It’s always a good idea to take a break from the meat dishes and go for a vegetarian meal every once in a while. This is when I came up with the idea to make the Sweet and Sour Beets recipe, also known as the Harvard Beets Recipe, which is a favorite meal during the summers. 

The beets’ natural sweetness paired with the tangy sauce or glaze makes a tasty meal. Kids love this dish as well. It’s a super easy recipe, all you need are a few choice ingredients from your pantry and you’re good to go!

Sweet and Sour Beets Recipe, or Harvard Beets Recipe

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Appetizer, Side Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 6
Calories 185 kcal


  • 14 oz beets, sliced
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 4 tsp cornstarch
  • 1/3 cup white vinegar
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1/3 cup water

Optional add-ins

  • 1 tsp orange zest, grated
  • 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • Black pepper to taste


  • Rinse the beets properly before peeling and slicing
  • In a medium saucepan add water and bring it to a boil
  • Add the beets into the boiling water and reduce the flame
  • Let the beets cook in simmering water for 20 minutes
  • Once cooked, drain the beets and let them cool
  • In a different saucepan, combine the cornstarch, sugar, vinegar, butter, and water
  • Place on low to medium flame and stir
  • As the glaze smoothens, add orange zest, flour, and pepper
  • Keep stirring the glaze till thickened
  • Remember to scrape the bottom of the saucepan to prevent any flour from collecting
  • As the glaze cooks and begins to look transparent, add in the cooked beets
  • Let them combine for another 5 minutes
  • Remove the saucepan from flame
  • Serve hot or chilled

Tips for this recipe

  • You can use canned beets, just drain them before boiling
  • The beets can be cooked in an instant pot and baked as well
  • You can add onions and garlic to the glaze for additional flavors and aroma
  • For storage, place the cooked beets into tupperware and refrigerate or freeze
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You’ve made the Sweet and Sour beets, they are easy to make and even easier to store!

These beets are usually called Harvard Beets, and that’s not because they went to an Ivy League School! The history behind this dish’s name is up for debate. While some believe the name comes from the beets’ crimson red color which also happens to be the official jersey color of Harvard. Others claim a Harvard Student-created the recipe in the 1900s.

And then the rest say that the recipe was created in England in Harwood Tavern during the 17th Century. A Russian customer at the tavern who later emigrated to Boston in 1846 is said to have opened up his restaurant and served the beets. It was due to his accent that “Harwood” was enunciated as “Harvard” and the rest is history.

Whatever the story behind this meal’s name might be, it still is delicious, so do give it a try!

Dishes to Pair With

The sweet and sour beets pair well with richer proteins like beef and chicken, as they neutralize the acidity from the beets. Try the Instant Pot Mongolian Beef Recipe and Baked Peanut Butter and Chicken Recipe. This dish also complements oilier fish too like salmon. The Atkins Salmon is drenched in delicious garlic butter and makes for a toothsome meal. The Whole Poached Salmon Recipe makes for an eye-catching centerpiece on holiday dinners. Try the flavorful Baked Salmon Belly Recipe, it goes well with Sweet and Sour Beets. Pair your beets with succulent and juicy Steak and Kale, they complement each other’s flavors beautifully.

More Vegetarian Recipes to Try

Try our vegan and vegetable-based dishes for a healthier lifestyle:

Health Benefits of Beets

Beetroots or beets are root vegetables eaten in many cuisines all over the world. Even though they’re low in calories, they’re filled with vitamins and minerals. They contain nitrates which reduce blood pressure, thus protecting our hearts from disease and increasing blood flow to the brain. They are anti-inflammatory due to their pigment called Betalains that reduce kidney disease and joint pain. Beets keep the gut healthy and help reduce weight. According to research Betalain may be useful in the treatment for cancer.