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What Do Turnips Taste Like?

Everyone knows about potatoes, but not a lot of people are familiar with turnips. What exactly are these vegetables? Or a more important question, what do turnips taste like? In today’s food guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about this versatile root.

store boxes filled with turnips

What Are Turnips?

Turnips are a crop vegetable that thrives in cold weather. They are cruciferous vegetables and come from the same family as cabbage and cauliflowers. At first glance, they are often mistaken for rutabagas. Although the two crops are grown together, they are two different vegetables. For one thing, turnips mature faster than rutabagas.

Turnips range from small to medium sizes. They have round or oval-shaped bulbs and long green leafy stalks or stems. The bulbs’ colors depend on the variety. 

Most turnips have cream skin which eventually turns purple once exposed to sunlight. Other turnips have brown or crystal-white skin.

If you want a fall harvest, plant the seeds during late summer. This root vegetable is ready for harvest after 55 days. You can harvest the leaves earlier as long as it’s at least 4 inches long. Cut the leaves and leave only an inch so that they can grow back. 

History Of Turnips

Turnips originated from Asia and are considered one of the first cultivated vegetables. They are a staple crop and play a huge role in history. This root vegetable made its way to Europe and was a popular ingredient in Roman army camps. Before throwing tomatoes was a thing, people used to throw turnips.

In other parts of the world, turnips were only eaten by livestock or poor people. This led to the insulting term “turnip eater,” which meant someone of lower standing. However, that idea quickly changed due to famine and extreme poverty.

Turnips were an easy vegetable to grow and were very filling. They quickly became a staple on the dinner table. And because it was so versatile, its popularity quickly spread. There are many ways to eat a turnip. You can bake, roast, boil, or fry them. Plus, adding them to your diet has many health benefits.

Benefits of Eating Turnips

There are many benefits to eating turnips. For one thing, they are extremely rich in fiber and potassium. Fiber helps aid our gut while our body uses potassium for different functions. 

Turnips are rich in protein and minerals like iron and calcium. They’re also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. Overall, eating this root vegetable may help our digestive and immune systems.

What Are the Different Types of Turnips?

Contrary to popular belief, not all turnips look the same. In fact, there are many types of turnips. Most often than not, each country has its own variation. In this list, we’ll go over at least 20 common varieties of this root vegetable found worldwide:

Baby Bunch Turnips

True to their name, baby bunch turnips are tiny compared to regular turnips. They are only 1 or 2 inches in diameter. Farmers harvest them earlier to retain their small size. These turnips have a strong sweet, and crisp flavor. Baby bunch turnips are excellent if you want your salad to have some crunch and structure.

Hakurei Turnips

Hakurei turnips are a Japanese variety. Compared to regular turnips, these are quite small, with only 3 inches in diameter. However, they have a very light and sweet flavor, making them perfect for salads. In Japanese cuisine, hakurei turnips are usually eaten raw or as a cold dish.

Milan Turnips

Among the turnips in this list, they refer to Milan turnips as the premium turnips. Just like baby bunch turnips, they have a short cultivation time. They are also small in size. But they pack an incredible amount of flavors. Milan turnips are soft, sweet, and have a buttery flavor which is absent in most varieties. 

Purple-Top White Globe Turnips

The purple-top turnip is one of the most recognizable turnip varieties. It’s also known as the “mammoth forage turnip” because it’s the biggest of its kind. They take 55 days to mature and have the typical turnip appearance. Purple-top turnips have a distinct peppery taste. This makes them a great addition to stews. 

Scarlet Queen Turnips

The Scarlet Queen turnip got its name from its extremely reddish-purple skin. The best time to plant this variety is during the late spring, and harvest them during early summer. It takes them around 60 days to mature. These turnips are famous for their signature magenta look and their flat shapes. They make a great addition to salads if you want a pop of color.

Shogoin Turnip

Shogoin turnips are another variety that comes uniquely from Japan. Contrary to regular turnips, they take longer to mature and are harvested after 70 days. These turnips can reach up to 20 inches in length and are a popular ingredient in Japanese cuisine. You can add shogoin turnips to stir-fry salads or have them pickled.

White Egg Turnips

If you look at white egg turnips, it strongly resembles a white egg, hence the name. Compared to regular turnips, this variety matures at 45 days. White egg turnips are best eaten raw because of their high water content. The texture is crispy and juicy, and it has none of the bitter taste. In cooking, these turnips are great for hearty stews.

What Do Turnips Taste Like?

Now that we’ve talked about the many types of turnips let’s discuss what turnips taste like. The turnip’s taste depends on whether you’re eating it raw or cooked. And whether you’re eating a younger or older turnip.

Let’s start first with raw turnips. These turnips have smooth, crispy, and starchy skin. When eaten raw, young turnips taste sweet, similar to carrots. Meanwhile, old turnips have a spicy, peppery taste. Sometimes, the older the turnip is, the more bitter it is. Others often compare the taste to raw cabbage. However, the raw turnip has a more distinct flavor.

When cooked, the turnip’s texture and taste change. The flesh becomes soft, creamy, or buttery. Others describe the texture as velvety, similar to mashed potatoes. The spicy, peppery taste evolves into something more earthy, nutty, and even savory. Young turnips become sweeter, with the flesh tasting like sweet potatoes.

What Do Turnip Greens Taste Like?

Turnip greens taste like mustard greens, but with a few differences. Just like the latter, turnip greens have a sweet taste to them. However, they are not as bitter or overwhelming compared to mustard greens. You can remove the bitter taste from turnip greens by pre-boiling them.

What Do Boiled Turnips Taste Like?

Boiled turnips taste like boiled potatoes. Unlike boiled potatoes, they have a stronger flavor to them. When boiled, the turnip’s sweet and earthy flavors expand. The slight bitterness of the turnip greens also goes away.

What Do Cooked Turnips Taste Like?

Cooked turnips taste like sweet, peppery, and nutty potatoes. They are more crunchy or chewy than regular potatoes. The closest resemblance of its taste is like a mix between cabbages and potatoes.

What Do Roasted Turnips Taste Like?

Roasted turnips taste like a cross between a potato and a carrot. When you roast turnips, their natural sugars caramelize. This adds sweetness to the flesh. If you add butter and spices, these are all absorbed into the starchy insides as well. This gives the turnips a whole new depth of flavors.

What Do Pickled Turnips Taste Like?

Pickled turnips taste like a combination of salty and tangy. This is because of the added spices during the pickling process. In general, pickled turnips should taste salty, peppery, and vinegary. It also has a savory flavor with a strong kick of tanginess that hits your mouth. Pickled turnips are best paired with dishes that are more subtle in flavor.

Are Turnips Healthy?

Yes, turnips are incredibly healthy. They are packed with fiber and protein and contain many minerals. They also have omega-3 fatty acids and fewer calories. Due to this, turnips are a popular alternative to carb-heavy ingredients like potatoes.

Turnip Nutritional Information

Turnips vs. Potatoes

Turnips have fewer calories when compared to potatoes. They also contain less starch and sugar yet more fiber content. This is excellent news because you’ll be able to eat more and fill up faster when compared to potatoes.

Turnips vs. Rutabagas

Both turnips and rutabagas are high in fiber and low in calories. But if we have to be specific, turnips still win the calorie count for this round. A cup of turnips only has 36 calories, while a cup of rutabagas contains 50. If you’re watching your calorie intake, this is an important point to take note of.

Turnips vs. Radishes

While radishes have fewer calories than turnips, they’re not as rich in fiber content. For measure, one cup of turnip contains 1.8 grams of fiber, while radishes only have 1.6. This might not seem like a big difference. However, the numbers do add up if you’re implementing this ingredient into your diet.

Can You Eat Raw Turnips?

Yes, you can eat raw turnips. A raw turnip tastes like a mix between cabbage and a potato. It has a spicy, peppery taste and a firm and crunchy texture. Young turnips taste sweeter like carrots, while old turnips tend to be more bitter.

What Does a Turnip Look Like?

A turnip’s appearance depends on its variety. But if we’re, generally speaking, turnips have small to medium-sized bulbs. They have cream-colored skins which turn purple at the top when exposed to the sun. They have long green leaves or stalks and have spindly roots at the bottom.

Can You Eat Turnip Skin?

Yes, you can eat turnip skin. They are safe to eat as long as you clean them thoroughly. However, if you’re eating older or bigger turnips, we recommend peeling them instead. This is because the skin tends to become more bitter as turnips age.

Do Turnips Taste Like Potatoes?

Yes, turnips taste like potatoes, but not entirely. The taste is more like a mix between a potato and cabbage. Turnips have a slightly spicy, peppery taste when eaten raw. 

What Flavors Go Well With Turnips?

Turnips taste the best when they’re roasted. This is because its natural sugars caramelize, which amplifies the overall flavors. When roasting turnips, we recommend adding salt, pepper, rosemary, and olive oil. For some heat, add a sprinkle of chili flakes.

How Will You Know if The Turnip Is Fresh?

Fresh turnips should have a vibrant and clean appearance. If there are any old spots, mold, holes, or signs of spoilage, it’s probably old. Turnips are ready for harvest after 55 days, so you can also ask the seller when it was last harvested.

What Do Mashed Turnips Taste Like?

Mashed turnips taste like mashed sweet potatoes. They’re soft and creamy, with extra earthy and nutty flavors. They go well with other root vegetables and lots of gravy.

What Do Turnips Taste Like in Salad?

Sliced raw turnips are a great addition to your salad. If you add a vinaigrette, you’ll be able to taste its spiciness and intense pepper flavors. It also adds an extra crunch and texture to an otherwise boring salad.

What Do White Turnips Taste Like?

Unlike regular turnips, white turnips have a sweet and delicate flavor. They taste more like young turnips or carrots. White turnips are a popular choice when it comes to roasting.

What Is the Best Way to Eat Turnips?

The best way to eat turnips is to roast them. We recommend roasting them together with other vegetables like carrots or potatoes. You can also surround your chicken or turkey with turnips as it roasts in the oven. This helps you get that smoky, meaty flavor into your starchy side dish.

How Do You Make Turnips Taste Good?

One of the best ways to make turnips taste good is to coat them in spices and roast them. Roasting is one of the most popular cooking processes. This is because it doesn’t alter the turnip’s flavor that much. We recommend coating them in butter or olive oil and adding any spices of your choice.


Turnips are versatile root vegetables. They used to be a poor man’s meal, but they are now very popular and growing across the world. Turnips are easy to grow. Farmers plant them during the late summer and harvest them during fall.

Harvested turnips have small to medium-sized bulbs which are white or cream in color. They have long and thin roots and leafy stalks. Their most notable feature is their purple tops. This happens when the turnip’s top catches the sunlight.

There are many types of turnips available in the market. The most popular ones are the purple-top turnips and baby bunch turnips. There are also special varieties which include the Milan turnip. Chefs consider this as a premium baby turnip that’s best for roasting and side dishes.

Turnips have many health benefits. They are rich in fiber, protein, and various minerals. Plus, they are low on calories. They can be filling and help in weight loss, gut health, and boosting the immune system.

When it comes to the turnip’s flavors and textures, there are significant differences. Raw turnips have a mildly spicy yet peppery taste. Their texture is starchy, crunchy, and a bit wet on the tongue. The texture becomes soft, creamy, and mushy when cooked, almost like mashed potatoes. The flavors then become sweet, earthy, and nutty.

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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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