Peeling vegetables is easily the most tedious kitchen task. When you’re trying to get dinner on the table quickly, it can feel like a pain to go through the hassle of peeling.
The good news? You don’t have to. At least, not all the time.
You may think that everything from carrots to cucumbers needs its skin removed. But in fact, not only are you stripping your meal of some of the nutrients, you’re also often putting yourself through unnecessary effort at the prep stage.
Save yourself some time, and put down the peeler.
Here are some instances when the skin is perfectly edible or can be removed before serving.
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Winter squash types abound and so do their cooking methods. Depending on the preparation, often peeling can be skipped. When making butternut squash soup, steam a cut butternut squash and then scoop out the flesh to avoid all that arduous peeling. Or, for a tasty pasta imposter, spaghetti squash can be pulled away from its skin before serving.
There are plenty of examples of winter squash where you can eat the skin, too; acorn squash skin softens enough during cooking to eat, and delicata squash is one of the easiest winter squashes to prepare thanks to its soft skin.
Zucchini, pattypan, and other summer squash look nothing like their tougher winter cousins. Soft zucchini is an ideal stand-in for pasta if you have a spiralizer, or it can be stuffed, roasted, or added to soups, all without ever needing to remove any skin. The skin is so tender you won’t even notice it.
Instant Pot RatatouilleTry this comforting classic without having to peel the zucchini or the eggplant.
There are some instances where it’s beneficial to leave eggplant’s practically patent-leather exterior on. In a Crispy Eggplant Salad, the skin adds a pleasant chew to contrast with the creamy innards. Not peeling is essential in Hasselback Eggplant with Garlic-Yogurt Sauce as it helps the vegetable stand up to roasting and all that delicious filling between the slices. And with Stuffed Eggplant with Bulgur and Plant-Based Meat, the skin holds the filling inside and maintains the structural integrity for an edible bowl.
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Potatoes (and Sweet Potatoes)
Tubers that grow underground need to be scrubbed to remove dirt, so there’s no need to peel them too. Foil-Roasted Potatoes use small, waxy red potatoes with thin skin. The Best Baked Potatoes use larger, starchy russets where a salt bath makes their crispy skin a feature. Similarly, sweet potatoes cook up supple and fluffy in the oven with their skins on. These Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Chives boast crackly skin to contrast with their soft interiors.
The skin of young, fresh ginger is so thin that there is no need to remove it. Mature ginger has dry, papery skin that is safe to consume, but it often adds unwanted texture. Two ways to incorporate unpeeled mature ginger, in a luxurious chicken stock or stuffed into a twice-cooked duck, provide all of the flavor and none of the hassle.
Whether or not you should peel carrots is a debate that has staunch supporters in both camps. Those who are pro-peeling think that the skin can leave a distracting texture or unappealing earthy taste. The anti-peelers think that slight bitterness is a welcome addition to dishes such as a chopped carrot salad. And there’s definitely no need to peel the carrots when juicing them to make a nutrient-dense Beet Sunset Juice or our version of V8—the peel is where the good stuff is!
Peeling beets is a fraught task if you’re not a fan of pink hands and stained surfaces. Like most of the root vegetables in this list, beets’ skins are packed with minerals. So how do you enjoy them without making a mess? Cook beets in your Instant Pot. The intense pressure softens the skins more dramatically than other cooking methods so that it’s hardly noticeable. But if you’re a fan of that sweet earthiness, roast them with the skin on for maximum flavor.
Cucumbers are mostly water, so peeling removes nearly all of the nutritional value. Plus, peeling a slippery cucumber can be a pain. Learn to love the extra crunch with a smashed cucumber salad. Or ease your way into the idea of eating the skin by peeling only some of the cucumber lengthwise. Leaving strips of skin yields beautiful slices.