What is Lotus Root?

What is lotus root? Learn how to identify, buy, and cook with this popular East Asian ingredient.

What is Lotus Root?

Actually the rhizome of an aquatic plant, lotus root is commonly used in southern and East Asian cooking (the leaves and seeds of the lotus are often cooked with as well). Planted in the soil of pond and river bottoms, it grows up to 4 feet long, separated into segments that look a bit like sausage links.

The root has reddish-brown skin (that should be peeled before using) and creamy white flesh with a texture like a raw potato. It’s often found fresh, vacuum-packed in plastic, but also comes canned, dried, candied, and frozen in slices. Look for heavy, firm roots with no soft spots or bruising. If they come linked together, don’t separate the links before storing in the refrigerator.

Like raw potato, once cut, lotus root starts to discolor — soak it in water with a little vinegar after it’s peeled or sliced. When raw, it’s bitter, so you should always blanch it before eating. It’s a versatile ingredient that no matter the preparation, from stir-frying to deep-frying, will always keep its crisp-tender texture. Its mild, fresh flavor makes it a great addition to salads and slaws, as well.

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