Unpretentious Horseradish Leaves a Tongue-Tingling Impression

Photography by Kingmond Young

Since ancient times, horseradish has been prized for its medicinal and gastronomic qualities. A few centuries ago, central Europe was the hotbed of horseradish consumption. Today, horseradish is grown in the U.S. — mainly in Illinois, Wisconsin and California — and about 6 million gallons of prepared horseradish are produced here annually, according to the Horseradish Information Council.

Bottled horseradish, packed in distilled vinegar, is widely available. Other products include cream-style, beet, shredded and dehydrated horseradish. As an ingredient, it adds a spicy kick to condiments such as mustard, relish and cocktail sauce, as well as cheese, dips, spreads, hummus and dressings.

Many produce departments carry fresh horseradish, sometimes with green leafy tops still attached. Select firm roots with no blemishes, soft spots or withering. Store refrigerated in a plastic bag, where it will keep for several weeks. Before using, remove the brown peel to reveal the fleshy white root.

Once exposed to air, horseradish begins to darken, lose its pungency and grow bitter. Use cut or grated horseradish immediately or preserve in vinegar. Though not commonly eaten, the leaves may be cooked or used in salads.

Nutritional Benefits and Warnings

A tablespoon of prepared horseradish contains 7 calories and 63 milligrams of sodium, making it a flavorful, low-calorie condiment or recipe ingredient. However, patients on sodium-restricted diets should limit commercial horseradish sauces because of their sodium content. Fresh horseradish is a good alternative with just 15 milligrams of sodium per quarter-pound of root.

The herbal form of horseradish is considered unsafe for breast-feeding women. Horseradish is a cruciferous vegetable that belongs to the Brassica genus of plants. Like its cruciferous cousins kale, cabbage and cauliflower, horseradish contains chemicals known as glucosinolates, which break down into several biologically active compounds that researchers are studying for possible anticancer effects. Some compounds have shown these anticancer effects in cells and animals, but the results of human studies are less clear.

Horseradish in Foodservice

A dash of horseradish brings zing to a variety of dishes. Add prepared or grated fresh horseradish to scrambled eggs and omelets before cooking, and to cooked yolk filling for deviled eggs.

Use it to spike dressings, sauces and sour cream for salads, roasted meats and baked potatoes, and in mayonnaise and spreads for sandwiches. Horseradish adds interest to mild-flavored soups and stews, mashed potatoes, deli salads and steamed vegetables, and extra spice to salsa and guacamole. It's a popular ingredient in Bloody Marys and Virgin Marys.

A variety of ready-to-use horseradish products are available for foodservice, including "extra hot" and "inferno" versions. Common options are 8-ounce, quart and gallon sizes of prepared horseradish, horseradish sauce and horseradish mustard, which are available by the container or the case. For convenience, purchase single-serving horseradish condiments in cases of 200 packets.

Diane Quagliani, MBA, RDN, LDN, is a nutrition communications expert in Western Springs, Ill., and co-author of the Academy practice paper "Communicating Accurate Food and Nutrition Information" (May 2012).

Potato-Rutabaga Gratin with Horseradish

Developed by Natalia Stasenko

An Old World favorite is made with baked layers of vegetables and a hint of spicy horseradish.

1¼ cup vegetable stock, salt-free or low sodium
1¼ cup half-and-half
2 cloves garlic, sliced
3 tablespoons grated horseradish
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and sliced as thinly as possible (try using a mandolin)
1 medium rutabaga, about 1 pound, peeled, quartered and sliced as thinly as possible
Grated horseradish, to serve


  1. Preheat the oven to 370°F.
  2. Place the stock, half-and-half, garlic, horseradish, salt and pepper in a large pot. Bring to a boil.
  3. Carefully place the vegetables in the pot and stir to prevent sticking together. Reduce heat and cook the vegetables for 5 to 7 minutes or until they can be broken with a fork.
  4. Pour the mixture into a 6×10-inch baking dish and place on the middle rack in the oven. Bake for 45 minutes. If the top of the gratin starts burning, cover loosely with foil.
  5. Garnish with grated horseradish.

Nutrition Information

Serving size: 1 cup
Serves 6

Calories: 182; Total fat: 6g; Saturated fat: 4g; Cholesterol: 18mg; Sodium 265mg; Carbohydrates: 29g; Fiber: 3g; Sugars: 6g; Protein:  4g; Potassium: N/A; Phosphorus: N/A

Diane Quagliani
Diane Quagliani, MBA, RDN, LDN, is president of Quagliani Communications, Inc., a nutrition communications firm in Western Springs, Ill.