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Rutabagas -- educate me, please.

I've seen these waxy-looking globes in the supermarket, but I never really thought twice about them. To me, they've always been among the produce items I always ignore." (Other items in that category include celery root and kohlrabi.) But recently, on the menu of a local restaurant, I noticed "Triple seared black angus beef with wild mushrooms and Madagascar vanilla bean-rutabaga puree" and that sparked my curiosity.

Just what IS rutabaga? Is it worth trying? Have I been missing out on something good? If I were so inclined, how would I make Madagascar vanilla bean rutabaga puree? And, besides beef, what food would you serve it with?

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  1. Rutabagas are root vegetables and are a cross between a cabbage and a turnip. It has a slightly sharp flavor. They are cold weather vegetables and is a good addition to a pan of roasted root veggies...which is how I like them. They are generally cooked as you would cook a potato. The waxy exterior is to protect them and to prepare it's peeled off. The rutabaga is usually cut in chunks then either boiled, steamed or as I mentioned, roasted.

    Here's a link to the Ohio State University Extension fact sheet with more information:

    I think to make the puree you asked about, I would simply boil or steam the chunks and mash with S & P along with the seeds from said vanilla bean..... probably adding a bit of cream as needed.....

    3 Replies
    1. re: Gio

      I see this is an older thread...hopefully someone will have thoughts... I received some very small fresh orgainc rutabagas in my co op share this week, not waxed and about the size of shallots. Maybe they're baby rutagagas! (Couldn't resist!) They are a little soft to the touch. Anyone else worked with them? I'm guessing they may be more mellow in flavor and take less time to cook than the larger ones. As we've never eaten them before, I'm thinking of boiling and flavoring as described in the thread, because there's only a few, perhaps cooking some potatoes in the cooking water first, and then tasting the cooked rutabagas before adding to the mashed potato. On the other hand, I am roasting a chicken, and could use the small amount with the vanilla flavor as described above, serving as a topping. Any thoughts?

      1. re: MCFAC

        They definitely are baby rutabagas! Like turnips they do best in cold storage which is why they might be a little soft. Rutabagas, at least to me, are on the sweet side. I've never had them with mashed potatoes but I've boiled and roasted them. Maybe cutting them up and placing them under the chicken? Something tells me that would be really good.

        1. re: MCFAC

          I like to just cut them up, steam them, mash 'em up so they're still lumpy, mix in tons of butter and some salt and a good couple twists of fresh ground black pepper. That's it.

          BTW, kohlrabi is heaven in summer - it's a pain to peel, but when you slice it thin and serve it raw and cold with homemade blue cheese dressing to dip it in, you know that summer is here.

      2. Rutabagas are in the turnip family. They have a bittersweet taste and somewhat fibrous texture. They are a good source of vitamin A (orange color). We usually make them the same way as mashed potatoes: peel, cut up into chunks, boil for about 20 minutes, and mash with milk & butter, seasoned with salt & pepper.
        Besides beef, they certainly would go fine with poultry (they are a fixture on our Thanksgiving table), lamb, or pork.

        1. Think a golden, sweeter turnip. One of my all-time favorite vegetables.

          For your first taste, chunk them up, toss with oil and salt, and roast at high heat. They'll take a while - at least an hour. Keep stirring to get them to carmelize on the edges. They're also very good mixed with other root vegetables and roasted under a chicken. (Get the vegetables started first, though, as they'll take longer than the bird.)

          I've recently been seeing some MAMMOTH specimens in my grocery store -- seriously, the size of bowling balls. One biggie I tried was just as good as the smaller ones, I thought. There's less peeling involved, but it's a little tough getting your first knife plunge through safely.

          2 Replies
          1. re: dmd_kc

            Agreed that slicing a large rutabaga in half does present safety issues, as the uncooked vegetable is very hard, and the knife may get stuck. I am trying to buy smaller ones -- no larger than the size of a modest grapefruit.

            1. re: dmd_kc

              I like them peeled, cubed and slowly roasted, covered, in a bit of stock until tender then pureed with butter and sherry.

            2. I use rutabagas in stews and soups.

              1. I love rutabega. But I find them a bit unwieldy to peel and chop. Just my 2 cents.

                1. I hate the damned things. Feed them to the cows and pigs. My mother used to cook it all the time. Up here in Canada we call them turnips, which they are not.
                  Most people cook them like potatoes and mash them or cut them in chunks for stew.
                  Any sensible person feeds them to the livestock :)

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: billieboy

                    Thanks for the laugh, Billyboy! Obviously I don't share your opinion, though. In a similar vein my Italian cousin who, when visiting one late summer, said virtually the same thing about the corn on the cob we served with dinner.

                    1. re: Gio

                      Many people have said "you haven't had them the way I cook them" yes I have and it's awful.
                      Many folks mix brown sugar with it, kinda like you do with squash (which I love)
                      Won't help though :)

                  2. Oh, one of my favourite veg! In England we called them swedes. They're best peeled with a sharp knife -- and keeping a flat side down, because they tend to roll about. I cut them into chunks and pressure cook. Then mash with a bit of brown sugar and salt. Vanilla bean sounds interesting!

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Channa

                      Yes...that's another name for them....Swedish turnips. Haven't heard that in awhile.

                      1. re: billieboy

                        I think the word "rutabaga" is better.

                      2. re: Channa

                        Oh, yes, me too. My Mum grew them & er ate them quite often. Never used your "sweet method though.

                      3. ha! during prep last week dh picked up an uncannily human heart-shaped specimen, complete with artery and vein-like stalk stubs at the top, held it up to his chest, and solemnly intoned "the telltale rutabaga" LOL! sorry, had to be there, i guess. *stupid kitchen humor*

                        rutabaga is a serviceable root vegetable like turnips, parsnips, potatoes, & carrots. you can peel it chop it & mash/puree it, you can roast it with or without other root/keeper vegetables. i like them both ways & also mashed along with potatoes. most wintry soups & stews can handle a little rutabaga :)

                        if you like turnip & parsnip preparations, you will probably like rutabaga. if you are not a fan of those, perhaps not, but i'd give it a try.

                        if folks are not scared to use a cleaver, i like to use one on the initial cut on bigger/tougher rutabagas. sink the cleaver into the rutabaga, then move your other hand well away from the cutting board and, kinda indelicately, erm. . . bash the impaled vegetable down on the cutting board until the rutabaga is halved-- same technique you use for hard-skinned larger winter squash. you can optionally shout scottish, moorish or viking war cries as you're doing this-- it seems to help :)

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: soupkitten

                          During our freshman year of high school, my best friend found a Russet Potato that had similar features. We named him Cupid. He sprouted though, so we 'had' to plant him to keep him around. He lived for many months hidden in her hedges until her pygmy goat Penelope ate it. Poor Cupid! Wow, I was a weird kid.

                          1. re: soupkitten

                            Just replying to thank you for the laugh. Prepping my Scottish war cries as I type, scaring the dog.

                          2. to cut, place on towel on cutting surface, use a big, sharp, good carbon knife to cut down through the root end through the center -- to halve it. (if its easier, you might want to carefully cut off one end, first, for a solid initial footing.)

                            here is the key, just place the knife's cutting edge on the rutabaga, using one hand to hold the handle (as cutting) and then -- with the flat palm of the other hand -- press the blade's end down to get it started into the rutabaga.

                            then holding palm against knife's upper edge, use your body weight and lean into the cut, so to speak. you are "pressing through" with a knife. then you can use a veg peeler to pull off the peel, starting from the cut edge. cube by cutting in sections.

                            in a large covered pot, render some fat from 2 slices chopped bacon. add cubed rutabaga -- about 1/2" cubes -- or smaller. add enough water to barely cover and bring to boil, then cover and simmer for about 15-20 minutes, till somewhat soft. then add in a small head of chopped cabbage, and add a little more water and salt. a good two teaspoons. bring to a simmer, and cover. cook for another 15 minutes, more or less. test the rutabagas for doneness, they should be easily pierced with a fork. cabbage should have cooked by then. taste for salt. i like fresh ground pepper to be added here.

                            you either love or hate rutabagas. i love them, and i love sharp flavored things, like mustards, greens with pepper vinegar, thai lime-juice flavored salads, etc.

                            delicious served with frank's hot sauce or -- even better -- texas pete's pepper vinegar, and some not-sweet-cornbread to soak up the pot likker. ;-).

                            1. I imagine that, as with hard-skinned winter squash, peeling would be easier and safer after microwaving the whole rutabaga for maybe 3 minutes and waiting for it to cool down. Depending on size, it might need nuking another few minutes. This is not enough to cook the flesh. By the way, have acorn squash changed, or do I just have better knives? When I first cooked them in the 1970's, I remember having to hit my chef's knife with a hammer to halve them. It's been many years since I've encountered any that needed more than a sturdy knife.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: greygarious

                                that's gonna make the wax coating messy.

                                1. re: alkapal

                                  Oops! Guess you can tell I've never cooked them.

                                2. re: greygarious

                                  Peeling is not an issue. Any decent vegetable peeler should be able to handle the peel. As others have indicated, the challenge sometimes is cutting large ones in half because the interior is so hard before cooked.

                                3. Here on the board is a recipe for Smoked Paprika Rutabaga Bisque. I made it last night, and even my husband, who isn't wild about parsnips (which I love) liked the soup. The sweet smoky flavor of the paprika really complemented the sharpness of the rutabaga. Very fast and easy as well. I also added some good Hungarian sweet paprika for color and sweetness.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: dkenworthy

                                    that sounds delish! i just got a rutabaga in my bi-weekly veg/fruit box and was wondering what to do with it. the bisque may be the answer...


                                  2. I love them anywhere I use root veg's- soups and stews, roasty veggies, in pot pies and casseroles, braised in a red wine sauce... Yum! Totally worth the effort of getting them open.

                                    1. One important piece of information, if you cook your rutabagas simply, you have to mash them on your plate with your fork and top it with hot pepper vineager. A standard meal would be, thin pork chops, rutabagas , pan sauteed cabbage and corn bread cooked in a cast iron skillet. If you don't have any hot pepper vineager you can substitute hot sauce.

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: waitress

                                        tonya, we must be soul sisters! ;-). (see the end of my long post above).

                                        1. re: alkapal

                                          Yes, we must!!!! All this talk of rutabaga, I had to make some!

                                            1. re: CindyJ

                                              cubed, boiled in water with salt and pepper, then mashed with fork on plate and topped with hot pepper vineager and fried cornbread!!!!!

                                              1. re: waitress

                                                Umm.. may I have your fried cornbread recipe please? I don't think I'll sleep until I make those. Sigh!

                                      2. In most of the UK, we call them swede (in other parts they are turnips) - one of my fave root veg.

                                        A common use is mashed carrot & swede (equal parts of each). I also grate them with carrot, any other root veg - like celeriac - and thinly sliced leek. Then steam.

                                        Any leftovers next day get dried out a bit in a frying pan and then turned into frittata.

                                        I generally like root veg - but have yet to see the point of kohlrabi.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: Harters

                                          Harters, old thread here, but I'm dying to know what you call actual turnips across the pond (if you call rutabagas turnips)?

                                          1. re: sandylc

                                            There's some geographical differences. In most of the country, what you call rutabaga are called swedes. However, in Scotland they are turnips - although that's usually expressed as "neeps" (as in the classic accompaniment to haggis of "neeps and tatties"). Turnips are turnips everywhere. The only other transatlantic difference I can think of about root veg is that celeriac is what Americans call celery root. Don't get me started on the whole aubergine/eggplant thing :-)

                                        2. Blech!!! Mom used to just boil them in chunky little pieces. They taste like earwax to me.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: sheilal

                                            Ahhh - maybe that explains the part in the first Harry Potter book where Dumbledore samples the Bertie Botts' Every-Flavor jelly beans, choosing what he expects to be a caramel one and then announcing, "Alas, earwax". That aside, any CHer who has not yet read the series should be forewarned that the descriptions of unheard-of foods in the dining hall celebrations are quite mouthwatering: some sort of nonalcoholic toddy called butterbeer and all kinds of savory puddings, followed by tempting desserts.

                                          2. This delicious soup is one of my favourite uses for rutabaga (we call them swedes in the UK).


                                            1. A mashed mix of "swedes" and carrots was a Christmas tradition - served with ham - when I lived in Sweden.

                                              1. They are delcious! Tough to "get through" but so worth the effort!

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: wineos

                                                  I mash them and mix the results with mashed potato's.

                                                  At work I cut them the size of quarter fries and deep fry them.

                                                  I also use them very thinly cut as part of my root vegetable chips (or crisps if you like)

                                                2. Simmer peeled chunks in well-salted water with cubes of Yukon Gold potatoes. Drain, dry. Put through a ricer, along with peeled apple chunks (that is, rice those, too). Add butter first, then milk and season with salt, pepper, nutmeg and maybe a touch of maple syrup. A variation on German tradition of Himmel und Erde (Heaven (apples) and Earth (the root vegetables, traditionally turnips/rutabagas and potatoes).

                                                  1. Okay! You who are fans of rutabaga have convinced me to try it. So I bought one in the supermarket this morning. There were a lot to choose from, and since I didn't know if size mattered, I chose a big one. From this afternoon's later posts, it sounds like it'll take two hands, maybe even three, to manage this baby. Some of your instructions and advice though... "...use your body weight..." "...lean into it..." -- we ARE talking about rutabaga, aren't we?

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: CindyJ

                                                      if you're asking, then you haven't tried to cut it yet. ;-).

                                                    2. Rutabagas can be a wonderful soul food. Make them soulful by peeling, dicing :^(a bear to peel and dice), boiling 'til done. After draining, mash or rice in bacon or salt pork fat. Salt and pepper them, the serve as a side with any Southern meal. Be still my restless heart :^)

                                                      1. The wax is an applied coating to keep them longer.

                                                        I love 'em, cubed, boiled till soft, and mashed with a bit of salt and sugar. Mmmmmm!

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: wayne keyser

                                                          Must be an American thing - they're not waxed in the UK.

                                                        2. The easiest way to fix rutabagas is to go to England first as they are widely sold there in supermarkets in plastic bags, frozen, already peeled and cut up in cubes (and they're called Swedes over there). Otherwise, I can't add to what's been said except to say that if you like vegetables at all you will probably love mashed buttered rutabaga, sweet and tasty. They are kind of a pain to fix as you almost have to use a meat cleaver or chainsaw to cut them and the pieces take a while to boil, but they are wonderful. Just wonderful.

                                                          1. Prepared baby rutabagas by boiling and mashing with some vanilla extract as suggested in the tread. Not bitter at all! In fact, sweet! The difference must be the size. Also, I sliced very thin before boiling as I was in a hurry to add the dish to the meal. If there was any bitterness, perhaps it was removed in a similar fashion to how blanching works with greens. Paired with roast chicken. Not a very dramatic pairing, I think next time I'll go with the beef. Here's a recipe I found that might be worth a try: http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/recipe?id=9...

                                                            1. Here's a stupid question - I've only had turnips/rutabagas a few times. Should they be considered a starch? I know people mash them but do you put gravy on them, or is a mashed turnip a vegetable side a la mashed butternut squash or parsnips?

                                                              5 Replies
                                                              1. re: greygarious

                                                                Rutabagas are a vegetable, not a starch, that's why they are a good pairing with mashed potatoes, they cut down on the calories/starch while adding vitamins. I just boil them with the potatoes and mash them up the same way you make whipped/mashed potatoes. I also really like them in stews and soups.

                                                                1. re: John E.

                                                                  Thanks - that's what I thought. I've never had them mixed with mashed potato, only plain steamed/boiled or in vegetable stew and don't much care for them, although I like most vegetables. I find the taste rather musty. But for the sake of fiber and calorie-counting, I'll give the mixed mash a try.

                                                                2. re: greygarious

                                                                  Here's what the USDA nutritional database has to say.

                                                                  Potato (Russet, flesh and skin, raw) per 100 grams
                                                                  Calories: 79
                                                                  Total carbohydrate: 18.1 gm
                                                                  Dietary fiber: 1.3 gm
                                                                  Total sugars: 0.62 gm

                                                                  Rutabaga (raw) per 100 grams
                                                                  Calories: 36
                                                                  Total carbohydrate: 8.13 gm
                                                                  Dietary fiber: 2.5 gm
                                                                  Total sugars: 5.6 gm

                                                                  1. re: greygarious

                                                                    I like them with gravy. But again I would probably put good gravy on cardboard And eat it.

                                                                    1. re: melpy


                                                                      But they are really great with gravy....

                                                                  2. Roasted is definitely the way to go. Peel, cube, and roast with potato, carrot and onion and gosh darnit they are so good! Roasting brings out their sweetness so I like to sprinkle with salt and a few splashes of malt vinegar.

                                                                    1. been cooking these for years, The best, and easiest way, is to prepare them like you would mashed potatoes. Then you can add cream, dried(or fresh) thyme, butter and a touch of brown sugar. Pretty easy. Just make them nice and creamy and they are great with Thanksgiving Turkey. Make sure you peel the wax off before cooking and mashing....duh!

                                                                      15 Replies
                                                                      1. re: peternapoli

                                                                        Wax? I'm sure I've never seen them covered in wax. Why are they waxed, when other root vegetables aren't?

                                                                        1. re: Harters

                                                                          The wax preserves them and prevents drying out during storage time... among other reasons.

                                                                          1. re: Gio

                                                                            How odd. It's not something we do in the UK. Perhaps they are stored differently here as I've never heard of them drying out, even after what must be several months storage over the winter.

                                                                            1. re: Harters

                                                                              One of the sillier "other reasons" I've read is that the wax makes them Pretty so folks will buy them. I can think of one or two prettier things than rutabagas. Home grown rutabagas are usually stored in a root cellar or similar so no need to dip in wax.

                                                                              1. re: Harters

                                                                                Here in the US they also wax turnips and parsnips.

                                                                                1. re: sandylc

                                                                                  Really? I've never seen a waxed parsnip! I thought they waxed turnips til I realized those were really rutabagas being called "yellow turnips."

                                                                                  1. re: mcf

                                                                                    I think part of why Sandy and I are seeing more waxed root vegetqbles is because we are both in Minnesota. I have noticed in arizona that the rutabagas and oarsnips are not waxed.

                                                                                    1. re: mcf

                                                                                      Never seen waxed parsnips in the Northeast.

                                                                              2. re: Harters

                                                                                Only the very large ones. They go soft very quickly otherwise and keep; forever in wax.

                                                                                1. re: mcf

                                                                                  I've also never heard of them going soft quickly. In my experience they last for a goodly while in the kitchen - much longer than, say, carrots, turnips or celeriac.

                                                                                  I've always thought that what Americans call rutabaga are what we call swedes - but this talk of wax and them going soft makes me wonder if I'm mistaken and that they're an entirely different vegetable.

                                                                                  1. re: Harters

                                                                                    I'm partial to buying the smaller ones, and unwaxed. They really start to wrinkle and go soft faster than just about anything else I buy. Here's a pic; I believe it is what Brits call swede. http://www.primalocity.com/?tag=rutabaga

                                                                                    1. re: Harters

                                                                                      Climate difference between the USA and the UK account for the difference, I suspect. Remember, these are marketed across a subcontinent with huge variations in climate that affects storage conditions.

                                                                                      1. re: Karl S

                                                                                        I hadnt considered climate might be the reason. Knowing how well it keeps in the UK, in comparision with other root vegetables, I am simply surprised at the waxing when, I assume, other root veg are not waxed in America. Or are they?

                                                                                      2. re: Harters

                                                                                        Nope, they're the same but I suspect the average rutabaga in the U.S. might be larger than the swedes in the UK. The ones I buy are usually the size of a baby's head. Parsnips are also typically waxed as well. It also depends on how far they are being shipped. Since I live in the middle of the country and these kinds of vegetables are not commercially grown in the midwest (not that I am aware of anyway) the waxing lengthens their shelf life.

                                                                                        It seems we wrote our posts at about the same time. Parsnips and rutabagas are the only vegetables with a thick coating of wax but others sometimes have a coating as well. Crappy supermarket cucumbers frequently have a coating as do lemons.

                                                                                2. Don't ignore celeriac. It takes a lot of peeling, then you can cut it up, and use it in soup or braises. You can grate it raw and dress it with a mustardy vinaigrette. You can also peel rutabaga and similarly grate and dress it.

                                                                                  1. They are called Swedes in the UK

                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. re: Oonasheila

                                                                                      This is mentioned up thread a couple of times already.