How to Cook Turnips

Updated: Jun. 12, 2023

The turnip is a humble and hearty root vegetable. Learn how to cook turnips the right way so you can make an earthy and flavorful dinner or side dish.

I love to look for turnips at my farmers market in late autumn. (Find the best farmers market near you.) It seems that turnips are often overlooked in favor of other root vegetables like potatoes or parsnips—but it’s time to turn the spotlight back on this versatile vegetable. To help you “turnip” the heat in your kitchen, we’ve created a quick and easy guide on how to cook turnips.

What Is a Turnip?

The white-and-purple vegetable looks like a rutabaga, but tastes like a cross between cabbage and a radish. (It is a member of the cabbage family, after all!) Texture-wise, it’s similar to a potato, making the turnip a suitable substitute for starches in most recipes.

To pick the perfect turnip, keep in mind that bigger is bitter, not better. Look for smaller bulbs that are about the size of a tennis ball and have a vibrant purple bottom.

Do You Have to Peel Turnips?

To peel or not to peel, that is the question. The decision to peel your turnips is totally up to you. However, it’s recommended to remove the skin of larger bulbs to avoid a sharp aftertaste when you eat them. If you decide to peel the turnips, do the chore with a vegetable peeler, just as you would with a potato.

How to Cook Turnips

For sauteed turnips: Chop up your turnips into 1″ cubes and cook them in a pan with olive oil, salt and pepper. Don’t forget about the tops, too. Add the turnip greens at the end to wilt them in the pan, along with pieces of bacon or ham for extra flavor.

For mashed turnips: If you want a low-carb alternative to mashed potatoes, boil turnips in water, then mash them with butter and cream cheese. Sprinkle in chili powder or ground pepper for heat and finish with a garnish of fresh chopped parsley.

For roasted turnips: Toss cubed turnips with olive oil and the seasonings of your choice, like fresh rosemary or garlic for a simple roasted turnips dish. Mix with cubed red potatoes and carrots on a sheet pan, then bake it all in the oven for a roasted root veggie dish.

You can also blend cooked turnips with leeks and chicken broth for a silky smooth soup, make turnip “fries” by cutting the vegetable into strips and baking them until crisp or process turnip greens, olive oil, walnuts and Parmesan cheese into a pesto.

For more ideas, take a look at our Top 10 recipes starring turnips.

Our Best Turnip Recipes
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