What Is Daikon and How Do You Use It?

Plus, what’s the best substitute? Here’s what you need to know about daikon radishes. 

Daikon radish Getty
Photo: DigiPub

Daikon — a common ingredient in a variety of Asian cuisines — definitely deserves your attention. Here's what you need to know about the East Asian radish, including its health benefits, the best substitutes, and storage secrets:

What Is Daikon?

Daikon (also known as Japanese radish and Chinese radish) is a winter radish that's native to East Asia. The word "daikon" comes from the Japanese word for "big root." It's also common in South Asian cuisines (where it's known as mooli) such as Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi.

The root veggie, which usually resembles a large white carrot, is subtly sweet and slightly spicy. It has a mild flavor that mellows even more when cooked. When it's eaten raw, it's delightfully crunchy. When it's cooked, it becomes soft and tender — kind of like a cooked turnip.

Though most daikon radishes are white, some types are red, green, and purple. Other daikon varieties you may encounter are lobak, mu, and watermelon (which has a vibrant pink interior).

Daikon Uses

Vietnamese Pickled Daikon Radish and Carrots

This versatile veggie has a variety of delicious uses:

  • Toss raw daikon with salad or slaw. You can also slice daikon and use it to top sandwiches or toast. Wherever you add raw daikon, it'll add mild flavor and a welcome crunch.
  • Throw it into a stir-fry with your favorite meats and veggies for a quick and tasty weeknight dinner.
  • Pickle it with carrots and make a restaurant-worthy banh mi sandwich. Plus, explore our entire collection of Pickled Radish Recipes.
  • Don't throw out the greens! Add them to salads or use them as a garnish.

Daikon vs. Radish

Daikon and red radishes are related, but they have some major differences. For instance:

  • Taste: Daikon radishes, which have a subtly sweet flavor, are milder than peppery red radishes.
  • Size, shape, and color: White, oblong daikon radishes are roughly the size and shape of short, chubby carrots. Red radishes are small and round.
  • Uses: Both radish varieties can be eaten raw or cooked. Red radishes, though, are usually eaten raw. Daikon, meanwhile, is often cooked or pickled.

Daikon Substitute

No daikon? No problem! In a pinch, you can substitute:

  • White turnips. White turnips will likely be your best bet when you can't find daikon, as the root vegetables are similar (but not identical) in appearance, flavor, and texture.
  • Jicama. If you're looking to replicate raw daikon's crunchy texture, try substituting jicama. Jicama can be difficult to find in some parts of the U.S., though, so this option might not be realistic for some home cooks.
  • Parsnips. Parsnips, which are similar to daikon radishes in appearance and texture, are easily accessible — so they'll work in a pinch. Keep in mind that parsnips are much milder than daikon, so this substitution will affect the final flavor of your dish.

Daikon Nutrition

Daikon is a low-calorie option (with 61 calories per radish) that's loaded with nutrients. It's a fantastic source of vitamin C, which is a powerful antioxidant that promotes immune function. It's also rich in folate, an essential nutrient for red blood cell function.

How to Store Daikon

Since it's a hardy vegetable, you don't have to jump through any hoops to store daikon correctly. Just wrap it in a damp kitchen towel and stick it in the fridge – it'll stay good there for at least two weeks.

Where to Buy Daikon

Check your local grocery store's produce section for daikon. If you can't find it there, try your nearest Asian market. Look for daikon radishes that are firm, heavy, and blemish-free.

Recipes With Daikon

Roasted Pork Banh Mi on a white plate
Chef John

Now that you're a daikon expert, it's time to put your knowledge to good use. Here are some of our favorite ways to use daikon radishes:

Explore our entire collection of Daikon Recipes.

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