Winter is one of the most wondrous times to cook from the garden or farmer’s market—even if it lacks some of the brightness and variety of warmer seasons. The vegetables this time of year are nutrient-dense and hearty, sweetened by frost and spectacularly vibrant in their own right. Winter squashes, roots, chicories and brassicas (like broccoli and cabbage) concentrate their sugars and nutrients in colder weather, and they can be some of the most delicious things you cook all year if you know what to do with them.
Squashes and carrots are the perfect medium for soaking up the rich flavors of a winter braise, and also serve as a great base for soups and stews all their own. Cabbage can be thinly sliced into slaw, slowly braised with ham and onions, or baked in a gratin with good milk and cheese. And bitter leaves like radicchio are best when balanced by strong flavors like capers and anchovies or the acidity of winter citrus fruits like orange, grapefruit and lemon.
There is so much diversity and vibrancy to be found in the winter garden if you look for it! Here are just a few of our favorite winter vegetables and ideas for how to use them this season.
These starchy tubers are the ideal accompaniment to braised meat and hearty stews, sopping up the flavor of whatever they’re served with—whether boiled, baked, mashed or roasted—but they’re also delicious all their own.
There are more than 100 varieties of potatoes grown across the U.S. and each one has its own unique flavor profile and texture. Starchy varieties like Russets and TK are best for baking and frying and their tough skins should usually be peeled before eating. Waxy varieties like Yukon golds, red potatoes and fingerlings have tender, tasty skins and are best roasted or mashed. Blue and purple potatoes are ideal for boiling and other delicate preparations that highlight their deep earthy flavor.
Potato recipe ideas:
- Curried potatoes with onions and ginger
- Spanish tortilla with potatoes and eggs
- Boiled blue potatoes with butter and mint
- Potato salad with smoked trout and creme fraiche
- Duck-fat fried potatoes
Tip: For the best roasted potatoes, we like to boil them before roasting. This technique breaks down their tough skins and dissolves their starches, helping you achieve a crispy outer crust with a soft and tender interior. Boil the potatoes in salted water until tender and then let them drain and dry out before tossing them in olive oil and roasting in a 425°F oven for another 30 minutes or so until golden brown and toasty. Then serve with roast chicken or steak and some sauteed spinach or kale.
This lanky winter allium is best known for its appearance in potato-leek soup, but it can be used for a myriad of other winter recipes as well. Leeks can easily replace white or yellow onions in a sauté, braise, stew or soup, adding a bit more brightness than regular onions. Or they can be steamed on their own and tossed with a vinaigrette of red wine vinegar, dijon mustard, olive oil and capers.
Quick-pickled leeks will shine bright on a winter pickle plate or tossed into a winter salad with radicchio and kale. And frizzled leeks—shaved leeks lightly fried in oil—are a delicious topping for butternut squash or parsnip soup.
Leek recipe ideas:
- Leek + bacon quiche
- Leek + potato soup
- Caramelized leek + cheddar grilled cheese
- Sauteed leeks with sauce gribiche
Winter squash varieties include delicata, honeynut, acorn, red kuri, kabocha and many more. These squashes are generally harvested in Autumn and then left to “cure” on drying tables—in which their sugars concentrate and their skins harden—to keep them fresh throughout the winter. Their dense flesh is sweet, nutty and earthy and pairs particularly well with winter greens and woody herbs like thyme, rosemary and sage.
Many winter squashes (like delicata, honeynut, acorn, red kuri and kabocha) have tender skin that doesn’t need to be peeled before cooking. But butternut squash and most pumpkin varieties should always have their skins removed.
Squash can be roasted one of two ways. Slice a squash in half, remove the seeds and roast flesh-side up until soft. Or dice or slice the squash into chunks, toss with olive oil and roast in a hot oven until tender and toasty. We like roasting squash with butter, thyme leaves and curry powder for a warming side dish. Or tossing roasted squash chunks with cooked grains (like wheat berries, couscous or quinoa), dried currants, steamed kale and pickled leeks.
Winter squash recipe ideas:
- Curry-roasted squash with brown butter + thyme
- Roasted squash salad with steamed kale, quinoa, pumpkin seeds + feta
- Puréed squash + cauliflower soup
- Pumpkin soup with wheat berries, caramelized onions and sage
Tip: Save all of your squash ends, peels and seeds to make a flavorful squash broth. Add the scraps to a pot of water with aromatics like ginger root, leeks, garlic and onion and cook for 1-2 hours (or longer) until flavorful and fragrant. Strain out all the bits and use as a flavorful base for squash soup or as a broth for cooking beans or braising meat.
Chicories: radicchio, tardivo, endive and frisée
These vibrant bitter leaves are one of the most exciting things about the colder seasons. Their purple, maroon and chartreuse leaves add drama and interest to winter salads, and their intense and assertive taste is an ideal pairing for citrus fruits, strong flavors (think anchovy, capers and mustard) and creamy ingredients like white beans, cheeses and tahini.
Chicories can be used both raw in salads and lightly cooked—which brings out their sweetness and tames some of the bitterness. We love a radicchio salad with sliced pears, strong blue cheese, and shallot vinaigrette. Or a radicchio, frisée or endive salad with a creamy dressing of tahini, lemon, garlic and anchovy. You can also make a traditional tricolore salad by tossing chopped radicchio, endive and arugula with good balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and shaved pecorino or parmesan.
For cooked preparations, try searing radicchio in a hot pan with olive oil and a squeeze of lemon and serving with roast pork shoulder, braised short ribs or creamy white beans.
Chicory recipe ideas:
- Radicchio + citrus salad
- Radicchio, blue cheese + pear salad
- Braised radicchio with white beans and bacon
- Frisée with anchovy + lemon vinaigrette
This sweet and hearty brassica is wildly underrated—especially in winter when the sugars and flavors are intensified by cold temperatures and frost. Shaved raw, quickly grilled or pickled, it adds subtle sweetness and crunch to salads and slaws. Slowly braising cabbage brings out its deeper flavors while roasting it at high temperatures gives it toasty edges and a certain butteriness.
A raw cabbage slaw tossed with crushed coriander seeds, apple cider vinegar and olive oil is an excellent side dish for barbecue pulled pork. Or make a pickle-y grilled slaw by pickling cabbage in vinegar, then tossing it on the grill until crispy.
Cabbage also makes an excellent base for a gratin with heavy cream, parmesan and leeks. Or try rolling cabbage leaves around seasoned ground meat and braising them in a broth of white wine and tomatoes.
Cabbage recipe ideas:
- Cabbage, leek + parmesan gratin
- Smoky braised cabbage with smoked paprika and bacon
- Cabbage slaw with crushed coriander seeds
- Cabbage rolls with ground beef or lamb
- Braised red cabbage with apple cider vinegar
Sweet winter carrots are some of the best you’ll get all year! They’re an ideal pairing with braised meats, a great addition to stews and curries, and an excellent side dish all their own.
Make a warming carrot and ginger soup by cooking carrots, leeks and fresh ginger in chicken or vegetable broth and then blending until smooth. Or roast carrots in a hot oven until soft and toasty and serve with chimichurri, romesco sauce or garlicky yogurt.
Tip: Carrot tops have a similar flavor to parsley and can be used to make a bright pesto to serve over roasted carrots or top a bowl of carrot soup. Add washed carrot greens to a food processor with pine nuts, salt, chili flakes, lemon zest and olive oil and process until smooth.
Carrot recipe ideas:
- Roasted carrots with carrot-top pesto
- Puréed carrot and ginger soup
- Glazed carrots with maple syrup and chicken stock
- Carrot and citrus salad with cilantro and yogurt