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Horseradish and wasabi

Horseradish has a hot and piquant flavor, reminding of strong mustard.

Horseradish is very appreciated in Western cooking, and more precisely, North European cooking, mainly used in sauces for roast beef, chicken or fish; an ingredient for dips and served with vegetables such as beets or cabbage.

Wasabi is the Japanese horseradish, and used in Japanese cooking, mainly to make a dip for fish, although it is more of a paste than a dip. Try wasabi paste along sushi, as it is traditionally served, quite flavorful.

Horseradish is a hot and spicy condiment obtained from a plant in the mustard family. The plant originated in Eastern Europe and has been know since antiquity.

How to Identify horseradish

The horseradish plant is an herbaceous-perennial with long spiky leaves and large white roots. Occasionally tiny white flowers come out during the summer. The roots are long, fleshy and white in color; they only liberate their piercing aroma when cracked.

How to use and store

Fresh horseradish can be found in many supermarkets. The roots are also available dried, in flakes or ground, or in commercial sauces. Typical horseradish sauce is the grated root mixed with cream. Horseradish vinegar is the root combined with shallots, onions, garlic, and red pepper in vinegar.

Fresh horseradish root should be refrigerated and peeled, or scrubbed thoroughly, before using it. Grate the flesh, discarding the tough inner core. Grated root quickly looses aroma, but it freezes well or it can be preserved in vinegar.

Powdered horseradish has to be reconstituted before using it. It is made by grinding the root and drying in a gentle heat.

How to grow

The plant propagates from root cuttings. Plant in late winter, removing all side shoots, in holes about 1 ft (32 cm) deep. Keep holes 18-20 in (45-50 cm) apart. Choose moist soil and a sunny spot.

Keep the plant isolated and remove all trace of roots when digging it up, otherwise it will grow like weed and invade the garden.

Cooking with horseradish

This creamy horseradish sauce is the perfect companion for grilled burgers or kebabs, either meat or seafood based.

Mix fresh grated horseradish root with whipped cream or sour cream for a classic roast beef garnish. Combine horseradish with dressings, mayonnaise, and other condiments for more piquant salads, sandwiches, or dips. Blend a little horseradish into a tomato based cocktail sauce for a barbecue sauce to accompany grilled meats or seafood.

Mix fresh horseradish, grated, with cooked beetroot, peeled and diced, to give it piquancy.

Barbecue horseradish sauce

2/3 cup heavy cream (150 ml)
1½ Tbs lemon juice
2 Tbs mayonnaise
1 large pinch mustard powder
1 Tbs grated horseradish

Blend first the cream and lemon juice, adding the remaining ingredients afterwards. Stir briskly to mix well. Chill in the fridge for 2-3 hours before serving.

Horseradish substitution

If a recipe calls for fresh horseradish and you don't have it, substitute 1 Tbs freshly grated horseradish with:

  • 1 1/2 Tbs bottled horseradish
  • 1 Tbs prepared white horseradish - less fiery, adds some vinegar flavor, reduce vinegar in recipe if necessary
  • 1 Tbs prepared red horseradish - red from beet juice, less fiery, adds some vinegar flavor, reduce vinegar in recipe if necessary
  • 1-3 tsp creamed horseradish - adds cream or mayonnaise flavor
  • 1-3 tsp freshly grated wasabi
  • 1-3 tsp freshly grated black radish

amoracia rusticana (cruciferae) - horseradish - French: raifort - German: meerrettich - Italian: rafano - Spanish: rábano picante.


Horseradish was widely used in the Middle Ages to treat a variety of complaints ranging from digestive problems, to gout, swellings and arthritis. It became a popular flavoring in Northern Europe where it was used very much like mustard to accompany oily fish. It has been used to spice pickles and ketchups and its role as traditional garnish for roast beef is relatively recent. Horseradish is one of the five bitter herbs used in the Jewish Passover.

The leaves can be used in salads, but it is the large white root what the part employed the most.

The Japanese horseradish, also known as wasabi, is a completely different species. An imitation wasabi is prepared using horseradish, mustard seed and green food coloring.