This beet salad with feta and pumpkin seeds is a stunning jumble of healthy feel-good food. Here, roasted beets and salted pumpkin seeds are tossed with peppery watercress and topped with tangy feta and homemade vinaigrette.
It’s not overpromising to say that this vibrant, zesty salad will jolt awake both your table and your tastebuds. You’ll first swoon at the jewel-toned beets and vibrant greens but get ready to do a happy dance after experiencing the perfect balance of sweet and salty. Don’t omit the pumpkin seeds—they bring just the right counterpunch to the earthy beets and salty feta. And we expect you to be plenty glad that the recipe makes extra for snacking. Happy dance #2.–Jenny Howard
Beet Salad with Feta and Pumpkin Seeds
For the beet salad
- 4 pounds small beets mixed colors if desired
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 cup water
- 6 tablespoons sherry vinegar
- 1 shallot thinly sliced
For the salted pumpkin seeds
- 1 1/2 cups raw pumpkin seeds
- 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
For the House Vinaigrette
- 3 tablespoons chopped red onion
- 2/3 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup canola oil or other neutral tasting oil
- 1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon grainy Dijon mustard
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 4 cups packed watercress leaves
- 1/4 cup House Vinaigrette
- 4 ounces feta cheese crumbled
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Make the beet salad
- Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).
- Cut any greens off the beets and discard or reserve for another use, leaving about 1/2 inch (1 cm) of stem. Scrub the beets under running water and pat dry with paper towels. Place the beets in a large roasting pan and toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil and salt. Pour the water into the roasting pan and cover tightly with foil. Roast beets until tender when pierced with a knife, 50 to 60 minutes. Note that roasting time will depend on the size and type of beets.
- Remove foil from the roasting pan and set aside until the beets are cool enough to handle. Peel the beets and then slice into wedges.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the remaining 1/2 cup olive oil, sherry vinegar, and shallot. If using more than a single color of beet, divide the dressing into multiple bowls to prevent darker beets from bleeding their colored juices into the lighter beets. Add the beet wedges to the bowl(s) and toss with the dressing. Marinate the beets for at least 2 hours at room temperature, or refrigerate, covered, for up to 12 hours.
Make the salted pumpkin seeds
- While the beets are marinating, set a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add the pumpkin seeds and toast, stirring constantly, until puffed and slightly brown, about 10 minutes. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with kosher salt, and stir to coat. Remove skillet from the heat. Reserve 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds for the salad. (The remaining pumpkin seeds may be cooled and stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.)
Make the House Vinaigrette
- In a blender, combine the onion, oil, vinegar, sugar, mustard, and salt and pepper, to taste, and whiz until creamy, about 1 minute.
- Drain the beets and discard the marinade. In a medium bowl, gently toss the marinated beets with the watercress and House Vinaigrette. Garnish with 1/4 cup salted pumpkin seeds and the crumbled feta. Season with salt and pepper and serve.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This recipe is easily scaled up or down, and has 3 distinct elements—the beets, the greens, and the garnish of feta and nuts—that make it instantly appealing.
This recipe asks for a little time planning, but that shouldn’t put you off making it. If you start this the evening before, you can roast the pumpkins seeds while the beets are roasting and set them aside (a full batch of nuts lets you sneak a snack without guilt!). I felt the roasting time was overly optimistic unless you had tiny tender beets (at 1 hour my medium beets were still on the firm side and also more work to peel, so I would budget more than an hour for roasting).
The suggested marinating time of the beets is 2 to 12 hours, but it did not suffer in the least being given 14 to 15 hours, and since my half batch of beets was still in excess of what I needed for 2 people, I saved the half quart of beet wedges with the marinade I had reserved and returned them to continue to marinate a bit more, gently, until another meal.
Since watercress was not readily available, I used a wild arugula (rocket) for a similar peppery note. Nice mȃche would work beautifully as well. Wash and spin dry whichever greens you use as thoroughly as possible.
Salad dressing is a nice balance and whizzes up beautifully in the blender, but if it sits overnight in the fridge, you will need to shake it up. I needn’t have worried about the raw onion being dominant—it was well balanced and the slight sweetness worked with the peppery greens and earthy beets.
I roasted the beets separately to preserve color, but as the marinade was not a large volume, I was not sure dividing the marinade would work, so I decided to throw art direction to the side and marinated both the red and golden beets together and accepted the color bleed as part of the charm.
This salad was a pretty salad with the colorful beets and would be perfect on a holiday table.
We liked the color of the golden beets and the purple in the salad. I marinated the beets for 2 hours and next time will marinate in the refrigerator for a longer time. We liked the vinaigrette and can use it on other greens for salads of any kind. The pumpkin seeds really added a lot to the salad.
Originally published January 19, 2019