Parsnips 101 – The Basics

We usually see parsnips in the grocery store, often near the carrots. They look like white carrots, but they are not, although they are cousins with carrots. If you’ve never tried them and are not quite sure what to do with parsnips, the information below should answer your questions!


Parsnips 101 – The Basics

About Parsnips
Parsnips are root vegetables native to Eurasia. They are closely related to carrots and parsley, and have been enjoyed since ancient times. They look like cream-colored carrots, yet they are not carrots. If you should decide to grow them in your garden, note that the leaves, stems and flowers are NOT edible…they contain a toxic sap that can cause severe burns. However, the taproot is very edible and even nutritious.

Parsnips have a high sugar content and in the 16th century, Germans used it to make wine, jams, and flour. Many resources say parsnips have a nutty, earthy flavor. I also found that they have a hint of a honey undertone, hence the natural sweetness the Germans found so long ago!

Nutrition Tidbits
Parsnips are a good source of fiber, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, folate, and other nutrients along with antioxidants. Their nutritional profile helps to protect our eye health, improve digestion and immune function, and support our overall health including heart function. One cup of parsnips has 100 calories.

How to Select Parsnips
Choose parsnips that are small to medium size. Larger ones tend to have a woody core. Look for ones that are pale, firm, smooth and well-shaped. Try to avoid those that are browned, limp, shriveled, blemished or have soft spots. Parsnip season begins after the first frost, so fall and winter is when you’ll get the freshest parsnips.

How to Store Parsnips
Store them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator, just like you would carrots. Depending upon how old they are when you purchase them, they can keep for up to three weeks.

How to Preserve Parsnips
Parsnips can be frozen. Wash, peel then cut them into 1/2-inch cubes and blanch them for 2 minutes, drain and cool them in an ice water bath. Or steam parsnip pieces for 3 to 5 minutes then cool them in an ice water bath. Pack into containers, and freeze for 8 to 10 months. Fully cooked parsnip puree may also be frozen for up to 10 months.

Raw vs Cooked
Parsnips can be eaten raw, but are most often eaten cooked.

How to Prepare Parsnips
Scrub parsnips well and peel them with a vegetable peeler. Smaller ones may not need to be peeled. Trim both ends. You may need to cut out the woody core of larger parsnips as it can be tough to eat. They can be used whole, sliced, cut into large chunks, diced, or grated.

Cooking/Serving Methods
Parsnips can be used just like carrots, so they can be enjoyed raw, shaved thin and added to salads. They can also be boiled, roasted, sautéed, steamed, mashed, pureed, added to soups, stews, and casseroles.

Cooking Tips:
* Overcooking parsnips will make them mushy, which is excellent if you’re going to puree them. Otherwise, cook them only until tender.

* Cut them into small pieces if you will be sautéing them with other vegetables. That will help everything to cook at about the same rate.

* Like a potato, parsnips can turn brown if left exposed to air after being peeled and cut. If you need to hold them for a little while after preparing them (before cooking), place them in a bowl of water or sprinkle them with a little lemon juice.

* Small, younger parsnips are more tender than larger ones and would be a better choice if grating them into a salad or eating them raw in some way.

* Carrots and parsnips are interchangeable in most recipes.

Parsnip serving ideas provided by

* Add boiled parsnips to your mashed potatoes for a subtly sweet flavor.

* Try roasted parsnips over a warm quinoa salad. Bring out their nutty flavor by adding some walnuts or pecans as well.

* Parsnips and apples are such a classic flavor match: try using it in soups, pies, or even breads.

* You can grate small, young parsnips for salad to enjoy them raw.

* Add some crunch to soups or softer foods: use a vegetable peeler to shave off ribbons of parsnip and flash-fry them in oil until crisp. Remove from oil and let drain on some paper tower. They’ll naturally add texture to your dish.

* Enjoy roasted parsnips as a delicious side dish and then use any leftovers in soup.

* Try making healthy chips with them (the recipe link is below).

Herbs/Spices That Go Well With Parsnips
Basil, dill, parsley, sage, thyme, tarragon, maple syrup, brown sugar, nutmeg, ginger, garlic, pepper, honey and mustard

Other Foods That Go Well With Parsnips
Carrots, apples, potatoes, pears, spinach, pork, chicken

Recipe Links
Oven Roasted Parsnips and Carrots

Carrot, Apple, Parsnip Salad

Parsnip Chips

Maple Roasted Root Vegetables

19 Awesome Parsnip Recipes for Mains, Sides and More

Roasted Parsnips with Lemon and Herbs

25 Ways to Use Parsnips

Roasted Parsnips and Carrots

Maple Orange Glazed Roasted Carrots and Parsnips

About Judi
Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.


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