You basically lived at the farmer’s market this summer, but now there’s a chill in the air and you’re lamenting the end of veggie season. Don’t worry, you needn’t dine exclusively on mac and cheese and chicken pot pie from December through February—there's a whole host of delicious winter vegetables (like cabbage, kale and leeks, to name a few) that promise to please your taste buds while doing good things for your waistline and your overall health.
20 Winter Vegetables That Are Seriously Good for You
From carrots to collards
What are winter vegetables?
Winter vegetables are ones that are planted and harvested when the temperatures begin to drop—namely because they prefer the chilly weather. Of the veggies on our list, some are more easy going than others and, thus, can be found at various times of the year; however, the one thing they all have in common is that they just taste better in the wintertime.
So, why is that? Well, certain vegetables have the ability to combat the wintry weather because of the higher amount of sugar they store. This results in the veggies tasting even sweeter in the chilly months.
The 20 Best Winter Vegetables
A cruciferous vegetable belonging to the cabbage family, this leafy green can be found year-round, but thrives in cold weather. Kale is also one of the most nutrient-dense veggies on our list; according to the Mayo Health Clinic, this winter vegetable is an excellent source of both fiber and calcium and boasts impressive amounts of vitamins K, A, B6 and C to boot. Eat it raw in a kale salad, or sauté it for a healthy side dish—either way, your body will thank you.
Winter is the ideal time to harvest this root vegetable since, much like carrots, parsnips grow sweeter as temperatures drop. Aside from their natural sweetness, parsnips also have a subtle earthy flavor that’s well-suited to the season’s hearty fare. They’re also an excellent source of nutrients, including soluble fiber, vitamins (C, B and E) and minerals (manganese, potassium and magnesium). In other words, you’d be wise to eat parsnips all winter long. Try ‘em blended into a soup, baked in a cake or simply roasted—this is one versatile (and tasty) vegetable.
3. Collard Greens
A staple of Southern cuisine, these bitter greens belong to the same family as kale and cabbage and have a similarly bitter quality. Not only can collard greens tolerate the cold, but they actually taste better once the weather gets frosty. (Hint: Long cooking times help, too.) It probably comes as no surprise that collard greens are nutritional heavy hitters. In fact, the bitter taste of collard greens is actually the result of a high calcium content, and they contain a significant amount of iron, vitamin C and vitamin K as well.
4. Brussels Sprouts
They look like cute baby cabbages and they belong to the same cruciferous family, too. Yep, we’re talking about brussels sprouts—a mild-tasting cold weather staple that works well as a stand-alone side, or when added to anything from warming winter pastas to creamy casseroles. Yep, brussels sprouts are a crowd-pleaser no matter how you prepare them, and they’re nutritional powerhouses, too. Eat ‘em up and the experts at Medical News Today say you’ll get a generous serving of vitamins B, C and K, and plenty of healthy fiber and protein, to boot.
Use It: Smashed Brussels Sprouts
5. Swiss Chard
Here, another winter green with a host of health benefits, including boatloads of vitamin K (i.e., a whole day’s worth in a single serving) as well as vitamins A and C, according to nutrition data from the USDA. Best of all, swiss chard has very few calories—making it an easy choice for anyone hoping to avoid winter weight gain—and a mild, sweet flavor with only a hint of bitterness. Basically, this one’s a winner on all fronts (especially when baked into this swiss chard au gratin recipe).
You can, of course, munch on this popular root vegetable all year long, but carrots truly shine in the winter, when cold temperatures make them extra sweet. Reach for a raw carrot whenever you want a healthy snack and an impressive dose of vitamin A (184 percent DV per serving, according to nutrition information from WebMD). We also highly recommend them as a nutrient-rich addition to hearty winter stews.
You might not think of broccoli as a winter vegetable since this cruciferous vegetable can be found on the menu at any time of year. That said, broccoli, like the other members of its family, does indeed favor frigid temperatures, so you’ll find that this nutrient-rich, flowering veg has superior flavor in the winter season. Plus, thanks to its versatility, there is no shortage of ways to use it, which is a very good thing considering that the vitamins and antioxidants found in broccoli boast a wide range of health benefits, such as reducing the risk of cancer, fighting inflammation, and improving digestive health (to name a few).
The biting peppery flavor and pleasing crunch of raw radishes makes for a satisfying snack, while roasted radishes feature a mellow, earthy flavor that pairs well with many a winter meal. No matter how you prepare them, this vibrant root vegetable will provide you with plenty of potassium, a considerable amount of vitamins B and C, and research shows they contain antioxidant compounds with anti-inflammatory and anticancer effects to boot.
Considering that rutabagas boast an impressive nutritional profile, they should really get more love. Much like other cruciferous root veggies on our list, rutabagas get sweet as temperatures drop and are at their very best all winter long. Rutabagas are also packed with minerals and vitamins—most notably, potassium, an important mineral for maintaining healthy blood pressure, and vitamin C, which supports immune function and overall health.
Use It: Roasted Rutabaga
Mild, sweet and often overlooked—turnips and rutabagas have a lot in common and can be used interchangeably in most recipes. Turnips are particularly tasty when used as a substitute for potato or cauliflower in a cheesy gratin and they can be crisped up as a healthy alternative to french fries, too. As for their nutritional value, these gems from the cruciferous family are rich in vitamin C (42 percent DV), as well as fiber, folate and cancer-fighting glucosamines. Not bad, right?
Use It: Turnip Fries
Leeks are essentially the soft-spoken cousin of the onion with the appearance of a giant scallion, and we can’t get enough of them—particularly in the winter when they’re at their peak. Best of all, leeks contain anti-inflammatory plant compounds that benefit the skin, eyes and immune system. Pro tip: Be sure to clean these guys well to get rid of the grit before you cook them up for a melty, mild-tasting and healthy treat.
Use It: White Wine Braised Leeks
Everyone likes cauliflower and it’s not hard to see why. This flowering cruciferous vegetable is just like broccoli, but it’s not green so it won’t scare away any picky eaters, and its flavor is milder and sweeter as well. Cover it in cheese, toss it into pasta, roast the whole head—there are numerous ways to serve cauliflower so that all can enjoy its subtle, nutty taste whilst profiting from the cancer-fighting phytonutrients, fiber and B-vitamins it contains.
13. Winter Squash
Butternut, delicata, acorn, kombucha—there are many types of squash and you can find them everywhere throughout the fall and winter season. Some varieties of squash are milder than others, but you can expect varying degrees of sweet, buttery, earthy flavor across the board. In terms of health benefits, any gourd you get your hands on is guaranteed to give you an infusion of vitamin A and potassium, plus carotenoids that, per a 1996 study published in FASEB Journal, help prevent and fight a wide range of chronic diseases.
Use iI: Hasselback Butternut Squash
Intensely bitter and somewhat spicy—radicchio, a member of the chicory family, is not everybody’s cup of tea. That said, it provides a palate-pleasing counterpoint to milder lettuces when tossed into salads, and its leaves—packed with a whopping 170 percent DV of vitamin K—are seriously good for you, so it’s worth giving this winter vegetable a try.
Though they may look alike, don’t confuse this guy for a type of lettuce. Cabbage is actually a cruciferous vegetable in the same family as kale, cauliflower and a few other cold weather favorites. What makes cabbage stand out from the crowd is that a single serving of the stuff provides a whopping amount of vitamins C and K. (54 percent and 85 percent DV per cup, respectively, according to the Cleveland Health Clinic.) Best of all, cabbage is particularly easy to incorporate into one’s diet because, when cooked, its flavor is mild enough to melt into the background of nearly any dish.
Spinach is a mild-tasting leafy green that boasts a whole host of health benefits. (Just ask Popeye.) Research suggests that this nutrient rich vegetable can help lower blood pressure, prevent cancer and promote both bone and digestive health. It also cooks and wilts quickly and—if you’re not a fan of its slightly slime texture when cooked—is equally delicious when enjoyed raw as a salad green. Either way, it’s a reliably friendly choice for folks who don’t tolerate the bitter taste of some of the other leafy greens on our list too well.
Use It: Coconut Creamed Spinach
17. Mustard Greens
More spicy than bitter and not quite as tough as kale or collards, mustard greens make a fine and flavor-packed addition to pasta dishes and sautes. As luck would have it, they’re loaded with nutrients, too—including more vitamin A than spinach and nearly half of the DV for vitamin C, per the USDA. They also have health-boosting diuretic and detoxifying properties, but you can get the full scoop here.
If you’re looking for a leafy green that holds up well to the longer cooking times required for soups and stews, this Italian gem fits the bill. It also works well as a component in mixed salads and stands out in pasta dishes as well. Best of all, it’s practically calorie-free and a two cup serving provides 164 percent, 58 percent and 12 percent of the DV for vitamins K, C and dietary fiber, respectively. (And the USDA FoodData Central has its full nutrition profile, if you’re interested.)
This winter staple is easy to recognize thanks to its vibrant reddish-purple hue, but that’s not the only thing that sets beets apart. These root vegetables boast a slightly sweet, earthy taste and an impressive number of essential minerals and nutrients. What’s more, there’s ample research showing that beets can lower blood pressure—like this 2014 study published in Nutritional Research—thus indicating that the nutrient power of beets includes significant cardiovascular benefits. You know, so your heart can go on beeting for a long time. (Sorry, we had to.)
Endive is a bitter-tasting salad green that’s often paired with other milder greens, due to its biting flavor profile. If the bitterness puts you off, you can enjoy this healthy green in the form of frisée, a common feature of mixed salads, or opt for Belgian endive instead—a variety that has a shallot-like shape and takes well to roasting for a milder taste. However you choose to prepare your endive, you should know that research shows it’s rich in cancer-preventing flavonoids and notably low in calories, too.