Don’t toss those beet tops! Learn how to sauté beet leaves for a simple wilted greens side dish that’s delicious on its own or as a topping for salads or bowls. Reduce food waste by cooking beet tops!
Do you throw out the leaves of beets? If so, don’t! Using beet greens in place of other leafy greens in sauces, soups, salads, and even as a side dish can help to reduce food waste.
Beet leaves are an edible leafy green that are a great replacement for sturdy greens like kale or chard. In fact, beet greens are also great as a side dish on their own when cooked with a little olive oil, garlic, and red pepper.
Want to learn how to sauté beet leaves? Let’s do it!
🌿 How to saute the leaves of beets (step-by-step)
1️⃣ Step One: Prep the beet greens
The first step to cooking beet leaves is to cut them from the stem and wash them to remove excess dirt. Because beets are a root vegetables their leaves are often dirty because they are close to the soil, so it’s important to wash them thoroughly before cooking.
First cut beet laves from the root, then cut the stiff stems right under where the greens start to grow. The stems are edible as well, but can sometimes be very tough so we want to use the softer stem areas, which are right under where the leaves begin to grow.
The best way to wash beet leaves is to either run them under water or soak them. Because beet leaves are a sturdy green, we find running them under water and then drying them in a salad spinner to remove moisture works best (and fastest). We then put the leaves into a bowl or lay flat to dry (about 5 minutes).
After letting the greens dry, stack the leaves and then sliced them into small strips. You could saute them whole, however we like the chopped greens as their easier to eat after cooking.
2️⃣ Step Two: Sauté the greens with garlic and red pepper
Next it’s time to sauté the beet tops. Add olive oil to a medium frying pan and heat over medium-low heat.
Add minced garlic and cook until it begins to brown and become fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Next add the red pepper and cook about 20-30 seconds more, or until the pepper begins to release its color into the oil (be careful not to overcook the pepper as it will easily become brown and release a burnt flavor).
Add the beet greens to the pan and stir until they are covered in oil, completely wilted, and have cooked down, about 2-3 minutes. Beet leaves are a sturdier leaf, similar to chard, so they cook and reduce to about ⅓ of the volume when they are cooked.
When the greens are done, remove them from the pan and plate. Serve immediately for best flavor, and enjoy!
❓ Questions + quick tips
The leaves on beets are not only edible, but they’re delicious. Beet leaves are not poisonous, and in fact they are a nutritious green that tastes similar to chard.
Beetroot, beet leaves, and beet stems are all edible. However, the part of the beet stem that is closest to the root is typically very stiff and doesn’t soften when cooking. Unused beet stems and greens are perfect for flavoring stock.
Beet leaves are a healthy leafy green that are high in vitamin K, iron, calcium, and have about 10 calories per serving (about 1 cup of chopped greens) (USDA Food Nutrient Database).
Beet leaves can be frozen for up to 2-3 months. Simply remove the greens from the beet at the thickest part of the stem, and then wash and dry them before storing in an airtight freezer bag wrapped in a kitchen cloth or paper towel.
♻️ Sustainable kitchen tips
Stock up on greens during beet season! The best time to make recipes using beet greens is during the height of beet season, which is typically May through November in most parts of the United States.
Store cut stems in water to keep them fresh. If you’ve cut the greens from the beetroot before using, keep them fresh by placing the stems in a glass of water and storing in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. The water will keep the stems and leaves from wilting.
Use the discarded beet stems in vegetable broth. Don’t toss the thick stems! Use them in a food scrap vegetable broth for flavorful soup stocks.
🌱 More recipes using beet leaves
Love this simple sautéed greens recipe using beet tops? Check out our other plant-based recipes using beet leaves, like:
- Beet greens baked into crispy chips (similar to kale chips!)
- Pesto made with beet leaves
- Pasta with pesto made from beet tops
- Chimichurri sauce with beet greens instead of parsley
- Vegetable soup with beetroots and beet greens
- Tasty beet leaves smoothie
Sautéed Beet Greens Recipe
- 4 cups beet greens
- 4 whole garlic cloves minced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 pinch red pepper flakes to taste
- 1 pinch salt to taste
- Prepare beet greens: First cut greens from the beetroot, then cut the stiff stems right under where the greens start to grow. Fill a large mixing bowl with cold water and submerge beet stems for a few minutes, stirring or moving the leaves around with your hands to make sure as much dirt is removed as possible. Next, remove the leaves from the water and use a salad spinner to remove water and put into a bowl or lay flat to dry (about 15 minutes).
- Sauté the greens: To a medium pan heat olive oil over medium-low heat. Add minced garlic and cook until it begins to brown and become fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Next add the red pepper and cook about 20-30 seconds more, or until the pepper begins to release its color into the oil (do not overcook or the pepper will burn). Then add the beet greens and stir constantly until they are covered in oil and completely wilted and cooked down, about 2-3 minutes. Remove to a plate and serve immediately.
- Notes: beet greens have a hearty, earthy taste and chewy texture, unlike softer greens like arugula. However, like softer greens the beet leaves will cook down to a very small amount (1 cup ends up being about ⅓ cup cooked).
- Tools Needed: glass mixing bowl, medium pan, knife set, cutting board, salad spinner
- Prep Ahead: Cooked leafy greens are best eaten immediately, so we do not recommend cooking these beet tops ahead of serving. However, you could wash and prep the greens up to a day ahead of time so they’re ready to be cooked. Any more than this and the greens will wilt and not look their best.
- Leftovers and Storage: Store any leftover greens in the refrigerator for up to two days and reheat over the stovetop or quickly in the microwave. We do not recommend freezing.
- Nutrition Notes: Nutrition information is estimated using all included ingredients. This recipe is vegan, gluten-free, and is a good source of vitamins K, iron and calcium.