kitchen hacks for peeling tricky root veggiesShare on Pinterest
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When it comes to making dinner, peeling stubborn root vegetables with their thick skins and knobby, gnarled bodies might be the last thing you want to do after a long day, or really any day. The thought of adding another step to the cooking process may feel especially daunting, but it doesn’t have to be!

Here are some small but effective tips to consider when faced with a tricky root veggie, root, or bulb in need of a good peeling.

Less veggie, more just plain root, “remove the peel from the ginger” (or turmeric) can easily seem like one of the most complicated steps in even the simplest of recipes. If you’ve ever tried peeling the thin skin off this fragrant root — by hand or with a peeler — you know it’s not the most effective. “There has to be a better way!” you might find yourself crying.

And yes, it turns out, yes there is. The best way to remove that pesky ginger skin is with the edge of a spoon.

If you’re peeling a large piece of ginger, we suggest using a bigger spoon to cover more surface area. Consider doing it over a trash can or your kitchen sink since the skin tends to fly off pretty quickly.

If you have trouble doing this in midair, plant the end of the ginger firmly on a cutting board at an angle and hold the spoon in your other hand with the curved underside facing up. Scrape downward in short, fast motions and the skin will come right off.

This method is fast, effective, and will get you to your food or drink that much sooner.

Editor’s note: If you’re peeling turmeric, we recommend wearing disposable kitchen gloves to prevent staining your hands. If you do stain your hands, soak them in a bit of lemon juice then wash with hot soapy water and use a stiff scrub brush to get under your fingernails if necessary!

The tool: Spoon

Tips to remember:

  1. A bigger root needs a bigger spoon to cover more surface area.
  2. Scrape downward, away from you, not toward!
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With root vegetables that are tougher to peel because of their thick exterior or bumpy shapes, like potatoes or beets, try boiling them first. You could also microwave them (pierce the sides, place in a bowl with about half an inch of water, no more than 5 minutes on each side, which should give you a fully cooked potato) if you don’t feel like getting out a pot.

Boiling helps loosen the skin and soften the interior — if you don’t want the interior to cook, boil for less time than if you want a fully cooked and peeled potato. When you’re done boiling, transfer the potato or beet to a strainer and run it under cold tap water until cool enough to handle.

Now you can simply peel the skin off with your hands. This is much easier than using a peeler on potato or beet skin and is especially useful if you have arthritis or trouble holding a peeler.

One last piece of advice for these tricky tubers: If you decide to peel them before cooking, make sure you peel them when they’re dry, not wet, which will make the task much easier on you.

The tool: Your hands

Tips to remember:

  1. Let the potato or beet cool before you try to handle it!
  2. Peel them when they’re dry.
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When peeling long root veggies like carrots, celery, and parsnips, start the peeler at the thicker root end. Move the peeler toward the thin tip of the stalk to remove the skin. This gives your peeler more surface area to grip onto. It’s best to move in long strokes to peel off the entire length of the root vegetable.

Hold onto the vegetable with one hand as you peel it with the other, and always peel away from your body and away from the hand holding the veggie.

Peel over the trash can, but if you don’t trust your grip, you may prefer peeling over a “scrap bowl.” We love a scrap bowl because it makes it easy to throw out (or compost) all your peels at once without having to dig around on the floor for any stray pieces that missed the trash can. This is an especially good idea when you’re cooking multiple vegetables that need peeling.

The tool: I-peeler or Y-peeler

Tips to remember:

  1. Start the peeler at the thicker root end and move it away from you toward the tip.
  2. Peel over a trash can or scrap bowl.
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Though not technically roots, these bulbs are vital in so many tasty recipes, and yet, can be the hardest to peel. To successfully peel them, you have to work backward.

For an onion, instead of peeling off the skin before cutting in, start by slicing the onion in half through the root. Then you can easily peel the unwanted layers off. It’s as easy as that!

You can try a similar method with shallots, too. If the shallot has two or more bulbs, separate them with your hands. Then, slice the tip off each bulb, revealing the layers of rings which makes the outer skin layer visible and easy to peel off with your hands.

As for garlic, you have two options: You can softly, but firmly, smash the unpeeled cloves with the side of your knife or under the heel of your hand which will release the skins so you can slide them off.

Or, place the garlic cloves in a small bowl covered with a bit of scalding hot water and let sit for a minute or 2. Drain the water, and the peel should easily come off each clove. This won’t cook the garlic, but will just soften the skin enough to release from the clove.

The tool: A knife and your hands

Things to remember:

  1. Always slice through the root of shallots and onions.
  2. If you don’t want to smash your garlic cloves, use warm water to soften the skins and slide them off.
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Although the name has the word “celery” in it, this root vegetable isn’t actually where celery comes from. Celery root, also known as celeriac, is a root vegetable with a starchy texture similar to a potato. It’s a good addition in soups, slaws, and roasts, but can also be used to make pasta or even vegan fried fish.

To peel the celery root, cut it into smaller pieces before using a peeler to do away with the skin. You can also use a knife and cut straight through the tough, bumpy exterior, removing it in thick slabs. Even though slicing off the peel means losing more of the interior, trust us when we say it will definitely save you time and tears.

Kohlrabi, also known as German turnip, looks very similar to a turnip, with a bulbous purple or green bottom that sprouts out long stems with leaves attached to them. With a taste that is similar to cabbage, kohlrabi can be used in curries, soups, roasts, and is often pickled.

Since the entire kohlrabi root is edible, (yes, even the skin, if it’s not too bark-like) you can also take the stems and leaves to make greens like you would with collard greens, kale, or spinach.

To peel kohlrabi, you can use the same method of slicing off the exterior with a knife or cutting it into more manageable slices and then peeling the skin using a peeler.

The tool: A knife

Tips to remember:

  1. Cutting kohlrabi or celery root into thick slabs makes it easier to slice off the exterior than if you kept it whole.
  2. Save the kohlrabi leaves to cook with!
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The two most common types of peelers are Y-peelers (aka harp peelers) and I-peelers (aka swivel peelers). Both Y- and I-peelers can be found with swiveling blades or stationary blades.

Like most kitchen gadgets, it’s up to your level of comfort which peeler you decide to use.

Most home cooks are familiar with the I-peeler with the swivel blade as its range of motion is straightforward and easy to use. The Y-peeler requires a little more range of motion from the wrist but works for both right and left-handed individuals because the blade is positioned horizontally at the top and not to the side like an I-peeler.

If you can get used to the difference in movement when using the Y-peeler, consider using it for your root vegetables, as many professional chefs swear it saves them more time than the I-peeler. The blade of a Y-peeler can peel in both directions, making fast work of even the most stubborn root veggies.

That said, if the Y-peeler isn’t your thing, it is best to stick with what is comfortable, since that will make for a better, and less frustrating, cooking experience!

That said, if the Y-peeler isn’t your thing, it is best to stick with what is comfortable, since that will make for a better, and less frustrating, cooking experience!

I-peeler vs. Y-peeler


  1. At the end of the day it’s all about what you’re most comfortable with.
  2. Y-peelers can peel in both directions and be used ambidextrously.
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Did you know you don’t always have to peel your root vegetables? It really depends on what you’re cooking.

Mashed potatoes traditionally have a creamy texture, so most recipes will tell you to peel the potatoes before mashing them. But some people like a chunky mash with a bit of skin — so consider making less work for yourself by only peeling half of your potatoes.

In fancy restaurants, any celery that will be served raw is often peeled before service to remove those pesky threads. But depending on how you’re planning to eat it at home, it’s really up to you.

When eating celery raw, as a snack, or in a salad, you may want to consider running a peeler down the back of the stalks to take the skin off and make it easier to chew. In a stew or soup, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with leaving the skin on your celery; the exterior will soften as it cooks down, and it won’t be hard or stringy to eat.

You might decide you want to leave the skin on your veggies for any number of reasons — maybe you like the texture the skin adds, or don’t want to lose the nutrients. In that case, if you decide to pass on peeling, do make sure to give the veggie a good scrub with a vegetable brush or a new toothbrush.

We hope these small but mighty tips allow you to coast through peeling your root vegetables for your next trip to the kitchen. Knowledge is power, and remember, you don’t have to work harder, just smarter!