Here’s your complete guide to sunchokes, also known as Jerusalem artichokes, a tuber that’s full of flavor — much better than its knobby exterior might suggest! Here’s how to use sunchokes, with tips on prep, cooking (or using raw), and recipe ideas.
Perhaps you’ve stumbled upon sunchokes nestled unobtrusively in a farm market stall or on a restaurant menu alongside more familiar root vegetables, only to dismiss them as overgrown ginger with an oddball name.
Now is the time to reconsider the humble sunchoke. Imagine vegetable combining the charm of a knobby potato with the pleasant crunch of water chestnut and jicama.
This is the sunchoke, and within its unassuming exterior lies a culinary treasure waiting to be unearthed.
What are Sunchokes and Where Did They Come From?
Despite their Middle Eastern nickname, “Jerusalem artichokes” are native to North America, where indigenous communities cultivated them for centuries before European settlers arrived. At that time, they were called “sunroots” or “earth apples” instead.
The confusion started when a French explorer came across them and, thinking they tasted like artichokes, sent them back home as such. Unfortunately, translations got jumbled along the way.
In Italy, they became “Girasole” (sunflower), but when they came back around to English speakers, they mistranslated “girasole” to “Jerusalem,” giving us the puzzling name they go by today.
Regardless of what you call them, this member of the sunflower family deserves a place on your plate. With a thin, papery skin and a white, creamy interior, it’s classified as an edible root or tuber.
Raw sunchokes have a mild, subtly sweet and nutty flavor with a crisp, slightly juicy texture, a cross between potato, water chestnut, and jícama. When cooked, the flesh becomes almost buttery, creamy, and just a touch starchy.
How To Buy and Store Sunchokes
Look for firm, blemish-free sunchokes at farmers markets or grocery stores. Fall and winter are the peak harvest seasons if looking for local options.
Avoid any with soft spots, visible mold, or wrinkled skin. Sunchokes come in a wide range of sizes; choose those similar in size for more even cooking.
Storage: Store sunchokes them in a cool, dark place for one to two weeks. Don’t wash them or store them in the fridge until you’re ready to use them, as moisture can shorten their lifespan.
Freezing: For long-term storage, blanch peeled and cut sunchokes for 2 to 3 minutes in boiling water, then cool and freeze in airtight containers, where they’ll keep for several months.
How to Prepare Sunchokes (aka Jerusalem artichokes)
For using raw or cooked, simply scrub well with a vegetable scrubber, then cut or slice as recommended in recipes. If the skin is particularly gnarly or thick, pare tough spots with a vegetable peeler.
If not using raw sunchoke immediately after cutting, drop cut pieces or slices into a bowl of acidulated water (water with a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice or vinegar) to prevent discoloration.
If using sunchokes in cooked or roasted dishes, follow instructions in specific recipes.
Ideas for Using Sunchokes, Raw or Cooked
Sunchokes are as versatile as a chameleon in the kitchen. Smaller roots, the size of fingerling potatoes, can be used as is, whether raw or cooked, but larger sunchokes should be peeled, as their brown skin is rather fibrous and knotty.
Crudites: Cut into thick slices on the diagonal or irregular batons, sunchokes can be enjoyed raw as crudites with your favorite plant-based dip.
A crisp addition to salads: Especially in the fall and early winter, when they’re in season, sunchokes can be tossed into most any kind of salad.
Any way you use potatoes: Think of them as flavorful (if knobby) potatoes, and you get an idea of their versatility. Sunchokes can be roasted, boiled, baked, steamed, sauteed, deep-fried, air-fried, mashed, pureed, stewed, simmered, and even whipped.
Can’t get enough? Learn even more about sunchokes, aka Jerusalem artichokes.
Sunchoke Nutrition Notes
These versatile tubers have been a staple food for centuries, proving a valuable source of carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals that could be stored for later use.
Sunchokes are a good source of fiber, prebiotics, iron, and vitamin C. They’re also low in calories.
First-time eaters should indulge cautiously: sunchokes contain inulin, a type of fiber that can cause digestive discomfort in some people. Start with small portions and gradually increase your intake if you’re new to them.
Here’s a complete look at sunchokes’ nutrition facts.
It’s easy to make a pan of roasted sunchokes
Sunchoke Serving Suggestions & Recipe Links
Let the sunshine in! Sunchokes, aka Jerusalem artichokes, can shine in any dish, instead of or in addition to any other hard winter squash, spuds, or root vegetables. If you’d rather start from scratch and feature this unique tuber, here are more plant-based recipes to get you started:
Shaved Sunchoke Salad: Keep things light and fresh with a simple mustard vinaigrette, thinly sliced sunchokes, and a touch of umami truffle oil.
Jerusalem Artichoke Purée with Tempeh and Miso Chard: For fine dining at home, without the high price tag, this elegant plate is guaranteed to impress your dinner date.
Baked Sunchoke Chips: From Family Spiced, a simple, low-calorie, nutrient-filled snack. Call them Jerusalem artichoke chips or sunchoke chips, they’re addicting in a good way!
Roasted Sunchokes: In addition to the recipe just above, Babaganosh shows how easy it is to make deliciously addictive roasted sunchokes with little more than olive oil and gentle seasonings.
Roasted sunchoke dip: A Clean Bake presents a creamy roasted sunchoke and sage dip that’s hearty and filling. It makes a great snack or even light lunch with crackers or vegetable crudites.
Sunchoke Chips: Skip the oil and bake your chips instead for a crunchy snack that’s packed with flavor.
Jerusalem Artichoke Gnocchi: These toothsome pasta pillows are paired with a browned butter sauce, spinach, and hazelnuts for a cozy yet showstopping meal at home.
Creamy Vegan Jerusalem Artichoke Soup: Cooked slowly with leeks and tart Granny Smiths, earthy bay leaves fragrant and thyme, Jerusalem artichoke and apple soup is a creamy, bright soup that is also vegan and gluten-free.
Jerusalem Artichoke Boulangères: Who needs a main dish when the side is this rich gratin of Jerusalem artichokes with a golden, crispy top?
Sunchoke Maitake Risotto: Earthy maitake mushrooms add richness and complement the flavors of the roasted root vegetables perfectly.
Turkish-inspired mashed sunchokes: Swap in sunchokes for potatoes, or combine the two, to make an unusual mashed side dish. Add other vegetables, fresh herbs, and drizzle with olive oil. Season simply with salt and pepper.
Fun Facts About Sunchokes
There’s more to sunchokes than meets the eye. Beyond the kitchen, sunchokes have played a critical role in everything from art to fashion. Here are a few fun facts you may not have known about the Jerusalem artichoke.
- Hair-Raising History: In the 17th century, powdered sunchoke inulin was used as a wig stiffener to make bouffant hairstyles stand tall.
- Sweet Surprise: Sunchoke syrup was once a popular sweetener alternative, known for its delicate flavor and health benefits.
- Alcohol Adventure: There’s considerable value in the peels and scraps, too. Fermented sunchoke skins can be fermented into a unique and earthy alcoholic beverage that’s been compared to mezcal once distilled.
- Musical Marvel: Even wind instruments can benefit from sunchokes! Inulin from sunchoke tubers has been used to create eco-friendly and durable bio-resins for violins and other stringed instruments.
- Space Spuds: As research into sustainable food sources for astronauts heats up, sunchokes are being considered due to their nutritional value and adaptability to harsh environments.
Contributed by Hannah Kaminsky: Hannah has developed an international following for her delicious recipes and mouthwatering food photography at the award-winning blog BitterSweet. Passionate about big flavors and simple techniques, she’s the author of Vegan Desserts, Vegan à la Mode, Easy as Vegan Pie, Real Food, Really Fast, Sweet Vegan Treats, The Student Vegan Cookbook, Super Vegan Scoops, and The Everyday Vegan Cheat Sheet Pan. Visit Hannah at BittersweetBlog.com.
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