Buttered Rutabagas were a staple on our Thanksgiving table when I was growing up and I’m revisiting them today ~ these delicious pale orange turnips are misunderstood and probably the most overlooked veggie in the produce section.
One of the best things about eating seasonally is the thrill of rediscovery.
It’s been a year since I’ve cooked with rutabagas and turnips, and I’m really enjoying our reunion. Rutabagas are mild, slightly sweet, slightly bitter, and not at all starchy. When cooked properly, they’re utterly delicious. This rustic root veg has been around for centuries, but my first experience of them was on my grandparent’s Thanksgiving tables. There’s nothing fancy about these buttered rutabagas, but they have a deliciously satisfying flavor and texture that plays well with so many other foods.
Rutabagas (or neeps, sweedes, baigies, snadgers, or narkies, depending on where you live) originated as a wild cross between a cabbage and a turnip, and it happened somewhere in Scandinavia or Russia.
They’re not particularly attractive, to say the least, which might explain why they’re not more popular. They’ve been associated with livestock feed and wartime shortages ~ and they’re definitely ‘homey’, but when you cook them until they’re just tender like I do, and top them with lots of butter and a sprinkle of sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper, they’re SO GOOD!
TIP: Don’t save rutabaga just for the holidays, they make a great side for everyday meals like chicken and pork. I love to add them to soups in place of potatoes.
One of the things about raw rutabagas is that they are rock solid. Like winter squash, these root veggies are dense and tough to cut. I’m so glad I just received my sample of the new Misen knife. It’s ultra comfortable in my hand, and razor sharp, in fact it glided right through the rutabagas that I’m so used to wrestling with. These knives are affordable and stunning and I highly recommend them as gifts for the chef’s in your life. (The packaging is jaw dropping, too, just wait and see!) Check out their web site for the lowdown.
I like to cut my rutabaga into a fairly small dice so it will cook quickly and evenly. I think it looks pretty, too, but as I remember it, the rutabaga on my grandparents’ holiday tables was cut in large, uneven hunks. Go with whatever fits your style :)
TIP: Rutabagas come in all sizes, from petite to giant. I like to use the smaller ones when I can find them, they’re more tender and flavorful.
If you don’t like rutabaga or turnips, there might be a scientific reason, some people are genetically more sensitive to the bitter tastes in root veggies and find them unpleasant.
I like the flavor, I think it’s more appealing than overly sweet and starchy sweet potatoes, for instance. If you’ve never had them then there’s only one way to find out if you like or dislike them…give them a try!
TIP: You can eat rutabaga raw, too, try shredding it into a slaw.
You can serve rutabaga roasted, mashed, braised, boiled, or even fried! I simply cover these in cold water and boil for just about 10 minutes, or until barely tender. Drain, and add butter, salt and pepper. It’s that simple. You can keep them warm, covered, at the back of the stove until needed.
TIP: You can definitely prep the rutabaga beforehand, peel and cut it the day before and store it in a zip lock baggie in the fridge.
- 2-3 lbs rutabaga
- fresh cracked black pepper
- Peel the rutabaga. Trim the ends, and then cut into an even dice. I went with a 1/2 inch size, you can do larger if you like.
- Put the rutabaga in a large pot and cover with cold water. Add 1 tsp salt and bring to a boil. Cover, turn down the heat and cook until just tender, but not soft or mushy. Mine took only 10 minutes.
- Drain and return to the pan. Add butter, salt, and pepper to taste. Keep warm on the stove until needed.
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