How to Select, Store and Cook Rutabaga

Have you tried rutabaga? Not sure what it is or how to use it? You’ve come to the right place! Here’s everything you ever wanted to know about this amazing root vegetable.

whole and cut rutabaga
The creamy yellow of rutabaga turns more golden when cooked.


Have a question that isn’t covered? Let me know in the comments below.

Fun Fact: Rutabaga is also known as Swede (UK & Australia), Swedish turnip, neep (Scotland), yellow turnip, turnip cabbage and more!

  • a cold weather root vegetable
  • a member of the cabbage family, specifically Brassica napus
  • a cross between a turnip and a cabbage – hence the various turnip acronyms
whole and cubed rutabaga
Rutabaga may or may not have a purple top, but it is always creamy/pale yellow.

Raw, it is very crisp and crunchy with a little bit of sweetness and a little sharpness like mustard greens. Imagine a firm broccoli stem, just a little more intense.

When cooked, especially roasted, the sweetness becomes more pronounced. And if you peel it properly (see how to prepare) and choose middle aged rutabagas (younger rutabaga are more bitter) there shouldn’t be any bitterness.

You bet. It has all the benefits of any cabbage family member. When you eat rutabaga you’re getting Vitamin C, Vitamin B6 (folate), Vitamin E, calcium, potassium, magnesium and fibre.

It is low in calories with less starch than a potato.

  • rutabagas are milder in flavour
  • rutabagas have a rougher outside and are a creamy yellow colour inside
  • both can have purple tops on the outside
  • turnips are white, smooth and usually smaller than rutabagas
  • turnips have a sharper flavour, more like a radish

Look for it anytime between October and March. You’ll get the best deals mid winter.

deal on rutabaga 10 lb bag $1.48
I got a 10 lb bag for $1.48 mid January! Big score!!

Rutabaga is very dense and wobbly, proceed as follows:

  • wash well
  • cut off a slice from the top and bottom
  • use the flat surface to stabilize the root
  • use a knife or vegetable peeler to peel the skin and outer layer of the root – go deeper than you would with other vegetables to remove the tough, bitter layer around the root (see photo below).
  • cut into slabs or slices, then cut these into strips and finely into cubes or whatever shape you’d like

Like most veggies, the peel is edible but unlike potatoes or carrots, you’ll want to peel rutabaga. Producers or grocers add a wax coating to protect the root and keep moisture locked in. You’ll want to remove this wax. Peeling also allows you to remove the bitter outer layer.

Remove the outer layer with the peel for more tender and less bitter rutabaga. Also remove any brown or woody spots (like the center in this photo).

Pick medium sized rutabagas, about the size of a softball (3-5 inches). Small, immature roots can be bitter and giant ones can be tough and woody. In comparison to others in the bin, choose one that is firm, heavy for it’s size (a sign it isn’t dried out) and doesn’t have any soft spots.

Store rutabaga in a cool, dark, dry space with any leaves or shoots removed. They should keep for several weeks to months.

If you don’t have a cool space, you can also store rutabagas in the fridge. Keep in a plastic, perforated bag. Add a damp paper towel if your rutabagas start to shrivel and a dry towel if there is noticeable moisture in the bag.

Rutabaga, unlike potatoes, will not turn brown when cut, so you can take your time to prepare them. You can even peel and cut them 2-3 days in advance, just keep them in a sealed container.

Yes, you can freeze rutabaga. For best results, blanch rutabaga first.

Wash, peel and cut the root into cubes. Bring a pot of water to boil and then add rutabaga, wait for water to return to a boil and boil for 3 minutes. Drain and shock with cold water to stop them from cooking further. Cool completely then place in air tight container and freeze. You can also freeze them on a baking sheet before putting them in the container so they won’t clump. Best used within 6-12 months.

Frozen rutabaga works great for roasting, soups, stews and even boiling.

freezing rutabagas
Blanch for 3 minutes and cool completely before sealing and freezing.

There are three main ways to use rutabaga:

Raw – add to crudités (veggies and dip), salads or coleslaw

Roasted – roast on its own or with other roots to really bring out the sweetness of rutabaga

Boiled – use boiled cubes or mashed rutabaga as a side dish

Rutabaga is very dense and takes longer to boil or roast than other veggies.

When boiling, just give it time, expect it to take 5-10 minutes longer than potatoes.

When roasting with other veggies, either give rutabaga a five minute head start (put it in the oven to roast before adding the other veggies), cut it smaller than the other veggies or blanch it before roasting (boil in water for 3 minutes).

Pro Tip: Blanching root veggies (including carrots, parsnips and potatoes) before roasting prevents them from shriveling, speeds roasting time and generally improves results.

Rutabaga Recipes

My personal favourite way to enjoy rutabaga is roasted with other mixed vegetables or in soups and stews.

What’s been your experience with rutabaga? Unfortunately, many people have not had pleasant experiences with rutabaga. If that’s you, will you give it another chance? Follow the tips here, mix it with other ingredients and season it well.

Let me know if you try it down below in the comments or on Instagram @GetGettyS or on Facebook  @GettyStewart.HomeEconomist.

Getty Stewart is a Professional Home Economist,  speaker, frequent media guest and writer dedicated to you become more confident in using and enjoying fresh, whole ingredients. She is the author of several recipe books, frequent media guest, Founder of Fruit Share, mom and veggie gardener. Sign up to get articles by Getty delivered to your inbox. You’ll get recipes, practical tips and great food information like this.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.