With its funny name and bulbous yellow and purple form, the rutabaga stands out in produce aisles. But what does rutabaga taste like?
Rutabaga has a mildly sweet, earthy flavor with a dense, turnip-like texture when cooked. Its taste pairs well with seasoning and complements hearty dishes.
In this article, we’ll explore the rutabaga including its flavor, best cooking methods, history, nutrition, and how it compares to turnips. Read on to learn all about the taste and culinary utility of this underappreciated veggie.
Table of Contents
Overview of Rutabaga
Here’s a quick introduction to rutabaga:
- Rutabaga is a large, round root vegetable in the cabbage family along with turnips, kohlrabi and Brussels sprouts.
- It likely originated as a cross between turnips and wild cabbage in Europe.
- The edible part is the bulbous root which has purple-tinged yellow flesh and thick, leafy green tops.
- Rutabaga has a turnip-like but sweeter taste and denser texture compared to turnips.
- It’s popular in Scandinavian, British, and Northern European cuisines in hearty dishes.
So in essence, rutabaga is a hardy cool weather crop that offers heftier roots than turnips along with a sweet, earthy flavor. But what exactly does rutabaga taste like?
Describing the Flavor of Rutabaga
When cooked, rutabaga offers a pleasing flavor profile with these main notes:
- Mildly sweet – Rutabaga has a moderately sweet flavor compared to sharper turnips, especially when caramelized.
- Earthy – Slight mineral-y, root-like earthiness comes through similar to parsnips.
- Mustard undertones – Subtle mustard essence from its cabbage family ties.
- Bitterness when raw – Some sharpness when raw mellows into sweetness once cooked.
- Peppery – Fresh rutabaga has a little bite like radishes that dissipates when cooked.
So rutabaga satisfies with a hearty, mildly sweet root flavor plus earthy, peppery notes that mellow beautifully into the background when cooked.
Rutabaga Texture and Consistency
In addition to its flavor, cooked rutabaga offers a pleasing starchy, dense texture:
- Starchy – When cooked, rutabaga offers a substantial, starchy mouthfeel similar to potatoes.
- Dense – Rutabaga has a thicker, denser consistency compared to the lighter crispness of turnips.
- Moist – Properly cooked rutabaga has a moist texture and does not become dried out or stringy.
- Stew-suitable – The texture holds up well when boiled, braised, or stewed without falling apart.
- Satisfying – The pleasant starchiness provides a comforting satisfaction when eating rutabagas.
Rutabaga’s satisfying density means it pairs well with rich gravies, sauces or seasonings that complement its hearty texture.
Flavor and Texture Differences Between Rutabaga and Turnip
Rutabaga differs from standard turnips in the following ways:
- Sweeter – Rutabaga has a pleasing natural sweetness while turnips remain sharper-tasting.
- Larger roots – Rutabagas grow much larger, up to 8 inches across compared to small turnips.
- Denser flesh – Turnips have crisp, thin-skinned roots. Rutabaga has a thicker, heartier root.
- Milder raw – Turnips retain more sharp pepperiness when eaten raw vs rutabaga.
- More starch – Rutabaga takes on more starchy consistency with cooking versus turnips.
So rutabaga essentially offers a larger, starchier, sweeter version of a classic turnip root. Their shared mustardiness links them.
How Cooking Method Changes Flavor
Rutabaga’s natural sugars shine through best with these cooking methods:
- Roasting – High dry heat concentrates rutabaga’s sweetness through caramelization.
- Sauteeing – Pan-frying adds nice browning. Finish with glazes or pan sauces to enhance flavor.
- Braising – Slow braising accentuates rutabaga’s savory qualities and yields ultra-tender texture.
- Mashing – Pureeing rutabaga creates a sweet, creamy alternative to mashed potatoes.
- Grilling – Charring on the grill gives appetizing smoky notes. Brush with oil to avoid drying out.
Cooking rutabaga thoroughly mellows any bitterness and enhances the mild sweetness. Go beyond boiling to bring out the best in this hearty root.
Rutabaga’s subtle flavors pair deliciously with:
- Browned butter or cream – Rich, nutty, and sweet to bring out rutabaga’s natural caramelized notes.
- Maple syrup or honey – Sweetness offsets any remaining bitterness and complements rutabaga.
- Garlic – Savory garlic nicely accentuates earthy and peppery undertones.
- Potatoes – Pair rutabaga with potatoes mashed or in a gratin to add interest.
- Rosemary, thyme, sage – Hearty herbs suit rutabaga’s density.
- Smoked paprika or cayenne – A little spicy smokiness plays up sweetness.
- Pork – Rutabaga makes an excellent partner to pork roasts, stews, or chops.
Rutabaga loves both sweet and savory pairings that accentuate its creamy, earthy qualities. It performs well as a starchy vegetable side.
Dishes that Showcase Rutabaga Well
Looking to highlight rutabaga? It tastes right at home in these recipes:
- Mashed rutabaga – Alternative to mashed potatoes with butter and cream
- Rutabaga fries – Tossed in oil and roasted like french fries or wedges
- Rutabaga gratin – Sliced and baked au gratin style with cheese sauce
- Beef and rutabaga stew – Hearty chunks in beef bourguignon or Irish stew
- Rutabaga hash – Diced with potatoes and onions. Top with fried egg.
- Rutabaga pasta – Roasted chunks tossed with gnocchi, sage and brown butter
- Glazed rutabaga – Roasted with a balsamic, maple, or brown sugar glaze
Rutabaga fits right in as a satisfying replacement for potatoes or carrots in comforting roasted, mashed, and stewed preparations.
Rutabaga Nutrition Facts
Rutabaga provides important nutrients:
- Excellent source of vitamin C – Provides over 50% daily vitamin C.
- Rich in potassium – Contains over 500mg potassium per medium rutabaga.
- Good source of fiber – Approx 6 grams per cup. The majority in the edible skin.
- Contains antioxidants like carotenoids and anthocyanins.
- Low in calories – Only 50 calories per cup. Also low glycemic index.
Rutabaga serves as a great nutrient-packed substitute for starchy vegetables like potatoes. The bright beta-carotene color indicates nutrient density.
Where to Buy Rutabaga
Here are some tips for buying fresh rutabaga roots:
- Look for firm, heavy, unwrinkled rutabaga roots with fresh green leaves if still attached.
- Size varies, but often around 5-8 inches diameter. Avoid much smaller or very large.
- The best rutabagas feel hard like coconuts when thumped, not spongy. Avoid wet or mushy spots.
- Choose roots with vivid purple and yellow coloration. Greenish tints indicate over maturity.
- Rutabagas store 2-3 weeks if kept cool. Loosely wrap in plastic to allow air circulation.
Available during the fall through spring,seek out firm, unblemished rutabagas for peak flavor and texture.
Key Takeaways – What Does Rutabaga Taste Like
- Rutabaga has a mildly sweet, peppery flavor with earthy background notes.
- When cooked, rutabaga offers a dense, starchy texture similar to potatoes.
- Rutabaga is sweeter and larger than its turnip cousin but shares a similar pepperiness.
- Roasting, sautéing, and mashing bring out rutabaga’s best caramelized sweetness.
- Rutabaga pairs well with cream, butter, herbs, garlic, onions, pork, and potatoes.
- This nutrient-packed fall vegetable shines in mashes, stews, hashes, gratins, and fries.
With its hearty vegetable flavor, rutabaga brightens up roasted veggie sides, mashes, soups, and stews. Embrace this under-utilized root!