You may see rutabagas at the farmers market or on the menu at your favorite upscale dining establishment, and you might know that rutabagas are a root vegetable, but, if you’re like most home cooks, that’s about as far as your relationship with rutabagas go. You don’t have any in the pantry at home and you’re unlikely to think, “Hm, we should really have rutabagas with dinner tonight.”
However, you should change all that. Here’s why.
What is a Rutabaga and What Does Rutabaga Taste Like?
Rutabagas (or “swedes” in the UK, from “Swedish turnip”) are indeed a root vegetable, and they’re in the same family as turnips, but also non-root vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage. Rutabaga’s flavor is overall low-key, but there are some hints of carrot and turnip in there. Rutabagas can be eaten raw or cooked and, when cooked, rutabagas offer a consistency similar to that of a carrot or a potato. You can cook rutabagas just about any way you like — mashed, roasted, boiled, turned into a soup, etc. In addition to eating the root vegetable part of the rutabaga plant, you can also eat the greens (similarly to how you might eat turnip greens) in a salad; the leaves are known for having a zesty flavor profile.
In addition to being extremely versatile, rutabagas are also easy for the home gardener to grow. They’re hardy enough to grow in the fall and, in fact, do best growing in colder climates.
Why Add Rutabaga to Mashed Potatoes
Because of their versatility and mild flavor, rutabagas can be added to many dishes or recipes where you might otherwise use another root vegetable. If you want to explore adding this vegetable to your diet, one of the easiest places to do so is in your mashed potatoes. By subbing part of the potatoes out for rutabagas, you get a somewhat creamier texture, but also more flavor than you might by just combining boiled potatoes with butter, milk, salt, and pepper.
Beyond just the extra flavor and texture, rutabagas also come with some serious health benefits, and without the empty carbs that potatoes contain. Rutabagas contain antioxidants that can help fight cancer and aging, are very high in fiber (with 12% of your daily recommended intake per serving), and contain lots of vitamin C and potassium.
It’s worth noting that the idea of combining mashed potatoes and rutabagas isn’t a novelty. In fact, it’s the basis for a classic Scottish dish known as Neeps & Tatties. In this beloved recipe, “neeps” is a term for rutabagas, and “tatties” refers to potatoes. The two vegetables are boiled and mashed (sometimes together, sometimes separate) to create a hearty, comforting side dish that’s often served with haggis during Burns Supper, a celebration of the renowned Scottish poet Robert Burns.
More Ways to Add Rutabaga to Your Diet
Don’t eat mashed potatoes very often in your household? You can replace the potatoes entirely with rutabagas and make, simply, mashed rutabagas the same way. You can also try other rutabaga recipes.
For example, this cold curried rutabaga soup with jaggery combines rutabaga with sweet potatoes, peppers, lentils, and a host of spices, seasonings, and other flavor-boosting (and health-boosting) ingredients, like ginger. No jaggery on hand (jaggery is a sugar product that’s common in several international cuisines)? You can use brown sugar in its place.
This chicken soup with rutabaga and greens is just the thing for the chillier winter temperatures, especially if you’re looking for a slightly healthier alternative to your typical chicken noodle soup recipe. You get all the health benefits of rutabaga and dark leafy greens, combined with the classic flavors you expect from a cold-season chicken soup.
Easy Mashed Rutabagas
- 2 rutabagas medium sized
- 3 tbsp butter
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/4 milk or cream, to taste (optional for more creamy consistency)
- chives or parsley to taste (optional)
- Peel the rutabagas using a vegetable peeler or a sharp knife and cut them into even-sized chunks.
- Place the rutabaga chunks in a large pot and fill with enough water to cover the pieces. Add a pinch of salt. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer for about 30-40 minutes, or until the rutabagas are tender and can be easily pierced with a fork.
- Drain the rutabagas in a colander and let them sit for a minute or two to allow excess moisture to evaporate.
- Place the cooked rutabaga chunks back into the pot or into a mixing bowl. Add the butter and use a potato masher to mash the rutabagas until smooth.
- Add salt and pepper to taste. If you want your mashed rutabagas to be a bit creamier, stir in a little milk or cream until you reach your desired consistency.
- Spoon the mashed rutabagas into a serving bowl. Garnish with chives or parsley if desired, and serve warm.