organic beet is to get it at a grocery store, already de-greened. But at farmers’ markets, where beets are still holding court, they most certainly come with greens. Bright, firm, beautiful greens that will be a lovely addition to your pantry and a surprisingly delicious addition to your plate.

A few other ideas for beet greens:
* Tucked into a barley salad with some lemon juice, goat cheese, and scallion.
* Added to smoothies
* Stir-fried with fish sauce, ginger, and garlic. Served with steamed rice, a fried egg, and some Sriracha.
* Make a beet green crostini: spread good homemade ricotta, top with beet greens and an excellent anchovy.
* Tossed with sour cream, dill, garlic, and salt.

What are your favorite ways to cook with beet greens?

45 Comments

  • Elissa

    I was just planting our vegetable garden last night and was reminded that beets and chard come from the same family–the seeds for the two different plants were indistinguishable. Anyways, I use beet greens and chard interchangeably. Lately I’ve been loving them sauteed with garlic and a splash of soy sauce and topped with sriracha (similar to your fish sauce suggestion).

  • nt

    Beet greens also freeze fairly well. Whenever we make pickled beets in the summer we also manage to put a few ziplocks of greens into the freezer.

    In the summer we regularly make something close to palak paneer (with cottage cheese instead of “real” paneer) and substitute beet greens for spinach. http://www.ivcooking.com/p269_100.php

    In one of his books Rick Bayless also lays out a “garlicky greens” filing for tacos. I think his recipe calls for Orach or some other garden weed, but again, beet greens work well. http://www.marthastewart.com/330254/ricks-tacos-with-garlicky-mexican-greens

  • Gretchen @ flowercityfoodie.com

    I’m growing my own beets for the first time this year, so I’ll have lots of beet greens to play around with. Thanks for the suggestions! I’m planning on using the baby leaves–from when I thin the plants out–in salads.

  • Sonya

    Great ideas! I just picked up beets at the farmers market this weekend. This came with perfect timing!

  • Suzi

    Thanks for the beet greens tips. I just bought beets the morning for juicing and wondered about the tops. Saw this on Twitter and had to stop in. Have a wonderful day.

  • Margarita

    This is such a perfect post because I just bought beets and I would just throw the leaves away if I didn’t read this post. To everything, there is a purpose. I think I will do the stir-fry! Thanks for sharing!

  • Megan

    I use beet greens in pasta dishes (esp tomato/red wine sauces) and in minestrone. (The stems turn everything pink, so putting them in red sauces is a nice way to hide this!)

    Any baby greens from the bunch get used raw in salads. Most of the time I just sautee all of the greens with lots of garlic and a little olive oil, and toss it with a generous handful of toasted, finely chopped almonds. So simple, but delicious.

  • Ruthy

    I usually just save the greens in the freezer and toss them into the pot when I’m making stock- but blending them into borscht is such a good idea, I’m definitely trying it. And the photo with this post is gorgeous!

  • Marissa

    I love beet greens as a base for sliced roasted beets. I quick saute the greens with olive oil and garlic; add little salt, freshly ground black pepper, chunks of chevre and voile! :)

  • KarenLana

    Love the beet green suggestions! I mainly use them for green smoothies and also like them sauteed.

  • me @ the-intentional-me

    Greens in general have never taken center stage in American Cuisine with one major exception and that is down south where they know how to treat a green right. Since two-thirds of my family no longer indulge in meat (smoked or otherwise) I tend to flavor greens of any kind with many of the ingredients you noted, garlic, something salty, some type of heat. Radish tops work great mixed with beet greens, kale, chard – whatever is around. My favorite way is tossed with pasta (whole grain works great here) and some big shavings of parm.

  • Georgina Tobiska

    Good thoughts:) We always have a plethora of beat greens early on from the garden and eat all of them. I’ll be posting a spring start salad with a caramelized dressing to sweeten them up, coming soon at http://caramelizelife.com/ and I would LOVE to get your critique of the recipe! Thanks for posting these good ideas! G @ Caramelize Life

  • Nadia

    Thank you for posting this! I am a great advocate of beets, it’s a shame beets, let alone their green parts, are not appreciated enough by people here.
    I use leaves in stir-fries (makes a perfect accompaniment for meats), in salads, when they are young, small and fresh. Thankfully. there is an organic farm not far where I can just pull small beets from the dirt. What a blessing! I also use the leaves in smoothies (some water, 1 carrot, 1 small beet, 1 small banana, some lemon juice, and beet greens – yummy!) and also in smoothie summer soups (One recipe is here: http://www.recipestudio.com/2011/08/beet-smoothie-soup.html). I think beet leaves can be used anywhere where one would use other greens or salad leaves – imagination is the limit!
    What is anchovy bread crumbs?..

  • Laura

    yum! I will admit we’re not the most adventurous with our beet preparation. Usually I roast the beets until tender with some garlic and olive oil and then quickly saute the greens and mix them last minute as a side or over lentils and rice. Glad you’re bringing this to people’s attention, I always eat root greens, I mean why not?

  • Bryna

    Roasted beet and beet green risotto is beautiful and delicious. Add a touch of molasses in to bring out the beet flavor towards the end.
    Also great in salads with roasted beets and avocados.

  • Radish

    leeann – thank you!!

    brian – thanks! i had to write it, because it pains me to see these guys discarded!

  • irina

    ajj sound wonderful!!! another use: as a pie filling with some feta cheese and egg to bind… very good

  • Patricia

    Made delicious beet greens just last night. I chopped up a slice of bacon and cooked it over medium heat in a cast iron skillet until it rendered out a bit of fat and just started to brown. Tossed in chopped onion and garlic, then the beet stems (cut about 1/2-1″ lengths). Sauted that for about 5 minutes, then stirred in about 3/4 water, a 1/2 Tablespoon of sugar and a good pinch of red pepper flakes. Finally, I added the shredded beet greens and simmered it for 5-10 minutes until everything was tender. At the end, I stirred in 2 Tablspoons of cider vinegar. It was very pretty in the bowl, too!

  • Mikaela Cowles

    ooooo – I can’t wait to try the other half of these delightful root vegetables. You’re so right. Mine almost always end up in the trash. What a waste!

  • ErinSchwab

    Our family grows beets just for the greens dumplings our family has always made. Make some biscuit dough and roll some in a beet green with the stem removed, like a half cigar, too much dough won’t cook right. Line then up in a pan and pour over some cream, salt and pepper. Slice some butter over the whole thing, cover and bake. The biscuits suck up the butter and cream while the green holds it all together. Have also had them with a rice mix.I’ve never met anyone who has ever ate or made these out side of our family. Enjoy!

  • Lauren @ rivercitysammon

    Thank you so much for this! I buy beets quite often (as I make borsht at least once a month or so) I have never known what to do with the greens, so I unfortunately always just threw them out! I’m going to try added them in next time I make some; or maybe some salads! This has given me so many ideas :)

  • patty

    I make beet green chips. 200 degree oven. Wash and cut out the middle ribs. I put them in the salad spinner to get most of the water off. Spray a cookie sheet with PAM or other oil spray. Lay the greens on the cookie sheet. Lightly spray the tops and sprinkle VERY lightly with salt/spices. Bake until crisp.

  • epea

    Today my daughter added garden-fresh beet greens to our smoothie. It took the background to the blueberries, strawberries, flaxseed, almond milk, honey. Awesome.

  • gramme

    threw them out ,until this day, deceided to investigate; thank everyone much! so I have learned, that beet greens,are not to be tossed,they are kike spinach or arugala,can be eaten raw or sautéed. all of my favorite foods, I’ve learned, can be eaten raw or cooked-ex.mushrooms,fish,broccoli, ECT.Thanks again to Sassy & all you’s!

  • Suzanne

    I have been making Rick Bayless ‘s chard tacos for years. They have been tweeked a few times along the way: adding thyme, lots of garlic, a can of lentils. It is a really good, filling and earthy dish, as is ,topped with salsa ans feta and avocadoes if you want.
    The beet greens : same idea, sauteed onions and garlic, wilted beet greens, anchovies , a splash of balsamic vinegar on top of pasta. Miammmmmmm!

  • Maria

    I used the beets greens to make my juice with spinach, celery , cucumber, apples,
    limes, kale and ginger roots, very nice ,I thing if you can eat it cook why not juice it,I find when is juicing turn brown but very good.

  • Michmash

    I have used beet greens in the past as an alternative for a couple of things instead of cabbage for cabbage rolls with veal/pork and rice filling. Also for a carribean soup calylou with lobster crab amd salt pork. I also wash cut and freeze them to put in soup stew sphaghetti any pasta i serve with pork medallions and lemon caper sauce. Yup i love beet greens. Mine mainly from my own garden

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