Beets Sautéed In A Lovely Tarragon Brown Butter Sauce

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1 hour 30 minutes
8 servings

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Sugar beets in brown butter sauce will delight that dinner guest with the advanced palette and really all fresh food connoisseurs alike.

I share this post today in celebration and remembrance of my Great Grandmother Rosa and her beautiful and bountiful Ukrainian Easter table.

Щаслива Пасха! Зі святом Великодня!

What Is It About Melted Butter That Transforms Basic Boiled Beets?

Want to attempt Beets Sautéed In A Lovely Tarragon Brown Butter Sauce but unsure about actually liking it? Cooking beets on the stove is the simplest way to prepare them in your home kitchen. The boiling process for beets lends a delicate, sweet finish that’s substantially less overpowering than the taste of roasted beets.

After scrubbing, simply boil them whole so as to retain the juices and color. The skins peel off easily once slightly cooled. By browning a few tablespoons unsalted butter over medium heat in a skillet, a pleasantly sweet and nutty umami profile ‘marries’ the sweet cooked sugar beet while sautéing.

The skillet time lightly crisps the outside of the flesh, while freshly chopped tarragon and mint leaves enhance the accumulating beet-and-butter sauce in the pan. Kosher salt and a scant amount of black pepper finish the seasoning and make these farmers market gems ready to plate!

close up of sautéed beets in brown butter with tarragon

If you are somebody who does love a good beet dish, please have a gander at Beet Napoleons with Garlicky Balsamic Vinaigrette. They are not only very beautiful, but there’s just something about a sweet sugar beet and a garlic vinaigrette that’ll blow your taste buds away.

I am once again spotlighting the sugar beet, largely because of the MANY similar and shared recipes during Passover for Seder and Lent leading up to Easter. I can remember being very little and spying a colorful Easter table. My Great Grandmother, Rosa, was from the Ukraine. She immigrated to the United States from Predni Poric, Galacia in 1909. She was 18 years old, the 4th daughter of seven, but she came to the New World all alone.

My Great Grandmother served beets two ways during Lent: pickled and boiled. Her pickled beets were largely straightforward, but her boiled beets were served hot and finished with Kosher salt, black pepper, and butter. Great Grandma never made beets in a brown butter sauce that I know of. So today’s method will pick up where Rosa left off.

This method capitalizes on the salt and the butter, instantly creating a savory umami dish. Fresh tarragon and fresh mint accompany the beet to her browned butter bath, thus elevating a quickly accumulating butter beet sauce. The resulting flavor profile is profoundly old world extraordinary.

“There is this romance that the beet and tarragon have going on that everybody is talking about. Scandalous really, but they just carry on 😉 So I make a point of indulging beet on her whims and pair her with a squeeze of lemon juice and chopped fresh tarragon in as many of my recipes as possible. You know, to keep her happy…”

In addition to her Stuffed Cabbage Rolls (Ukrainian Holubtsi), I recall a shiny braided bread with colorful pink eggs dotting the length of it. There was a big ham alongside an even bigger bowl of Varenyky (perogies), and another bowl of freshly grated horseradish. At one end of the table sat a basket of fried potato crullers with cinnamon sugar. On the other end, a cake that looked just like a baby lamb. I also remember beets…

Okay, so I will admit that as a kid, I passed on the beets nearly 100% of the time. I just hadn’t enough of an advanced palette to know that what I was passing on was filled with healthful goodness. What I did know is that the water the beets were boiled in was what my Grandmother used to both dye and pickle her Easter eggs. Boiling beets was just something we had to do to get down to the business of fun stuff…egg dying.

In the 1940s, New York City’s ‘Victory Gardens’ yielded a whopping 200 million pounds of produce, chief among them the ever popular sugar beet.

a white bowl with beets and a blue pitcher, with flowers

Sugar beets are best fresh. If you have that farmer’s market list already going based on last weeks ingredients for Frittata, jot down beets, too. Their preparation is largely hands off until just before serving. I give them a good scrub and drop them into a large pot of salted water. They boil for about 50 to 60 minutes. The heat makes them nice and tender. Next comes the magic of butter…

How Do I Brown Butter Without Burning Butter?

Brown butter is made by cooking unsalted butter for a period of minutes long enough to turn the milk solids brown while cooking out any water present in the butter. Its proteins changed, brown butter has a richer, more intense flavor than just melted or clarified butter. Brown butter makes a delicious topping for vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and beets.

How To Brown Butter For Use In Delicious Dishes!

  • Begin

    by cutting unsalted butter into small pieces and place it in a light-colored pot or pan. Light-colored cookware ensures you can see how dark the butter gets as it cooks, while small pieces enable it to melt and cook evenly.

  • Turn

    on the heat to medium and let the butter melt. This step requires constant monitoring as the butter will go from liquid to brown in mere minutes. High heat will brown the butter very quickly, but if you don’t keep a close eye on it, the milk solids could sink to the bottom of the pan and burn. So, no stepping away, and maintain medium heat versus high heat.

  • Stir

    or swish the pan constantly, until the butter becomes a light tan color. At this point, you can take the pan off the burner because the butter will continue cooking even after you off the heat. The butter should be an acorn brown color and smell slightly nutty. Pour the brown butter into a bowl to end the cooking process. Now it is ready to use atop vegetables, stirred into dishes, or combined with some Bourbon and marshmallows for a colossal homemade Rice Crispy treat!

Do You Have What You Need To Make Beets Sautéed In A Lovely Tarragon Brown Butter Sauce? Check The List!

fresh beets, red or golden
unsalted butter
fresh tarragon
fresh mint
Kosher salt
freshly cracked black pepper

Getting to that place where I finally LOVED beets…

My first ever edition of Cooking Light Magazine featured beets several ways. I feel like the ONLY reason I paid any attention was because the featured beets in one of the methods were yellow in addition to the purple beets we all know. The recipe author had arranged these pretty golden beets that she’d sautéed golden brown, along with just about everything else I liked. Butter lettuces dotted with goat cheese, pistachios, candied lemon bits, chopped spring herbs, and a healthy splash of olive oil and white wine vinegar. The colors were gorgeous, immediately reminding me of the pink eggs at Easter and those bright, familiar beets.

Since my early days of first being a homeowner and cooking for myself, my kitchen prowess has elevated a bit! I still rely on publications like Cooking Light and Southern Living. But I now know that to put together a beautiful and complete meal, pleasing tasting vegetables HAVE TO BE part of the package. I am definitely somebody who enjoys starchy veggies. Training myself to ‘go greener’ was an honest to goodness challenge.

a white bowl with beets , with blue napkin and spoons

But I soon recognized that I could combine the the starchy with the green and score both big on taste as well as health benefits. New potatoes in butter and herbs served over a bed of rocket is a good example of what I am talking about. I get the best of both worlds and it’s just the side dish! Beets are another because they pair easily with so many salad greens. Kale, mustard greens, beet greens, and frisée or mâche leaves are among my favorites.

…but it took a trip abroad to convince me that beets were both an aristocratic indulgence, as well as a trivial necessity.

Long time readers of Not Entirely Average know that I have visited and love the country of France to no end. There is always a new corner to explore and people who want to treat me to foods and customs and history I am naïve to.

Last abroad, and in a very quaint village in the department of Aude, I ordered one of THE BEST SNACKS I have ever eaten – ‘Betterave de beurre brun avec ricotta avec lavosh.’ I believe the translation goes something like ‘brown butter beet with ricotta and crackers.’ The method I am sharing today lends itself well to that dish in the Aude. My recipe for Whipped Ricotta and these beets in brown butter sauce spooned together over crispy lavosh is undeniably amazing.

Today though, I am stopping at Beets Sautéed In A Lovely Tarragon Brown Butter Sauce being a simple side dish for springtime dinners and religious feasts. But feel free to experiment tossed in pasta or even served as a savory topping to a hot baked potato.

close up of sautéed beets in brown butter with tarragon

Beets Sautéed In A Lovely Tarragon Brown Butter Sauce

Jenny DeRemer
Sugar beets in brown butter sauce will delight that dinner guest with the advanced palette and really all fresh food connoisseurs alike. Adapted from Saveur Magazine, October 2008
5 from 1 vote
Servings: 8 servings
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Ukrainian
Servings 8 servings
Calories 331 kcal


  • 4 quart pot
  • Sauté pan


  • 24 medium beets fresh, about 2-to-3-inches diameter each
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter cut into pieces
  • 2 tablespoons tarragon fresh, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon mint fresh, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons whole tarragon leaves fresh, torn from the stem
  • ½ to 1 full teaspoon Kosher salt begin with 1/2 teaspoon and taste for desired amount of salt; salt may be added at the end as a finishing salt as well
  • ½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper


prepare the beets

  • Trim beets leaving 2" of stalks. Place beets into a large pot and cover with water. Add salt.
  • Boil the beets until they are soft, around 50 to 60 minutes depending on the diameter of your beets. Beets may be tested for doneness by sticking a sharp knife in the side and the knife easily pulls away.
  • Drain the beets. Allow to cool 5 to 10 minutes or until safe to handle. Pull off stalks and use your fingers to rub and slip off skins. Cut each beet in halve, larger beets into quarters.

brown the butter

  • In a large sauté pan, melt butter over medium-low heat. It will melt, then foam, then turn clear golden and finally start to turn brown and smell nutty. Watch closely and stir often.
  • To the brown butter, add the chopped tarragon, chopped mint, and 1/2 teaspoon of Kosher salt. Use a rubber spatula to constantly move the butter around the pan over medium heat until salt is dissolved. Add the beets.
  • Maintain medium heat while moving the beets and gently turning to allow all surfaces to become coated with the butter and herbs. Continue until warmed through, about 4 to 6 minutes. Taste for salt. Make any salt additions before removing from the heat.
  • Once sauté pan is removed from the heat, add the whole tarragon leaves and the cracked pepper. Give the pan a toss and remove all to a serving bowl.


Mint, sage, and dill are able to be substituted in part or in whole in this dish. 
If serving as an appetizer over toasted baguette rounds or lavosh, see my recipe for Whipped Ricotta to accompany. Makes for a visually stunning presentation when served on a rustic bread board.


Serving: 1servingCalories: 331kcalCarbohydrates: 51gProtein: 9gFat: 12gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 30mgSodium: 838mgPotassium: 1772mgFiber: 15gSugar: 34gVitamin A: 692IUVitamin C: 27mgCalcium: 127mgIron: 5mg
Keyword beets recipe, sauteed beets
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