How to cut and peel a turnip like the Irish do

You say rutabaga? Swede? We say turnip! Here’s how to deal with this thick-skinned Irish favorite and the best way to cook it

Preparing a rutabaga for cooking can be a daunting task for the cook who has never handled one of these thick-skinned vegetables before. Known as a swede or a turnip in Ireland, the purplish-yellow rutabaga skin is hard, and let’s be honest, it’s ugly looking.

But rest assured, hiding beneath this tough exterior is a delicious, sweet, and peppery vegetable that is rich in beta-carotene and low in calories. Once you know what you’re doing, peeling and slicing one of these big tubers is quite simple.

A rutabaga...what the Irish call turnip.

A rutabaga…what the Irish call turnip.

Step 1: Wash the outside of the rutabaga to remove any dirt. Most American rutabagas are covered in a waxy film, so the dirt is usually removed before the application of this coating. In Ireland and other countries, the exterior is uncoated and it’s important to remove any dirt before slicing.

Slicing the rutabaga.

Slicing the rutabaga.

Step 2: Place the rutabaga on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, slice the vegetable in half. I like to cut through the central stalk, to create two halves that are easy to lay flat on the cutting board.

This first cut is the most difficult and riskiest of all, since the oval surface of the tuber makes it difficult to stabilize for cutting. Take extra care, to ensure your knife does not slip.

Slicing the rutabaga.

Slicing the rutabaga.

Step 3: Turn each half onto its flat side, then cut it into 1/2-inch-thick semi-circles.  Throw away the first and last pieces which are covered in thicker skin.

Peeling the sliced rutabaga.

Peeling the sliced rutabaga.

Step 4: Use a paring knife to remove the outer skin of each semi-circular piece.  This method is much easier than trying to peel a rutabaga with a potato peeler – really a mission impossible.

Dicing the rutabaga flesh.

Dicing the rutabaga flesh.

Step 5: Next, lay each piece flat and cut into 1-inch cubes.

Boiling the rutabaga.

Boiling the rutabaga.

Step 6: Cover the diced rutabaga with lightly salted water until ready to cook with it.

What to do with the rutabaga once you've prepped it!

What to do with the rutabaga once you’ve prepped it!

And there you have it, a simple method for peeling and cubing a rutabaga or turnip, a technique I learned from my Irish mother.

Here’s my complete recipe on how to cook a rutabaga Irish style.

Slán agus beannacht, (Goodbye and blessings) – Irish American Mom.

*Mairead Geary came to America for one year 20 years ago. She now lives with her husband and children in Kentucky and is proud to be an American citizen. Read more on her blog here.

*Originally published in 2017, last updated in June 2021.

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