Beets are vibrant, crimson red root vegetables that offer an earthy, sweet flavor with a slightly bitter undertone. They’re a versatile ingredient in the kitchen and can be used in savory or sweet recipes. If beetroots are out of season or you’d prefer something different then you’re going to need a replacement. We’ve pulled together a list of beet substitutes to help you finish that recipe without them.
What are the best beet alternatives?
If you need to replace beets in your next recipe then carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes, turnips, or celeriac are all useful options for substituting the root. To replace the leaves then spinach is a great choice. To add red color to a dish, like in borscht or some coleslaws, use red cabbage for similar visual results. Keep in mind that beets are a unique ingredient so no vegetable will perfectly mimic the color, flavor, and texture.
Carrots are a good choice for replacing beets in your cooking. They come in a range of colors and if you're lucky you may even find the purple variety, although any shade will do.
Naturally, carrots won't taste the same as they don't have the earthiness of beets. But they do have a similar sweetness and could be used in salads for a crispy element.
Alternatively, you can boil, steam, or roast them and use as a side dish. If you get your hands on purple carrots, they are best served raw in a salad as they lose much of their vibrant color once cooked.
2. Red Cabbage
Red cabbage is an excellent substitute for beets if you need an ingredient that will provide your food with a similar color. A classic dish that has an irresistible red color is borscht, which is a popular soup in Europe. It uses beets as a key ingredient, which provides an earthy flavor and an enticing shade of red. Red cabbage will provide your soup with similar color, although it will also provide a slightly peppery taste to your soup.
If you're feeling super-healthy, add red cabbage to a smoothie for extra color and nutritional goodness. It's also a delicious option for making a red coleslaw.
If you are looking to replace beet tops, the leafy part of the plant, then many types of green leafy vegetables will work. An excellent alternative that is commonly available in-store is spinach. It has a mild taste and is versatile enough to be used raw in salads and can also be cooked in any recipe that calls for beets.
Parsnips are another root vegetable you could use similarly to carrots if you're looking to replace beets in a recipe. While they have a slightly sweet flavor, there is also a dominant spiciness which differs from beetroots. However, if you enjoy a little extra spice in your food then parsnips make a good replacement.
5. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes, as their name suggests, are a sweet-tasting, starchy root vegetable that are also slightly spicy. They're excellent roasted and make a delicious side dish. You can also use them for slow-cooking in a casserole or stew.
People looking for a substitute because their kids don't like the taste of beets, may prefer sweet potatoes; they are more likely to be enjoyed by everyone. Look for the purple variety if you want to add some exciting color to your dish, like what you get from beets.
Turnips are a mild, pungent tasting vegetable with a slightly bitter and spicy undertone. They are an excellent ingredient for slow cooking or dicing and then roasting until golden brown. Like beets, you can eat them raw for a healthy snack - they are delicious served with a flavor-packed dip. However, most people prefer to cook turnips to soften the flavor and texture.
Celeriac, also known as celery root, is delicious eaten raw and has a crunchy texture with a flavor that is similar to celery. Slice this vegetable and add it to coleslaws or salads. You can also boil, bake, roast, or mash celeriac to enhance its sweetness. This is another vegetable that's likely to be accepted by fussy eaters over beets.
8. Swiss chard
Swiss chard may be harder to find at the supermarket than some of the other options on this list. If you can get a bunch then it will do a good job of replacing beets in your dishes. It has a mildly earthy and sweet flavor with a slightly bitter undertone. The stalks are edible and come in a range of colors including red. They taste a cross between beets and spinach.
Leaves are also edible and are perfect for adding color to salads and sandwiches. The chard is related to the beetroot and is the oldest member of the beet family.
Summary of beet alternatives
|Substitute Ingredient||Best Use|
|Purple carrot||Replace the root|
|Red cabbage||For coloring food|
|Spinach||Replace beet tops|
|Parsnip||Replace the root|
|Sweet potato||Replace the root|
|Turnip||Replace the root|
|Celeriac||Replace the root|
|Swiss chard||Replace beet tops|
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Fast facts about beets
- They are also known as beetroot, red beet, golden beet, table beet, and dinner beet.
- The leaves are sweet and edible and are known as beet tops.
- Beets a commonly sold fresh but they are also available packaged after being pickled or boiled.
- As they get cooked, their sweetness intensifies and their texture softens.
Beets are a unique tasting vegetable that are hard to replace in the kitchen as few ingredients share all the attributes: color, taste, and texture. You'll find red cabbage is useful for imparting red color to your food and is excellent for making borscht.
Replacing the flavor is more of a challenge, but you can try carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes, turnips, or celeriac. While they all have subtle differences, they won't taste out of place or awkward in most recipes that call for beets. Substituting beet tops is an easier task and most leafy greens like spinach will work deliciously.
Why are you trying to replace beets in your cooking? Is it the taste or are they not available? Maybe it’s for dietary reasons? Please let us know in the comments below.