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What Are Turnips?
Turnips are root vegetables belonging to the Brassica family, along with cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli. Round in shape and occasionally featuring a purple top where the root has been exposed to sunlight in its final stages of growth, turnips have crunchy white flesh that tastes a bit like cabbage when eaten raw. Braised turnip greens, similar to mustard greens in flavor and rich in vitamins C and K, are a popular side dish in Southern cuisine, but you can also use their rich, bitter leaves to enhance pesto or turnip soup.
Note that in certain parts of the United Kingdom (as well as certain provinces in Canada) “turnip” refers to rutabaga, a similar root vegetable in the Brassica family with yellow coloring.
How Do Turnips Taste?
Like similar root vegetables, turnip’s flavor shifts slightly when cooked. Mildly spicy when raw, turnips turn sweet, nutty, and earthy when cooked. This goes for texture, too: raw turnips have a crisp, starchy flesh. Cooked turnips turn soft and velvety—a little like another cold-weather favorite, the parsnip. Find our recipe for parsnip purée here.
7 Creative Ways to Cook With Turnips
Use turnips as you would most root vegetables, like sweet potatoes or beets. At the grocery store or market, look for turnips that are firm and unblemished, with bright leaves if still attached.
- Turnips work wonderfully à la Matignon. Matignon cooking features vegetables that have been cut to a uniform size for use as a complement in a variety of fried and braised dishes—alongside carrots, potatoes, and leeks. Learn more about cooking à la Matignon here.
- Pickled turnips. The crisp texture and sweet flavor of a turnip make for a great pickle. Halve smaller varieties like Tokyo turnips and submerge in a white vinegar-based brine in the refrigerator for a week.
- Turnips and fried eggs. Fry small-diced turnips in a cast-iron skillet for a hash topped with fried eggs. Find our complete guide on eggs here.
- Salad turnips. Raw turnips can be sliced thin like radishes and used in a salad; raw baby turnips can be served whole as a crudité platter.
- Make a gratin. Layer slices of turnip and potato—which have a sturdier texture and will balance the soft sweetness of the turnip—to make a gratin.
- Steamed turnips. When they are young and small in size, steaming turnips is a gentle way to cook them and preserve their natural sweetness.
- Mashed turnips. For winter vegetable comfort food, swap mashed potatoes for sweet, mashed turnips alongside a rich braised meat main.
How to Roast Turnips
As a side dish, roasted turnips are a mellow, caramelized crowd-pleaser.
- Prepare by slicing off the root end, and if larger than a few inches in diameter, peeling.
- Medium dice, and toss with a tablespoon or two of olive oil and season with salt and pepper, or a favorite spice blend like Chinese five-spice powder or za’atar.
- Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet, and roast in a 400 F oven, stirring once or twice for even color, until a paring knife passes easily through and they are golden brown and crispy.
Chef Gordon Ramsay’s Glazed Carrots and Turnips Recipe
Prep Time10 min
Total Time25 min
Cook Time15 min
- 8 Thumbelina carrots, peeled
- 8 Tokyo turnips, peeled
- 4 star anise
- 4 cinnamon sticks
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
- ¼ cup chicken stock
- Maldon or kosher salt to taste
- Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and add enough salt to the water to be able to taste it easily. The salt will permeate into the vegetables so each bite of the finished product will be seasoned throughout.
- To make an ice bath, fill a large bowl halfway with ice and add cold water to cover.
- Once the water is at a boil, blanch the carrots for 2 minutes. If the sizing of the carrots is uneven, add the larger carrots first and let them cook for 1 minute before adding in the smaller carrots. Transfer blanched carrots to the ice bath for 3 to 5 minutes to stop the cooking process. Bring the blanching water back to a boil and repeat with the turnips. As each group of blanched vegetables is finished chilling in the ice bath, transfer to a sheet tray lined with paper towels to dry.
- Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan on medium heat, then add the cinnamon sticks, star anise, honey, and a pinch of salt. Once the honey starts to bubble, add the blanched carrots and turnips and toss to coat. Cook over medium heat for 3 minutes, turning the vegetables frequently. Add butter to the pan and stir frequently. Let the butter begin to froth and deglaze the pan with chicken stock. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes until the liquid has evaporated and the carrots and turnips are cooked through.
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