A bunch of root vegetables placed in a metal basket.

What is the Best Way of Cooking Root Vegetables?

Root vegetables. What are they? Where do they come from? Why should I care? Okay, so maybe you’re not asking yourself those exact questions, but if you’re at all interested in cooking (or eating), then it’s important to know about the basics of root vegetables.

They come from the ground (I know right, shocking), typically have a tough skin that needs to be peeled before cooking, and are generally pretty bland on their own – but that’s what makes them such great vehicles for flavor!  And good news – most are in season right now! So let’s learn more about these unsung heroes of the produce world.

What is the best way of cooking root vegetables?

  • Peel the vegetables before cooking, unless you’re using baby carrots or other very small root vegetables.
  • Cut the vegetables into even pieces so they cook evenly.
  • If boiling, add salt to the water.
  • Root vegetables can take awhile to cook, so be patient.
  • Check them often and don’t be afraid to give them a few extra minutes if needed.

5 Categories of root vegetables

The 5 main categories of root vegetables laid out in graphical form on a green background.

The 5 main categories of root vegetables include tubers (potatoes, sweet potatoes, taro), bulbs (onion, garlic, shallot), crowns (celery root, kohlrabi), roots (carrots, radish, turnip, beetroot etc.) and ginger (perennial plant and is harvested throughout the year) [1].

List of root vegetables with pictures

Top 10 common root vegetables infographic.
Reference article: https://www.southernliving.com/food/side-dishes/vegetables/what-are-root-vegetables

What are some benefits of root vegetables?

Root vegetables are a good source of vitamins and minerals, including potassium, magnesium, and vitamin C. They are also a good source of fiber, which is important for digestive health. Additionally, root vegetables contain antioxidants that can help protect against chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer [2].

  • Carrots – good for vision, skin, and digestion
  • Parsnips – high in fiber, good for digestion
  • Turnips – high in vitamins C and K, good for immune system
  • Rutabagas – high in potassium, good for blood pressure
  • Beets – high in antioxidants, good for blood pressure
  • Potatoes – high in potassium, good for heart health
  • Sweet potatoes – high in vitamins A and C, good for vision and immune system
  • Radishes – high in antioxidants, good for detoxification

Nutritional value of root vegetables

Root vegetables are an excellent source of nutrients. They are high in fiber and contain vitamins and minerals that are essential for good health. Root vegetables are a good source of carbohydrates, which provide energy for the body. They also contain antioxidants, which protect the body against damage caused by free radicals [3].

A chart focused on providing the nutritional value of a 100g of Horseradish root vegetable.

What root vegetables are anti-inflammatory?

There are many root vegetables that have anti-inflammatory properties, including ginger [4], turmeric, and garlic. These vegetables can be eaten raw, cooked, or in supplement form to help reduce inflammation throughout the body. Many other root vegetables, such as potatoes and carrots, also contain nutrients that can help reduce inflammation. When cooked properly, root vegetables can make a delicious and nutritious addition to any diet.

When it comes to cooking root vegetables, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, always wash them thoroughly before cooking to remove any dirt or bacteria. Second, cut them into uniform pieces so they cook evenly. Finally, be careful not to overcook them, as this can reduce their nutritional value.

Why some people avoid root vegetables?

There are a 3 main reasons why some people choose to avoid root vegetables. First, they are typically high in starch, which can lead to blood sugar spikes. Second, they are often difficult to digest, particularly if they are not cooked properly. Finally, root vegetables tend to be lower in fiber when compared to cruciferous vegetables such as kale or broccoli.

What is the best way of cooking root vegetables?

There are many ways to cook root vegetables, and the best way will depend on your personal preferences. Some people prefer to roast their root vegetables, which brings out their natural sweetness and others like to mash or puree them for a creamy side dish. And of course, you can always simply boil or steam them as well, ultimately, it’s up to you to decide what tastes best!

If you’re new to cooking root vegetables, we recommend starting with a simple boiled or steamed recipe. This will give you a chance to get a feel for the vegetable and how it cooks. Once you’ve got the hang of that, you can start experimenting with other methods like roasting or pureeing.

Method 1 – How to boil root vegetables

A white plate filled with a variety of cooked root vegetables. I propose this when asked, what is the best way of cooking root vegetables.

Ingredients

  • 1 x pound root vegetables (such as carrots, parsnips, turnips, or potatoes)
  • 1 tbsp. x salt
  • 2 cups of water (500 ml)

Instructions

  1. Peel the root vegetables and cut them into even pieces
  2. Add the salt and water to a large pot and bring to a boil
  3. Add the root vegetables and cook until tender, about 15 minutes
  4. Drain the vegetables and serve with your favorite herbs.

Method 2 – How to roast root vegetables

Roasted root vegetables prepared and served on a black aluminum roasting pan, with some rosemary herbs.

Ingredients

  • 1 x pound root vegetables (such as onions, carrots, parsnips, turnips, or potatoes)
  • 2 tbsp.  x olive oil
  • 1 tsp x salt
  • #optional – 1 tsp x Italian herbs and sliced lemon for garnish

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Peel the root vegetables and cut them how you want them
  3. Toss the vegetables with the olive oil and salt (& herbs)
  4. Spread the vegetables in a single layer on a baking sheet or an aluminum roasting pan and roast for 20-30 minutes, stirring once or twice, until tender and browned
  5. Serve immediately.

Method 3 – How to mash root vegetables

Mashed sweet potatoes served in a brown ceramic bowl, next to a brown wooden spoon with some herbs in the background.

Ingredients

  • 1 x  pound root vegetable (sweet potato in this example)
  • 1/2 cup  x milk
  • 2 tbsp. x butter
  • 1 tsp x salt
  • #optional – a few gloves of mashed roasted garlic or a 1/2  tub spring onion cream cheese.

Instructions

  1. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them down small for quicker softening
  2. Add the sweet potatoes and milk to a large pot and bring to a boil
  3. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the potatoes are very tender
  4. Drain the sweet potatoes and add them back to the pot with the butter and salt (& garlic or cream cheese)
  5. Use a potato masher or an immersion blender to mash the potatoes until they’re the desired consistency
  6. Serve immediately.

Method 4 – How to steam root vegetables

A grey bowl holding steamed carrots on a white rustic wooden table, with a slice of white bread.

Ingredients

  • 1 x pound root vegetables (such as carrots, parsnips, turnips, or potatoes)
  • 1 tbsp. x salt
  • 1 cup x water
  • #optional – a microwavable bowl steamer

Instructions

  1. Peel the root vegetables and cut them into manageable pieces
  2. Place veggies in a rice strainer (if using a microwave, place veggies in microwavable bowl steamer)
  3. Add the salt and water to a large pot and bring to a boil then place the strainer on pot, it must not be submerged in water but just above it
  4. Place lid on so steam can build up for about 20min or until soft
  5. If using microwave, place bowl on centre of spinning plate then microwave for 10minutes or until soft
  6. Serve immediately with a dash of your favorite herbs.

Method 5 – How to puree root vegetables

A black cast iron dish with pureed beetroot vegetable, on a grey marble top with slices of bread and 2 silver spoons in the background.

Ingredients

  • 1 x pound root vegetables (beetroot in this example)
  • 1 cup x water
  • 1/2 cup x milk
  • 2 tbsp. x butter
  • 1 tsp x salt
  • #optional – mashed garlic or cinnamon

Instructions

  1. Peel the root vegetables and cut them evenly
  2. Add the root vegetables and water to a large pot and bring to a boil
  3. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are very tender
  4. Drain the vegetables and add them back to the pot with the milk, butter, and salt
  5. Use an immersion blender to puree the vegetables until they’re the desired consistency
  6. Serve immediately.

How I prepare different types of root vegetables

Carrots

Carrots can be steamed, boiled, roasted, or stir-fried. I don’t often boil my carrots, when I do though I cut them chunky and add salt to taste. For my stir fries, I chop them really fine into sticks then I fry them and for my roasting, I chop them evenly then season, foil wrap then roast them. My best way to cook carrots: I steam them, once I’m done I sauté them in butter then sprinkle cinnamon and sugar then serve them caramelized.

Parsnips

Parsnips can be boiled, roasted, or mashed. Honestly, I don’t often do parsnips but when I do I roast it. It has the same fleshy consistency as potatoes but it can’t be a chip so I am not a great fan. Remember when boiling parsnips, put salt in your water so that flavor can be absorbed and not be boring.

Turnips

Turnips can be boiled, roasted, or mashed. I have the same relationship with turnips as I have with parsnips so same rules apply as above.  Remember if you are roasting them, lemon zest seems to bring them to life (not literally of course) or be sure to garnish with lemon slices so you may add zesty-ness to taste.

Rutabagas

Rutabagas can be boiled, roasted, or mashed. Okay, I am not even going to pretend that I knew what this was at first. Literally laughed myself silly trying to pronounce it then kind of gagging thinking it was a rat-bug 🙂 Okay, so my research shows  rutabagas are similar to turnips however, they are bigger and their flesh is yellow instead of fleshy white.

They are sweet so will probably be lovely caramelized in a roast or a garlic butter creamy mash. PS – I had to find a picture for those who are like me and do not what they look like.

A few bunches of rutabagas and cabbage at a farmer's market.

Beetroot

Beets can be boiled, roasted, or pickled. Now beets I know well. I have a love/hate relationship with beetroots as I absolutely love it pickled but hate it juiced (gagging in my head). Roasted beets are also quite something, especially the way way my mom makes it.

Potatoes

Potatoes can be boiled, roasted, mashed, or fried. Now, this is the “star of the show” when it comes to root veggies. I freaking adore chips/ French fries, it is my kryptonite of note and I probably should be sorry when I have them because I have high cholesterol (but nope, still not sorry).  I also love to roast or fry rough cut potatoes wedges dipped in olive oil then turmeric powder then seasoned with sea-salt and black pepper to taste.

Sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes can be baked, roasted, or mashed. I actually have a soft spot for sweet potatoes as well. I substitute my cottage pie with mashed sweet potato instead of potatoes and I prepare my roasted sweet potatoes (cut chuncky and evenly) in the same manner as my potatoes. The only thing is, the sweet potatoes chips just doesn’t cut it for me…potatoes rule the fried chips department in my book.

Healthy gratin root vegetable recipe

A healthy gratin root vegetable dish prepared in a brown ceramic dish, with a sprinkle of rosemary.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup x thinly sliced sweet potatoes
  • 1 cup x thinly sliced carrots
  • 1 cup x thinly sliced parsnips
  • 1/2 cup x chopped onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp. x olive oil
  • sea salt and black pepper to taste
  • #optional – paprika and thyme as a garnish or add parmesan shavings

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven or convection microwave oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, onion, garlic, and olive oil (or you can layer the sweet potatoes as per the picture above)
  3. Season with salt and black pepper to taste
  4. Transfer mixture to a baking dish (add garnish or parmesan at this point) and bake for 30-45 minutes, or until vegetables are tender
  5. Serve and enjoy!

FAQs about root vegetables

What to serve with root vegetables?

Root vegetables can also be enjoyed as a side dish or as part of the main course. When serving root vegetables, it is important to consider what other flavors will complement them. For example, root vegetables pair well with other earthy flavors such as mushrooms, squash, and kale.

They can also be paired with more assertive flavors such as ginger, garlic, and chili peppers.

Are root vegetables high in sugar?

Root vegetables are typically high in starch, which can lead to blood sugar spikes [5]. However, they are also a good source of fiber, which helps to regulate blood sugar levels. When choosing root vegetables, it is important to select those that are lower in sugar, such as carrots and turnips.

How to store root vegetables?

1. Store in a cool, dark, and dry place. Eventually they will sprout if stored in too warm of an environment. Most will keep for weeks, some even months.
2. Potatoes should not be stored with onions because they will make each other spoil faster.
3. Sweet potatoes should be stored separately from other vegetables because they give off a gas that can hasten the ripening of other produce [6].

Different boxes of root vegetables separated from each other to prevent it from spoiling.

Final thoughts

That is a wrap on what is the best way of cooking root vegetables blog, hope you learnt a few things (apart from my chip/fries addiction that is) and you are ready to experiment. Let me know what worked best for you and comment below with your special ways of preparing your roots. Thanks for reading… stay rooted and cook on!

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Charlene Gallant

Charlene is a lover of good food. She enjoys nothing more than cooking up a storm in the kitchen and sharing her favourite recipes with her readers. She also enjoys reading a good book.

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