Harvard beets have a sweet and tangy flavor that makes them a pure delight to eat, especially for kids. The natural sweetness along with the brown sugar, orange, and tangy vinegar, easily puts this dish on the regular rotation list.
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Ruby Red Beets = such an underrated veggie!!
I know why my Auntie Chris introduced me to her homemade Harvard Beets recipe when I was a kid. As you may have experienced, regular beets on a 10-year-old’s palate don’t always go over well.
Her recipe for Harvard beets, using fresh beets, can convert any beet hater into a beet fan!
Fresh beets have a flavor that sometimes can only be appreciated as an adult. They’re sweet in comparison to other vegetables but they also have an unmistakable ‘earthy’ flavor that can turn up the nose of little ones.
I love her for feeding me her recipe because now, I personally, LOVE beets. Their versatility is fantastic.
I’ve prepared them so many ways! While this beet recipe is one of my favorites, I also like making one of my OTHER favorites, Pickled Beets but you can boil, fry, or even shred them raw and make beet salads, etc, etc. It’s all good in my book.
Why do they call them HARVARD beets?
While beets are pretty nutritious themselves, sometimes the flavors are a hit and miss with people. Someone along the way decided to make them yummier by adding sugar and vinegar, so a sort of sweet and sour idea. (And it was a great idea! lol)
Originating in England, it made its way to the eastern part of the U.S. Then, someone noticed that the beet dish was the same hue as the Harvard Football Jerseys, and hence, the dish was called Harvard Beets.
Now, I’m not 100% sure if that’s actually true, and honestly, who cares. I just know these beets are amazing in flavor and at the end of the day, that’s all that really matters! 🙂
Prepping the Beets:
First, we have to deal with the beets themselves. We need them cooked and ready to eat. The ways to cook them are:
Ok, so when I make this Harvard beets recipe, I usually choose to roast the beets. I find them a lot more flavorful when roasted versus boiling or steaming, but all of those cooking methods are great.
I’ve even Pressure Cooked Beets as well, which makes quick work of prepping them.
So wash up the beets, cut off any of the green tops, cut off the root on the bottom if it’s still attached, and then get out your tin foil.
If they’re fairly big beets, then roast them singularly, but if they’re on the smaller size (around the size of an egg), then roast a few together. Wrap them in enough tin foil to cover them well, and place them on a baking sheet.
Roast them at 350 for about an hour or so. A fork should go into them easily. Remove them from the oven and let them cool completely.
Remove the foil and with your hands, just start brushing the skin off the beet. It should slide off super easily if they are cooked enough. You might want to wear gloves because beet juice can stain but personally, I don’t care too much about it, so I just use my hands.
Ok, so when all the skins are off, cut them up into small squares about the size of a die. Set them aside for now.
In a pot, add the sugar, vinegar, orange juice, and spices.
Heat to boiling, and then add the slurry. Once it’s thickened, turn the heat to low and add the beets. Mix the beets in until they’re heated through and nice and shiny.
That’s pretty much it! They’re ready to serve and they’ll go nicely with most proteins except fish. I think the beets are too strong and will overtake the subtle flavors of fish. But hey.. if you want fish with your Harvard beets, do your thing, my gorgeous reader!
FRIDGE AND FREEZER
This delicious beet recipe will last in the fridge for up to 4 days, covered airtight. In a freezer-friendly container, this dish will keep nicely for up to 3 months.
To thaw, leave them overnight in the fridge and slowly reheat, covered over medium heat. You can also microwave them for a few minutes to reheat, but be sure to cover the container in case there are any splashes causing a cleanup!
KITCHEN FAQ’S AND TIPS
- Beet Greens: If you are fortunate enough you buy beets with the greens still attached, DO NOT THROW THEM OUT!! Give them a good wash, cut them in half or thirds, and steam them in a pot with a small amount of water. They’re just like spinach, swiss chard, or kale, but SO MUCH TASTIER! After steaming, sprinkle a bit of vinegar and melt some butter on top, and they’re PERFECTION!!
- Can I use canned beets? Yes, you can. However, using fresh beets will produce a much nicer dish, and there’s more nutrition available than using canned. Also, canned beets might be a bit soft and may fall apart easier.
- Are Harvard Beets Gluten Free? Yes but they are not Keto friendly as this recipe includes sugar.
If you’re totally digging the flavors of beets, I have another couple of recipes you might want to check out. I have a Beet Avocado and Feta Salad recipe that when I serve at get-togethers, I get asked for the recipe EVERY.SINGLE.TIME., no joke.
And at Christmas or any sort of festive holiday, these Crock Pot Cranberry & Candy Cane Beets side dish is a great one to bring. You can bring the entire slow cooker and people can serve themselves from there. Easy Peasy!
I hope that with this Harvard Beets recipe you can introduce picky eaters to a world of loving beets. They’re so tasty and nutritious and versatile! Please let me know below in the comments if you try any of these recipes and what you think of them!!
Delicious Harvard Beets
This harvard beets recipe is the BEST way to get your littles into eating beets! Flavors of sweet and sour are in this recipe that make it a repeated winner for the table.
- 4 c beets, (cooked, cooled, and cubed)
- 1/3 c brown sugar
- 1/4 c cider vinegar, or white vinegar
- 1/3 c orange juice
- 2 tbsp butter
- as desired salt & pepper
- 1 tbsp cornstarch, (heaping tbsp)
- 2-3 tbsp water
- Roast the beets in tin foil after washing and trimming up the beets. Roast them for approximately 1 hour on a baking sheet and then let cool completely.
- Remove the skins of the beets and then cube them into bite-size pieces.
- In a saucepan, add the sugar, vinegar, orange juice, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil and then turn down the heat to a simmer..
- Add the cornstarch and water together to make a slurry. Add the slurry to the sauce to thicken, stirring constantly.
- Once the sauce thickens, add the beets and continue to mix together for about 5 minutes so the beets can heat through.
- Once heated through, add the butter and mix in.
- Serve and enjoy!
1. To trim the beets, cut off any beet greens (do not throw them away! Steam them like you would spinach, they're super tasty!).
2. I like to wrap each beet separately in foil if they are particularly big. If you have beets that are smaller in size, such as an egg or a small hand ball, wrap them together in the foil.
3. A helpful hint in roasting the beets is to line the baking sheet with parchment in case any beet liquid seeps out and then dries to the sheet. The parchment helps with easy cleanup.
4. The beets are fully cooked when you can pierce them with a fork and it comes out easily.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1/2 cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 100Total Fat: 3gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 8mgSodium: 128mgCarbohydrates: 18gFiber: 2gSugar: 15gProtein: 2g
All nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and is only an estimate. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.
Diane Knight says
Your receipe sounds delicious with the added orange juice.
I was wondering if you could can these Harvard Beets In Mason jars.
I cooked my beets in my instant pot it sure cuts down the time?
I pressure cooked 6 medium beets for 15 min. They are very easy to peel when they cool.
I saved some beet juice from the instant pot. Maybe I could add to saucepan with the vinegar and orange juice and thicken so I could put in hot sterilize mason jars.?
Hi Diane! Thanks so much for asking. So, I’ve never canned this recipe before so I can’t confidently say for sure. However, if I was going to do that, I would add all the ingredients except the cornstarch slurry as it might make the entire recipe too dense in order for it to preserve properly. Also, even though the recipe has an acid in it, I think it needs to be pressure canned to be safe.
Again, I’ve never done this before, so if you want to try it, I encourage you to look up your local university extension (or somewhere reliable like that) to see what they say.
BUT, if you can preserve this recipe that way, that would be so fantastic! (You’d have to add the cornstarch slurry on reheating the beets after taking them out of the jar.) Please let me know how it goes!
Can you make these the day before and reheat? Planning to make them for Thanksgiving but trying to cut down on the day of cooking. But don’t want to ruin the quality
Hi Shannon! Yes, it’s not a problem.
Melanee Howells says
Hi Joanne, your harvard beets look amazing. I would like to make them to freeze in servings for meals in the winter. Have you done this? Do you think they would freeze well?
Hi Melanee!! Thank you for the kinds words and for taking the time to write me! So, I’ve never froze them, but I asked my Aunt who has made harvard beets for YEARS and years. She felt that freezing them wouldn’t be a good idea only for the fact that it would mess with the cornstarch thickening action. She believes that it would thin out the sauce and make it runny on thawing.
However, she suggested though that if you wanted to freeze them, (and I think this is a great idea) – is to cook the beets, peel, dice and have them ready to the point of adding them to the sauce. Then, make the sauce with everything except the cornstarch. Freeze the two either in separate containers and when thawed, combine in a pot, heat and add the cornstarch slurry then. If you want to freeze the sauce and cooked beets together, know that the flavor may be changed slightly as the beets thaw and let go of some of their juice. It’s not a bad thing, but some people would prefer not to add the extra beet juice to the dish and pour it off instead. Personally, I’d freeze them together, thaw, heat, taste and adjust the seasonings.
Let me know how it all goes for you!!
Melanee Faye Howells says
Thanks for your great reply. I think you just saved me a lot of work :). I’ll roast, peel, cube, and freeze and make the sauce when i serve them.
That sounds great Melanee! I hope you enjoy the recipe!!
Hi Joanne. Love Harvard Beets! Fond memories of my mom serving them with tuna noodle casserole. I used to buy them jarred from the grocery store, but I can’t find them anymore. Can’t wait to try your recipe. The addition of brown sugar (instead of white) and orange juice makes it sound especially good! Thank you.
Hi Susan! I know, Harvard Beets are really hard to find now. I hope you enjoy this recipe!