This recipe for Quick Pickled Beets without Sugar is simple, fuss-free, and doesn’t require you to boil the pickling liquid! And yes, no sugar needed when you are working with only the most sweetest vegetable on earth.
Before we dive into the Quick Pickled Beets recipe, let's touch upon: are pickling and fermentation the same?
No, they are not. Although pickling and fermentation both are ways to preserve food, they are quite different in accomplishing the desired outcome.
For starters, pickling is a quick, straightforward process in which you submerge the food you want to preserve in acidic liquid. This liquid delays the decay and keeps bacteria at bay. In the process, the food you are pickling becomes sour (in a delicious sort of way!) and also softer than its usual texture.
Fermentation on the other hand, is a little more complicated. Although brine is also used in fermentation, it is not the same acidic brine that is used for pickling. And instead of killing off bacteria, the fermentation process harnesses the power of certain bacteria to transform the carbohydrates into alcohol that preserves the food. The end result is similar to pickling in that you have food that is sour (although more complex than pickle sourness), more tender, and will keep for months.
Health-wise, fermented food is healthier than pickled food because it contains a good bacteria (not all pickled food has this) which is extremely beneficial for gut health.
How long do quick pickled beets last?
Like most pickled vegetables, this will keep for up to three months in the fridge. Just make sure not to reduce the amount of salt in the recipe. Moreover, if you intend to keep your jar of pickled beets for as long as it is possible, take the extra step of sterilizing your container. In our home, pickled steamed beets rarely last long. No, they don’t go bad -- we just can’t stop snacking on them!
How to cook beets
Apparently, what most people do is that they boil the beets, set them aside, and prep the pickling liquid by boiling the mixture before putting the two together. I was a bit baffled by this.
To me, steaming is a gentler way to cook vegetables. Steaming is a better cooking method if you want to retain a vegetable’s precious nutrients. In some cases, steaming even brings out more nutrients from a vegetable by “softening” it on a cellular level. On the other hand, a lot of nutrients are lost during boiling because it’s a stronger cooking process and the vegetable is in contact with water the entire time.
Another option is to roast the beets in the oven before you start the pickling process. Roasting is the best way to retain all the nutrients of the vegetable; however I don't consider this process to be quick. Once your oven pre-heats, it takes about an hour to roast the beets (depending on the size of the beets). Steaming on the other hand only takes 20 to 25 minutes.
Do you have to heat the vinegar before pickling?
Apparently, heating the vinegar or pickling juice (or brine) helps with releasing the flavors of the veggies and in dissolving the salt completely. Not heating the vinegar and salt mixture won’t affect its ability to preserve the vegetable and prevent bacteria from populating. Moreover, pickling with cold vinegar can help retain a vegetable’s crisp. To learn more on how to pickle with heated brine, check out How To Pickle Any Vegetable.
If you want to skip heating the brine but you are concerned about safety, you don’t have to worry about anything. However, you must be careful not to reduce the recommended amount of salt needed for the recipe you are following because the salt here is one of the keys in preventing bacterial growth.
That said, I had to try this popular pickling method myself and guess what? I didn’t really taste any difference between the two methods. So boiling the liquid just felt like an extra step in my case; especially if I already steamed my vegetables.
Are pickled beets good for you?
In general, beet is an amazing vegetable to have at hand and persevere to use when wanted. It supports good health for digestion, brain and heart. They are considered to boost your immunity and physical performance.
When pickled beets are fermented, they are rich in probiotics that helps improve gut health. If you are looking for pickles containing the growth of "healthy bacteria," then try a recipe by The Spruce Eats. Again, fermentation is the best pickling method for digestive health, but the process is not as quick; it takes several days.
Only 4 ingredients to pickle!
- Beets - When it comes to beets, red beetroot is my fave. But golden beets or Chioggia beets can be pickled as well.
- Salt - To preserve the beets and prevent bacterial growth.
- Vinegar - Distilled vinegar or Apple Cider Vinegar
- Water - You can use the liquid that was used to steam the beets; which in turn becomes beet juice.
How to make pickled beets
Once the beets are cooked and fork tender, then we start the pickling process.
- Step 1 - Wash, peel and slice your beet as you desire. Place all the steamed beets into a sterilized mason jar.
- Step 2 - Check to make sure beets are fork tender. Then place them in mason jar.
- Step 3 - To make the brine, mix the vinegar, water and salt in a small pitcher. Pour the brine over the beets till they submerge.
- Step 4 - Screw the lid tightly and give it a good shake. Refrigerate for 24 hours before it is ready to use.
Here are ways to infuse more flavor to your pickled beets by adding some of the following options.
- Fresh herbs - Dill, thyme and/or rosemary or any other herbs
- Dried spices - Black peppercorn, mustard seeds, cloves, and/or any other spices (not ground).
- Raw spices - Garlic or ginger sliced or whole (sliced will give more flavor).
- Covered Pot - About 3 quarts.
- Steam Basket - To steam beets.
- Vegetable Peeler - To peel the beets.
- Sharp knife - To slice the the beets.
- Mason Jar (Wide Mouth) - To store the pickled beets.
Recipes on Salads with Pickled Beets
- Pickled Beet Salad
- Warm Balsamic Kale Salad with Pickled Beets
- Roasted Beets and Fennel Salad
- How to Quick Pickle Any Vegetable
Quick Pickled Beets without Sugar
- ½ cup distilled vinegar
- ½ cup water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 whole beet
- Peel, wash, and slice the beet (as desired).
- Put your sliced beets into a steam basket and steam over boiling water for 25-30 minutes.
- Once the beets are fork tender, set them aside and let them cool down. When cooled down, then place them in a sterilized mason jar.
- Place them in a sterilized mason jar.
- Mix the vinegar, water and salt. (If you really want to heat the brine, this is the time to do it. However, instead of boiling the brine out right, just simmer it over low heat. In my experience, this extra step doesn’t improve the flavor of the beets so don’t feel bad about skipping it!)
- Pour the vinegar brine over the steamed beets until the vegetables are fully submerged.
- Screw the lid tightly and give it a nice shake.
- Store in your refrigerator and use after 24 hours.