An old Chinese proverb says, “Eating pungent radish and drinking hot tea let the starved doctors beg on their knees." 1 There’s probably some truth to this saying, as radishes are among the most nutritionally loaded yet low-calorie vegetables you can enjoy today.
Most radishes in the U.S. are known for their red skin and round shape, but have you ever tried the long and white Asian variety called the daikon radish? Discover the many benefits and culinary uses of daikon, and why you will not regret adding it to your diet.
What Is Daikon?
You’ve probably heard it called Oriental radish, but daikon (Raphanus sativus var. longipinnatus) 2 is a vegetable that actually goes by many names, including mooli, Chinese radish, Satsuma radish and, most notably, Japanese radish. In fact, daikon is a Japanese word that means “big root.”3
Daikon is believed to have originated from the Mediterranean, but has now spread to Southeast and East Asia countries 4 like Japan, China, Korea and the Philippines, where it became highly valued for its root. Today, daikon radish is also grown in North America to prevent soil compaction, which then allows soil to absorb more rainfall. 5
A member of the radish family, daikon can be easily distinguished from other radishes by its appearance: it has large, rapidly growing leaves and a long white root, 6 resembling a pale carrot. Daikon can grow up to 20 inches long, with a diameter of 4 inches.
When it comes to flavor, though, it’s considered milder and less peppery than other radishes. Served raw, it’s mild and tangy, with a crisp and juicy texture. When cooked, it tastes similar to cooked turnips. 7
Although the root is the most widely utilized part of this crop, daikon is a cruciferous vegetable, technically speaking. 8 In Asian countries, daikon root is commonly pickled and eaten as a side dish or added to main dishes, grated, cubed or in thin slices. Nevertheless, the leaves should not be set aside, as they offer their own plethora of health benefits as well. 9
You can also enjoy daikon sprouts (called “kaiware” by the Japanese), which have a pungent and peppery flavor that adds a kick to sandwiches and salads. No need to cook them, though – daikon sprouts are best used raw since they’re very delicate and may be damaged by heating. 10
Daikon Radish Health Benefits
You can’t go wrong with adding daikon to your favorite meals, as it offers a multitude of nutrients that can surely uplift your health.
One benefit that you can get from daikon is its ability to improve digestion, thanks to an enzyme called diastase, which helps relieve indigestion, heartburn and may even curb hangovers. 11 Meanwhile, isothiocyanates, which give daikon its peppery and pungent qualities, may help improve blood circulation and prevent clots.
The juice extracted from raw daikon has been traditionally used to alleviate headaches, fever, swollen gums and hot flashes, as it has anti-inflammatory and cooling effects. 12 Daikon radish also contains high amounts of potassium, vitamin C and phosphorus – nutrients that are essential for good health.
While you may think that the benefits are only attributed to the root, you’ll be surprised to know that daikon leaves have an impressive nutritional value, too. They’re actually loaded with vitamin A, essential for eye health, and vitamin C – more than the root, actually. They also provide beta-carotene, sodium, iron, phosphorus and calcium. 13
Organic Facts provides a good summary of the health-promoting properties of this food:
- Alleviates respiratory issues. It can help clear out excess phlegm and eliminate bacteria and other pathogens from your respiratory tract.
- Promotes digestive health. Daikon helps facilitate better digestion of proteins, complex carbs and fats, which in turn prevents constipation and increases nutrient uptake in the gut.
- Assists in detoxification. It stimulates urination, which is necessary for keeping the kidneys clean.
- Has potential cancer-preventive ability. This vegetable possesses antioxidant phenolic compounds that may help reduce certain types of cancer.
- Bolsters your immunity. The vitamin C in daikon stimulates white blood cell production, which may speed up repair and healing in your body.
- Alleviates inflammation. Daikon juice’s anti-inflammatory properties can help decrease inflammation throughout your system, which may lead to a healthier heart, lower gout and arthritis risk and reduced pain from injuries and muscle cramping.
- Promotes bone and skin health. Its high calcium content may be helpful in preventing osteoporosis. It also has antioxidant benefits, which may help prevent wrinkles, increase circulation and even reduce the appearance of blemishes and age spots, giving your skin a natural glow.
- Helps with weight management. Daikon is a low-calorie and low-cholesterol vegetable, but it’s high in fiber and many other nutrients – qualities that are ideal for people who want to maintain a healthy weight.
So remember, if you want to reap all of daikon’s health benefits, it’s best to use the entire vegetable.
How to Cook Daikon: Tips to Keep in Mind
As with other radishes, the plethora of culinary uses for daikon is endless. It can be cooked multiple ways, as a wonderful addition to your favorite soups, stews or meat dishes. You can roast, slow cook, boil, bake or steam daikon, just as you would a carrot. Daikon also works well as a substitute for recipes that call for other types of radishes. It’s extremely versatile.
As mentioned above, daikon leaves should not be left out, as they are just as nutritious and flexible as the root. However, they’re best used fresh, ideally on the day they are purchased.
If this is not possible, then you can simply preserve them: simply blanch the leaves in salted boiling water and freeze. You can then use them anytime, as an addition to miso soup and stir-fries or to add color to your Asian-inspired dishes. 14
Here is a recipe 15 that uses both daikon leaves and root – nothing goes to waste!
Healthy Daikon Recipes:
Turnip and Daikon Greens with Onion and Tahini
|1 small daikon radish with greens
||1/4 teaspoon coconut oil
||1/2 teaspoon chipotle sauce
||1/2 teaspoon salt
|1 bunch turnips with greens (about four medium-sized turnips)
||2 garlic cloves
||1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
|1 yellow or sweet onion
||1 beet (greens optional)
||1 tablespoon tahini
- Mince garlic and set aside so the air can activate its cancer-fighting enzymes.
- Pour coconut oil in a large pot, and then heat on medium low. Chop onion and add to the pot, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.
- Cut greens from the bulbs, saving all but two turnips for another recipe.
- Rinse greens well in at least two changes of water, making sure to get any dirt that nestles in the curve of the stems.
- Chop stems into 1/4-inch pieces and cook with onion. Chop leaves into ribbons, roughly 1/4- inch wide and 3 inches long.
- Peel turnip bulbs and cut into cubes about 1/4-inch across. Add to onion mixture.
- When onion is soft, stir in garlic and chipotle sauce. Add chopped leaves, vinegar, tahini and salt. Stir, reduce heat to simmer, and cook covered until vegetables are tender. Taste and adjust seasonings.
- Serve hot, perhaps with hot sauce, chopped green onions or turnip-daikon pickles. Keeps refrigerated for four days and frozen for a year.
This recipe makes 8 servings.
(Adapted from Cook for Good)
How to Make Pickled Carrots and Daikon Radish
If you want to maximize daikon’s nutritional content, then the best way to enjoy it is to serve it raw. It’s great when mixed in salads with other crunchy vegetables or used as a topping, grated, for your favorite dishes. You can even ferment it and add it to your homemade Korean kimchi.
In Japan, one popular way of using raw daikon is as a condiment called “daikon oroshi,” which is served along with meat and fish dishes. Daikon oroshi can be added to soba noodle sauce and tempura dipping sauce as well. 16
You can also pickle daikon. Here’s an easy pickled daikon recipe you can make at home.
- 8 ounces carrots, peeled and julienned (you can use celery as an alternative)
- 8 ounces daikon, peeled and julienned
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1½ cups water
- ¼ cup rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons raw honey
- Place the carrots and daikon in a colander, sprinkle with the salt, and toss. Place over a bowl and allow to sit for 30 minutes.
- In a small saucepan, combine the water, vinegar and honey. Bring just to a boil and immediately remove from heat. Cool at room temperature.
- Rinse the carrots and daikon. Using your hands, squeeze any excess liquid and pat with paper towels. Transfer to a mixing bowl. Add the vinegar mixture and stir gently.
- Allow to stand at least one hour before serving. Can be served at room temperature or chilled.
This recipe makes 4 servings.
Remember, however, to buy organic daikon that has not been treated with pesticides or other chemicals. In addition, look for daikon with glossy flesh, feels heavy and has fewer root hairs, as well as deep-green leaves that are straight and crisp.
The leaves can actually indicate how fresh the daikon is, so choose those with their leaves intact. Check the stem as well if the inside seems hollow. If it does, then the core of the daikon root may be spongy. 17
Growing Daikon Radish
If you want to ensure that you’re always eating organic daikon, you can grow them in your garden. This plant is cultivated the same way as other radish varieties, except they need more space and time to mature. Here are some daikon growing tips from Gardening Know How: 18
- Daikon radish needs full sun to part shade and regular water to grow. They grow best in temperatures below 80 degrees F (27 degrees C).
- Put the seeds ¾-inch deep in the soil, with a 6-inch space between them. You should also allot a 3-foot space between the rows to allow for mature spread. Daikon radish usually matures in 60 to 70 days.
- Make sure that there’s drip irrigation where you plant daikon, and put a 1-inch layer of mulch around the plant to ensure that they stay moist.
- Grow daikon radish in areas where you grow warm season crops like squash, tomatoes or peppers.
- Planting daikon in the winter, with the help of a cold frame, will give you mature radish by springtime.
Check out daikon’s nutrition profile below to get a better idea of how this vegetable benefits you:19
Daikon Nutrition Facts
Serving Size: 100 grams
|Calories from Fat
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.