What Is a Rutabaga—and What Should You Do With It?

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What Is a Rutabaga?

The rutabaga is an often overlooked, but sweet and nutrient-packed, root vegetable. Originating sometime in the 17th century, it’s a hybrid between a turnip and a wild cabbage. In fact, a rutabaga kind of looks like a giant, ugly turnip. Many people confuse the two vegetables, but there are some key differences. 

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Rutabagas vs. Turnips

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While rutabagas and turnips look somewhat similar, they’re not identical. Rutabagas are large, more yellowish, and only grow in cool climates. Meanwhile, turnips are small, usually have a reddish tinge, and grow in a variety of climates. 

Both vegetables have a slightly bitter flavor that’s similar to cabbage, but rutabagas are sweeter and milder when eaten raw. When cooked, rutabagas become more savory, yet still sweet—almost like a rich potato.  

Rutabaga Nutrition

At only 66 calories per cup, rutabagas make a great, low-cal snack or side. Of course, that calorie count will increase if you add butter and oil—so be mindful of what ingredients your recipe calls for. 

Rutabagas, which are high in vitamin C and fiber, make a great alternative to potatoes in a low-carb diet: One cup of boiled and cubed rutabaga contains 12 grams of carbohydrates, while the same amount of boiled and cubed potatoes contain 31 grams of carbohydrates.

How to Pick a Rutabaga

Rutabagas are in season October through March, but they’re best enjoyed in the dead of winter. Look for ones that are firm, about 4 inches in diameter, and have a purplish tinge to the skin. If you scratch the surface with your fingernail, you should see yellow flesh. 

How to Cook Rutabaga

Rutabagas have a reputation of being tough to peel because of their waxy skin, but the exterior is actually pretty easy to tackle after the vegetable has been cut in half and sliced. 

The easiest way to enjoy the cruciferous vegetable is to boil and mash it into a low-carb mashed potato substitute. You can also slice them into fries and toss them in the air-fryer, or dice them and serve them with sauce for an impressive side. 

Rutabaga Recipes

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Ready to try the delicious and nutritious root vegetable for yourself? Check out some of our favorite rutabaga recipes:

  • Rutabaga Champ
  • Baked Rutabaga with "Red-Eye" Tomato Sauce
  • Roasted Rosemary Rutabaga Fries
  • Southern-Cooked Rutabagas
  • Lemon-Glazed Carrots and Rutabaga

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