You might have spied parsnips at the grocery store: Knobbly, unevenly shaped vegetables that look like albino carrots. No thanks, you think to yourself. I don’t blame you—I skipped over parsnips for years! But this veggie is more than just a pale carrot, and once I learned how to cook parsnips, it was game over. These root vegetables have a sweet, nutty flavor with a starchy, slightly spicy characteristic that’s hard to beat.
What is a Parsnip?
Like carrots, parsnips are long, tapering root vegetables that grow deep underground. You’ll often find them in the fall or winter because they’re usually harvested after the first frost. Many farmers choose to leave them in the ground all winter long and dig them up in the spring. These parsnips are the sweetest, most candy-like root vegetables you’ll ever taste, because the sugars have a chance to concentrate over the long, overwintering process.
Look for small- to medium-sized parsnips, which have a more tender flavor as compared to their larger, woodier counterparts. Other than that, the same principles for choosing carrots apply to parsnips: If the parsnip is limp and soft, skip over it for a hearty, rigid root instead.
Pro Tip: I always buy organic parsnips because it means I don’t have to peel them. The skin contains a ton of flavor, and it also happens to store a lot of the parsnip’s nutrients, too. When you don’t have to worry about pesticides, you can just scrub the skin clean with a dish towel and chop away.
How to Cook Parsnips
There are many different ways to cook parsnips. I think the easiest (and, best) way involves roasting them in a high-temperature oven. A 425°F oven for 20 to 25 minutes is just about perfect to caramelize the sugars in the parsnips, resulting in a perfectly textured bite.
Roast them on their own or combine them with other root vegetables. Just make sure everything is cut to the same size if you’re mixing your veggies! Get started with this Agave Roasted Parsnips recipe, or play around with all kinds of roots with our Rosemary Root Vegetables recipe.
More Ways to Cook Parsnips
- Don’t cook them at all! Cut them into thin, julienned strips and combine them with a tasty dressing to make fresh salads. They’re especially delicious when combined with pears, as in this Parsnip, Pear and Pecan Salad.
- Mix them with potatoes to add depth and flavor to your favorite potato dishes. They’re especially tasty when mashed in with potatoes, or added to casseroles and side dishes like this Carrot, Parsnip and Potato Gratin.
- Make soup! Simmered parsnips make an excellent addition to hearty stews, and create an unbelievably creamy puree when making Garlicky Cheddar Cheese Bisque. Use them in addition to (or, instead of) your favorite root vegetables.