Ina Garten Has an Alternative for Mashed Potatoes for Thanksgiving—and We’re Obsessed

Parsnips, the humble root vegetable, finally get their time to shine from the Barefoot Contessa

Ina garten and a bowl of mashed parsnipsTaste of Home, Getty Images (2)

Parsnips, mostly, do not inspire strong reactions. Maybe I hang out with the wrong crowds, but I’ve never seen anyone lining up at a farm market, full of wide-eyed parsnip fever, clamoring for those root veggies that look like big, dull white carrots. “Oh wow! Look at those beautiful parsnips!” said no one, ever.

But maybe this is all going to change—and parsnips will finally get their star turn—now that Ina Garten, the famed Barefoot Contessa, is touting puréed parsnips as an alternative to mashed potatoes at this year’s Thanksgiving dinner. “This is about as easy as a side dish gets,” says Garten, in Bon Appetit. “Parsnips are really delicious and so underappreciated.”

Garten’s parsnip recipe comes from her new cookbook, Go-To Dinners. It takes only about 30 minutes and calls for four simple ingredients: parsnips, butter, salt and pepper.

What Is a Parsnip?

A parsnip is a root vegetable that looks like a carrot, but its flavor is a subtle mix of nuttiness and sweetness. They’re a perfect late fall and winter vegetable, according to Heated, as they grow best in cold climates where they take a long time to mature. Their starches only turn to sugars after facing near-freezing temperatures.

How Do I Cook Parsnips?

You can cook parsnips in a variety of ways—cooking parsnips is pretty easy. “The vegetable’s greatest virtue is likely its willingness to take a back seat to richer or more assertive ingredients,” says Heated. Bake parsnips with butter and oregano, mix it with carrots in a medley or a bisque or roast them with ginger or mint, spices like coriander, cumin, cinnamon or mustard seed, or even with maple syrup and a splash of bourbon.

Why You Should Make Parsnips for Thanksgiving?

If “Because Ina Garten says to” isn’t reason enough, puréed parsnips is a super easy way to bring something unique to the Thanksgiving table. “It’s creamy, comforting, and extremely make-ahead-friendly,” says Bon Appetit. “Exactly the kind of recipe we want when we’re looking for ways to cut through the chaos of Thanksgiving dinner.”

How to Make Puréed Parsnips

Garten’s recipe (re-published by Williams-Sonoma) is the definition of simple.


  • 1 1/2 pounds of parsnips
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • salt and pepper to taste


  • Scrub and chop the parsnips (no peeling), then place them in a pot covered by salted water and simmer for 15-20 minutes until soft
  • Transfer the parsnips to a food processor and purée, along with a cup of the liquid they’ve simmered in
  • Once the parsnips are smooth, add in butter, salt and pepper, and whiz some more until velvety smooth

The ease of using a food processor alone makes puréed parsnips simpler than mashed potatoes, which get gummy with released starch when you overwork them or mix them too aggressively, according to The Kitchn.

The ability to make parsnip purée ahead of time and reheat it on Thanksgiving Day is golden. It’s one of the main reasons Garten loves this recipe. “Anything that requires me to make it at the last minute gets crossed off the list,” she told Bon Appetit.

Next, take a look at some of Ina’s favorite Thanksgiving desserts.

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