What Are Turnip Greens and How Do You Cook Them?

Updated: Jun. 08, 2023

Don't toss your turnip greens! Use them to make a classic southern side dish.

Turnips are easy to find at the store, but the greens—not so much. Unfortunately, turnips in the produce section are often sold without the greens, a missed opportunity. Instead, look for turnip greens at natural foods stores, produce stands and farmers markets. Like kale and spinach, there are many ways to enjoy these leafy greens, whether as a flavorful side dish or added to other recipes.

What Are Turnip Greens?

Turnips are a root vegetable, which means that the turnip bulbs grow underground. Above the ground are the tall stems and leaves—the turnip greens.

The leaves have a strong, earthy and peppery flavor. They’re delicious cooked on their own or added to other dishes!

How to Prep Turnip Greens

To remove all traces of dirt and grit, submerge turnip greens in cold water and swish them around. Drain and repeat one or two more times until the leaves are clean. (Wait to wash the greens until you’re ready to use them.)

Remove the tough stem by running a sharp knife down the leaf on either side of the stem to cut it out. Then, cut the leaves into pieces as called for in your recipe.

What to Do with Turnip Greens

When purchasing turnip greens, either loose or still attached to the bulbs, look for greens that appear healthy and vibrant green with no yellowing. The greens can be prepared in a number of ways including sauteing, boiling and steaming. (Very similar to preparing other hearty greens like kale, spinach and Swiss chard.) Cooked turnip greens can be served on their own as a side dish or be folded into omelets, sandwiches or casseroles. The leaves can also be added to soups and stews.

Turnip greens are also enjoyed raw in salads, but the leaves can have a very strong, bitter flavor. Cooking the leaves mellows the bitterness, as does the addition of other ingredients like a little sugar, hot pepper flakes and bacon.

How to Steam Turnip Greens

Turnip greens can be quickly cooked by steaming. Bring water to a boil in a large pot with a steamer basket placed over the top. (It shouldn’t touch the water.) Add the greens to the steamer basket and place a lid over the top. Steam the greens for several minutes until they’re wilted and tender, then serve.

How to Saute Turnip Greens

Sauteing turnip greens allows you to infuse flavor into the leaves with fat and aromatics. Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil, bacon grease or an oil/butter blend over medium heat until hot. If you like, saute some chopped onions or garlic in the pan first; then add in chopped turnip greens. Use tongs to stir and toss the leaves until they’re coated in oil. Saute the greens, stirring occasionally, until they’re reduced in volume, dark in color and tender, about 8-10 minutes.

How to Boil Turnip Greens

Slowly cook down the turnip greens by boiling them in water or for more flavor in stock. As with sauteing, ingredients like salt pork or onions can be cooked first before the liquid and chopped turnip greens are added. This method creates greens that are flavorful and very soft. They’re ready in as little as 15 minutes but are often boiled longer, as in our recipe below.

How to Make Country Turnip Greens

Country Turnip GreensTMB Studio

This savory turnip greens recipe is a family favorite shared by Sandra Pichon of Memphis, Tennessee. It makes 10 servings and is ready in an hour.


  • 3/4 pound lean salt pork or bacon, diced
  • 4-1/2 pounds fresh turnip greens, trimmed
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon black pepper


Step 1: Cook the salt pork

Place the diced salt pork or bacon into a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Cook and stir the salt pork until it’s lightly browned and the fat has rendered. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the drippings.

Step 2: Add the rest of the ingredients

Add the turnip greens to the pot. (The leaves can be torn or sliced to make them fit.) Add in the water, chopped onions, sugar and pepper. Increase the heat and bring everything to a boil.

Step 3: Simmer

Reduce the heat and cover the Dutch oven. Simmer the greens for about 45 minutes, until they’re very tender. Use a slotted spoon to serve the greens while they’re warm.

Turnip Greens FAQs

Bunch Of Vibrant Turnip Greenspeuceta/Getty Images

When are turnip greens available?

The greens are easiest to find in spring and fall. In spring, smaller and more tender turnip leaves are harvested when they first begin growing. They’re especially abundant, however, in the fall when the plants are mature with large leaves, and turnips are ready to harvest.

Try turnips and turnip greens together in this recipe.

How do you store turnip greens?

Turnip greens will stay fresh for up to five days when stored unwashed in a plastic bag in the fridge. The greens can wilt quickly, so store them this way as soon as you get them home.

Are turnip greens good for you?

Turnips are members of the healthy brassica family of veggies which includes broccoli, Brussels sprouts and kale. Turnip greens are very nutritious: One cup contains more than the daily recommended dose of vitamin K, as well as lots of vitamins C and A. The greens also contain calcium and fiber.

What can I serve with turnip greens?

Turnip greens cooked with salt pork or bacon can be served as a light main dish, with sides of hot, buttered cornbread or biscuits. Spinach greens are especially nice when served as a side dish; their flavor pairs well with pork chops, pulled pork sandwiches or glazed ham. Serve turnip greens with other roasts, too, and alongside other soul food sides like mac and cheese, mashed potatoes and grits.