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Harvard Beets

This Harvard Beets recipe is a classic New England side dish that has been around for generations. You’ll love the sweet and sour sauce!

Harvard Beets

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I’ve been a beet lover all of my life.  Even as a kid – I loved them! But it was only recently that I ate Harvard Beets for the first time. And clearly – I’ve been missing out!

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About a month ago – while brainstorming Fall vegetable recipe ideas – my husband Jack mentioned the idea of sharing a Harvard Beets recipe here on A Family Feast. He kept talking about how much he loves them – and now, I love them too!

Harvard Beets recipe

Harvard Beets are simply beets cooked with sugar, vinegar and butter (plus a few other seasonings). The combination of the sugar and vinegar creates a fantastic sweet and sour sauce that is a wonderful complement to the flavor of the beets. The butter – which gets melted in at the end – adds a luxurious, silky texture to the vibrant, rich sauce.

Harvard Beets are a traditional New England recipe, dating back hundreds of years.  There are two schools of thought as to where the name comes from: Yankee Magazine writes that some history buffs attribute the name to the deep red color of the Harvard Crimson football team at Harvard University. Others say that the dish originated in an English pub called “Harwood” and overtime – through  some name mispronounciations – the name became Harvard Beets.

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Harvard Beets

Either way – this dish is fantastic! We recommend making your Harvard Beets with fresh beets, but canned beets would also do in a pinch. In researching this recipe, we also read that some people cook up a big batch of Harvard Beets when their fresh garden beets are harvested in the Fall – then freeze them in smaller portions to reheat and enjoy all winter long.  (We haven’t tried that ourselves – but we love the idea!)

Harvard Beets would be a delicious addition to your Thanksgiving menu – or any special holiday meal!  The sauce will ‘stain’ the other foods on your plate, so we like to serve our Harvard Beets in individual serving dishes as shown.

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fresh beets recipe

Enjoy!

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Harvard Beets

Harvard Beets


  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: 6-8 servings

Ingredients

2 ½ pound fresh red beets, trimmed, peeled and cut into bite sized pieces

1 teaspoon kosher salt for cooking water

1 cup granulated sugar

¼ cup white vinegar

½ cup cider vinegar

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper, ground fine

½ cup water saved from cooking the beets

2 tablespoons corn starch

6 tablespoons butter


Instructions

Place beets in cold water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add the one teaspoon of salt. Cook for 15 minutes. Ladle off and save ½ cup of cooking water and drain off the rest.

Place beets back in pot along with the sugar, both vinegars, salt and pepper. Stir over medium heat.

Add corn starch to the ½ cup of beet water and stir into beets. Cook for five minutes over medium heat then stir in butter until butter has melted into the sauce.

Remove from heat and serve.

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Harvard Beets - Fresh beets in a sweet and sour sauce. So delicious!

Comments

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  1. Good morning Martha,
    Oh how I love beets….the flavor, color ,texture and the many ways to use them. A good recipe for Harvard Beets is one of my favorite ways to serve them. I sometimes add diced beets to a fresh green salad along with blue cheese and sliced almonds. I always have a jar of pickled beets in the fridge. Now if I could find my old recipe for Borscht, misplaced it years ago….so good.
    I sometimes think beets are one of those foods you either love or hate. I’m with you and Jack, love, love them!! Trying your take on beets this weekend.
    Thanks for sharing

    • Good morning Linda – So glad to read that you are among the beet lovers too! 🙂 We hope you enjoy our version of this recipe! Jack and I have talking about making a Borscht recipe – unfortunately even coming from a Polish family I don’t have an old family recipe to share. But we’ll keep at it! Have a great weekend! Martha

  2. I have a question I hope someone can answer regarding this recipe, could this be served cold? I work in a grocery store and have made many of your recipe for the salad bar I work on, which I make fresh beets for and am always looking for new/delicious recipes for. Thank you!!

    • After we made these, I added them to my salad every day for lunch so absolutely these can be eaten cold. We also have a cold beet salad on our site; Cara Cara beet salad. Most grocery stores sell the Cara Cara oranges which add a bright freshness to the beets and other ingredients.

      Good luck,
      Jack

  3. this sounds so easy and good …only thing is 2 1/2 lbs is alot ..how long do they keep in fridge …or is there a way to freeze …or what do you recommend.

    • Hi Lila – We haven’t tried freezing the leftover, but you should be able to eat them over a few days and they will still taste just as good. Alternately, feel free to cut the recipe in half if it makes too much! Enjoy!

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