Have you asked What is a Rutabaga? How Do I Cook One? Fall is here, and that means it’s almost rutabaga season. There are generally some surprised looks when I tell people that I genuinely love rutabagas, but I suspect that’s because those people have never had this vegetable cooked to perfection. It’s definitely a fall or early winter treat!
Learn more about fruits and vegetables that you may pass at the grocery store in our How To Cook 101 section. Plus, try our excellent recipe for Turnip Puff where you can easily exchange the turnip with rutabaga.
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What is a Rutabaga?
Rutabagas, also called Swedish turnips (not to be confused with actual turnips), or swedes, are root vegetables. They are cruciferous vegetables and belong to the same plant family as broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower.
They are often said to be a cross between a cabbage and a turnip, and they look very similar to turnips. Their skin is brownish-yellow or purple in color on the outside and has yellow flesh or white on the inside.
They are used in a variety of types of cooking, largely due to their high nutrient content, as they are high in vitamins and have many health benefits. They are rich in antioxidants such as carotenoids plus high in vitamins like C and E.
What Does a Rutabaga Taste Like?
What they taste like depends largely on how it’s prepared. When eaten raw, they have a milder taste than turnips, whereas turnips can have more of a radish flavor. When cooked, rutabagas have a sweet-savory taste, although they still have a slightly bitter flavor (kind of like a Yukon gold potato). Rutabagas and turnips can be easily interchangeable. Both make excellent side dishes in so many recipes.
If you’re new to cooking with this vegetable, there are some things you need to know before you purchase them.
The first thing that you will need to know is that rutabagas from the grocery store are usually sold coated in paraffin wax to keep them from drying out in storage. You should ask when buying one from a farmer’s market because some are coated in wax (they’ll keep for months this way!), but others aren’t and should be used first.
You’ll definitely want to remove the waxy skin before cooking your rutabaga. Peeling this waxed vegetable is tough – it’s been described as trying to peel a greased bowling ball. To make the job a little easier, slice off the stem and root ends with a chef’s knife to create a stable base that you can sit on your cutting board. Stand the rutabaga upright on a cutting board and remove the skin with the chef’s knife, carefully working from top-to-bottom.
Once that waxed exterior is removed, you can start cooking.
What is a Rutabaga good for?
There are lots of ways to prepare rutabagas. Here are some of the most common:
One of the simplest ways to eat rutabagas (and, in my opinion, one of the tastiest, too) is to cube, boil, and then mash them with butter. If you’ve ever over-mashed potatoes and had them turn into a glue-like substance, don’t worry. You literally can’t over-mash this trooper of a vegetable. There are some people who put the mashed rutabagas in the food processor to make them super smooth. Add carrots for some extra color or squash for a little sweetness.
Just like sweet potatoes, and regular potatoes, rutabaga makes really great oven fries. Simply slice them into spears. Then toss the spears in the fat of your choice (olive oil, vegetable oil, or even bacon grease), and add salt and whatever seasonings you want. I love a bit of paprika and cayenne pepper, but you can also use garlic powder, thyme, or oregano. Then roast at 425 degrees for 30 minutes. You can also do rutabaga fries in an air fryer or deep fryer. Play around with this delicious vegetable; you won’t be disappointed.
Roasting is an easy way to enjoy this winter vegetable. Do as you do when mashing them and first start off by cutting them into cubes but then toss them in olive oil with salt on a sheet pan. Roast the cubed rutabaga at 425 degrees for 30 minutes. If you want to highlight the slightly sweet taste of this vegetable, drizzle with a little brown sugar or even maple syrup before serving.
Have you tried rutabaga before? Will you try it now? What’s your favorite way to prepare it? Let me know in the comments below!
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