Sweet and Sour (Harvard) Beets

Every Sunday meal that we ate at my grandma's house when I was a child had harvard beets on the menu. Since my mother never made them, my grandma "spoiled me" by making them every chance she could.

I think my other grandmother was jealous; she tried once to make them for me, but it just wasn't the same. I hope I didn't hurt her feelings.

This sweet and sour dish with a velvety sauce has been an important part of my holiday dinners ever since, even now that I'm probably the age my grandma was when she made it for me.

Yes, it includes sugar, and cornstarch which some people avoid due to GMO's. I've not tried to make substitutions, but you are welcome to give it a go if you wish.

To make sweet and sour beets, also called harvard beets, mix 1/2 cup sugar and 1 1/2 tsp cornstarch in a saucepan.

Drain the beets, whether you're using home-canned or commercially canned sliced beets. If you have fresh beets, slice them and cook first, then drain them from the cooking liquid. Save 1/4 cup of the liquid from the beets, this is important!

Add 1/4 cup mild vinegar and 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid or the liquid from the beets. If you use water your sauce will be a weird pink instead of this deep ruby red, so don't do that!

Whisk it together, and bring to a boil. (Don't add the beets yet.)

Let this mixture boil for five minutes.

Then add the cooked beets, either sliced or cubed, that you drained earlier. A pint of home-canned beets or 1 can of sliced beets works just as well.

(Just remember to save 1/4 cup of the liquid when you drain the beets, to add with the vinegar in an earlier step.)

Stir and let stand for half an hour or more. Just before serving, bring the pot to a boil again, and add 2 Tablespoons of butter. Stir when the butter is melted.

I know that some people don't like beets, but this is a delicious way to enjoy an easy-to-grow vegetable. It's the perfect combination of sweet and sour, with a velvety smooth sauce that's a delight to the eyes as well as to the tongue.

Should I confess that I finish up any sauce that's left in the bowl after dinner, even though the beets are gone? It's deliciously sweet and sour at the same time.

Here's the recipe:


1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
1/4 cup mild vinegar
1/4 cup beet juice (drained from the can of beets, or use the cooking liquid)
1 pint or can of sliced beets or about 12 small beets, cooked and sliced
2 Tbsp butter

Combine sugar and cornstarch in a saucepan. Add vinegar and beet juice and whisk until well blended. Boil for five minutes, then add beets. Let stand 30 minutes, then bring to a boil again, and add butter just before serving.

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Sweet and sour beets - even your beet haters will love these!

This post has been shared at some of my favorite blog hops.


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  1. Hmmm...always wondered about Harvard beets. Only way I eat beets is pickled and prefer cold to room temp. Might have to give your recipe a try.

  2. Kathi at Oak Hill Homestead9:11 AM

    I like them just cooked and sliced on salads too. Pickled isn't my favorite. Harvard beets are really good, hot or room temperature or leftover cold.

  3. Should I admit I don't like harvard beets? I love them cold on salads and buttered and warm as a veggie. I have had them harvard for a long time and I think it's time to revisit them. I just make like them! You made it easy with your recipe. ~Pamela

  4. I hadn't heard of Harvard beets until you mentioned it recently. Thanks for letting me know how they are fixed. We may have to try them with some of our canned beets.


  5. Kathi at Oak Hill Homestead12:24 PM

    Pamela, let me know if you like them after trying them again. I know my tastes have changed a lot in the past ten years or so, and I like several things I used to loathe. Then again, you may not. ;-)

  6. Kathi at Oak Hill Homestead12:33 PM

    Fern, I hope you and Frank like them. It's a nice change from "plain beets".

  7. Every Sunday we had Harvard beets but called them "Cornell" Beets!!
    Cornell College is in New York and Harvard is not!!! LOL Exact same recipe. Also had coleslaw made with sugar, oil, vinegar and celery seeds. One of us girls had to sit and chop the cabbage and carrots in a wooden bowl with hand chopper. I still make "Cornell" Beets.

  8. I have forgotten about these beets...my mom made them when we were kids! Thanks for posting this and I am going to make them for Sunday dinner this week

  9. Kathi at Oak Hill Homestead10:51 AM

    You're so welcome, Tracy. I hope you like them as much as you used to, and that your family like them too. Here's to comfort food!

  10. We end up pickling (and canning) all our beets but this may add something new to the menu! Thanks for sharing this on the Art of Home-Making Mondays :)

  11. Kathi at Oak Hill Homestead2:58 PM

    Cornell beets - I love that!!! Thank you for the giggle, Quayceetatter.

  12. We love beets! Looks yummy!

  13. Kathi at Oak Hill Homestead6:19 PM

    Thanks, Heidi!

  14. I love beets too and my mouth was literally watering reading your post! Thank you for sharing with the Clever Chicks Blog Hop!

    Kathy Shea Mormino
    The Chicken Chick

  15. Kathi at Oak Hill Homestead10:48 PM

    Thank you, Kathy!

  16. Those look wonderful! I usually just grate beets up like a carrot and add it to our salad but I would definately try these. Thanks for sharing with Simple Lives Thursday! Hope to see you again this week.

  17. Kathi at Oak Hill Homestead6:01 PM

    Thanks, Angi. I like them in salads too, even a cottage cheese and beets salad.

  18. Pinning. Thanks for the information. Linda Crafts a la Mode


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