Rutabaga-Sweet Potato Swirl

The underdog of the vegetable world deserves a fresh look this season.

Rutabaga-sweet potato swirl in green casserole dish

Victor Protasio; Food Stylist: Ruth Blackburn; Prop Stylist: Christine Keely

Active Time:
50 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs 50 mins

Rutabagas are the Big Daddy of the turnip family. Starchy with an earthy, slightly sweet flavor, they are easy to grow and high yielding. They gained popularity in the 19th century, when they were valuable as animal food. Unlike many of the other items that could be used as fodder, rutabagas also tasted good to humans and eventually made their way to our tables. Sometimes known as swedes or Swedish turnips, they are likely a cross between turnips and wild cabbage and may have originated in Scandinavia or Russia in the Middle Ages.

I dote on rutabagas because I only had them once a year as a child, during the holidays. My mother would create a densely flavored puree of rutabaga, fragrant with the sweet smoke of bacon. She would mute some of the vegetable’s strong flavor with the addition of a white potato and a pinch of sugar.

That dish was bliss. I never expected to encounter this taste of a memory again. Then decades later, at the table of my adopted family in New Orleans, I peeked into a casserole dish and was astonished to see the familiar buff-colored puree of my youth. I was doubly surprised because it was swirled with a contrasting orange sweet potato puree in a yin and yang of deliciousness. The flavors formed an elegant combination where the savory taste of the rutabaga played nicely off the honeyed sweet potato.

The fortuitous serving of the two reminded me of my love of rutabagas, and now I have them frequently during the cooler months rather than waiting for the yuletide season. They’re lovely paired with sweet potatoes, but frankly I enjoy rutabagas too much to waste stomach space on other veggies at the same time. Follow the recipe below for a showy side dish to brighten up your sideboard, or skip the sweet potatoes and enjoy this underappreciated vegetable in its own right.

Bring On the Brassicas

Rutabagas and turnips belong to the Brassica family, which contains many of the vegetables that get us through the winter months: cauliflower, broccoli, collard greens, and more. They love temperate weather and can be enjoyed raw or cooked. We actually consume almost all of the parts of the many plants in this useful group. We can eat the roots (turnips and rutabagas), the stems (kohlrabi), the leaves (cabbage, collard greens, and kale), the flowers (cauliflower and broccoli), and the buds (Brussels sprouts).


  • 5 (4 lb. total) sweet potatoes, scrubbed

  • 5 tsp. vegetable oil

  • 6 bacon slices

  • 1 (2-lb.) rutabaga, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

  • 1 (1-lb.) russet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

  • Pinch of granulated sugar

  • 2 tsp. kosher salt, divided

  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper, divided

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, plus more for serving (optional)

  • Freshly ground black pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in lowest position. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Evenly pierce sweet potatoes 8 to 10 times using a paring knife. Rub each sweet potato with 1 teaspoon of the oil; place sweet potatoes on prepared baking sheet. Bake until skins look loose and sunken, 1 hour to 1 hour, 30 minutes.

  2. Meanwhile, fry bacon in a large heavy saucepan over medium-high until bacon begins to brown and fat is rendered, 6 to 8 minutes (do not drain or remove bacon). Add rutabaga to saucepan, and add enough water to cover rutabaga by 2 inches. Bring to a boil over high; reduce heat to medium, and cook, undisturbed, for 20 minutes. Add the russet potato, and cook until rutabaga and russet potato are very tender, about 20 minutes.

  3. Drain rutabaga and russet potato, discarding bacon. Place rutabaga and russet potato in a food processor or food mill, and pulse until blended. Transfer to a medium bowl. Stir in sugar, 1 teaspoon of the salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper; stir until combined.

  4. Carefully remove and discard skins from warm sweet potatoes. Place sweet potato flesh in a bowl; add butter and remaining 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Mash until smooth and creamy.

  5. Spoon rutabaga mixture into 1 side of a large bowl; spoon sweet potato mixture into other side of the bowl. Draw a knife through mixtures to create a swirl pattern. Serve immediately with additional butter, if desired, and pepper to taste.

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