I havent really been thinking about cold weather food these last couple of weeks since I was in the very sunny and hot Costa Rica. Now that I am back in Seattle, I see glimpses of an early(very) spring but its still cold, rainy and very much root vegetable season. If you are wondering how to use or what to make with all those parsnips, sweet potatoes, turnips etc then don’t look further than this root vegetable gratin. Its full of color, cheesiness (without any actual cheese) and delicious flavors. The flavors in this vegan and gluten free dish comes from the roasting of vegetables and also the creamy cashew based béchamel sauce. Enjoy as a side to any meal or even as a main meal along with a salad.
What root vegetables can I use?
You can use a variety of root vegetables in this gratin. I used sweet potato, purple sweet potato, beets, carrots and parsnips. There are a variety of other options including potatoes(yes!), celeriac, turnips, rutabaga, winter squash. The higher the water content the vegetable has, the more it will shrink in the oven. So do keep that in mind with veggies like turnips and rutabaga.
Besides the vegetables, you will need
- Fresh or dry thyme (sub with any other herbs like sage, rosemary)
- Neutral cooking oil like avocado oil or vegan butter
- Ingredients for the bechamel sauce which are listed below.
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Do I need a mandolin to slice all these vegetables?
Depends on who you ask :). I have a mandolin but really struggled to use it to cut the vegetables when I was making this dish. Now my dear husband offered to do it for me and he found it a breeze. So I guess as long as you have the technique down, the mandolin works great and is also super fast while ensuring the slices are consistent. Make sure you are wearing cut resistant gloves or using a holder to which the vegetable can be fixed while slicing.
Now if you are like me and prefer slicing your veggies with a knife, that will work as well. It will definitely take longer and will not be very uniform in size (unless you have amazing knife skills). Ensure the slices are thin since thick slices will take longer to cook and may have uncooked spots. I would suggest peeling and slicing the ends off before slicing the “torso” of the vegetable.
You can choose the arrange the slices in any oven safe pan of your choice. Arrange the vegetables separately or mix it up similar to what I have done.You might struggle to get the slices to “stand” in the beginning but as you keep adding more slices, it will come together in the end. You can also lay the slices flat like lasagna sheets. The former will look more attractive in my opinion but either way it will taste delicious.
Making the bechamel sauce for the root vegetable gratin
I decided to use the same bechamel sauce I used for making my vegan moussaka but with a protein boost. This sauce is cashew and silken tofu based. It is also very simple to make as in just add the ingredients listed below to a blender and run it until the entire mixture is smoothly blended.
- Silken Tofu – Like the name suggest, it is really smooth, silky and blends like a dream. It has less protein content as compared to other versions but it still adds around 15- 20g of protein to the dish.You can also use soft or medium soft tofu in a pinch but would recommend the silken tofu if can get your hands on some.
- Cashews – soaked in hot water for 25-30 minutes. Cashews add the fat content and flavor.
- Fresh Garlic
- Nutmeg, Salt, Pepper – Nutmeg brings the special flavor to the bechamel sauce and is integral to bringing the classic bechamel flavor.
- Olive Oil – For added flavor and fats. You can skip adding it if you dont want to use it.
- Water – You can use the water used to soak the cashews. Add a few more spoons while grinding if required.
Serving suggestions for root vegetable gratin
This might be seen as a side but I will argue this will make a wonderful and filling main as well. Its full of good carbs, fiber, fats and protein. Turn the serving size to 1/4 of the total quantity and you have a vegan friendly main. Serve alongside a fesh salad and/or some pasta as well.
How to meal prep, store/freeze and reheat?
If you are planning to meal prep to cook the root vegetable gratin, simply wash, peel and slice the vegetables. Make the bechamel sauce and store both in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Arrange the slices in the pan and cook as per recipe instructions.
If freezing to make later, then slice all the vegetables.Place together or separately depending on how you want to arrange them in the pan in a freezer safe container or bag. When you need to cook the dish, let the vegetables thaw for an hour at room temperature before arranging in the cooking pan. Prepare the bechamel sauce and proceed to cook as listed in the recipe below.
You can arrange the slices in the pan, cover with cling wrap and freeze the pan itself. Remove an hour or two before cooking and proceed as above. Keep in mind, the pan might be too heavy to store in the freezer and plan accordingly.
Storage and Freezing
Let the gratin completely cool down before removing from the pan and storing in a suitable container. You can also freeze it in a freezer safe container.
If reheating from the refrigerator, simply place the container if microwave safe and heat until fully warmed. You can also reheat in the oven at 325 deg F for 25-30 minutes or until warm.
If reheating from the freezer, let the contents thaw overnight if thats possible and then reheat as mentioned above. Else place in the oven at 350 deg F for 45-50 minutes until completely warm.
Please let me know what you think of this root vegetable gratin if you do make it. This is a very simple dish but extremely delicious and creamy with your choice of vegetables.If you have any questions or comments, please let me know in the comments section below. You can also follow along on Instagram, Facebook or Pinterest.
Root Vegetable Gratin
- 1 10" or 10.5" Cast Iron Skillet sub with any oven safe pan
- 3 Sweet Potatoes
- 2 Purple Sweet Potatoes
- 2 Beets
- 1 medium Carrot
- 1 medium Parsnip
- 3 sprigs Thyme sub with rosemary or sage
- 1 1/2 tsp Salt
- 3 tbsp Avocado Oil sub with any neutral oil
- 1 cup Raw Unsalted Cashews saoked in hot water for 25 minutes
- 1 lb Silken Tofu
- 4 cloves Garlic peeled
- 1/4 tsp Powdered Nutmeg
- 1 tbsp Olive Oil
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup Water optional, use if sauce is too thick
- Heat the oven to 350 deg F. Pour 2 tbsp of avocado oil in the pan and use a brush to rub the bottom of the pan with the oil. Arrange the vegetable slices according as per your choice. Brush the remaining oil on the top.Sprinkle the salt and pepper along with the thyme leaves as you arrange the slices ensuring it is all evenly seasoned.
- Place all the ingredients for the bechamel sauce in a high speed blender including the water in which the cashews were soaked. Run the blender until completely smooth. Add 1/4 cup water if the sauce is too thick.
- Pour the sauce evenly over the arranged vegetable slices until the sauce completely covers the top and it fills all the crevices between the slices.
- Bake in the oven for 50-60 minutes until the top is browned and starts cracking a bit. Remove and let it cool for 15 minutes before serving.