HomeFrom Erika's KitchenMeet the Veggies: Parsnips 101

Meet the Veggies: Parsnips 101

Parsnips, meet everybody. Everybody, say “Hi, parsnips.”

parsnips 012

“Hi, parsnips.”

Let me tell you a little bit about my little friend, here.

How do they taste?

A raw parsnip tastes like a cross between a carrot and a potato, and smell a little bit like fresh parsley. There’s a hint of sweet to it when raw, but there’s also a comparable bitterness, thanks to the skin.

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How do I choose good ones?

Look for firmness, bright color and . You want to avoid parsnips with soft, mushy parts to them. Parsnips tend to have woody tops; you don’t want to choose one where the top looks molded instead of tree-like.

If your parsnip has roots growing off the sides and bottom, don’t be afraid. They’re just roots. It is a root vegetable, after all. You can cut them off, and go right back to work.

As an aside, if a parsnip you’ve purchased starts to soften in some spots, you can just cut that chunk off/out, and eat the unsoftened parts.

How do I store them after I’ve bought them?

Parsnips – like most vegetables – shouldn’t be cleaned before they’re cooked. Since they’re root veggies, they don’t require refrigeration. Once you do wash them, go right into cooking

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What goes well with parsnips?

Most root vegetables are interchangeable. So, just like you can make potato chips, french fries, home fries, hash browns, potatoes au gratin, roasting potatoes under your chicken and the like… you can do the same for parsnips.

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Pomegranate, parsnip and parsley quinoa.

You can also grate them – like above – and use them in your salad, paired with a nice fruit. Something like pomegranates or oranges. The sweet in the juicy fruit would cut the inherent bitterness in raw parsnips… or maybe you like that sort of thing. Hey. Do your thing.

Can you get rid of that outer skin? Of course. A regular-grade vegetable peeler will do the trick. Take your parsnip by the tip, stand it up on its root, tilt it diagonally, and then quickly scrape off the skin with your peeler in short strokes. This way, you don’t break your peeler and also don’t cut your fingers.

How do I cook these parsnips I bought for the boot camp?

A quick and simple way to do it, for now, is to simply par-cook them.

Cast Iron Parsnips

Cast Iron Parsnips

Chop three parsnips thinly, and heat up your skillet. Place a cup of water in your skillet, and bring it to a boil on medium-high heat. Bite one of your raw parsnip slices. You’ll need to use this for a gauge.

Drop your parsnips into the boiling water. They should not be covered in water. You’re only using the water to soften them up, not to cook them through. The steam from the water makes them easier to chew, and helps boil out some of the bitterness. Add a pinch of salt, and a quarter-teaspoon of black pepper across the entire skillet. Cover your skillet with a lid.

Check on it every minute or so, to make sure that your water hasn’t burned out yet. Bite your parsnip: is it still hardened? If so, then you may want to add water, in 1/4 cup increments, to let the steam cook the parsnips through. Has it softened? Yes? Please proceed, governor.

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Once the water has boiled out and your parsnips have softened a bit – you don’t want them to be soggy, but you want them to at least soften more towards that core than anything else – you’ll add in about two tablespoons of organic canola oil, and stir continuously.

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Here, you’ll add a teaspoon of rosemary (in the photographs, I use dried rosemary, not ground; for ground rosemary, I’d say you might use a half-teaspoon), and keep stirring your parsnip slices. You want to toss them every minute or two, so that they have some time to brown on the outside, but also have more time to cook towards the center.

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When they look like this, take them off the heat and add a very generous pinch of parsley to the skillet, and toss.

Cast Iron Parsnips

Cast Iron Parsnips

Taste your parsnips. Could they benefit from another pinch of salt? If so, go for it. If not, scratch it.

Notice the lack of parsnips in this picture in comparison to the picture above it. I may or may not have done some extra taste testing.

What’s your favorite way to have parsnips? Any recipes to share?

By | 2017-06-10T11:45:37+00:00 April 23rd, 2013|From Erika's Kitchen|32 Comments

About the Author:

The proud leader of the #bgg2wlarmy, Erika Nicole Kendall writes health, fitness, nutrition, body image and beauty, and more here at #bgg2wl. After losing over 150lbs, Kendall became a personal trainer certified in fitness nutrition, women's fitness, and weight loss from the National Academy of Sports Medicine, and crtified in sports nutrition by Precision Nutrition. She now lives in New York with her husband and children, and is working on her 6th and 7th certifications because lol why not.


  1. Ashleigh February 11, 2013 at 3:24 PM - Reply

    Oh, it’s like a carrot-y potato? A potato-y carrot? Either way, I can do that. Off to get some parsnips from the store. (I chose brussels sprouts for boot camp)

  2. Melissa D. February 12, 2013 at 9:49 AM - Reply

    Mmm parsnips..when you had them on your boot camp list I had to get more. I started eating parsnips the last couple of years not nearly as much as I should. Here’s a recipe I tried this weekend and they tasted yummy. I still can’t get my family to eat them but my Dad and I loved them.
    Honey Glazed Parsnips (like honey glazed carrots)
    4 parsnips
    1/2 cup honey
    1/2 cup warm water
    4 tablespoon of melted butter
    dash of salt

    skin the parsnips
    coat with honey, butter and water
    put in over on 350 for about 35-40 minutes or until they are soft.

    Enjoy, very simple recipe.

    • Erika Nicole Kendall February 12, 2013 at 9:59 AM - Reply

      Simple, yes, but holy moly there’s a ton of unnecessary sugar and fat in that recipe for four parsnips. Wow. Your parsnips shouldn’t be SO bitter that they need a half of a cup of sugar to make them palatable.

      • Dee February 12, 2013 at 10:37 AM - Reply

        I’ve been going crazy with root veggies this month and my favorite soup right now is roasted beet and parsnip!

        I just cube up a few parsnips, a small onion, and a large beet, coat lightly in olive oil, roast in the oven until soft, and then puree that business in my food processor. Salt and pepper…then bam, you’re done. This tastes so good with a dollop of greek yogurt and chives on top.

        • Chelly February 12, 2013 at 6:56 PM - Reply

          Thanks for this recipe! I am always trying to find ways to use beets besides throwing them in a salad. This sounds like a winner.

          • Dee February 13, 2013 at 11:06 AM - Reply

            My pleasure, soups are so yummy! I forgot to add, you can thin out the soup with some chicken broth until you get the desired texture. I like all my food kinda chunky, but I realize I’m kind of in the minority in that regard, hahaha.

            Melissa, you should try this soup! The addition of onions and parsnips really help to cut that “earthy” aka “dirt” flavor from the beets 😀

      • Melissa D. February 12, 2013 at 12:50 PM - Reply

        You know they were a rather sweet. The recipe called for 5 parsnips but I had only bought four big ones. I’ll try it with 1/2 the amounts next time.

  3. Kay February 12, 2013 at 3:31 PM - Reply

    After I cooked them, they kind of reminded me of sweet potato carrot faces. I peeled the skin and cut them french fry style. Massage them with a little olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. Baked them on 450 until they looked…less pale. I put parsley on them because that made me feel fancy. No bitterness, only sweet delight. Its just really funny that *I* bought parsnips, cooked them and fed them to my family. Ignorance alert: Growing up, whenever we made fun of “white people food”, we would always say “Pass the parsnipities”. Who knew they were real? My one year old even enjoyed them. Now if you could share a recipe for fresh beets, I would be very pleased. I had them at the buffett once. They tasted like dirt.

    • Alicia Williams February 27, 2015 at 9:17 PM - Reply

      Just cooked parsnips for the first time…parsnip fries…yum and very easy! Parsnip Fries: thinly slice 3 large parsnips, place in plastic bag with 1/4 tsp garlic powder, 1/4 tsp onion powder, 1/4 tsp black pepper, 1 tsp ground rosemary Shake bag making sure strips are coated. Bake on a sheet for 20 minutes at 450 degrees. I baked them about 10 minutes longer because I like crispy fries. Sprinkle with salt if you like and enjoy!

  4. Chelly February 12, 2013 at 7:04 PM - Reply

    Thanks for the parsnips recipe. I couldn’t find them at my local produce market last week so I had to (sigh) go to Whole Foods (not that I don’t love it there but I’ve been trying to stretch my dollars so WF is often not budget friendly) Anyway, I just got them this morning and I can’t wait to cook them tonight. I found this recipe for Honey-Mustard Parsnips that I plan to try: http://www.food.com/recipe/mustard-and-honey-glazed-parsnips-42783

    I also look forward to trying your recipe and the beet and parsnip soup recipe I saw posted on here.

  5. Durkia February 13, 2013 at 1:15 PM - Reply

    Erika, I’ve seen a lot of people use parsnips and leeks in a mash like mashed potatoes. Have you ever tried it and if so would you recommend that combination?

    • Erika Nicole Kendall February 13, 2013 at 2:06 PM - Reply

      I’ve not tried it but, if the recipe is well-seasoned, wouldn’t be opposed to testing it out. I’m all for exploring the myriad ways veggies can be manipulated. If you’ve only got 15-or-so veggies available inexpensively during a season, you do everything you can to get as much variety as possible. LOLOL

    • Mare January 10, 2017 at 2:31 AM - Reply

      Hello Durkia,
      Parsnips are good in with mashed potatoes too. Cut & cook them(parsnips & potatoes) then mash them together & use like mashed potatoes.

  6. Chelly February 13, 2013 at 3:58 PM - Reply

    Hey Erika,

    I haven’t cooked my parsnips yet but I have to share that I just LOVE,LOVE,LOVE the sweet floral fragrance they have.

  7. Valencia February 18, 2013 at 1:14 AM - Reply

    I messed this one up…but It’s got potential..for some reason they almost tasted like mild ginger root….is it just me …I’m going to try again…thank you.

    • Erika Nicole Kendall February 18, 2013 at 8:46 AM - Reply

      They might not’ve been cooked all the way through. Bite them when they’re raw, cook them through in your skillet with a little water until they’re to the point where you’re no longer tasting that gingery taste (you can literally continuously add a fourth of a cup of water at a time to keep them going and cooked through the steam), and THEN crisp them on the outside. Biting into them while they’re raw – while it might sound crazy – will help you gauge how much cooking time is necessary for however many slices you have in your skillet. They shouldn’t have that gingery kick anymore – they should taste more like sweeter potatoes.

  8. Valencia February 19, 2013 at 7:13 AM - Reply

    Ohh….I missed that step….I literally had the phone in hand , juggling between the parsnips,Brussels sprouts,and honey spiced thighs recipe all while trying not to over cook my basmati rice …..my family thanks you for the entire meal…..I liked the direction I just knew I messed it up

  9. Chelly February 26, 2013 at 2:44 PM - Reply

    Just wanted to let you know that I made the honey mustard parsnips last week. I loved them! I plan to buy more parsnips this week and make the recipe you have listed here.

  10. Janine April 29, 2013 at 6:44 PM - Reply

    Looooove parsnips! Another technique: peel them, slice them up into thinnish rounds, toss in a little oil and salt and bake. They get deliciously sweet and potato-like.

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