Preparing Horseradish

Learn to prepare the root known for bringing the heat, horseradish.

From Heirloom Herbalist
Fall 2013

  • If you haven't grown your own horseradish, you can buy it shrink-wrapped at most grocery stores.
    Photo by Jim Long

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Preparing Horseradish

Freshly-chopped horseradish root, when exposed to air, begins an enzymatic reaction which causes it to become hotter very quickly. Adding vinegar stops the reaction and locks in the heat. If you want little heat, add vinegar when chopping the root. But if you like the bite and heat, use a bit of water in the food processing step, then add vinegar about 5 minutes after you’ve ground up the roots. Once the horseradish has been stabilized by the vinegar, it won’t become any hotter, but exposure to air again, such as leaving it out of the refrigerator for an hour or so, will quickly diminish the heat.


• 8- to 12-inch long piece of horseradish root
• Enough plain water to help the food processor pulverize the roots
• 1/4 to 1/2 cup vinegar
• Pinch of salt


1. Once the horseradish is dug from the ground (don’t think you can pull it up, you can’t, the roots go much too deep for that), cut off the top and leaves, rinse the root and peel it with a vegetable peeler.

2. Cut the root into pieces and put those, a few at a time, into a food processor. Add a bit of water and chop to a smooth consistency in the food processor.

3. Scrape the grated horseradish into a bowl and let stand for 3 to 5 minutes, then add the vinegar, mixing well.

4. Pour the prepared horseradish into a glass or plastic jar and refrigerate.

Use within 3 to 4 weeks.

Note: Horseradish can be kept frozen although the heat will be diminished somewhat. The heat in horseradish comes from a volatile compound, isothiocyanate, which, when oxidized by air and saliva, generates the hotness. Both mustard oil and horseradish contain isothiocyanate, which acts as a preservative and both have been shown to combat the food pathogens, E. coli, Staphylococcus aureus and others when eaten on food. Some people claim eating a bit of horseradish clears out their sinuses. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute recommends horseradish as part of a healthy diet.

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