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12 Best Substitutes for Turnip You Should Try

In this food guide, we’ll discuss another popular root vegetable, turnips. Many people associate turnips with potatoes, but they’re closer to radishes. Similar to potatoes, this vegetable is highly nutritious and delicious. Today, you’ll learn about the turnip’s role in the culinary world. Let’s take a look at the best substitutes you can use.

tabletop with turnips

Turnips in the Culinary World

Turnips are root vegetables from the mustard family. They are closely related to radishes, arugula, or beets. They were first planted in East Asia before spreading across Europe. You can now grow and eat turnips from all over the world.

Unlike other root vegetables, turnips are available all year round. When planting turnips, harvesting them in spring or fall is best. Spring turnips are smaller and thus sweeter. Meanwhile, fall turnips are more mature and fresher. 

Turnips have a bulbous shape with long leafy stems. The bulbs are white, with purple spots near the branches. The spots appear when you expose the turnip to the sun.

The good thing about turnips is that you can eat them raw. Raw turnips have a slightly spicy and mildly sweet taste. The taste is like an in-between of horseradish and potatoes. When you cook them, the sweet and nutty flavors come out. The texture is firm, crunchy, and sometimes hard if the turnip is older.

You can also eat the leaves, but they are incredibly bitter. It’s recommended to boil them first or cook them rather than eat them raw. Turnips have a strong flavor. They make an excellent pair for dominant spices like ginger.

Turnips are also very healthy. They are low in calories yet high in fiber and vitamins. These vegetables are also rich in fiber and are very filling. Turnips are a great way to start your day if you want extra energy.

Uses of Turnips

Since you can eat turnips raw or cooked, it’s a flexible ingredient. Turnips make a great addition to stews, salads, or even just fried in butter. You can also mash, bake, fry, or use them as alternatives for potatoes.

When cooking turnips, you have the choice to either peel the vegetable or not. Either way, it’s still edible. After washing, feel free to cut away the stems or roots. And then you can cook the turnip any way you want.

For the leafy greens, many prefer to boil them at least twice. Change the water the second time to get rid of the bitterness. They are an excellent side dish if you fry them with butter and add a pinch of salt and pepper.

boxes with turnips at the grocery store

Why Should We Substitute for Turnips?

Even though turnips are tasty and easy to cook, you may have some reasons for replacing them. It can be that you’re not fond of the taste or simply want to experiment. Either way, it’s easy to look for turnip substitutes.

What Are the Best Substitutes for Turnips?

The good news is that there are many great substitutes for turnips. And you can find most of them at your local supermarket too. Here are 12 of the best replacements for turnips for every recipe.

1. Rutabagas

In case you didn’t know, you can substitute rutabagas for turnips. In fact, it’s the best choice on this list. It’s because rutabagas are a cross between cabbages and turnips. 

They’re often mistaken for turnips because they look similar. One difference is that rutabagas are deep purple or brown. Another difference is that you can eat raw turnips. However, it’s recommended to peel rutabagas first. This helps remove the layer of wax protecting the vegetable from drying out. 

Regarding flavor and texture, rutabagas are the same as turnips. However, the former is sweeter than the latter. But when using rutabagas as alternatives, there is no significant difference in taste. Feel free to use it as a substitute for turnips in stews, soups, or casseroles.

2. Parsnips

Parsnips are like the carrot’s cousin. This is because it boasts many similarities to carrots and turnips as well. Like their orange counterpart, parsnips are long and pointy and have leafy stems on top. But unlike the carrot’s orange skin, parsnips have a pale and almost-white coloring.

When compared to turnips, parsnips aren’t as spicy and are sweeter. They have an earthy and nutty flavor which is closer to nutmeg. But despite the difference, it works well as an alternative. The cooking times for turnips and parsnips are the same, so you can prepare them the same way. Parsnips make a great substitute for turnips, especially when you’re roasting.

3. Celeriac (Celery Root)

As you can see from this list, you can use most root vegetables as a substitute for turnips. The same goes for celeriac or celery root. This part of the celery doesn’t get used as often as the stalks.

Celeriac is a starchy bulb at the end of a celery stalk. To prepare, remove the root from the stem using a knife. Peel away the thick brown skin covering the celery root. It’s best to work quickly because the starch discolors fast when exposed to the air.

When cooked, celery root has a spicy, peppery taste like turnips. This is why it’s handy to use as a replacement in case you fall short on stock. Celery root tastes excellent as a turnip substitute for smoothies.

4. Carrots

You can always go for carrots if you run out of turnips and need an alternate option. They’re cheap, available, and easy to cook. Carrots tend to favor the sweeter side, like most substitutes on this list. Aside from their mildly sweet taste, they have a hint of earthy and nutty flavors.

Even though they don’t taste like turnips, you can still use them as a substitute. This is because of their similar textures. Carrots are firm, crunchy, and have that chewy taste. You can also eat them raw, just like turnips. When substituting for turnips, use equal portions for carrots. They also have the same cooking time, so it won’t make a big difference.

5. Jicama

Jicama, also known as Mexican turnips, is popular in Mexico and Asia. Like turnips, they have similar bulbous shapes and starchy meat. However, they are often sold without the long leafy stems. 

Regarding flavor and texture, jicama doesn’t have the same spicy taste. But it does have a distinct nutty flavor that you can describe as a mix between potatoes and pears. 

Jicama has the same fleshy, starchy, and crunchy texture as turnips. You can use this to replace turnips. They taste great when cooking fries, salad, or baked dishes.

6. Sweet Potatoes

Another common alternative is sweet potatoes. True to its name, sweet potato is sweeter than an ordinary potato. They have reddish to purplish skin, and the starchy meat is orange in color. Sweet potatoes are winter vegetables and are often eaten during Thanksgiving. However, you can use them for any recipe all year round.

Sweet potatoes have a sweet and savory flavor compared to the turnip’s spicy taste. When it comes to texture, they have similar starchy, fibrous, and firm taste on the tongue. They are also very versatile. You can use any sweet potato for many recipes, whether desserts, casseroles, or deep-fried. Substitute these vegetables for turnips in baked and roasted dishes.

7. Kohlrabi

Kohlrabi is also called German turnip. It comes from the same family as broccoli, cabbage, and kale. The bulbous root has green or purple skin with long thick leafy stems. When cooked, kohlrabi has a spicy, peppery flavor. They are a perfect substitute for turnips.

Kohlrabi is also very crunchy, just like broccoli when it’s cooked. It’s recommended to boil or steam this root vegetable before adding them to dishes. You can also prepare them as roasted kohlrabi cubes to enhance the flavor.

8. Salsify

Salsify is another root vegetable you can use to substitute for turnips. Unlike other veggies, this one is closer to the dandelion family. Salsify has long fibrous roots. Its look is similar to a pale carrot.

There’s a reason why salsify is also called the oyster plant. It’s because its flavors resemble oysters. It also offers hints of sweetness and earthiness when you cook its fleshy meat. When cooking salsify, we recommend scrubbing the dirt off the skin. You should also keep them in lemon water to prevent spoilage.

9. Parsley Root

Although parsley is often used as an herb instead of the main ingredient, its root is edible. The parsley root is similar to parsnips or radishes in appearance. It has a long starchy root with cream coloring. 

When used as a turnip alternative, you can expect this vegetable to be sweet and have a creamy texture. Parsley root also has a strong aromatic flavor. It works best in casseroles, soups, or served as fries.

10. Swede

Swede is often confused for turnips because, at first glance, they look alike. This root vegetable has pale skin with purple spots on top. However, when you cut it open, the insides are orange, just like sweet potatoes. They’re also actually related to the cabbage family.

Despite that, swedes are an excellent substitute for turnip. This is because they have the same texture and crunch that you’ll be looking for. Swedes taste delicious in turnip recipes for mashing, baking, or roasting.

11. Radish

If you’re wondering if you can substitute radishes for turnips, the answer is yes, you can. It’s actually considered a decent alternative. Compared to turnips, radishes have long smooth starchy bulbs with almost uniform tops. Radishes are less sweet than turnips, so add more sugar to the dish when using them as a replacement.

12. Mangold Wurzel

Another German root vegetable that you can use is Mangold wurzel. Its appearance is close to beets with reddish or purplish skin, but the taste is like turnips. It has a spicy, peppery flavor with hints of earthiness and a slight sweetness. You can substitute this vegetable for turnips in recipes like salads or juices.

Short Recap of Best Turnip Substitutes

There are many options available in the supermarket that you can use as a turnip substitute. The best choices are rutabagas, parsnips, and radishes. You can use these root vegetables in most recipes that call for roasting or baking. You can also use them for cold dishes like salads and juices.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can Radishes Be Substituted For Turnips?

Yes, you can substitute radishes for turnips. They both have spicy flavors, but the radishes are less sweet. To compensate, add extra sugar or sweetener to the recipe.

What Vegetables Have A Similar Taste To Turnips?

Many root vegetables have a similar taste to turnips. However, the closest ones are rutabagas, parsnips, and celeriac.

What Are The Turnip Substitutes In Soups?

The best turnip substitute in soups is carrots. Although carrots don’t boast the same spicy flavor, they are sweet, firm, and filling. They make excellent additions to soups and stews since they absorb flavor well.

How Do You Get The Bitterness Out Of Turnips?

There are many ways to get the bitterness out of turnips. One way to do it is to boil the turnips in salted water at least twice. You can also cook them together with potatoes. This way, the potatoes absorb the bitterness from the turnips.

Can You Substitute Turnips For Potatoes?

Yes, you can substitute turnips for potatoes. But make sure to expect a slight difference in flavors. Turnips have a mildly spicy aftertaste and a more robust taste than potatoes.

Can You Substitute Turnips For Parsnips?

Yes, you can substitute turnips for parsnips. Both root vegetables are alike in flavors and textures. You can use them interchangeably.

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Natalia | Flavorful home
Natalia is a recipe developer, food photographer, and home cook. She started Flavorful Home to document her recipes and share home cooking tips. She loves creating flavorful and nutritious meals while keeping the cooking process simple and joyful!
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