Meet the Seasonal Stand-In for Marinated Artichokes (That's Also Less Work)

December 19, 2016

You know that feeling when you want to cook with artichokes but you don’t because you’re lazy they can be a challenge? The answer to this problem is surprisingly simple: kohlrabi! I know the skeptics are asking themselves how this humble, obscure vegetable can possibly deliver a flavor and texture similar to an artichoke heart. But one of the greatest culinary secrets of all time, in my opinion, is if you boil whole kohlrabi until they're tender, peel off the skin, cut them into bitesize pieces, and marinate them in garlic, chili, lemon, herbs, and olive oil, they will taste delicious—and vaguely reminiscent of marinated artichoke hearts.

Years from now, when food historians and cultural anthropologists are studying how marinated kohlrabi became ubiquitous across the United States, I hope that they find this recipe I came across a while back during the Your Best Recipe with Parmesan contest. I was happy with the way that the gnocchi turned out, but was more struck by the simple flavor of boiled kohlrabi.

A sliver of raw kohlrabi tastes crisp, wet, and refreshing, like a cross between radish and jicama. However, when the whole thing is boiled, it becomes soft, vegetal, and mildly sweet, just like an artichoke heart. The benefit of working with kohlrabi is you avoid the labor involved with cooking/eating whole artichokes. Now don’t get me wrong, I love artichokes, but it’s important to let people know there is another option, and its name is kohlrabi. Plus, you can eat kohlrabi nearly almost year-round, not just in the spring.

Can you spy the kohlrabi? (Hint: It's on the left.) Photo by James Ransom

Full disclosure: A boiled kohlrabi does not taste exactly like an artichoke heart. The taste will also evoke memories of roasted turnips or sautéed broccoli stems. Be that as it may, the fun part of boiled kohlrabi is it marinates really well, making it a great make-ahead appetizer option and depending on how you flavor the marinating oil, the kohlrabi could taste spicy and acidic or herbaceous and peppery.

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The next time you’re planning on serving an antipasto spread of breads, cheeses, olives, and salumi, add a bowl of marinated kohlrabi. It will feel right at home.

Tell us: Do you think you'd be able to tell the difference between marinated kohlrabi and artichoke hearts?

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Sharon
  • Rachel
Josh Cohen

Written by: Josh Cohen

Born and raised in Brooklyn, I’m perpetually inspired by the diversity of foods that exist in this city. I love shopping at the farmer’s market, making ingredients taste like the best versions of themselves, and rolling fresh pasta. I learned how to make fresh pasta in Italy, where I spent the first 6 months of my career as a chef. I've been cooking professionally in New York City since 2010.


Sharon December 20, 2016
I like looking at this vegetable in its raw state because it's rather singular in appearance. I stalked it for a few weeks at my local produce market here in Oakland, CA., before buying a few last year. I had never eaten it before and have never been served it at any restaurant anywhere, ever. It's kinda cool looking, so I took the plunge, then scurried home and Googled it for recipes. I'm sorry to say that other than the fact that I sautéed it, I don't remember what else I did. I do remember that it does, indeed, taste sort of broccoli-turnipy. Not exactly a to-die-for gotta-have-more thing, but not at all unpleasant. However, I did like the crisp, crunchy texture, and recall thinking that it would probably taste better served raw, and really shine if it were pickled. I'm going to give this recipe a try, but I'm also going to try slicing it on a mandoline and pouring a hot pickling brine over it rather than boiling it.. A control study. I'll report back with my findings. Thanks for the inspiration.!
Rachel December 19, 2016
fascinating. I've never ever thought to boil a kohlrabi. I always eat as soon as i pull them out of the garden. Will be trying this in the spring.