Ah, the sweeter side of vegetables. From carrot cake to zucchini bread, fresh veggies definitely have a place on my dessert table. Carrots, beets, zucchini, corn. they all lend themselves to wonderful summer dessert recipes. I also LOVE chocolate, so I thought, “Why not combine vegetables with chocolate and make this whole ‘veggies for dessert’ idea a thing?”

But, veggies in cupcakes? Stay with me…

Lots of different vegetables can make good desserts. Zucchini are great because they add tons of moisture. Carrots make good desserts because they are naturally sweet—a healthier alternative to sugar-heavy treats. 

When root veggies are roasted or baked, their natural sweetness is enhanced, creating a rich flavor profile—and that’s a great excuse to turn on the oven this summer! (Yep, I like to bake all year long.) Baking in summertime can actually be a lot of fun. You get to explore seasonal flavors unique to this time of year. Incorporating fresh berries, stone fruits, and more will yield a recipe box full of juicy and delicious treats. 

So call your family and friends—my Red Velvet Beet Cupcake recipe topped with my Classic Vanilla Buttercream Frosting is shareable and perfect for picnics and get-togethers in the warm summer sunshine. 

In case you need more convincing, beets and chocolate naturally go very well together!

Beets and chocolate make a perfect (albeit slightly unorthodox) pair. Beets have a delightful flavor that complements chocolate so well. The earthy undertones of the beet enhance the depth of the chocolate's flavor, creating a flavor balance that appeals to both sweet and savory preferences. When added to desserts like cakes, cupcakes, and brownies, beets add natural sweetness and moisture, which means we can use less refined sugar and fat. It really is a way to add veggies to a dessert without sacrificing any of the flavors!

Pro Tip: I use my large food processor to make the batter for this recipe.

By pulsing the beets with the liquid ingredients, I get a nice smooth batter. If you don’t have a large food processor, use the size you have, working in batches if necessary, then transfer the beet mixture to a mixing bowl and use a handheld mixer to incorporate the dry ingredients.

Decorating Your Cupcakes

Another benefit of using beets in this recipe is that you’ll get a gorgeous red velvet cake batter without using food dye. The beets’ bright red color gives the batter a natural and subtle red hue, making these cupcakes all the more enticing and memorable.

Once they’re baked and cooled, top your natural red velvet cupcakes with a generous swirl of homemade vanilla buttercream frosting and a sprinkle of white sparkling sugar for that something extra. Although these are individual servings, you’ll definitely find yourself reaching for more than one. But what the heck—they’re made with vegetables, right? They must be good for you on some level!

Yield: Makes 18 to 20
Red Velvet Beet Cupcakes Recipe with Classic Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

Red Velvet Beet Cupcakes Recipe with Classic Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

These delicious chocolate cupcakes get their red color naturally from roasted red beets. The beets also provide extra moisture to the finished cupcakes. This recipe makes 18 to 20 cupcakes, but the baked cupcakes freeze well. Simply defrost at room temperature for one hour.


Batter Ingredients
  • 10 ounces fresh red beets (approximately 2 medium-sized beets)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • ¾ cup canola oil
  • ¾ cup buttermilk
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
Frosting Ingredients
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons milk, as needed
For the Garnish (optional)
  • White sparkling sugar


  1. Roast the beets: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the beets on a large piece of aluminum foil and wrap foil around the beets. Place the foil packet on a baking sheet pan. Roast beets until a paring knife easily goes through them, approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on size of beets.
  2. Remove the cooked beets from the oven and let them cool. Run the beets under some cool water and slip the skins off. You may want to wear disposable gloves so your fingers do not turn red.
  3. Roughly chop the beets. If possible, use a kitchen scale to weigh out 10 ounces of beets. If you use 2 medium-sized beets, it should come out to about 10 ounces.
  4. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Divide 20 paper cupcake liners between two 12-well cupcake pans. The recipe makes between 18 and 20 cupcakes. Set the prepared pans aside.
  5. Prepare the batter: In the bowl of a food processor, place the coarsely chopped beets and lemon juice. Pulse until finely chopped, stopping now and then to push the beets back to the bottom of the bowl. Add the oil and buttermilk and process until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, and process until combined.
  6. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk to combine. Add the dry ingredients to the food processor and pulse until combined.
  7. Fill each cupcake liner ⅔ full of batter. Bake for 16 to 18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Allow your cupcakes to cool in the pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove and let cool completely.
  8. Prepare the frosting: In a stand mixer, beat the softened butter on medium speed for 2 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium low, then add the vanilla extract, 3 cups of confectioners’ sugar and 2 tablespoons of milk. Beat to combine. Add the remaining 1 cup confectioners’ sugar and beat for several minutes until light and fluffy. If the frosting is too stiff, you can also add the remaining milk.
  9. I like to remove the paper liners from the cupcakes before frosting them. That beautiful color really pops against the white frosting! Place the frosting in a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip. Pipe frosting on the cooled cupcakes. If desired, garnish with the white sparkle sugar.
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August 30, 2023 — Mary DiSomma