What to Cook with Winter Vegetables
Despite the frigid temperatures and ominous gray skies, winter can actually be a time of great abundance. If you go to your local market or grocery store, you’ll find many of your favorite vegetables are in season during the months of January, February, and March. Because while the earth may be frozen, a cornucopia of resilient roots, tubers, and leafy greens not only survive in the cold weather — but thrive in it. Beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, Swiss chard, watercress, collards, endive, fennel, citrus, kale, leeks, radishes, rutabagas, and sunchokes are just a handful of the vegetables available this time of year.
Some of these ingredients may be unfamiliar, while others may be downright intimidating, but when you know how to cook them, they will all become a welcome addition to your weekly meal plan. For rutabagas, beets, and sunchokes, a long roast in the oven turns these tough vegetables soft and sweet. For cabbage, Swiss chard, and collards, a braise in a flavorful cooking stock tenderizes the leaves, making for a luxurious melt-in-your-mouth texture. And that’s just the beginning. From crisp winter salads to smooth and sultry purees to heart-warming pies and tarts, you’ll be amazed at all the nutritious plant-based meals you can create using only winter produce. This Monday, fill your shopping cart with seasonal ingredients.
Cabbage can do it all. You can cook it low and slow, shave it raw, or give it a hard sear in the frying pan. But cabbage leaves are also great for stuffing and rolling, like in this recipe from Apron Strings for braised cabbage rolls. The filling of lentils, rice, garlic, and shallots is enhanced by a flavorful braising liquid, which includes apple cider vinegar, dark brown sugar, and vegetable broth. For the Braised Cabbage Rolls recipe from Apron Strings, click here.
There’s nothing cozier on a chilly winter night than a bowl of velvety carrot soup. This recipe doesn’t take much in terms of technique. Start by cooking the onions in a Dutch oven or soup pot. Once they’ve sweat a bit, add your chopped carrots, parsnips, and broth and bring to a boil. After 50 minutes of simmering, start blending half of the softened carrots and parsnips in a food processor and fold them back into the pot (you can also use an immersion blender). Season to taste and your soup is ready to go. For the Carrot Soup with Parsnip Chips recipe, click here.
Capture the rugged earthiness of the colder months with this cozy and creamy vegan lasagna from Vegan Richa. A marinade of balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, and vegan Worcestershire sauce infuse the portobello mushrooms with tons of umami flavor. Paired with a decadent cashew-garlic cream sauce and this one is a total winter-time winner. For the Creamy Vegan Mushroom Lasagna recipe, click here.
This recipe from The Garden of Eating is a great way to upgrade your ordinary salad. The nutty wild rice and sweet, earthy beets add some textural contrast to the otherwise simple bowl of greens. Kale, which is also in season during the winter, gives this salad some extra heft. For the Forbidden Rice, Roasted Beet, and Kale Salad recipe by The Garden of Eating, click here.
Another soul-warming meatless meal, this Indian butter cauliflower from Blondelish brings sweet, heat, and smoke all in one dish. The flavorful sauce uses fresh ginger, garlic, tomatoes, garam masala, curry powder, and a can of luscious coconut cream. Add in your roasted cauliflower florets and you have a plant-based dinner that’s sure to tantalize the taste buds. For the Indian Butter Cauliflower recipe from Blondelish, click here.
This recipe from The Plant-Powered Dietitian is an excellent gateway to enjoying Brussels sprouts. These Brussels are sweet and tangy and loaded with other yummy goodies, like roasted hazelnuts and slices of red onion. After 40 minutes in the oven, the Brussels sprouts will be soft, charred, and bursting with big flavor. For the Maple and Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts recipe from The Plant-Powered Dietitian, click here.
A steaming bowl of curry is an excellent way to introduce more vegetables into your lunch or dinner. This soup recipe from Eating Well uses cauliflower, sweet potato, russet potato as well as tons of aromatics, like fresh ginger, garlic, chile, and onion. But the real flavor comes from a blend of warm and punchy spices. A can of coconut milk tempers the cumin, cinnamon, coriander, and cayenne pepper, while adding a creamy richness to the soup. For the Roasted Cauliflower and Potato Curry Soup recipe from Eating Well, click here.
Fennel and orange is a classic ingredient pairing, matching the sweet licorice notes of the roasted fennel with the tropical tang of fresh orange. In this recipe from Mango & Tomato, fennel and tofu are all marinated in an Asian-inspired dressing of hoisin sauce, ginger, red pepper, soy sauce, and orange juice. After roasting, the ingredients are mixed in with fresh orange segments for a bright and refreshing dish. For the Roasted Fennel with Tofu and Oranges recipe from Mango & Tomato, click here.
For an elaborate meat-free main course, look no further than this spinach shepherd’s pie. Instead of being topped with mashed potatoes, this comforting dish is decorated with a creamy parsnip purée. The base of the pie is made from a combination of carrots, onions, spinach, and white beans, which also becomes rich and decadent, thanks to the non-dairy milk and veggie stock. For the Roasted Garlic Parsnip Spinach Shepherd’s Pie recipe, click here.
Simple, sugary, and elegant, these roasted turnips from Veggie Desserts take only 30 minutes to cook. Just toss the chunked turnips in olive oil and a sprinkle of nutmeg and roast until golden brown. Straight-forward yet effective. For the Roasted Turnips recipe from Veggie Desserts, click here.
If you’ve ever eaten breakfast in the southern United States, you’re bound to see grits somewhere on the menu. Similar to oatmeal, grits are made from mixing cornmeal and a boiling liquid, which can be water, milk, or a non-dairy alternative. On their own grits can be bland, but when you add other seasonings and ingredients, like in this recipe from Chef Jumoke Jackson, your bowl of grits becomes comforting and delicious. Pair with a side dish of cooked kale or Swiss chard, and you have a stick-to-your-ribs plant-based breakfast. For the Smoky Grits and Greens recipe from Chef Jumoke Jackson, click here.
This chili from Eating Well has everything you could ever want: tender sweet potato, smooth black beans, and tons of smoky flavor thanks to the addition of ground cumin, chipotle chile, and chili powder. Make a big batch of this nutritious chili and have the leftovers for lunch (and dinner) the next day. For the Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chile recipe from Eating Well, click here.
The rutabaga is another hearty root vegetable that gets sweeter and tender after it’s cooked. This recipe from Hashtag Vegan pairs them with carrots to make a decadent purée that’s both sweet and savory, with hints of cinnamon and salt. Just boil the vegetables together, add some almond milk, and blend with an immersion blender. For the Best Damn Rutabaga Purée recipe from Hashtag Vegan, click here.
The Jerusalem artichoke, also known as the sunchoke, is a starchy tuber that becomes smooth and velvety when cooked and blended, making it the ideal candidate for cozy winter soups and purées. This recipe from Sweeter Than Oats is bare bones but delicious, calling for just an onion, potato, sunchoke, vegetable stock, and vegan cream. For the Vegan Jerusalem Artichoke Soup recipe from Sweeter Than Oats, click here.