Root Vegetables

Before refrigeration was common, most people had root cellars at home. The cellar might be underground, in the side of a hill or covered by a sturdy shed to keep food— mostly root vegetables—from freezing during winter and spoiling in the hot summer months. Few of us have root cellars anymore, but we still like eating the easy-to-store vegetables. Carrots, beets and onions are among the most common root vegetables, but others—parsnips, celeriac or jicama—are worth considering, too. F&W's guide offers recipes for every season and introduces you to unfamiliar root vegetables from other cuisines (think yuca or taro).

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Tempered Curry-Ginger Sweet Potatoes

My mother grew up in Sri Lanka, but it wasn’t until she emigrated to the United States in the 1970s and started building a family that she began cooking her native cuisine in earnest. When I was old enough, I started paying attention as she prepared elaborate, traditional meals for my family. That’s when I learned about tempering. Tempering is one of the most valuable tenets of Sri Lankan cooking I learned from my mother. The process is quite simple. Whole spices, like cumin and mustard seeds, get a quick swirl in hot oil, toasting them just enough to impart big flavor in minimal time. This flavorful cooking medium is then used as the base for any number of dishes; meats especially get beautiful color when seared in oil heavily flavored by chiles, onion, curry leaves, and ginger. You can also use it at the very end of a recipe. Some of my favorite dishes get a splash of this flavorful oil before serving; it’s a dramatically delicious way to finish a dish. The versatility of the technique can unlock a whole new world of options at your dinner table. It’s a fast way to introduce a balancing element of bitterness, earthiness, or brightness to the simplest of dishes, making it handy for quick weeknight meals. These tempered sweet potatoes illustrate how transformative the technique is. Hearty, filling, and packed with the flavors of my mother’s kitchen—onion, ginger, and chile flakes—they’re my cold-weather go-to. While my mother made this dish with russet potatoes or Yukon golds, I like using sweet potatoes because they are both firm and forgiving, making them ideal for soaking up the chile-and-spice-laden oil.  

Root Vegetable Tian

For the thinnest, most even slices, rely on a mandoline to cut the layered vegetables in this tian. Spungen recommends a cut-resistant glove to use with your mandoline; they’re simple and safe, and they enable you to slice with confidence.

Chile-Mint Parsnips

The key to tender parsnips is removing the fibrous core. It’s simple to do once the parsnips are quartered; just slice away the tough center of each piece. Barberries offer a punchy sourness to these earthy, sweetly spiced parsnips. Substitute unsweetened dried cranberries or cherries if barberries are unavailable.

Ginger- and Molasses-Glazed Root Vegetables

I’ve been an avid reader of Food & Wine magazine since the beginning. And for 38 of those 40 years, I was privileged to work frequently in the Food & Wine Test Kitchen with many remarkable cooks. As you can imagine, I have come to love the recipes in this magazine, and I have made them countless times over the decades. But there are a few recipes that I love so much that they’ve joined the rotation at our house. Some have even become members of the holiday pantheon, and we all know what an honor and a privilege that is! There hasn’t been a Thanksgiving since the mid-1980s that hasn’t included these savory (and just a little bit sweet) root vegetables that I found in F&W way back in 1985. They’ve even joined other F&W recipes on the menu when we hosted elaborate Christmas dinners for our circle of struggling actor friends. I realize root vegetables don’t strike most people as sexy, but this recipe takes these workhorses of the winter kitchen—carrots, turnips, and parsnips—and turns them into a dish fit even for the most celebratory of holidays. As a child, I hated cooked carrots. And turnips and parsnips never had a place at our family table. But the alchemy of ginger, garlic, and molasses makes these so good that not only does everyone ask for seconds, but I’ve taken to writing out the recipe before dinner because it’s inevitably demanded by multiple guests. The original recipe didn’t include parsnips, but I added them because they bring a wonderful depth of flavor that contrasts beautifully with the carrot’s simpler sweetness. The turnips bring their own spicy crunch to the party. I also changed the cut of the vegetables from a very 1980s matchstick to simpler, more modern half-moons. This change of shape allows the vegetables to retain a bit more of the crunch we all appreciate. Spicy, sweet, savory with a nice crunch … What more could one want or expect from a side dish that deserves to be at the center of the table?

Lemon-Pickled Carrots and Beets

This golden salad from chef Biju Thomas marinates beets and carrots in fresh lemon and Korean red pepper flakes. The lemon perks up the sweet, earthy vegetables with acidity, while the gochugaru adds just the right amount of sweet heat and color. Slideshow: More Pickled Vegetable Recipes

More Root Vegetables

Boiled Yuca with Garlicky Onions

Yuca, or cassava, is a starchy tuber that can be boiled, fried, or baked like a potato. For this Cuban side dish, photographer Romulo Yanes likes to simmer the root until tender and flaky then dress it in a hot onion- and garlic-infused oil. Slideshow: More Cuban Recipes

Bok Choy, Shiitakes, and Root Vegetables in Dashi

Dashi, a Japanese broth steeped with salty kombu and super-savory katsuobushi, is the foundation for this simple, nourishing soup from Eric Wolfinger. We love the combination of meaty shiitakes, sweet turnips, and crisp bok choy, but feel free to use any vegetables that are in season. Slideshow: More Bok Choy Recipes

32 Simple Carrot Recipes We Love

These terrific recipes include creamy carrot soup with scallions and poppy seeds, carrot macaroni and cheese, and carrot-potato gnocchi.