Unveiling the Distinctions: Radish Vs Beet – What’s the Real Difference?

Radish vs. Beet – What’s the difference?

When it comes to incorporating more vegetables into our diets, it can be challenging to venture beyond our familiar favorites. Radishes and beets are two vegetables that are often overlooked, but they offer unique flavors and culinary possibilities worth exploring. Contrary to popular belief, radishes and beets are not the same vegetable, nor are they variations of each other. They are different types of vegetables with their own characteristics and uses.

What are radishes?

Radishes are an underrated vegetable in the category of edible roots. While they are not classified as true roots, such as taproots and tuberous roots, they are in the same category as bulbs, tubers, rhizomes, and corms. The most common type of radish is the small red radish, but there are other subspecies such as daikon radish and black radish. Radishes have a spherical shape and typically measure about 1 inch in diameter. They come in a variety of colors, with white and red/pink being the most common. Radishes have a distinctly spicy and pungent flavor with a lingering sweet aftertaste, often described as peppery. They are usually eaten raw, but can also be cooked or pickled.

What are beets?

Beets, also known as turnips, are taproot vegetables that have been cultivated for thousands of years. The taproot is the part that grows directly under the stem and gives rise to other roots. Turnips come in several varieties, with the common red/purple turnip being the best known. Other varieties include golden beets with a yellow/golden color and candy cane beets with red and white stripes. Beets are larger bulbs than radishes and can be found in miniature versions known as baby beets. The leaves that grow above the ground, known as “beet greens,” are also edible. Beets have an earthy flavor and can be slightly bitter, but their flavors can be enhanced through various cooking methods and ingredient pairings. While raw beets are tough and crunchy, cooking them softens their texture.

The differences between radishes and beets

Radishes and beets are not only different types of vegetables, but also have noticeable differences in appearance, flavor, and texture. Scientifically, radishes belong to the species Raphanus raphanistrum, while beets belong to the species Beta vulgaris. Visually, beets are larger than radishes and have a slightly bumpy and uneven surface. Radishes are lighter in color, while beets are deeper and darker. The flesh of radishes is usually white, while the flesh of beets matches the color of the skin or may have red and white stripes. Flavor-wise, radishes have a peppery, spicy flavor with a subtle sweetness, while beets have an earthy, slightly bitter and sweet flavor.

Compare radishes and beets

Here’s a quick comparison chart highlighting the main differences between radishes and beets:

  • Species: Raphanus raphanistrum
  • Size: 0.75-1.25 inches in diameter
  • Outer color: red/pink, white, purple, yellow
  • Flesh color: Mostly white
  • Leaves: Edible, but not widely consumed
  • Flavor: Peppery, spicy, slightly sweet


  • Species: Beta vulgaris
  • Size: 2-3 inches in diameter
  • Outer color: Various shades of red, pink, purple and yellow/gold
  • Flesh color: Same color as flesh or red and white striped
  • Leaves: Edible and often used in cooking
  • Flavor: Earthy, slightly bitter and sweet

Cooking Radishes and Turnips

Both radishes and beets offer a variety of cooking options. Here are some popular cooking methods for each:


  • Raw: Radishes are often eaten raw for their crunchy and refreshing texture. They can be used in salads or as a fresh garnish.
  • Cooked: While radishes are often eaten raw for their unique flavor, they can also be cooked. Cooking radishes softens their texture and mellows their pungency. They can be roasted, sautéed, or even grilled to bring out different flavors.
  • Pickled: Radishes can be pickled to create tangy and flavorful additions to sandwiches, tacos, or salads. Pickling radishes enhances their crunchiness and adds a delightful tang.


  • Roasted: Roasting beets brings out their natural sweetness and intensifies their flavor. Simply wrap them in foil and bake until tender. Roasted beets can be enjoyed on their own or used in a variety of dishes.
  • Boiled or steamed: Beets can be boiled or steamed until tender and then used in salads, soups, or side dishes. Cooking them this way helps them retain their vibrant color and earthy flavor.
  • Grated or shredded: Raw beets can be grated or shredded and used in salads or slaws. They add vibrant color and a sweet, earthy crunch to any dish.
  • Pickled: Pickled beets are a popular way to preserve and enjoy their flavor. They can be added to sandwiches, charcuterie boards or used as a tangy side dish.

Pairing Radishes and Beets

Both radishes and beets can be paired with a variety of ingredients to enhance their flavors and create delicious combinations. Here are a few pairing suggestions:

  • Radishes:
    • Butter or cream cheese: Spread butter or cream cheese on thinly sliced radishes for a creamy and crunchy combination.
    • Citrus: Squeeze lemon or lime juice over radishes to add a tangy brightness to their peppery flavor.
    • Herbs: Pair radishes with fresh herbs like dill, parsley, or chives to enhance their unique flavor.
    • Avocado: Combine sliced radishes with avocado for a creamy-crunchy textural contrast.
  • Beets:
    • Goat cheese or feta: The creamy and tangy flavors of goat cheese or feta pair beautifully with the earthy sweetness of beets.
    • Nuts: Add crunch to your beet dishes by incorporating toasted walnuts, pecans, or almonds.
    • Balsamic Vinegar: Drizzle balsamic vinegar over roasted beets to enhance their natural sweetness and add a touch of acidity.
    • Greens: Beet greens can be sautéed or used in salads and are a nutritious and flavorful addition to beet-based dishes.


Radishes and beets may look similar due to their round shape and bright colors, but they are different vegetables with unique characteristics. Radishes are smaller, spicier, and classified as non-root vegetables, while beets are larger, earthier, and true root vegetables. Both radishes and beets offer a range of flavors and cooking options, from raw preparations to different cooking methods. By exploring the differences and similarities between radishes and beets, you can expand your culinary horizons and discover new and delicious ways to incorporate these vegetables into your meals.
Remember, don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and try radishes and beets. Their distinctive flavors and versatility may surprise and delight your taste buds!


No, radishes and turnips are not the same vegetable. They belong to different species and have different characteristics, flavours and culinary uses.

What is the main difference between radishes and turnips?

The main difference between radishes and beets is their taste, size and appearance. Radishes have a spicy, peppery flavour and are smaller in size, typically about 1 inch in diameter. Turnips, on the other hand, have an earthy, slightly bitter and sweet flavour and are larger in size, ranging from 2 to 3 inches in diameter.

Can radishes and turnips be cooked?

Yes, both radishes and turnips can be cooked. Radishes can be roasted, sautéed or grilled to soften their pungency and bring out different flavours. Beets can be roasted, boiled, steamed or even grated or shredded for use in different dishes. Cooking methods help to enhance their flavours and create delicious culinary experiences.

How can I use radishes and beets in my cooking?

Radishes can be eaten raw in salads or as a fresh garnish. They can also be cooked, which gives them a softer texture and milder flavour. Pickling radishes is another popular option. Beets can be roasted, boiled, steamed or grated for use in salads, slaws or as a stand-alone dish. They can also be pickled for a tangy and flavourful addition to sandwiches or charcuterie boards.

What are some popular pairings for radishes and beets?

For radishes, popular pairings include spreading butter or cream cheese on thinly sliced radishes, squeezing lemon or lime juice over them for a tangy twist, combining them with fresh herbs such as dill or parsley, or pairing them with avocado for a creamy and crunchy texture contrast. Beets can be paired with creamy and tangy goat’s cheese or feta, toasted nuts for added crunch, drizzled with balsamic vinegar to enhance their sweetness, or combined with sautéed beet greens for a nutritious addition.

Can I eat the leaves of radishes and turnips?

Although the leaves of both radishes and beets are edible, they are more commonly consumed with beets. Beet greens, the leaves that grow above ground, can be sautéed or used in salads and are a nutritious and flavourful addition to beet dishes. Radish leaves are less commonly eaten, but are also edible and can be used in a variety of culinary preparations.