Can’t Beet Red Velvet Cupcakes

3/4 cup beet puree
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup dutch process cocoa (I used Guittard’s Cocoa Rouge)
1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon plain yogurt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, at room temperature

roux frosting

Preheat oven to 350. Grease or line 12 wells in a cupcake pan. Whisk together the dry ingredients. Set aside. Mix together the oil, yogurt, beet puree, vinegar, milk and eggs. Slowly add the dry ingredients. Mix thoroughly. Fill 2/3 of the way full. Bake for 15 minutes or until a toothpick in the center of the center cupcake comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack before icing.

My thoughts:

Today is my husband’s birthday and he requested cupcakes. He said he wanted red velvet. Of course I already had a go-to recipe for that but when I mentioned to him that I had heard of beets being used to naturally redden the cupcakes, he was intrigued. So I came up with this recipe. The beets not only redden the batter (and your hands) they also add sweetness and tons of moisture to the cakes. They are less red than the chemically laced variety but the beets and dutch processed cocoa does a pretty good job. They do have the classic “velvet” texture though. While the cupcakes themselves are slightly nontraditional, I frosted them with the classic accompaniment to a red velvet cake, a roux based frosting. And no, they don’t taste particularly beet-y.


  1. I’ve never made red velvet cupcakes, but if I did, I wouldn’t definitely go the beet route. I’m going to bookmark your recipe.

  2. Awesome!! I’ve been looking for a beet version to try! May i ask, how did you make the beet puree?

  3. Kristin-
    I just pureed boiled (but I bet roasted would be good too) beets in the Vitamix. A blender or food processor would work too.

  4. lili - pikelet & pie

    Oh, I was looking for a recipe just like this recently, but instead I made a disastrous chocolate beetroot cake (i stupidly trusted the recipe when it said to mix the eggs and the softened butter together). Epic fail. Next time im trying this one.

  5. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I have grandchildren who have ADHD and react very badly to red food coloring, but they absolutely love red velvet cake. This is the perfect solution. Now we don’t have to live with devil kids for 4 days after they’ve eaten it. I can’t wait to try it.

  6. This is great!! I always wanted to make Red Velvet- but I won’t use food coloring….so this is the best!!

  7. I have never ever ever thought/heard/pondered/considerd using beets in cupcakes. I love ’em roasted, popped outta the can, on a salad but cupcakes, WOW! I searched high and low for a cupcake today too, and this falls into my lap, oh baby!

  8. Using beet for the colouring! That’s a great idea!

  9. I don’t even know the true red velvet texture. I’ve never had one before because I’m a little hesitant to use so much colouring. I’ve been searching for a more natural way to colour the batter. Thanks for sharing this great recipe!

  10. I am LOVING this idea. What a stroke of genius! I have to admit that the balsamic vinegar is quite intriguing as well.

  11. Happy birthday C&L's husband!

  12. I love Red Velvet cake and I’ve been trying all sorts of natural ways to color the batter. I’ve used beet juice before but when the cake came out of the oven it was a very, very pale pink.

    I’ll give this recipe a go – fingers crossed!

  13. Will definitely be giving this a try. We get a ton of beets from our CSA farm and I am always looking for ways to use them. Tried a beet chocolate bread/cake and the spouse totally hated it so will try to sneak this one by him!!

  14. I will definitely try yours! I had a very funny run in with my attempt to do this very thing for a Valentine's Day for my tykes. It's documented with pictures at my blog. Heh heh.

  15. I tried this recipe and it made the best cupcakes I've ever eaten, but they didn't turn out red at all… more like the deep brown of a devil's food cake… maybe I did something wrong? how did you prepare the beet puree? I boiled the beets and then put them in a food processor… ?

  16. Virtue-
    I am glad you enjoyed the cupcakes! What kind of cocoa did you use? Red dutch process adds some color but as I said in the recipe and as you can see in the picture, it will not be as red as it would be made with artifical dyes.

  17. I love this recipe, it's definitely going to become a staple. I was going to make a beetroot cake but then saw this and had to try it.
    The cupcakes are not too sweet (something I like) and the beetroot gives a very subtle peppery spice taste. Super moist too. And of course so much nicer using a vegetable for natural food colouring, no one guessed there were 5 beetroots in these cupcakes either!!!
    Amazing with your Roux Frosting – very special cupcakes!!! BTW followed the recipe but ended up with 16 cupcakes

  18. I've made a beetroot cake before and yes, they are lovely and moist, and the beet flavour is very minimal.
    I am very tempted by your cupcakes, I have bookmarked them.
    Thank you for sharing!

  19. Jessamyn Sommers

    I made these cupcakes tonight, they came out beautifully moist and light. I substituted buttermilk for the milk and yogurt. Great recipe, thanks:)

  20. I made these for my kid, in my never-ending effort to slip more healthy things into her diet. She loved them. And they are incredibly moist. Beets? Who knew?

  21. I made them last week with farmers' market beets, and they were amazing! I used drinkable yogurt from the middle eastern grocery and it worked just right!

  22. I have been obsessing over Red Velvet cupcakes lately, and made these cupcakes tonight (as well as the roux frosting) and they were the best cupcakes I have ever made! I roasted the beets and used Drost cocoa. The batter was very red, but the final product was not – it was very dark like devil's food cake – but who cares?? They are so moist and delicious! This recipe is a keeper – thank you for posting!

  23. i tried your recipe and was a bit nervous b/c of the beets. i hate beets. the batter tasted beety to me, but the cupcakes were moist and yummy.
    to make them even healthier(my friend is on WW) i used apple sauce instead of oil.
    thanks so much for sharing your recipe!

  24. thanks for your inspiring recipe.
    i love beets and cupcakes and was looking for a recipe i could modify to make mostly sugarless and flourless.

    using the basic proportions~i did just that!
    substituted almond flour for regular flour
    and applesauce for most of the oil and sugar
    almond milk for the milk
    and a bit of agave for a little sweetness to compliment the already sweet beets and applesauce…

    the last of the batch is still in the oven setting up
    i think it was a success!
    the first trial 'one' i baked is SUPER moist and seems to hold together rather well despite my alterations.

    again, thanks! what a treat!

  25. These cupcakes came out moist and delicious. I used Trader Joe's Organic Cocoa Powder and Greek Yogurt, and they needed a few extra minutes in my oven, but otherwise followed directions exactly. They're definitely brown, though, not red at all 🙁

    The roux frosting is to die for. I don't think I'll ever make another buttercream for the rest of my days.

  26. Thank you!
    Ever since I heard about red velvet cake I had unsuccesfully looked out for recipes with beet.

    I made this for my wedding anniversary a last week and absolutely loved it, (I made a three layer cake with home made mascarpone and balsamic vinegar poached strawberries, and covered with a simple cream cheese frosting) and it was amazing!!! Love your recipes!!!!

  27. I was just reading the posts, and saw that some poeple got brown cupcakes… my mother in law and I made this very same recipe, but got different colouring as well. I pureed the beet with its cooking water, that had a very rich colour, but she didn't. Maybe that was it…

  28. Love this recipe! I made a dairy-free version this weekend (posted as the link by my name) and devoured them! Great way to use up the last of my garden beets, thanks.

  29. oh my goodness you just made my day! red velvet is my favorite, but my son reacts very badly to red food dye. i thought this was off the menu until he moves out! YUM.

  30. I made these for Valentines, and while they were quite moist and had a good texture (I did use cake flour instead of AP), the beet flavor was very dominant. I roasted the beets from our CSA box. Perhaps the roasting brings out the flavor more?

  31. I made these cupcakes last night for Valentines day. They were moist and had a good texture with a nice crumb (I did use cake flour instead of AP) but the beet flavor was very dominant. I roasted the beets from our CSA box, then slipped the peels off. Maybe roasting brings out the beet flavor more?

    I wouldn't say it was an unpleasant flavor, just….beety.

  32. keithanderika
    Yes, roasting does bring out the flavor in vegetables. That is why the recipe does not call for roasted beets.

  33. Ok, just going by your response to Kristin that you thought roasted would be good too. Already had the oven going, so just stuck them in too. Thanks again.

  34. Ok, just going by your response to Kristin that you thought roasted would be good too. Already had the oven going, so just stuck them in too. Thanks again.

  35. I assumed (perhaps wrongly) that Kristin understood how roasting worked/made vegetables taste. To each their own but again, I did not call for or suggest roasted beets for this recipe.

  36. One word: AMAZING!!! (Not a "red" cake but the taste makes you say who cares!)

  37. Hello Rachel,
    I made these last night & they were delicious! Light, moist & you can hardly taste the beets. But, they were a little more on the chocolate side for me. I might lessen the cocoa next time I make them. Great recipe though! Didn't mind that it wasn't red at all!

  38. Thanks so much for this! I have heard that red velvet was originally made with beet juice to give it sweetness during the civil war, when there was a sugar shortage, so I've been looking for a 'real' red velvet recipe for a while! This is wonderful!
    Also, in response to a lot of people's comments about the brownish color, here's a little bit of info:

    There are two types of cocoa powder: natural and alkalized. Natural cocoa powder reacts with acids, such as those found in vinegar, as well as buttermilk—a common ingredient in layer cakes, to turn a reddish, mahogany color. Alkalized cocoa powder (also known as "Dutch Process" or "Dutched" cocoa) does not react to acid, it just stays brown.

    Just wanted to share!
    Thanks again!

  39. how I WISH I had known you could use beets. I made my first ever red velvet cake today with food coloring. It came out delicious, but I WILL try the beets next time.

  40. I have a question: If I wanted to make a cake, instead of cupcake, what would I need to change? I'm a little new at baking cakes from scratch… Love that there are beets for the coloring instead of artificial food coloring – that had turned me off of red velvet. I definitely want to try this!

  41. Tania
    You wouldn't have to change anything but I've never made it as a cake so I don't know how much cake you'd end up with. Maybe 1 8-inch single layer cake?

  42. I tried it and you were right, I probably should have made an 8inch cake! Instead I tried to make 2 9-inch round cakes. It worked perfectly with the 15 minute bake time, but each cake was pretty thin (about an inch tall). Next time I think I'll double the recipe and then make 4 9-inch cakes. That will make a nice 4 layer round cake! And with only 15 minutes of bake time, it won't take that long to bake 4! Thanks Rachel!

  43. Hi Rachel, I tried this recipe twice, I loved the taste but the cake did not rise at all. First the upper part was fluffy but the bottom was quite dense. I thought I did keep it in the oven enough. Second time, after longer cooking time it was still quite dense. BTW I cooked it in loaf pan (cooking time 30-50 mins). Do you get fluffy cakes? Any suggestions for me?

  44. Anon,
    I've never had them be anything but fluffy and moist. I am not sure why you are baking cupcakes in a loaf pan though.

  45. Susan Ruddy Photography

    These were amazing! I made them for my daughter's 18th b-day and all of the kids loved them! Even the one child who is going to Johnson and Wales for Baking LOVED them!!! They weren't red tasted a little different than red velvet cupcakes I've had but still so delicious! The frosting was amazing too!

  46. Hello Rachel! I really like to cook cupcakes and i would like to try this Red Velvet cupcakes, but I have some questions before to try your recipe. Do you have the recipe in grams? I don't have cups of tea at home, but cups of coffee and they are smaller… And what is Dutch Cocoa? Is it a kind of cocoa? i'm from Spain and i don't know where i can find it. Thanks for your help and congratulatios for your blog!

  47. Hi Alicia
    I don't have the recipe in grams but there are a lot of charts online that should be able to help you convert it.
    It is a little tricky because cups are volume and grams are weight but it can be done.

    Dutch process cocoa is a type of cocoa. When I was in Europe I only saw Dutch process so I bet that might be what you are already using. Non Dutch process seems to be an American thing.

  48. Hi Rachel,
    I'm so happy I found a velvet cake recipe that doesn't use food coloring!

    How many beets did you end up using to make 3/4 cup? I'm not familiar with US cup measurements.

  49. Fenny
    I want to say 3 beets.

  50. Hello again, Rachel
    I just made these cupcakes. They didn't turn red at all, but dark brown.

    I think it has something to do with the cocoa powder that I was using. I will experiment some more. But they are undeniably very moist and not too sweet, I love them! For the frosting I used mascarpone and whipping cream.

  51. I made these today in my solar oven and they turned out so tasty. Mine are also more brown than red, but they are just so yummy. Trying to save some for when the kids get home is going to be hard!

  52. I'm saving this as red velvet is a traditional birthday cake in my family. I have some questions.

    When you pureed your beets, did you include any of the cooking water? If so do you remember about how much? Do you foresee any problem using canned beets?

    I love the idea of not having to use the food coloring as well as adding some veggie goodness. And this will finally be a good use for the natural cocoa I bought by mistake!

  53. I did not use any of the cooking liquid, I think canned beets would be okay but I haven't tried that myself.

  54. Thank you!

  55. Great cupcakes. I have done these several times already, and they are my children's favorite. These are one of the fluffiest cupcakes I have ever baked. I like to mention that I have tried both baked and boiled beets and in my experience baked are better. I never found them to be beety, however I have used butter instead of oil and that maybe hide the beet flavour somehow.
    For these that can still notice the beety flavour I would suggest some choccolate addition to the frosting. Thanks for the recipe