The Best Cool-Season Vegetables You Can Enjoy All Winter Long

Cold weather doesn’t have to mean drab meals, and we have seasonal vegetable-centric recipes to prove it.

best-winter-produce: carrots and radishes
Photo: Getty Images

Colorful, nutritious winter vegetables—crops that thrive in the cooler months or are harvested in the fall and maintain their flavor and health benefits throughout the winter—play an important role in the eating-seasonally movement. This lifestyle trend, which promotes packing your plate with food grown naturally at that time of year in your region, is enjoying a resurgence of late.

And it's no wonder, as seasonal produce is known to be especially nutrient-dense, extra flavorful, cost-efficient, and environmentally friendly. While they vary according to where you live (California, we are all jealous of your year-round bounty), there are plenty of fresh winter veggies available across the country during chilly months. We highlight our favorite winter vegetables and suggest recipes to encourage you to eat seasonally all year round.

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Winter Squash

Yumna Jawad

The name says it all: Winter squash is the quintessential seasonal ingredient. This category includes varieties of hard-skinned squash—such as acorn, butternut, kabocha, butternut, and delicata—that are harvested in the fall, and can be stored and eaten all through the cooler months.

Winter squashes are incredibly versatile, whether you choose to blend, roast, or bake them. Try out all the different types, as each squash is uniquely flavorful. (I mean, if you've never had crispy kabocha squash slices with maple syrup and sage, have you really lived?)

02 of 06


Garlicky Herb-Butter Layered Potatoes served in a cast iron dish and displayed on a table with other holiday dishes.
Victor Protasio

As if we needed more reasons to love potatoes, everyone's favorite tubers are a great choice for eating seasonally in winter. Potatoes are readily available year-round due to how well they keep when stored properly. Typically, spuds are harvested in late fall but, depending on your climate, they may be fresh even in the middle of winter.

And don't limit yourself to basic white russet or sweet potato varieties. Take advantage of the more than 200 varieties of taters grown across the U.S. Between the myriad types and cooking methods, potato possibilities are endless.

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Crunchy Broccolini With Lemon and Pecans
Victor Protasio

The brassica family includes some of the most nutritious and versatile produce out there, including broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and the lesser-known kohlrabi (which looks like an alien spaceship but tastes like a delicious variation of a broccoli stem). Brassicas shine when roasted to caramelization in the oven, thrown into stir fries, or sliced thinly in salads.

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Hearty Greens

beet radicchio salad

Christopher Testani

Cooking greens like escarole, endive, kale (which is technically a brassica), and radicchio (which is purple, not green) are at their best when grown at cooler temperatures—crisp, sweet, and not too bitter. Try them sautéed, braised, or as part of a hearty winter vegetarian meal mixed with grains, pesto, and a nutty crunch.

Unlike most seasonal vegetables, you don't have to cook these leafy greens to enjoy them in winter. Who says salads and slaws are just for summer? Raw winter greens often have a bitter note to them, so pairing them with citrus, apple, or a sweet-and-tangy dressing tones that down, resulting in a bright, well-balanced side or a meal in itself.

05 of 06


Carrot and Parsnip Slaw
Danny Kim

A cool-season root vegetable that is largely underappreciated, the parsnip has been described as "a carrot on steroids." Its unique strong-yet-sweet taste doesn't fully develop until its roots are exposed to near-freezing temperatures for 2 to 4 weeks. Peaking in fall and early winter, it makes the perfect ingredient for hearty cold-weather soups and stews.

Cooking parsnips is similar to working with carrots and potatoes, as they can be boiled and mashed, roasted, and even sautéed. Parsnips' pungent flavor is hard for some to love, so recipes often combine them with other, more familiar-tasting winter veggies, and even apples or pears. 

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Pumpkin-Leek Soup
Francesco Lagnese

Leeks bring aromatic flavor and silkiness to your favorite winter comfort foods. A milder-flavored member of the onion family, this underrated yet versatile vegetable tastes best after a frost and is often available locally throughout the winter months.

Raw leeks are crunchy and firm, but when cooked, they lend a slightly sweet flavor and luscious texture, making them a great addition to creamy soups, dips, and sauces. Roast them mingled with other winter vegetables, toss them in a stir fry, or top a pizza with thinly sliced leeks sautéed in butter.

Buying Winter Produce Locally

One of the easiest ways to ensure you're eating in season is to buy local produce. This ensures your fruit and vegetables are picked at peak ripeness when nutrients and flavor are at their best. This super-fresh produce also lasts longer, has a lower environmental impact (minimal transport and packaging), and supports your local economy.

Many local producers set up winter farm stands or cold-season community supported agriculture (CSA) subscription models. In urban areas, you often find winter farmers' markets with a array of vibrant, diverse produce. Even without access to local farms, you can find plenty of seasonal produce in the grocery store throughout the colder months.

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