Getty: Flowerphotos / Contributor

Don’t be scared of the tough-looking root vegetable. It’s actually a sweetheart.

Zee Krstic
January 02, 2018

Maybe you’ve recoiled from their tough exteriors in the produce aisle, but there are many reasons to love rutabagas. They’re one of the friendliest winter vegetables, chock full of vitamins and fiber, and you can add them to a slew of hearty meals.

If you haven’t tackled one in your kitchen just yet, a rutabaga is a cruciferous vegetable, meaning it’s part of the cabbage family. Though they look like turnips, rutabagas are larger, denser, and sweeter. They’re sweeter than any other earthy root vegetable in your supermarket, with a smoother consistency that is similar to butter. They’re also one of The 5 Most Affordable Powerhouse Foods so you won’t break the bank buying them.

The rutabaga’s season is sweeping compared to other vegetables as they’re harvested from September through June, but they’re best enjoyed at their peak in the dead of winter. Try to find a rutabaga with smooth and firm skin, and look for one that is heavy in weight as they have the most flesh to work with.

When it comes to preparing a rutabaga in the kitchen, don’t be deterred by the shiny, wax-like skin that is hard to cut through. You’ll need to cut away a sizeable portion of the rutabaga on each side so that you can stand it on a cutting board and peel the skin away with a knife.

The easiest way to enjoy this vegetable is to boil and mash it, like a potato. You can also slice them into fries and crisp them in an air fryer or roast them in the oven on a sheet pan.

But the most appealing benefit of the rutabaga is the punch of essential nutrients you’ll eat your way through—rutabagas are high in vitamin C, given that 1 cup of the vegetable cubed provides 35 milligrams in one sitting, about 50 percent of the recommended daily intake for the day.

At only 66 calories per cup, rutabagas are also a great source of dietary fiber.

New Year. New Food. Healthy eating starts here, with the Cooking Light Diet.

If you’re looking for a fresh and hearty vegetable to shake up your weekly rotation this winter, the rutabaga is one of our favorites. Grab a few for yourself and get cooking with these delicious rutabaga dishes:

Photo: Romulo Yanes

Rutabaga Champ

A mashed side of rutabaga is a classic yet delicious way to enjoy the vegetable in colder months: this recipe calls for an addition of potato to provide a kick of starch, helping to make a smoother consistency for this healthy alternative to mashed potatoes. Get the recipe.

Photo: Romulo Yanes

Baked Rutabaga with “Red-Eye” Tomato Sauce

The rutabaga can also be baked, and this savory red sauce is a great way to sway diners who might be afraid of the earthy profile. Get the recipe here. 

Photo: Robin Bashinsky

Roasted Rosemary Rutabaga Fries

Not that a perfect “healthy” version of French fries exist, but this is pretty darn close—you can swap out the potatoes for rutabaga and still enjoy a crunchy texture with just 116 calories per serving. Try them out here.

Photo: Cooking Light, November 2002

Maple-Glazed Rutabaga

A great option for vegan and vegetarian cooks—just omit butter from this recipe or swap for your favorite oil—this dish can be paired with many main dishes or stand all on it’s own, and is prepped in just a few minutes.