Traditional recipes

What Is a Sunchoke?

What Is a Sunchoke?

This root vegetable, which closely resembles a knob of ginger, was once commonly known as the Jerusalem artichoke, but the name was deemed too confusing since it neither hails from Jerusalem nor is it an artichoke. There are many explanations for the name, but one possibility is that something got lost in translation from the original Italian, "girasole articiocco."

To eliminate such confusion, it is now marketed more often as the sunchoke, although one may still see "farmers" at farmers markets stubbornly clinging to the old nomenclature — which only goes to show that giving something a second name usually just makes things a bit more confusing, but we won't dwell on that.

The sunchoke plant is actually a type of sunflower originally grown by Native Americans in the late 16th century and brought back to Europe by Samuel de Champlain not long after. In France, the plant was transformed into a commercially viable crop. It is the edible root of this plant that is harvested and now sold in markets.

Click here to see the Sunchoke Hummus with Meyer Lemon Recipe.

When raw, a sunchoke has a crunch and juiciness comparable to that of a water chestnut, but it has a sweeter, earthier flavor that makes it a good alternative to potatoes when cooked, a boon for diabetics. It is easily puréed, roasted, and even fried into chips.

Click here to see the Pan-Seared Scallops with Sunchoke and Meyer Lemon Recipe.

Sunchokes pair well with seafood as well as chicken and can be tossed into soups, stews, salads, and even risotto. There's no need to peel them, but it is a good idea to give them a nice scrub before eating, and if using them raw, slicing them thinly works pretty well. Just make sure to set out a bowl of acidulated water (that's fancy chef speak for lemon juice and water) to keep them from turning brown. Shoot, that's kind of like an artichoke. This sunchoke name might not stick after all.

Click here to see the Roast Chicken Leg with Gremolata and Sunchokes Recipe.

Choosing sunchokes might seem tricky at first — they're all irregularly shaped and hence all look a little different. The larger ones that look more like torpedoes are easier to slice thinly for chips and hold together better when fried. For roasting and puréeing, try to select sunchokes that are similarly sized so that they all finish cooking at about the same time. But no matter what, avoid greenish sunchokes and those with sprouts, a sign of age; always pick ones that are solid to the touch.

Click here to see Étoile's Sunchoke Risotto Recipe.

So that's pretty much all there is to know about sunchokes. Oh wait, just one more thing — according to Barbara Ann Kipfer, author of The Culinarian: A Kitchen Desk Reference, sunchokes contain a type of carb that might cause flatulence. So don't eat too many.


Roasted Sunchokes

My first experience tasting a sunchoke was a very memorable one. I was visiting my parents in Scotland about seven years ago and we went out to an amazing restaurant where my mom and I enjoyed sunchoke soup with pancetta and fresh black truffles. It was literally one of the best soups that I’ve ever had in my life.

My second experience with sunchokes came several years later when I was working as a line cook in Washington, DC. At our restaurant, we used to slice sunchokes with a mandolin until they were paper thin and throw them in the fryer to produce light-as-air sunchoke chips. So addictive!

Since I happened to get my hands on a bag of sunchokes last week and we’re currently in the thick of sunchoke season (late fall to early spring), I thought it would be fun to dive deeper into this somewhat obscure root vegetable and share this simple roasted sunchokes recipe with you.

If you’ve never prepared sunchokes (or have always wondered how to prepare or cook sunchokes), this recipe and back-to-basics post is for you.


Jerusalem Artichokes: How To Prep And Cook Them

It's in the dead of winter that we home cooks most need to branch out from our everyday recipes and try new ingredients. Once February strikes we're tired of potatoes, done with heads of cauliflower and plain old sick of squash. How many more gratins or pureed soups can we handle?

Well, with two more months before spring fruits and vegetables show themselves on the produce shelves, it's time that we take our gastronomic destinies into our own hands.

If you stopped for a second at the grocery store and took a look around, it's likely that you'd find more than a handful of ingredients which you just never use. Either you've tried them and found the taste (or price) not agreeable, or you just haven't taken the time to explore outside your culinary comfort zone. It's understandable. Some of the produce found on the shelves these days is, simply put, a bit intimidating. But, if these items are available at the grocery store, that must mean somebody is enjoying them -- and that someone could be you too.

During the winter, root vegetables are highly stocked and so it's definitely the right time to explore some new varieties. Jerusalem artichokes, also known as sunchokes, are a knobbly little root -- similar in appearance to ginger, but with a slightly pink hue. These little root nuggets are a ray of light in the world of tubers. They are nutty, crunchy and taste remarkably similar to the delicious artichoke that shows its head around spring -- but they are available for a much cheaper price.

Another bonus: Jerusalem artichokes are easy to prepare. You can cook them just like you would a potato: roast, boil, saute, bake or steam. You can leave the skin on or peel it off -- up to you. The surprising thing about these little roots is that you can also eat them raw. They add a great texture to salads and stir-frys.

But unlike the potato, they contain little starch and have a nice serving of inulin and vitamin C. So don't pass by these craggily little roots the next time you're at the store. Stock up on them -- your bored winter palate will thank you.

WATCH: How To Cook Jerusalem Artichokes


When are sunchokes in season?

Sunchokes are in season from approximately October to April.

They are in Gelson’s Market, Bristol Farms and Whole foods. You can also find them here at Melissa’s Produce.

There are a lot of ways one could work with this odd looking tuber, and I hope you’ll give the herb roasted sunchokes a go because I think you’ll love them.


Potato Gnocchi Recipe

What is it?

Knobby, tannish-brown sunchokes may look like pieces of ginger root, but take one taste and you&rsquoll know there&rsquos no relation between the two. The sunchoke&rsquos intriguing, subtly sweet, nutty flavor is more reminiscent of potato and jícama, with a hint of artichoke.

Sunchokes can be scrubbed, sliced, and eaten raw as a crisp addition to salads and crudité platters, or used as a substitute for water chestnuts or jícama. They can also be roasted, steamed, boiled, or fried and served as a hearty side dish for cooked meats, poultry, and fish. In season from fall through spring, sunchokes should be easy to find in stores right now. If you don&rsquot see them, ask the produce manager to order some. You&rsquoll both be glad you did.

Though they&rsquore also known as Jerusalem artichokes, sunchokes (Helianthus tuberosus) aren&rsquot artichokes at all. They&rsquore actually the tubers of a variety of sunflower, which is why sunchoke or sunflower choke is a better name for them. A good source of vitamin C, iron, thiamin, phosphorus, and potassium, sunchokes were originally cultivated by Native Americans.

How to choose:

Choose firm, smooth-skinned sunchokes without sprouts or bruises. Avoid those that feel soft, wrinkled, or moist.

How to prep:

Peeling sunchokes is optional. The thin peel has a slightly chewy texture, but it&rsquos not unpleasant, and you may find the effort of peeling their knobby surfaces isn&rsquot worth the return.

The cut surfaces of sunchokes, like those of potatoes, tend to oxidize and turn pink. To prevent this, submerge cut sunchokes in lemon water until ready to cook.

Sunchokes become tender and slightly starchy when cooked. To roast them, try the recipe at right, or cut them into chunks, toss with a little oil, season, and add to a roasting pan with a whole chicken or a pork or beef roast during the last half hour of cooking. You can steam or boil whole sunchokes until tender and then mash them roughly or serve them whole. For a creamy soup (the one instance where you may want to peel sunchokes so the soup has a smooth texture), simmer cut-up sunchokes in broth and milk or cream until tender and then purée. And to make addictive sunchoke chips, fry thin slices in peanut oil.

However you prepare them, keep the seasoning mild and minimal to allow the sunchokes&rsquo subtle flavor to shine. Vinaigrettes, cream, butter, goat cheese, garlic, nuts, herbs, nutmeg, mace, coriander, fennel seed, mushrooms, bacon, and lemon juice all pair well with sunchokes.

How to store:

Wrap sunchokes in paper towels and store them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator vegetable drawer for up to a week.


Why You Need to Stop Using Foil and Use Parchment Instead

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What To Do With Jerusalem Artichokes

One lovely thing about these tubers is they can be used in many of the same ways potatoes can, but don't have the same heavy starch to them (or any starch for that matter). Boil and mash the Jerusalem artichoke with butter and salt for a healthy side dish or roast with olive oil until the skin gets tight and the insides creamy. Slicing thin and frying can produce a sweet and crunchy chip, though eating them raw is also an option. Try substituting the Jerusalem artichoke for potatoes in a breakfast hash, slice into coins for a cheesy gratin, or puree into a creamy soup. The only trick in working with this ingredient is scrubbing them clean and not worrying about all the irregularities—the knobs and skin are just part of the tuber and should remain.


Five health benefits of Jerusalem artichokes and a hearty stew recipe

Have you ever wanted the joyful flavour of potatoes without the guilt? The solution is sunchokes!

Also called Jerusalem artichokes, sunchokes are a root vegetable with a tough dark skin, white and starchy-tasting inside and a flavour that closely matches potato. Sunchokes are superstars when it comes to intestinal health. These little roots are packed with inulin, a non-digestible dietary fibre with strong prebiotic properties. Inulin contains fructans, which are food for beneficial bacteria in the gut. By feeding the good intestinal soldiers, it’s possible to inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria. Sunchokes also play a role in the prevention of colon cancer. Studies show that the byproducts created during the fermentation process of the dietary fibre inulin, suppress and block cancerous tumour cell growth in the colon.

Part of the anti-cancer benefit of sunchokes could be that it promotes healthy and regular bowel activity. The high levels of non-digestible inulin creates bulk, and increases the water content in stool, keeping our bowels regular and healthy.

Here are five more reasons to fall in love with sunchokes:

1. Sunchokes can help to lower blood pressure. High levels of inulin bypasses digestion and reaches the lower gut to feed the good bacteria that resides there. Studies show that feeding the indigenous micro flora and warding off bad bacteria is an important part of the treatment and prevention of hypertension.

2. Sunchokes are high in potassium. A one cup serving of sunchokes contains 643 mg of potassium, which is essential for overall health and can help to reduce heart disease. Increasing your dietary potassium, in addition to reducing excess sodium, is especially beneficial for people at risk for high blood pressure.

3. Eating sunchokes can decrease blood cholesterol. Along with normalizing blood triglyceride levels, these small vegetables affect the way that the body metabolizes fats thanks to their high levels of probiotics.

4. One cup of sunchokes provides you with a quarter of your daily iron! You would have to eat three ounces of red meat to get the same amount of iron. The sunchoke is a great way to increase your iron intake especially since it has no fat and only 109 calories per cup. Iron is an essential component of the proteins involved in the delivery of oxygen to each and every cell in your body. A deficiency of iron limits the delivery of oxygen to the cells resulting in fatigue and decreased immunity.

5. Sunchokes are high in protein. Not only does this wonderful root contain more protein than most other root vegetables, it’s particularly high in the sulfur-containing essential amino acids taurine, methionine, homocysteine and cysteine. These sulfur-containing amino acids are essential for maintaining the flexibility of connective tissue as well as allowing the liver carry out detoxification. Try this homemade stew to add these healthy benefits of sunchokes to your life:

Hearty venison sunchoke stew recipe

This is one of my husband’s favourite recipes, as it reminds him of the stew his mother made on the chilly fall days of Northern Ontario. His mother was a teacher, and she would assemble these ingredients quickly in the morning and then place them in a slow cooker. When he arrived home, the house would smell simply delicious. Little did he know how good it was for him too!

Ingredients:
2 tbsp (30 mL) extra virgin olive oil
2 cups (500 mL) red onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups (500 mL) sunchokes, chopped
2 cups (500 mL) carrots, chopped
1 tsp (5 mL) pink rock or grey sea salt
1 lb (454 g) venison or beef stew meat
1 quart (1 L) vegetable broth
1 cup (250 mL) water
2 tbsp (30 mL) fresh rosemary, minced

Directions:
1. Over medium-high heat, sauté oil, onion, garlic, sunchokes, carrots and salt for 5-7 minutes.

2. Add meat, broth, water and rosemary. Bring to a light boil, then reduce heat to low.

3. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes or longer.

Yield: Makes 6 servings

Nutritionist Julie Daniluk hosts Healthy Gourmet on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), a reality cooking show that looks at the ongoing battle between taste and nutrition. Her first book, Meals that Heal Inflammation, advises on allergy-free foods that both taste great and assist the body in the healing process. Check out more amazing recipes and nutrition tips at juliedaniluk.com.

Check out Julie on Facebook at Julie Daniluk Nutrition and on Twitter @juliedaniluk


  • With a nutty, slightly sweet flavour, sunchokes are delicious eaten raw or lightly cooked in salads, and can also be baked, sautéed, or pureed in soups.
  • Sunchokes oxidize within minutes if exposed to the air, so they need to be dropped into a bowl or acidulated water (water with lemon juice or apple cider vinegar) as soon as they are peeled.
  • They store for weeks in a cold dark place.
  • Jerusalem Artichokes contain more protein than most root vegetables, a big plus for plant-based eaters!
  • ⁣⁠They also earn their nickname ‘fartichokes’ but that is just proof that they are doing a good job for your gut biome.
  • Seek sunchokes out at Farmers Markets or in a produce section of your local health food store. They look like knobby potatoes but when they are freshly dug there is no need to peel them.

And now, let’s get to today’s recipe. Roasted smashed sunchokes are simple to prepare and have become one of our go-to side dishes during the fall, winter and early spring season. The cleaned and trimmed sunchokes are boiled in salted water until just tender, smashed, then roasted in the oven to perfection. Right at the end, we like to toss them with a splash of extra virgin olive oil, and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.


Celeriac Potato Puree with Sunchoke Croutons

2 medium celery roots (celeriac) peeled, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 pound potatoes, peeled, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups milk
3 cloves garlic, peeled
3 fresh thyme sprigs
1 fresh bay leaf
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, divided
8 ounces sunchokes, scrubbed
1/2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme (for garnish)

Combine first 7 ingredients in heavy large pot. Add enough water to cover. Sprinkle with salt. Bring to boil, reduce heat to medium, and simmer with lid slightly ajar until vegetables are tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain and return to pot. Discard thyme sprigs and bay leaf. Stir over medium heat to dry vegetables. Using potato masher, mash vegetables until coarsely pureed. Mash in 3 1/2 tablespoons butter. Season with salt and pepper. This can be done ahead.

Preheat oven to 425°F. Cut sunchokes into 1/2-inch cubes. Place in medium bowl add oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Dot with remaining 1/2 tablespoon butter. Transfer to rimmed baking sheet roast until tender and golden brown, turning occasionally, about 25 minutes.
Place celery root and potato puree in serving bowl. Sprinkle with roasted sunchokes and chopped thyme.