Thanksgiving Cauliflower and Root Vegetable Purée

Thanksgiving isn’t a holiday that encourages healthful eating and restraint, but that doesn’t mean one or two items on the table can’t be replaced with lighter dishes that are better for the waistline. Roast turkey and green beans (minus the crunchy onion topping) aside, most of the classic items served on this particular day of the year are laden with sugar, starch, fat and salt. While there’s nothing wrong with reserving these comfort foods for this much anticipated feast, how about incorporating some more nutritious choices to the spread?

In the last blog post, we offered a quicker, small-group-friendly alternative to the typical whole roast turkey: turkey meatballs with cranberry glaze. Here, in part two of our Thanksgiving-themed series, we propose an updated vegetable side dish to replace the traditional bowl of mashed potatoes: a decadent, silky cauliflower and root vegetable purée. While the new dish faintly resembles its predecessor, the purée has far less fat, provides better nutritional value, and feels better sitting in your stomach. This assumes, of course, that you don’t go for seconds and thirds of everything else!

Cauliflower and root vegetable puree


With its mild and slightly sweet flavor profile, cauliflower makes a remarkable stand-in for potatoes when steamed, simmered or boiled and then mashed, processed or blended—along with a few helper ingredients. This low calorie, low carbohydrate vegetable is a good source of fiber, potassium, vitamin C, vitamin K and folate. Creamy puréed cauliflower soup bears a striking resemblance to potato leek soup, while cauliflower mashed with butter and cream might as well be the real deal.

To bolster its vitamin and fiber content, our Thanksgiving side dish also includes turnip and celery root. Because these particular root vegetables can sometimes have a bit of stringiness, they don’t work so well mashed, riced, or put through a food mill. Blending them along with the cauliflower, however, ensures that the final product has a velvety consistency once it is combined with the dairy. Rather than using heavy cream and a generous amount of butter to give the purée a plush texture, a similar effect is achieved from utilizing milk and a moderate amount of butter infused with lots of garlic and rosemary. The flavor is distinctly savory, and syncs with just about any other item that might make its way onto your plate this Thanksgiving.

Cauliflower and Root Vegetable Purée

Chopped carrots and rutabaga

Other root vegetables such as rutabaga, parsnips or carrots can be used in place of the turnips or celery root, so long as the total weight remains the same. You may need to adjust the salt to compensate for the additional sweetness.   



1 cup milk

4 Tbs. unsalted butter

6 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

2 sprigs fresh rosemary

2 1/4 tsp. kosher salt

1/4 tsp. ground white pepper

1 lb. turnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

1 lb. celery root, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

1 small head cauliflower, about 1 lb. 12 oz., cut into florets

Cooking Instructions


1. In a small saucepan, bring the milk and butter to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper, remove from heat and cover to keep warm.

2. Place the turnips and celery root in a large saucepan and add enough water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, until almost tender, about 8 minutes. Stir in the cauliflower and continue cooking until the cauliflower and root vegetables are tender but not falling apart, about 15 minutes.

3. Drain the vegetables well in a colander, then transfer to a blender. Blend until smooth and creamy, then return the mixture to the large saucepan.

4. Pour the milk mixture through a fine-mesh strainer and into the saucepan with the puréed vegetables. Stir until combined.

Serves 6 to 8.