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.
buttered rutabagas are a simple classic
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.
what are rutabagas?
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.
how to cut rutabaga
One of the things about raw rutabagas is that they are rock solid. Like winter squash, or beets, these root veggies are dense and tough to cut. The first thing you need to do is peel them. Rutabaga have a thick peel, and they are often waxed to preserve them longer.
- Use a good sharp chef’s knife to cut the ends off the rutabaga.
- Remove the peel with a vegetable peeler. Be sure to remove all the green layers, right down the the orange flesh.
- Slice the rutabaga first, then dice the slices. The width of your slices can vary depending on what size dice you want.
- 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 🙂
how to choose rutabaga
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, flavorful, and easier to peel.
what do rutabaga taste like?
The flavor of rutabaga is mild, buttery and somewhat sweet. It has a less intense flavor than beets or turnips, and I think more appealing than overly sweet and starchy sweet potatoes. If you’ve never had them, there’s only one way to find out if you like or dislike them…give them a try!
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.
how to cook rutabaga
You can serve rutabaga roasted, mashed, braised, boiled, or even fried! I love it simply boiled, with lots of butter! Simply cover diced rutabaga in cold water and boil for just about 10 minutes, or until barely tender. Check this with the tip of a small sharp knife. 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 eat rutabaga raw, too, try shredding it into a slaw.
prep rutabaga ahead of time
You can definitely prep the rutabaga beforehand, it keeps well. Peel and cut it a day or two before you need it and store in a zip lock baggie in the fridge. You can freeze rutabaga but must blanch it in boiling water for a few minutes, first. Then cool and pack in heavy duty freezer bags.
- 3 lbs rutabaga
- 4 Tbsp butter, or more to taste
- 1 tsp salt, or more to taste
- 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.