Rutabagas are For Lovers.

Rutabaga Sweet Potato Soup with Fried Spaghetti Squash and Toasted Pepitas

Consider the unloved rutabaga. It’s a cross between a turnip and a cabbage, two other frequently skipped-over veggies. If Frumpy and Unloveable had a root vegetable baby, it’d be a rutabaga. Like most winter vegetables, they store very well after harvesting. This means you can usually find rutabagas year round. As far as I can tell, this is why they’re unpopular.

Rutabagas were one of the only available foods during WWI in many countries, because they’re easy to grow and easy to store. They soon got a reputation as being “famine food” and many, many people had simply eaten too many of them. This dislike was so strong that even people who have never been forced to live off of rutabagas revile them. Ask someone in the US if they like rutabagas, and they will probably say no. Ask that same person if they’ve ever had one, and they’ll probably say no to that, too.

RutabagaGranted, I’m sure there are people out there who have given rutabagas a fair shot in recent memory and still dislike them. But there’s no way everyone dislikes them. In fact, you might even like them! Even if you don’t know it yet.

Now I really like the word “rutabaga”. It’s fun to say. Maybe that’s why I gave them a chance. I have a theory that we need to stop calling them rutabagas if we want people to try them. But maybe it isn’t the name? Maybe everyone loves the word rutabaga and the problem lies elsewhere? I decided to do an experiment on my husband:

Me: Vegetable aside, what does just the word “rutabaga” make you think about?
Husband: A car part, like a carburetor.
Me: Hmm.
Husband: Or some kind of rickshaw.

Clearly the name needs to go.

I propose we call them what nearly every other country calls them: swedes. It seems to me that the majority of people out there who like rutabagas don’t live in the US and therefore don’t call them rutabagas. If you’re ever searching for recipes for them, search for the word “swedes” as well and you’ll get a whole different set of recipes.

Swedes can be used a slew of different ways. They’re nice boiled and mashed, like potatoes. A popular dish, called rotmos, is a mix of mashed rutabagas, potatoes and carrots, seasoned with butter and salt. You can roast them, fry them, saute them, or eat them raw. They’re generally sweet with a mild turnip like flavor, and they smell like fresh cabbage. I think they’re quite delightful.

If you’re going to give them a try, but don’t know where to start, you can try the soup I threw together today for lunch. Almost everything in it is roasted first, which gives a nice, rich flavor. I think it’s a safe way to experiment with swedes. If you’re not digging it as a soup, add some earth balance, nutritional yeast, and more salt and it makes an interesting and creamy pasta sauce. I often do that with the leftovers the next day.

Oh, and as an added bonus, this recipe is soy free!

Swede Potato Soup with Fried Spaghetti Squash and Toasted Pepitas
Serves two

Roasting the Vegetables
1 Spaghetti Squash, halved and seeded (for garnish, but you’ll have leftovers)
1 Head Garlic
2 Cups Rutabaga, peeled and diced
1 1/2 Cups Sweet Potato, peeled and diced

Preaheat oven to 400º F.

Roasting VeggiesRub squash with oil and place cut-side down on a roasting pan.

Cut the top off the head of garlic and remove the papery skin, reserving the skin on the cloves themselves. Drizzle with oil and wrap in aluminum foil. Place on the same baking sheet.

Coat the rutabaga sweet potato in oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add these to the baking sheet.

Bake for 50-60 minutes until everything is golden, soft, and well-roasted. Allow garlic to cool a bit before opening the foil package.

Roasted Garlic

Making the Soup
1/2 Onion, chopped
Roasted Sweet Potatoes, from above
Roasted Rutabaga, from above
1/2 Cup Cashews
2 Cups water, more if needed
1 Bullion Cube
1 Pinch Nutmeg
1/2 tsp Dried Thyme
Roasted Garlic, from above, as much as the whole head if you’re brave

Squeeze the roasted garlic out of the head and reserve the paste. If you’re not using all of it, you can freeze it in an ice cube tray and add it to recipes as you wish.

Saute onion until very soft and caramelized, about 10 minutes. Blend all of the above ingredients in a high-speed blender until smooth. If you’re worried your blender will not blend the nuts completely, you can sub soy or coconut milk for the water and skip the nuts, and/or strain the soup. It’ll taste a little different, but it’ll still be delicious. Add water as desired to get preferred thickness.

Making the Garnish, optional
1/4 Cup Pepitas
1/4 Cup Roasted Spaghetti Squash, see above
2 tsp All Purpose Flour
1 Pinch Salt

Heat a small amount of oil in a cast iron pan over medium heat. Add pepitas and cook until browned. Be careful, they may pop and fly around while cooking. Remove to a bowl to stop the cooking and set aside.

Scrape out the roasted spaghetti squash into bowl with a fork. Roll the strands in a paper towel or clean kitchen cloth and squeeze out as much moisture as you can. Replace squash in the bowl, add a pinch of salt and the flour and mix well.

Heat a cast-iron pan over very high heat with some oil. Spread out spaghetti squash in a thin, lacy layer and let brown on both sides until, until crisp. Drain on a paper towel.

Rutabaga Sweet Potato Soup with Fried Spaghetti Squash and Toasted Pepitas


  1. marianne

    Looks and sounds yummy!
    Rutabaga… I remember a little song or something from some really old cartoon from my childhood (I’m nearly 54 so yes, long long ago) and that’s all I seem to know about rutabagas which is pretty much zip but I do enjoy root veggies so I’ll search out some ‘bagas.

  2. Liz

    Wow. This is kinda eerie. I was just thinking last night about how I really want to make a creamy rutabaga soup…I used them for a creamy mushrooms soup base and they were really nice, but I’m really excited about doing a rutabaga and butterbean soup! Yours looks fabulous- I’ll bet the roasted garlic was perfect in there!

  3. Kayla

    I love rutabagas. The first one I ever tried was the one we grew in our garden in Mississippi. Then I had one from the grocery store (covered in wax, of course) and it just wasn’t the same. They are still one of my favorite root veggies, though. The soup you made looks fabulous and perfect for fall.

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  5. Sara

    Oh goodness that looks delicious! When I hear rutabaga, I think of hemorrhoids or lobotomies…both of which are less delicious. :) That looks like such a perfect fall soup!

  6. stringy

    Wow – I’d heard Americans talking about rutabagas, and I’d wondered what they were and if I should try one. Now I find out it’s just the old swede I’ve known all my life :) Thanks – I always learn something new when you post :)

  7. johanna

    I love love love the Finnish rutabaga casserole (lanttulaatikko). It’s pretty easy to veganize, & also super yummy if you put in a few really sweet carrots. There are a lot of recipes out there but it’s pretty simple, so once you sort out what it is you can just make up your own version. It sounds really boring, but… I dunno, it’s yummy. Viva root veggies!

  8. Wendy

    This soup looks lovely. And to repeat Joanna’s comment, lanttulaatikko is amazing.
    Just to confuse the name thing: in Scotland we call what the English know as a turnip a swede and a swede a turnip. Mashed rutabaga is what we eat with haggis (meat based and vege).

  9. Dana

    As a 30 year old girl from the US, I have to say that I ADORE rutabegas, always have. Maybe because my father introduced them to me as a small toddler as finger foods (cubed and steamed), or because it isn’t Thanksgiving to me without them mashed and buttered, but I cannot wait to try this soup recipe. It sounds delish!

  10. Allison

    This soup looks awesome! Could you use cashew butter instead of whole cashews if your blender won’t blend the nuts completely?

  11. Suzie

    I forgot all about rutabagas! I’ve never even tried one before, but it sounds interesting. It kind of makes me think of a character from a toddler toon. It’s a very happy word, in my opinion!

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  13. VincentG

    The soup looks great (the texture really comes across in the shot). I like rutabagas, but they’re usually a smaller player in a broader recipe. Maybe I should open my heart a big more.

  14. FatGirl

    Probably not the healthiest way to eat them, but when my grandmother cooked the rutabegas my grandfather grew in his garden she would slice them up real thin and then pan-fry them in some butter. And they were lovely, really yummy. So I definitely don’t dislike rutabegas, I just sorta.. overlook them in the grocery, y’know?

  15. Hillary

    You’re right! You don’t hear too much about rutabagas around these parts. I’m sure they thank you for giving them the recognition they deserve. Great soup!

  16. Ida

    I’ve never every tried a rutabaga/swede but your post inspired me to do so! I think I will buy some this weekend and make some mashed swedes.

  17. Joanna

    Ok, so I was in a play once in summer camp, but I am a horrible actress and they wouldn’t give me a real role. Instead I had to stand in the back of the stage and pretend to have conversations. And you know what we were supposed to mouth to make it look like we were talking? “Rutabaga rutabaga rutabaga”

    So we can’t get rid of the name! Extras everywhere would have nothing to fake-talk about! As for the vegetable itself… I don’t think I’ve ever tried it. But your soup looks tasty enough that I might have to give it a shot.

  18. Sarah C.

    I am definitely going to try it this week!
    I have two questions though: 1) what does a ‘bega actually taste like? 2) what affect (besides being chunky) would not blending the soup have?
    Thanks for posting it!

  19. Tartelette

    You’re right, I think part of the blockage comes from the name and its different association. I love rutabagas, but Hubby dialike them, so I’ll let you kow how the soup goes if I call it “swede potato soup”.

  20. fenke

    mmmhhh! i love soup, especially with winter vegetables. very nice pictures also, and the roasted garlic: since a short time it is my new addiction!

  21. Gail

    This looks amazing. I can’t wait to try it. I made three of your recipes in the recent weeks and they were all delicious! Cappellini in Fresh Tomato Cream Sauce, Super Chili and last night I made Rotini Alfako. Not only sooo good but easy :) I can’t wait to be able to order your cookbook. Thanks for posting great recipes!

  22. Mary

    I’ve had a spaghetti squash in my fridge for a while. None of the usual recipes was inspiring me, and then I saw this. I made it last night and it’s absolutely delicious! My last garlic bulb from this season’s garden went into the soup, and I tell you it was not in vain. Delicious, creamy, fantastic. I made two teeny changes, using soy milk instead of water and a couple of snips of fresh rosemary in the puree. Now I have (at least) a week’s worth of lovely warm soup pack in my lunches. I will definitely start using rutabagas more often, thanks!

  23. Beni

    I’ve had lanttulaatikko as well, our finnish friend made it for us at a cook off. It was so condelicious!

    I love how you tested the name out on your husband. Rutabaga sounds cartoony to me :)

    I definitely need to try out this recipe.

  24. AMS

    Do you think it would be similar if I used 1.5 cups of veg broth (homemade and delish) and half a cup of soy or coconut milk?

  25. Keira

    Made this tonight – it was delicious! Really rich and creamy. Somehow tasted like I remember my mom’s turkey stuffing used to taste… I gave a taste to a few other people and they agreed it tasted like stuffing! It’s strange to think of a soup tasting like stuffing but it was actually really tasty! Thank you

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  27. Kate

    I saw this recipe during my normal Friday afternoon food blog reading and thought, yum. I thought about it all weekend, but could NOT remember where I found it — looked everywhere, but I have a different blog list saved at home! It was driving me nuts!

    I am making this for Thanksgiving. Cannot wait to give it a try.

  28. Linda

    Love ‘bagas lots. They are a tradition boiled and mashed with butter and served on our Thanksgiving table. I roast them with potatoes, sweet and white and any other kind I have, carrots, onions and garlic. Yummy. Try in soups and stews or roasts ( I know this is a vegan site. Sorry.) Thanks for this great sounding soup. Can’t wait to try it.

  29. ethan

    Prior to pumpkins being readily available in the UK and Ireland (a relatively recent development), swedes/rutabagas were hollowed out and carved with faces to make lanterns for Halloween. Often called “jack o’lanterns”, or “tumshie lanterns” in Scotland, they were the ancient symbol of a damned soul.

    something from

  30. Jenn

    This soup was soooo much better than I expected. This was unbelievably delicious. I just roasted the onion along with everything else to save myself cooking/clean-up time. It worked perfectly. My Dad & his neighbors grow a huge 2 acre garden all year long ( we live on the SC coast). There are more rutabagas than an army could eat. So, I am so pleased to find such a great recipe for them. I am getting pretty bored with the standard puree recipes out there. This was different, but super easy & simple.

    Thanks so much, Jenn

  31. Judith

    I’m a little late to the game, but this looks amazing! One question. When you say pepitas, do you mean raw, hulled pumpkin seeds? Should they be prepared in a certain way beforehand?

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  33. Åshild Pettersen

    Hi! I never comment on blogs, but this time I just HAD to. It’s so cool that you are trying to get rutabaga (kålrot/kålrabi in Norwegian) a better reputation! I lived in the US for one year, and I never had it there even though the family I stayed with ate lots of veggies.

    I love this vegetable; you can eat it raw as is, or with some kind of dip (yoghurt, hummus etc), or you can boil in broth and mash it – put in S&P (don’t be afraid to put in lots of fresh ground pepper) and if you’re not vegan – some cream (YUM :) This last simple (!) recipe is one we use for our Christmas dinner together with dried and salted lambribs (not vegan I know, but still nam,nam (norwegian = yum,yum). It’s a real treat!

  34. michael

    As a englishman now well into his sixties,swedes or rutabaga
    have been part of my diet since childhood, I think my first experience was in WW2 in soups and stews, they go with any meal & are great mashed with potatos or roasted with the sunday
    lunch (apoligies to vegans) though small word of warning dont eat too many as the cyanide by products can affect your thyroid but I guess it would have to be a heck of a lot :) those who havent tried them dont know what a treat they are missing !!!

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