Sauteed Beetroot Leaves with Anchovy and Garlic Breadcrumbs

beetroot leaves

Not being a person who regularly buys beetroot I have no idea what the general protocol is. Do you only care about the bulbs so buy the sorry looking shorn specimens, what about if the leaves are dull and limp, does this mean that you will forego your beetroot plans until better quality ones are available? Or is all that fresh stuff and the stain that do along with it just a little too much work, is it the tin for you?

I gotta say, after trying this recipe – next time you buy fresh beetroot make sure the leaves are shiny and fresh, because they are divine in their own right (and healthy fresh leaves mean that they were picked recently, so the overall taste is going to be better, just saying).

beetroot leaves

Why all this talk of beetroot leaves? That part of the vegetable that is so often discarded, well, um, yeah, exactly my point. I actually bought a bunch recently just for the leaves. I made beetroot leaf rolls stuffed with lemon and cumin tomato rice, and then this simple dish (then I had to figure out what to do with the rest).

The flavour of the leaves carries through the earthiness of the root, but is lighter and ever so slightly bitter, and green. Some recipes call for blanching first, but they are delicate and like most leafy greens (well, ok, reds) they don’t benefit from over-cooking.  Just a quick saute in a hot pan with oil (or butter), then mixed with pungent anchovy and garlic breadcrumbs this is a great earthy and homey side dish, or, um, satisfying lunch for 2. What can I say, I really like these leaves that are so often just thrown away.

beetroot leaves

Sauteed Beetroot Leaves with Anchovy and Garlic Breadcrumbs
Adapted from Stephanie Alexander’s A Cooks Companion recipe turnip leaves sauteed with anchovies and breadcrumbs (page 1013).

serves 4 as a side.

1/2 bunch beetroot leaves and stems, thoroughly washed.
3 cloves garlic, sliced
3T extra virgin olive oil
3 anchovy fillets
1/2 – 3/4 cup fresh bread crumbs (or if you are too lazy to want to dirty the blender, then just finely cube the bread.

Prepare the beetroot leaves:
Separate the leaves from the stems. Cut the stems into 1cm lengths and set aside. Cut the leaves into 1 cm strips and set aside separately.
Heat the oil in a frypan to medium-low and add the garlic and anchovies, they should sizzle, but not brown. Cook for a few minutes until fragrant and the rawness has been cooked out of the garlic. Turn the heat up a little, then add the bread, some salt and pepper and cook, stirring until the flavoured oil has been soaked up and the the bread is starting to turn a little crispy. Remove from heat and pour bread mixture into a separate bowl.
Wipe out the frypan and return to a medium to high heat. Add a little oil to the pan and add the stems. Cook for a few minutes until starting to soften, you may need to add a little water so that they don’t stick. Add the beetroot leaves to the pan, along with a little water and salt, and cook, stirring until they have wilted and softened and the stems are also soft. At this point you can stir through some of the bread, it will soak up the leaf juices and turn a wonderful pink. Alternatively, transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle with the bread crumbs. Serve immediately.

This work, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.


  1. Posted May 17, 2009 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

    Can’t wait to try this…it sounds so good!

    Michelle’s last blog post..TFF — Slow-Roasted Pork Shoulder

  2. Posted May 17, 2009 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    I love the addition of anchovy here. Simple dish but packed with flavor. My kind of food. Thanks for sharing!

    LunaCafe’s last blog post..Spring Rhubarb & Apple Crisp with Toasted Hazelnut Streusel

  3. Posted May 17, 2009 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

    Yummy! Beetroot leaves are almost the best bit. Definitely tastier than plain old silverbeet. And I cooked rhubarb this morning, so maybe there’s something red-stemmed/green-leaved in the air (oh right, it’s called Autumn).

    miss_om’s last blog post..I have a secret to share with you…

  4. Posted May 17, 2009 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

    Wow. Who would’ve thunk it. I just bought a bunch of beetroots for borscht but I’ll definitely make something of the leaves now. Thanks! Learning heaps from your blog!

    Forager’s last blog post..Altered flavour states with miracle fruit!

  5. Posted May 18, 2009 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    Beetroot leaf rolls sounds fiddly with such narrow leaves, but the lemon, cumin filling sounds great. I’ve been eating a lot of beetroot leaves in lentil dishes lately.

    Arwen from Hoglet K’s last blog post..Standard Recipes for Fifty

  6. Posted May 18, 2009 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    Oh, I would have never thought the beetroot leaves would be useful! haha.

    Betty’s last blog post..Cho Dumpling King

  7. Posted May 19, 2009 at 12:55 am | Permalink

    Nice use of the leaves, recipe looks easy enough as well! Anchovy is great! I made a simple pasta the other night with just olive oil, garlic and anchovies and it was good enough as a main meal.

    Howard’s last blog post..Sushi Dai, Tsukiji Fish Market (Japan)

  8. Posted May 26, 2009 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    Michelle: It really is, and you can substitute all different kinds of greens for the beetroot leaves, though it won’t have the same earthiness.

    LunaCafe: No worries, thanks!

    miss_om: They are tastier than silverbeet (though I do have a little silverbeet trick up my sleeve), and the colour is so pretty. I love rhubarb, but often the stuff in the shops here is tired and rubbery – gotta get my dad to send some down :)

    Forager: Aww shucks, thank you :)

    Arwen from Hoglet K: Yeah, the rolls really were a bit fiddly, but if you mix is thick enough, and you blanch the leaves, and can pack them into your pan, then you dont really have to worry about the stability of the rolls. Beetroot leaves and lentils sounds like a tasty (hippy) combination, ill give it a go :)

    Betty: They are almost the best bit! :)

    Howard: Anchovies are much maligned, but I reckon that people who hate them on pizza would love the depth that they add to sauces when they are cooked down in it (if only they knew that anchovies were in there). Though on pizza I think it is a bit of a textural issue as well. I <3 anchovies.

  9. Posted May 29, 2009 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    Other edible leaves include Strawberry leaves. Yep. And you can eat those raw, dressed as in a salad. Ooh, and celery leaves.

    SydneyCider’s last blog post..Sydney Secret Dinners

  10. Posted May 29, 2009 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

    Full of surprises :) I never knew about the strawberry leaves, next time I pilfer strawberries I will grab a few leaves and give it a go.
    I only like the pale yellow celery leaves, I find the outer green ones a bit too bitter

  11. Anthony
    Posted July 17, 2009 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

    Hi, I gotta say I wholeheartedly agree with you. They are the best! I just had them lightly stir fried with water and a clove of garlic! They are awesome.. The other leaf which is DELICIOUS is sweet potato leaves. Chinese people always eat that stir fried and it is the best! ^_^

  12. jc
    Posted May 5, 2010 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for this recipe!

    I picked the whole beetroot plants out of my garden so of course wanted a recipe that would use the stalks and leaves.

    Shock horror no anchovies on hand (I binge on anchovies, just ran out) so substituted a tin of sardines. Not as good as anchovies would be, but quite adequate.

    I only wish I used real bread, not pre-made bread crumbs.

    Anyway. Thank you again for a simple and wholesome meal. :)

  13. Trevor
    Posted July 21, 2010 at 5:42 am | Permalink

    DELICIOUS. What a perfect way to use the leaves from beetroot. I have just made and eaten this. It’s so nice use as many leaves as you can as they wilt to a very small quantity.

    I will definitely make this again. S

  14. Leila
    Posted October 26, 2010 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    I could not bring my self to throw the beautiful shining leaves out and will make your recipe tonight – I love anchovies and garlic bread crumbs so I am sure it will be a delicious combination with the leaves.

  15. Amanda
    Posted June 24, 2011 at 12:58 am | Permalink

    Stumbled on this recipe, am definitely going to give it a try! I discovered a neat trick, quite by accident … if your beetroot leaves are a little on the limp side, rinse them under cold water then fill the sink and let them rest in the COLD water for 10 mins. They’ll become very crisp and perky, and will last in the fridge for up to 3 more days (or until you cook them!) Delicious :)

  16. Posted July 11, 2012 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

    id like to ask what beetroot leaves look like please.

  17. Kattie90
    Posted October 1, 2012 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    This was delicious! I’ve cooked beet root greens before but never like this! My husband could not stop eating the anchovy breadcrumbs by themselves, lol!
    The lemon and cumin tomato rice recipe you mentioned sounds amazing too – I’ll have to play around with that!

  18. Pat
    Posted January 30, 2014 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

    A similar dish can be made using Swiss chard leaves and stalks and using tinned fish in oil – sardines, mackerel etc – makes it a quick and easy meal.

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  1. […] learn to like beetroot I have, raw, pickled, steamed baked and even the leaves as the entire plant can be consumed. Beetroot take about 16 weeks to mature and the baby ones you […]

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