Beet Curry – Recipe

Beet Curry
Beet Curry

As unlikely as it may sound, the first time I ever ate beet curry was over a campfire in Hot Springs, Arkansas. I was dubious, but my girlfriend at the time had lived in Tamil Nadu for a year and knew what she was doing. Granted, everything tastes good around a campfire after an arduous day of lounging around the hot springs, but this was eye-openingly delicious.

I’ve made this dish a few times since, relying on my own instincts rather than a recipe, but I figured it was time to write it down and share. I use mustard oil and mustard seed because those flavors go so well with beets. If you don’t have mustard oil, just use all vegetable oil and maybe add more seeds. I also like to add some tamarind concentrate to provide a bit of acid balance against the sweet earthiness of the beets.

If your beets come with good looking greens, go ahead and wash them, chop them, and toss them in the curry for some extra nutrition and flavor. They tend to make it look slightly less lovely, but why waste a good ingredient? Of course you could also use them for a totally different dish.

This is a dry style curry, meaning it doesn’t end up with a sauce, though the beets are moist. Serve this up with basmati rice, raita, and chana mushroom masala for a real feast.

Beet Curry
Vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free
Serves 4 

  • 1 tablespoon mustard oil
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon black mustard seeds (don’t use the light brown / yellow ones!)
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 white onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 3 pounds red beets (about 3 medium bunches), peeled and cubed (reserve greens if desired)
  • 1 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon tamarind concentrate dissolved in a bit of hot water (I use Tamcon brand; you may need more if you use a less concentrated variety)
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  1. Place a large skillet (preferably cast iron) over high heat. Add the mustard and vegetable oil, and when they are shimmering, add the mustard seeds and cumin seeds. As soon as the mustard seeds start to change color, add the onion, garlic, ginger, cayenne, and turmeric and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  2. Add the beets, salt, tamarind paste, and 1 cup of water. Stir. If using the beet greens, rinse them, roughly chop them, and add them on top of the beets.
  3. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and put on a cover. It doesn’t have to fit perfectly. Simmer until the beets are very tender, about 20-30 minutes. Remove the lid and simmer off any remaining water (or add more during the cook if needed).  Stir in the garam masala. Taste and adjust seasoning. It may need more salt, tamarind, or cayenne to achieve the flavor that you like. Serve hot.
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Posted by Michael Natkin on Monday, November 21st, 2011 in Gluten-Free or modifiable, Main Courses, Recipes, Vegan or Modifiable.

16 Responses to “Beet Curry – Recipe”

  1. Reply
    November 21, 2011 at 2:38 pm #

    This sounds great. I’ll give it a try as soon as I can. I might try mixing in some of my Purple Haze carrots — could be a good flavor and color fit. You forgot to mention, in the recipe itself, the nice garnish of cilantro in the picture.

    BTW, I like the new look of the website!

  2. Reply
    November 22, 2011 at 7:57 am #

    This does look rather delicious! I love beets 🙂

  3. Reply
    November 22, 2011 at 5:09 pm #

    Hey Michael love the new look of your site! I keep you on my reader so I just saw this change! Looking forward to your cookbook!

  4. Reply
    Chris Remple
    November 22, 2011 at 9:42 pm #

    This is not a comment on the recipe (I love them all). But I think you have been hacked. I just received a spam email with nonsense letters, clearly not a Herbivoracious-style notification.

    • Reply
      Michael Natkin
      November 22, 2011 at 10:10 pm #

      Hey Chris – no, just me being stupid :(. I was testing something on
      the new site and accidentally published it, the deleted it right away.
      I was hoping it was fast enough not to go out to everyone, but I guess
      no such luck. Thanks for checking!

  5. Reply
    November 23, 2011 at 9:09 pm #

    This sounds like a marvelous recipe to try out. Beats and curry sounds like such a great combination.

  6. Reply
    November 24, 2011 at 8:35 am #

    Think delicious.

  7. Reply
    November 27, 2011 at 12:55 pm #

    Beautiful color combination! I feel like so much of the time when I make curry, despite the number of veggies, everything turns that yellow color.

  8. Reply
    November 28, 2011 at 9:15 am #

    I made this for dinner last night, using half the called-for cayenne, and even then I thought it could use less — it seemed to me that the beet and tamarind and garam masala flavors were all overwhelmed by the “hot”. Don’t get me wrong — I LIKE “hot”, but in this case I’d rather back off and have those more delicate flavors come out a bit more. On the other hand, my wife and daughter loved it just the way it was, so tastes obviously differ.

    I was worried about the hassle of peeling the beets, since various online sources talk about what a pain it is.It was pretty simple. One thing that helped: I cut off the leaves, but left about 5″ of stems to use as a “handle” during peeling of my globe-shaped beets.

  9. Reply
    November 29, 2011 at 2:13 pm #

    I’m going to try this. Beets are not my favorite but this recipe actually sounds pretty good. Thank you!

  10. Reply
    December 30, 2011 at 5:56 pm #

    I have liked beets since I was a kid but I loved them after reading Tom Robins’ Jitterbug Perfume : “The beet is the murderer returned to the scene of the crime. The beet is what happens when the cherry finishes with the carrot. The beet is the ancient ancestor of the autumn moon, bearded, buried, all but fossilized; the dark green sails of the grounded moon-boat stitched with veins of primordial plasma; the kite string that once connected the moon to the Earth now a muddy whisker drilling desperately for rubies.”
    Happy New Year with cool new recipes!!

    • Reply
      December 30, 2011 at 7:28 pm #

      That’s fantastic! Nobody writes like Tom Robbins.

  11. Reply
    March 8, 2012 at 7:58 am #

    I made this for a bunch of beet-loving friends and it was a huge hit! The mustard oil was really worth seeking out, and I’m excited to try it in other recipes. I served it with brown basmati rice and chana masala, and it met all my friends’ various dietary restrictions: vegan, gluten-free, no refined carbs, and nut-free! Though I did top mine with roasted cashews, which was a great textural contrast.

  12. Reply
    chef moda
    August 12, 2012 at 3:30 pm #

    Where are the nutritional values with these recipes?

    • Reply
      August 12, 2012 at 6:57 pm #

      Hi Chef Moda – I’m not much of a nutrition oriented person; my philosophy is to eat a wide variety of delicious foods in moderation and simply cook for taste. But there are lots of sites out there where you can paste in ingredients lists and get nutrition info if that is of interest to you.

  13. Reply
    October 16, 2013 at 7:51 am #

    This looks amazing! I love beets! I got Madhur Jaffrey’s recipe book link to recently and have been working my way through that, but I’ll pause for a bit and try yours especially as I have friends coming over in a few days and I’m sure they’d love it, thanks 🙂

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