Skip to Content

Why is My Rutabaga Bitter? And How To Remove The Bitterness

Sharing is caring!

You may be quite confused if one of your friends absolutely loves rutabaga, and then you try it for the first time and feel like you are biting into pure bitterness. You might be wondering if it always tastes that bad or if you bought a bad one?

Is there a way to make it taste better, or should you throw out the whole thing and never take a recommendation from that friend ever again?

rutabaga bitter

Why is my rutabaga bitter?

Rutabaga does not always taste extremely bitter, but you may have bought rutabaga out of season. If you buy rutabagas that were grown out of season, they’re going to be more bitter.

They grow best in cooler weather, so they are best when harvested between October and November. Of course, in some climates, they can be harvested all the way until March, but if it is too cold or too hot, they simply won’t taste as good.

Read also: Rutabaga VS Beets 

How to remove bitterness from rutabaga

The first step to getting the bitterness out of your rutabagas is to learn how to cut them correctly. When you cut your rutabaga, you want to start by washing it with cold water to remove any soil. Since it is a root vegetable, dirt can be embedded into the skin.

cut rutabaga

After it is rinsed off, you can take your knife and cut a thin slice off the top and bottom (throw these pieces out) and cut it in half to make it easier to deal with.

After you have cut your rutabaga, you can move on to peeling it. With your knife, slowly peel away 2-inch slices of skin at a time until you have removed all the skin. The rutabaga should be lighter in color on the inside.

Your final step, one of the most important ones, is to then feel around your Rutabaga and cut out any tough spots because those are the spots that are the most bitter.

Of course, rutabagas do have some bitterness to them, so after you know how to cut them properly, you can move on to find a recipe that you like.

The ones that are best for managing the bitterness have sweeteners of some sort in them. You could make a honey glaze, turn them into a mash, etc. With the right recipe and proper cutting, even people who swear they hate rutabagas may love your dish.

Add a tablespoon or two of sugar to the boiling water. This should help mask rutabaga’s bitter notes.

Read also: Are Rutabaga Leaves Edible ?

Are rutabagas safe to eat?

With the bitter flavor, you may find yourself wondering if rutabagas are safe to eat. As with most obscure vegetables, there are some odd rumors around rutabagas, such as you should not eat them raw.

But there is nothing true about those rumors, and rutabagas are completely safe to eat raw, boiled, baked, roasted, mashed, steamed, etc. Honestly, it is usually safe to assume that if you can do it with a potato, you can do it with rutabagas.

However, there is one important detail when it comes to eating rutabagas versus eating potatoes. If you do not want to peel the potatoes, you can just mix the skin right in for most dishes. This is not the case with rutabagas, so you should always make sure you peel them. Rutabaga skin is thick and waxy, so eating it would not be a pleasant experience, no matter how much you love rutabagas.

rutabaga skin

What does rutabaga taste like ?

Rutabagas when cut right, taste a lot like a turnip, but actually a bit milder. Rutabagas have a peppery, earthy, and sweet taste. They do also have some bitterness to them, but nothing that would turn most people away.

A lot of the bitterness can be cooked out when you prepare it in any number of different ways. If you are new to rutabagas, go ahead and try it raw. Especially if you like turnips ! But do not give up on them entirely if you don’t like them raw. There are tons of different, delicious recipes with rutabagas out there.

How to tell if rutabaga is bad

When you are at the store, good rutabagas should be between three to five inches in diameter at the top. While you can eat rutabagas that are bigger than that, bigger ones will become too tough. On the other hand, rutabagas that are too small can be more prone to bitterness.

But how do you tell if a rutabaga has gone bad?

Well, a ripe rutabaga that has not become over-ripe will feel firm to the touch. When you look at and touch a rutabaga, if you notice that it has become shriveled or the skin is loose, or if there are any soft spots, it is probably past its prime.

If there are only a couple of soft spots, you may be able to cut them out and still use the vegetable. However, if the whole thing is shriveled and mushy, it is best to just throw out or compost the whole thing.

The good news is that rutabagas do not go bad all that fast. You can keep a rutabaga fresh in your fridge for up to four to five months if you store them properly. Of course, like most vegetables, after you cut in to one, they do go bad faster.


Rutabagas are definitely an odd vegetable, and they tend to get a bad rap. Still, rutabagas are not the overly bitter, tough vegetable that you may have first experienced. All it takes to turn from a rutabaga hater to a rutabaga lover is learning how to cut and prepare them correctly.

It is worth giving them another shot. Keep trying them in different forms because it seems like the options are endless with this vegetable.

Sharing is caring!