How to cook swede

How to cook swede

How to cook swede

For a pretty underused vegetable, the humble swede goes by a surprising number of names: rutabaga, Swedish turnip or in Scotland and parts of northern England it is confusingly known as neeps or turnip (not to be confused with the smaller, white turnip which looks and tastes quite different). It is a root vegetable, in season from October to February in the UK. Swede is a great source of vitamin C in particular, and makes a good alternative to potatoes if you’re on a low-carb diet as they are low in carbohydrates, unlike a lot of other root vegetables.

Before pumpkins were readily available in the UK, swedes were often carved into a threatening face at Halloween and left in windows of homes and shops to ward off evil spirits. They've developed a bit of a reputation for being bland, bitter and just generally uninteresting, but that couldn't be further from the truth – with the right know-how and recipe, swede can be a beautiful side dish to a Sunday roast or even the star of the show.


What to look for when buying swede

Select a firm, dense, blemish-free swede, the smaller in size the sweeter so a small-medium is probably best depending on how you are using it. Avoid larger swedes as they can become more bitter in taste and tougher, meaning longer cooking times.

How to prepare swede

To prepare swede, it can be treated the same as other root vegetables – it simply needs peeling and the root cutting off. From here you can dice to the desired size then roast, boil or steam it. As it is a hardy winter vegetable, it is suited to long braises such as soups or hearty stews. Follow our simple recipes below for crushed swede and how to roast swede, then take a look at our other swede recipes for plenty more inspiration.

How to make crushed swede


Peel and roughly dice the swede into 2cm cubes. Place in a pan and cover with boiling water and a good pinch of salt. Boil for 20–25 minutes or until tender but not overly soft, otherwise it will taste watery


Drain the swede then place back in the pan with the butter and use a potato mash to crush


Taste and season with a pinch of sugar, salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. The sugar may not be needed but for larger, tougher swedes it can counteract the bitterness

Unglamorous vegetables: swede

Swede loses out to a whole catwalk of more fashionable veg, but chef Anna Tobias knows how to make the most of it. Take a look at her three recipes that shine a new light on this unloved sphere of flavour.

How to roast swede


Preheat an oven to 200ºC/gas mark 6


Peel and dice the swede into 2cm pieces


Scatter the swede onto a roasting tray with the herbs and garlic cloves, lightly bashed and still in their skins. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper, then toss to thoroughly coat in the oil


Place in the oven and roast for 30 minutes,  tossing halfway through to get an even caramelisation on the swede


Serve up hot 

Scottish inspiration

Swede is a key ingredient in Scotland’s most famous dish: haggis, neeps and tatties with whisky sauce. Clapshot is another traditional Scottish dish originating from Orkney. While recipes vary, it is generally a mix of potato, swede and/or turnips mashed up with lots of butter and sometimes chives or spring onions. Excellent served with haggis, sausages or hearty stews.

Sneaky swede

Whilst maybe not the most fashionable of vegetables, swede sneaks its way into several classic dishes. It’s often found in a traditional Irish stew, and is one of the key ingredients in a Cornish pasty. It's also a delicious addition to bubble and squeak if you have leftovers. You probably never noticed, but it’s also in the popular British condiment Branston pickle.

Swede on the side

Swede sauerkraut

Swede isn't averse to a good old ferment, which brings out its sweetness and adds a complex depth whilst retaining its raw crunch. Anna Tobias' swede 'kraut is an incredibly healthy and delicious thing to have on standby in the fridge.

Crushed, mashed and hashed

Swede mash
Swede mash

Mashing or crushing swede is probably the most common way to serve it, and with good reason too. The vegetable loses its bitter edge, turning sweeter almost like a carrot, and will absorb lots of flavour in the form of butter, milk, garlic or herbs (four things I think we can all agree improve any dish).

Comforting swede recipes

Due to its seasonality, swede is often associated with comforting, wintry dishes such as stews and casseroles. As it's quite a sturdy vegetable, it benefits from a long, slow braise to absorb the surrounding flavours whilst holding its shape.

Puddings and pies

Swede and friends

The sweet and earthy flavour of swede pairs nicely with a sweet and sharp apple. Mustard is another nice ingredient to pair with swede, which actually comes from the same family as the mustard plant. The hot, sharp flavour really complements the sweetness of the swede and enhances the slightly peppery flavour.

Salt-baked swede

Salt-baking swede is a nice way of celebrating the vegetable, which is so often overlooked in favour of the trendier celeriac or beetroot. This cooking method transforms the vegetable into a perfectly seasoned centrepiece with bags of flavour. You can then either blitz the flesh into a purée as in Michael Wignall’s recipe below, or slice into wedges and pan-fry in foaming butter for a lovely caramelised finish. Follow the same method as the salt-baked celeriac but with a swede if you want to keep things simple.

Swede with game

Due to the seasonal nature of the vegetable, swede often gets paired with game. The iron-rich, earthy flavour of game meat is well suited to the sweet and earthy vegetable.

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