Roasted beets have a distinctive earthy flavor profile that doesn’t need a lot of seasoning. The fewer ingredients, the better. The best spices for roasted beets include:
Your best bet for beet-friendly olive oil is extra virgin olive oil, but the lighter-tasting varieties will work as well. Olive oil is a key ingredient when roasting any vegetable, including beets. Not only does it offer some significant health benefits (especially the extra virgin oil), it enhances the beet flavor as well.
Extra virgin olive oil brings a bright, herbaceous flavor that some describe as grassy. Along with the grassiness, there is a hint of pepperiness. Extra virgin olive oil does have a low smoke point, which means that it will start to break down and generate toxic compounds when heated past a relatively low temperature ( some start about 325 degrees Fahrenheit). To avoid this, you can roast your beets at a low heat, which may take some time, or you can opt for a more refined olive oil with a higher smoke point.
Even though it does have some flavor notes in common with its cousin mint, thyme is more savory with woodsy and earthy notes that you won’t get from most mints. Its flavor can provide an aromatic counterpoint to roasted beet’s sweetness.
Both fresh and dried thyme will be effective. While the dried herb is not as deeply aromatic or complex as the fresh one, it does still have enough of the same flavor notes to enhance beets. Thyme works best as a part of a mix with other spices.
A spice that is universally used mainly because of its versatility, black pepper pairs well with most ingredients, including relatively simple root vegetables like beets. You can use it to give a subtle heat to roasted beets along with a subtle savory bitterness that pairs especially well with olive oil.
If you want to get the best possible black pepper flavor, you should grind the spice fresh. Fresh ground black peppercorns are often regarded as an entirely different spice from pre-ground pepper. It is hotter along and provides complex flavor notes with hints of citrus.
Like other sweet vegetables — carrots and sweet potatoes are good examples — beets can be improved by making them even sweeter. Balsamic vinegar made into a glaze can be a source of that extra sweetness. It is made from reduced vinegar made with sugar or another kind of sweetener. It is thick and sticky, which helps it to coat roasted beets and give them an attractive glossy sheen.
You can use honey just like you would use balsamic glaze. It will give you a similar sweetness but without the fruitiness and acidity. Along with its attractive glossy coat, it also enhances the simple sweetness of roasted beets with its floral flavor.
Honey has the benefit of pairing well with most of the other spices on this list. You can even use it as the source of sweetness in your balsamic glaze.
If you want a vegan sweetener, maple syrup can stand in for honey. Its distinctive flavor profile can work well if you use it in a balsamic glaze, but it can also work on its own as the main ingredient in a glaze for roasted beets.