Neeps. Swede. Turnip. Here you'll find out about how to cook neeps, tips and tricks for getting the best out of this root veg, and the confusion caused by all the different names it's managed to rack up for itself over the years...
Whether we're talking Burns Night, Hogmanay, Christmas dinner, Sunday roasts, or any other haggis-centric occasion in your life, neeps are a trusty side dish that'll add a flash of colour to your plate.
On that note – and as a Scottish vegan food blogger – it would be careless of me not to point you in the direction of this popular recipe for the ultimate vegan haggis.
I create new content every single week. Subscribe to keep in touch and get a free download of The Vegan Kitchen – My Top 10 Tips.
What are neeps?
In Scottish cuisine, neeps and tatties are the sides typically served with a haggis dinner, most notably on Burns Night (25 January). Neeps refers to mashed swede or turnip, while tatties refers to mashed potatoes.
(Scroll down to learn more about the furious, unrelenting debate around whether it's swede or turnip…) 👀🍿
Where does the name come from?
The word neep (or sometimes nip) is a Scottish term for turnip. If you imagine that the original is pronounced or spelled turneep, you can see where this shortened form comes from.
Swede vs. turnip
You’ll find many a discussion online about whether neeps refers to ‘swede’ or ‘turnip’. In the interests of clarity, and to explain it most clearly to the most amount of people who speak English as a first language, we’re basically talking about swede (UK) or rutabaga (North America).
The problem is that some people in Scotland call those same things turnips. Which is to confuse them with what everyone else calls a turnip – the smaller root vegetable.
For me – a born-and-raised Scot and someone who has dabbled in growing veg – I consider turnips to be the smaller root veg with white-purple skin that isn’t as tough as a swede. Granted, they’re pretty similar and from the same family:
- Brassica napus = swede / rutabaga / neep / Swedish turnip
- Brassica rapa = turnip / white turnip
But let’s not get bogged down in the detail. A lot of the time, people will be several glasses of whisky in when they're eating neeps and likely no longer caring about the semantics of what’s lining their stomach.
So there we have it! As long as you’ve enjoyed a whisky before discussing whether neeps are swedes or turnips, nobody will actually care or remember. In fact, this might be how Scots have dealt with many contentious issues over the years.
Recipe testing notes
- No extra liquid: Unlike when mashing potatoes or other starchy veg, it shouldn't be necessary to add liquid such as milk or cream here. Instead, you want to let the boiled neeps steam-dry for a few minutes to remove some of the water content and then just mash with butter and simple seasonings.
- Frozen swede: If making neeps with frozen swede, note that this is usually diced smaller than if preparing it yourself and so will require less cooking time (anywhere from 5-10 minutes). You may also want to steam-dry for a little longer to help remove excess water.
- Other seasonings: I like to keep things simple and let the haggis do the talking, but you could also season your neeps with the likes of wholegrain mustard, roasted garlic, fresh parsley, nutritional yeast, ground nutmeg, ground coriander, paprika, or chilli.
What you'll need
Mashed neeps are easy to throw together, with the simple ingredients comprising:
- Neep (or swede or turnip or rutabaga or Swedish turnip or...)
- Butter (plant-based to keep things vegan)
- Salt and black pepper for some basic seasoning
How to cook neeps
Place the swede on a steady chopping board and use a sharp knife to carefully trim away the tough outer skin.
It helps to slice away a section of one side to create a flat base to work with.
Cut into 1-inch slices...
...then into strips, then dice each of these into roughly equal cubes.
Put the diced swede in a pan and cover with an inch of water.
Add a good pinch of salt, cover with a lid, bring to a boil, then remove the lid and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until just tender.
Once tender, drain the swede in a colander and leave to steam-dry for a few minutes.
After a few minutes, return to the pan.
Add the butter, season with salt and pepper, and mash until you have the desired consistency. It takes a bit of elbow grease at first, but persevere and it'll soon break down.
Adjust the seasoning to taste and serve.
Of course, these dairy-free neeps are destined to sit proudly on a plate next to vegan haggis, tatties (mashed potatoes), and greens in the form of kale or cabbage. And don't forget to include plenty of vegan whisky cream sauce.
Yes – your diced swede will change from an off-white colour to a yellow-orange colour once cooked.
Yep – just note that it'll probably be a smaller dice and require less cooking time (anywhere from 5-10 minutes). It'll also help to steam-dry for a few minutes when draining.
Yes – swede is a gluten-free ingredient and this swede mash recipe is gluten-free.
Once cool, refrigerate in an airtight container and use within 3-4 days.
You certainly can – just bear in mind that freezing and defrosting will likely bring out additional water and make them drier than if cooked fresh.
Variations and tips for neeps
Keep in touch
Subscribe below to get your free download of The Vegan Kitchen – My Top 10 Tips, featuring 10+ pages of personal experience and advice to set you up for success with your plant-based cooking. 👇
More vegan recipe ideas
If you liked this recipe, you might also enjoy:
Neeps Recipe (Mashed Swede)
- 1 large swede (a.k.a. neep or rutabaga – approx. 2 lb / 900 g)
- 3-4 tablespoons plant-based butter
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Place the swede on a steady chopping board and use a sharp knife to carefully trim away the tough outer skin. It helps to slice away a section of one side to create a flat base to work with. Cut into 1-inch slices, then into strips, then dice each of these into roughly equal cubes.
- Put the diced swede in a pan and cover with an inch of water. Add a good pinch of salt, cover with a lid, bring to a boil, then remove the lid and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until just tender.
- Once tender, drain the swede in a colander and leave to steam-dry for a few minutes.
- After a few minutes, return to the pan. Add the butter, season with salt and pepper, and mash until you have the desired consistency. It takes a bit of elbow grease at first, but persevere and it'll soon break down.
📩 Fancy keeping in touch? Subscribe to my weekly newsletter.
📖 Find out more about my story.
🍽️ Want to get straight to the food? Hop aboard the recipe train.
🌿 Got a question about veganism? You might find the answer in these vegan FAQs.