Beets are Red Hot

Beets are Red Hot

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

Move over Caesar – beet salads are taking over as a standard starter on many restaurant menus. At least it seems so – I see a lot of creativity with beets.  If you love a good beet salad,  try my go-to recipe, Roasted Golden Beet Salad with Walnuts and Sherry-Walnut Dressing /

I, and many others, are whirling beets into smoothies, grating them into cakes and veggie burgers – and beyond. You can’t “beat” the red ones for the brilliant color they impart to dishes like my latest recipe (below), Beet Hummus, loaded with crumbled feta, walnuts and scallions. Candy cane beets, with stripes, are tasty beauties, too.

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

Speaking of color, the pigment that makes beetroots red, betalain, has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that may ward off chronic inflammation and protect against heart disease and some cancers. Golden beets contain the carotenoid lutein, best known for its role in eye health. All beets are an excellent source of the B vitamin folate which also protects health, including playing a role in cell division and making DNA and RNA.

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

Have you had a beet shot? If you’re a competitive athlete, you may be beet juicing for a boost in stamina, strength and/or endurance. What’s the beet’s secret ingredient? Nirates. While other veggies have nitrates, too, beets have more. The body converts them to nitrites, then nitric oxide which dilates blood vessels, decreases blood pressure and reduces the “oxygen cost” of exercise for enhanced performance. See the References for more details. Check with a sports dietitian if you want to explore the use of beets to boost your own performance.

Research continues on how the nutritional power of beets  might improve the health and performance of people of all ages. In the meantime, enjoy bringing the goodness of beets to your table – whirl up a batch of  Beet Hummus and make some homemade pita chips with garlic-oil and Za’atar.

Beet Hummus
Za’atar seasoning is a Middle Eastern seasoning used here to top pita chips. (See What is Za’atar? below to learn about it.) It’s available online, at well-stocked supermarkets and Middle Eastern stores.

Makes about 3 generous cups.

1 pound chopped, roasted, peeled red beets (about 2 pounds raw)
1 cup cooked garbanzo beans
½ cup tahini
2 -3 tablespoons olive oil
3-4 tablespoons lemon juice, more to taste
2 cloves garlic *
¾ teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste
1-2 tablespoons water, optional

To serve:
Crumbled feta cheese
Chopped toasted walnuts (optional)
Thinly sliced green onion

Za’atar Pita Chips (recipe follows) or purchased pita chips

1. In bowl of a blender or food processor, combine beets, garbanzo beans, tahini, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 3 tablespoons lemon juice, garlic and salt. Whirl until very smooth, stopping to scrape down side of bowl as needed and adding a little water, if needed, to make a smooth dip.
2. Taste and add more oil, lemon juice and/or salt taste. Scrape into a container, cover and chill for 1 hour for flavors to blend.
3. To serve, spoon Beet Hummus into a bowl, top with crumbled feta, chopped walnuts and green onion. Serve with pita chips.

Za’atar Pita Chips: Cut 3-4 thin flat breads or pita breads (whole grain preferred) into triangles. Place on baking sheet. Heat a smashed garlic clove in about 1/3-cup olive oil 30 seconds or just until fragrant (a microwave is easy for this). Brush garlic-oil on triangles and sprinkle with Za’atar seasoning blend, sesame or cumin seed. Bake at 350° for 5 minutes or until crisp. Cool.

*For milder garlic taste, blanch in boiling water for a few seconds. Or, place cloves in a microwave safe cup with a few tablespoons of water and cook for 30 seconds on high. Drain, reserving water if needed to thin hummus.

What is Za’atar? In the acclaimed book, Jerusalem, the authors Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi write, “if there is one smell to match the emblematic image of the Old City of Jerusalem, one odor that encapsulates the soul of this ancient city,,,it is the smell of za’atar. The word refers to two things, the hyssop, an herb that grows in the area, and a spice mix that contains the powdered leaves, ground sumac, toasted sesame seeds and salt. I adore the blend I purchased online from Zatoun.


  1. The Potential Benefits of Red Beetroot Supplementation in Health and Disease. Tom Clifford, Glyn Howatson, Daniel J. West and Emma J. Stevenson.2015 Apr; 7(4): 2801–2822
  2. Are beets really nutritious? AICR HealthTalk. Karen Collins, MS, RDN, CDN, FAND. American Institute for Cancer Research.
  3. Fitness Foods: Boost Performance with Beets, by Clare Tone, MS, RD Today’s Dietitian. April 2016 Vol. 18 No. 4 P. 16
  4. Nitrate In Beetroot Juice Gives Elite Athletes Competitive Edge, Among Other Health Benefits. By Lizette Borreli Mar 14, 2016.

© Lorelle Del Matto 2018


lorelle About lorelle

Crazy about cooking, eating and sharing good food – my work and leisure revolve around the kitchen. As a culinary dietitian my professional life encompasses nutrition counseling and education, recipe development, product development, food and nutrition writing, marketing communications, corporate test kitchen and consumer affairs management, food styling and work as a product spokesperson.

Speak Your Mind