How to Cook With Fresh Horseradish

How to Cook With Fresh Horseradish

If you’ve ever bought a hunk of fresh horseradish root to use in preparing a dish, like perhaps for making homemade horseradish cream sauce to serve with roast beef, you might find yourself with a big hunk of horseradish root left over afterwards. 

Which makes sense—horseradish is powerful stuff, and you generally only need a relatively small amount.

So what can you do? No one loves throwing away food, so that leaves you one option: use it! Here's an overview of all the ways you can cook with fresh horseradish.

Fresh vs. Dried Horseradish

First off, fresh horseradish is spicy, but it’s not a spice. You might know that spices are made from dried roots, seeds, fruits and bark of plants—the key word being dried. And dried horseradish is indeed a spice, since it’s made by drying and then grinding the root of the horseradish plant into a powdered form.

Fresh horseradish, on the other hand, is simply a vegetable—albeit an extremely pungent one. Indeed, because it's so pungent, it's only used in small amounts, which is why it's used as a condiment or flavoring as opposed to eating it as a vegetable itself.

Cooking With Horseradish

Moreover, cooking with horseradish doesn't necessarily involve actually cooking (i.e. heating) the horseradish. In many cases, the freshly grated horseradish will be added to a sauce or dressing. Other times it's served as a condiment atop or alongside some other dish. And sometimes it will indeed be heated, but only to the extent that it is added as a flavoring to some other hot dish dish, such as a soup or stew, or to scrambled eggs (to name two examples). 

In fact, it's worth noting that horseradish loses much of its pungency when it's heated, so when adding it to a hot dish, it's important to add it at the very end of cooking, not the beginning.

Prepping Fresh Horseradish

To begin with, here are a few tips for prepping and working with fresh horseradish root.

  • Horseradish is best used freshly grated and raw.
  • Scrub with a stiff brush and peel off the dark skin before using horseradish.
  • In larger roots, the core may be fibrous and bitter. Remove and discard the core, along with any green spots.
  • Horseradish is like other members of the brassicaceae family, which also includes mustard and radishes—the finer it is chopped or grated, the more pungent the flavor.
  • When grating horseradish, it is easiest to use a food processor. Cut the peeled root into cubes, and pulse to the desired consistency. The fumes will be quite strong and can actually burn your nose and eyes. Be sure to open a window, remove the lid at arm's length, and turn your head away.

Note, too, that grated horseradish root is not the same thing as prepared horseradish. Prepared horseradish is freshly grated horseradish root that is mixed with vinegar and salt. This preserves the horseradish's pungency. If not combined with vinegar, fresh grated horseradish quickly loses its pungency and acquires a bitter flavor.

As such, nearly every case below will involve using prepared horseradish as opposed to raw, grated horseradish. 

Cooking with Fresh Horseradish

As we proceed, keep in mind that a few foods that pair especially well with horseradish include beef, salmon, apples, eggs, potatoes and beets.

Also, because it's so pungent, horseradish benefits from being combined with some sort of creamy ingredient, like mayonnaise, sour cream, yogurt or cream cheese.

Horseradish + Beef: The classic horseradish cream sauce, and variations include a horseradish sour cream sauce for salmon and a horseradish cheese sauce to serve with vegetables. And try a dollop on a baked potato!

Horseradish + Potatoes: For a tasty twist on mashed potatoes, horseradish lends an earthy heat, while Greek yogurt adds a slight tang, making these mashed potatoes into a sensational companion to roasts.

Horseradish + Salads, Sandwiches and Wraps: Fresh horseradish will perk up any salad dressing and sandwich spread. One of the classics happens to be Russian dressing, which can go on everything from salads to french fries to burgers and wraps. It’s also a great addition to dips. Try it in your homemade hummus!

Horseradish + Mayo: In fact, any mayonnaise-based salad dressing can be fortified with fresh horseradish. You can even make your own homemade horseradish mayonnaise. Or just stir it into your store-bought mayo.

Horseradish + Ketchup: For a quick and easy cocktail sauce, just stir some prepared horseradish into your favorite ketchup. Horseradish will also give a boost to homemade salsas and pestos.

Horseradish + Eggs: We mentioned adding horseradish to scrambled eggs earlier, which is a particularly complementary pairing. So it makes sense that these horseradish deviled eggs would be terrific. 

Horseradish + Soups and Stews: This soup is called cream of horseradish, but it’s really a creamy potato soup supercharged with fresh horseradish.

Horseradish + Vodka: If you really want to get serious about making Bloody Marys, start with fresh tomatoes–about half a pound per cocktail. And of course, fresh horseradish. 

Horseradish + Vodka, Again: Instead of adding freshly grated horseradish root to your Bloody Mary, you can also prepare a horseradish-infused vodka to use instead. Horseradish vodka is also excellent stored in the freezer and served in shot glasses with Russian pelmeni.

Horseradish + Beef, Again: Finally, we come full circle with yet another pairing of horseradish with beef in this steak sandwich. And yes, we know what you’re thinking: you can add horseradish to your ground beef when making burgers.


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