Here’s a quick guide to lotus root, a classic Asian vegetable, with tips on buying, easy ways to use, and recipes.
Make a crosswise cut through lotus root’s crunchy flesh. The pattern of holes inside make it look like a cream-colored piece of lace. Lotus root is the thickened stem of a water lily, and the holes inside are lengthwise air tunnels. Lotus root is alternately known as lily root or by its Japanese name, renkon.
Whole, lotus root looks like plump, brown-skinned sausage links, each about 6 to 8 inches in length. Often, it’s sold with one end sliced open to reveal the snowflake-like pattern inside.
The taste is sweet and earthy with the starchiness and crunch similar to jícama. Size doesn’t affect flavor or crispy texture. The seeds, leaves and flowers of this plant are also edible, but those are difficult to find except in Asian markets. Actually, that’s where lotus root is most commonly found as well.
This information is excerpted and adapted from Melissa’s Great Book of Produce: Everything You Need to Know About Fresh Fruits and Vegetables by Cathy Thomas ©2006, reprinted by permission of Melissa’s Produce.
Buying and storage
Look for smooth, unblemished skin without cracks or soft spots. If cut open, the cut area should look moist. If using slices whole, choose those with smaller diameters. Peel just before using.
Refrigerate “links” that have been cut (not sliced) in plastic in the crisper drawer for up to 5 days. In Asian markets, whole, refrigerated, peeled lotus root is packaged in water-filled plastic bags. Lotus root is available year-round.
Cut where “links” join. Trim off and discard necks about 1 inch from tips. Scrub under cold running water. Peel with a vegetable peeler. Slice crosswise with a sharp knife or mandoline. Use immediately or place in a bowl of cold water with a small amount of lemon juice to prevent browning.
Lotus root is an excellent source of vitamin C and a significant source of vitamin B6, riboflavin, potassium, and thiamin. It’s low in calories and has soluble fiber. See complete nutrition information for lotus root here.
How to use lotus root and links to recipes
Include slices of lotus root in soups and salads, stir-fries, and tempura. Lotus root slices are often and blanched in boiling water for about 1 minute, then drained and refreshed with cold water, before adding to recipes. Alternatively, it can be covered with boiling water and allowed to stand for 5 minutes. It will cook sufficiently if added raw to stir-fries. No matter what, lotus root must be lightly cooked before eating; don’t eat raw.
Pickles with holes: In large saucepan, combine 2 cups seasoned rice vinegar, 1 tablespoon sugar, 2 teaspoons coarse salt, 2 teaspoons ground turmeric, and 1 serrano chile (seeded and minced; use caution when working with fresh chiles—do not touch face or eyes. Wash hands thoroughly upon completion). Bring to boil on high heat; stir to combine and reduce heat to medium. Simmer until sugar dissolves. Peel 2 medium lotus roots; cut into 1/4-inch-thick crosswise slices. Add to mixture and simmer 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool. Place in glass jar and cover. Refrigerate for at least 24 hours, then serve ase as snack or garnish.
Tempura: Lotus root slices (about 1/2 inch thick) can be dipped into batter and deep fried or better yet, air fried, along with other favorite tempura vegetables. Here’s an easy vegan recipe for Lotus Root Tempura.
Thinly sliced lotus root can be added to any kind of stir-fry
Lotus root stir-fry: Add slices of lotus root to any kind of vegetable stir-fry recipe; serve over rice or noodles. Raw lotus root slices can go into your pan at the same time with harder vegetables like broccoli or cauliflower. Here’s a recipe for spicy vegan Kung Pao Lotus Root.
Grilled: Brush 1/2-inch-thick slices of lotus root with neutral vegetable oil or sesame oil and grill (or cook on a grill pan) for 3 to 5 minutes on each side. Sprinkle with salt and 5-spice powder.
Baked lotus root chips: A tasty treat to make in the oven! Here’s a detailed recipe for Renkon chips, what they’re called in Japanese.
Quick sesame-ginger lotus root: For a presentation that’s completely focused on this intriguing root, see this recipe for Fresh Lotus Root Salad.
An offbeat fruit salad addition: Lacy disks of steamed lotus root in fruit salad add both crunch and visual interest to fruit salads.
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Melissa’s Great Book of Produce is available wherever books are sold
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