Jessica B. Harris' Harvard Beets

This holiday calls for nostalgia in a can.

Jessica’s Harvard Beets
Photo: Victor Protasio; Food Styling: Margaret Monroe Dickey; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis
Active Time:
10 mins
Total Time:
35 mins

"There was never a Thanksgiving when sweet-and-sour Harvard beets—which my mother prepared using canned beets—did not appear on the table. It was the only time of year that we had this dish," writes Southern Living contributing editor Jessica B. Harris.

This Thanksgiving, Southern Living's editors and contributors are sharing the recipes that grace our tables year after year—like Jessica's Harvard Beets. These holiday-ready beets are here to provide a blast of nostalgia. Whether it's Thanksgiving or Christmas, there's always a place for these classic beets on the table. Made with just a few ingredients (including canned beets, which make this recipe preparation a breeze), these tangy beets have a rich, glossy sauce. Harris uses a pickling technique of boiling the beets in a vinegar mixture to infuse these root vegetables with a big dose of flavor. When cooking, be sure to stir very gently to keep the beets from breaking apart. You can serve these pretty crimson beet rounds warm or chilled.


  • ¾ cup granulated sugar 

  • cup apple cider vinegar 

  • 4 teaspoons cornstarch 

  • 2 (15-oz.) cans sliced beets, drained, reserving ⅓ cup beet liquid

  • 3 tablespoons butter 

  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt 

  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper 


  1. Whisk together sugar, vinegar, cornstarch, and ⅓ cup beet liquid (or water) in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high. Reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, whisking occasionally, about 5 minutes. Gently stir beets into sugar vinegar mixture. Reduce heat to low, and simmer about 30 minutes, gently stirring occasionally. Stir in butter, salt, and pepper until butter melts. Remove from heat. Serve beets warm or chilled.

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