Autumn Vegetable Gratin

Savory, Thyme-Laced Vegetable Gratin

Autumn Vegetable Gratin, with Roots

It’s Autumn. The leaves are afire with brilliant colors, the mornings are briskly frosty, and the harvest has been brought in from the fields. Now is a perfect time to crank the oven and make an Autumn Vegetable Gratin.

Root vegetables are a seasonal pick, with their grounding, earth centered energy. According to Macrobiotic theory, roots are more yang, while leafy vegetables are more yin. Most of the things Americans love to eat are at the far ends of the yin-yang continuum, and the sugary, refined stuff we love is very yin. Unbalanced yin energy makes you more scattered, and is considered cooling. That makes the warming, more contracted energy of roots a perfect foil for the dropping temperatures.

And even if you don’t care about yin and yang, you have to love roots in the wintertime!

Balance and Warm Yourself

This one is made up of what we might describe as “honking-huge” rutabaga and turnip, alternating with the thick trunk of a butternut squash. I picked out these sizes and shapes so that they would make relatively even scallops in a baking dish.

Getting started with some big fat veggies

The Scallop Shape is the Thing

Once I peeled the veggies with a peeler, it was easy to make thin slices to stack in the pan, alternating with slivers of garlic, red onion, and scattering fresh thyme from the garden over it all with abandon. It all roasts and becomes meltingly tender.

Sliced Vegetables for a Gratin

A little Slicing, a little layering…

Now, I know that some of you might not be fans of the stronger flavors in rutabagas and turnips. To help balance that, I added olive oil and apple juice. The rich, fruity flavor of the oil and the sweet-tart apple juice take the edge off the big honking roots, and the squash helps balance the earthiness. If you are a dairy eater, subbing butter for olive oil might rock your boat, too.

Autumn Vegetable Gratin

The Crunchy Topping Makes it Super Appealing

Once it’s all assembled, I covered the pan and baked it until all the veggies are butter-soft. Then, I uncovered it all with a mix of minced walnuts and panko, moistened with more olive oil. Don’t be afraid of the salt, it needs a bit of salt, too. It’s really a very simple combination of flavors, and every one is important.

Autumn Vegetable Gratin

Serves a Crowd

Once the topping is crisped, you are ready to go. I loved this the first night, and ate it for lunch for a couple of days afterward, enjoying it immensely.

Autumn Vegetable Gratin

Butter-Soft Baked Vegetables, Layered with Thyme

Of course, you can use other roots, and make skinnier rows of sliced parsnips, carrots, sweet potato, beets, even radishes. If you carave a creamier version, use a cup of coconut milk along with the apple juice, and let it bubble down to a silky sauce.

Because you need to warm yourself, from the inside out!

Autumn Vegetable Gratin

Ditch the scalloped potatoes and try this lighter, plant-based Autumn Veggie Gratin.
Course Side Dish
Servings 6
Author Robin Asbell


  • 1/2 2 lb rutabaga peeled
  • 1/2 2.5 lb butternut squash peeled, solid trunk cut away from the cavity section
  • 1/2 1.5 lb turnip peeled
  • 1/2 medium red onion sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic peeled and slivered
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme chopped
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil divided
  • 1 teaspoon salt divided
  • 1/2 cup apple juice
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup panko
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika


  • Preheat the oven to 400 F.
    Slice the rutabaga, butternut squash, and turnip in half, vertically. Slice in 1/3 inch thick half moons, keeping the pieces in piles.
  • Start at one end of a 2 quart baking dish and build the gratin, alternating vegetable slices, and sprinkling with thyme in between layers. Tuck garlic and onions in between veggies, drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, then sprinkle with half of the salt. 
  • Pour the apple juice into the baking dish, and cover the dish tightly. Bake for 40 minutes.
  • In a bowl, mix the walnuts, panko, remaining tablespoon olive oil, remaining salt, and paprika. Sprinkle over the vegetables and return the pan to the oven for 20 minutes. 
  • Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.