Rutabaga: A Review and Recipes

Inspired by a friend, I decided to try a new vegetable on Thanksgiving. Instead of our usual squash or broccoli, I opted for a mash of carrot and, yes, rutabaga. It is not a vegetable combination I would have thought of, but my friend told me how popular this mash was with her family, so I thought I’d give it a whirl.

The incredibly simple recipe consists only of three parts carrots to one part rutabaga–no aromatics, no seasoning, no vegetable or chicken stock. Just the vegetables, boiled, then mashed. And while I’m sure my friend’s version is delicious, mine was most decidedly not. I’m not sure where I went wrong with something so easy, although I think my proportions were off and the rutabaga was substantially undercooked, making its flavour a little too pronounced. An optimist might call this dish “unforgettable.” Indeed, my kids will long remember the rutabaga experience, and not fondly. 

As with any unsuccessful experiment, I did learn a few things:

  • Rutabaga needs a lot of cooking time. It is very hard to break down. 
  • Rutabaga has an aftertaste akin to cabbage, a related vegetable, but somehow more pungent and persistent, even when masked with sugar. 
  • Speaking of sugar, it is a good companion to rutabaga, which is likely why my friend pairs hers with sweet carrots. I find apple to be a better choice to cut the intense flavour of the rutabaga.
  • One rutabaga goes a very long way, especially with a small family. I made two side dishes for our holiday meal and still had half a rutabaga left. 

The biggest lesson of all? I don’t like rutabaga. 

Sincere apologies to those who love this vegetable. I tried. I wanted to like it. I really did. And I figured I would since I’m a big fan of the Brassica or cruciferous family vegetables to which rutabaga belongs. I quite enjoy kale, cabbage, bok choy, arugula, and, in the right context, broccoli. And while I appreciate the nutritional value and versatility of rutabaga, I just don’t see it being part of my regular side dish rotation. Its taste is just too strong for me. But I refuse to waste food, so rather than compost that everlasting beast of a root vegetable, I sought out other recipes to use it up. I am sharing them here, with notes,  for anyone with excess rutabaga on their hands. 

  • Scalloped Rutabaga and Apple. This recipe was actually pretty good, although I would suggest that the proportions might be a bit off. I would add more apple. I used panko breadcrumbs because that was all I had and found that the amount of butter for them was a little much.  So I added more breadcrumbs, resulting in more topping. I think that extra topping worked very well,  so I would recommend at least doubling the breadcrumb topping to give this casserole more crunch.
  • Spicy Rutabaga Bread. Another tasty, sweet recipe. I diced the raw rutabaga and then boiled it for 25 minutes. I was then able to mash it pretty effectively with a fork, rather than dirtying a blender to puree it, as directed in the recipe. The key, to me, is to get that rutabaga into baby food form so it blends nicely with the other wet ingredients. Don’t be surprised if this loaf does not rise a lot. There is very little batter and it calls for a smallish loaf pan. My only loaf pan is larger than the one specified and the loaf rose to only about 3.5 cm (about 1 ½ inches.) But it was still very good, like a small spice cake. 
  • Not Your Momma’s Coleslaw. This slaw was very good. I tried it with and without the hot sauce and liked it both ways. It keeps well in the fridge too. 

One final note: don’t fear the rutabaga. It may not be the vegetable for me or my family, but try it for yourself. You might be pleasantly surprised. The recipes I shared here are a great starting point, offering a good variety of flavour and texture.  

Rutabaga image: 106891252 © Iamnee |

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