How to cook Parsnips


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There’s so much you can do with parsnips. Try slicing up into wedges and roasting them to serve alongside your roast dinner, or boil and mash them as a potato alternative. You can also add them to hearty stews, soups, curries and casseroles, or cut them into thin slices and bake them into delicious parsnip crisps. You can even eat parsnip raw – try grating it into a salad! With larger parsnips, you may need to cut out the woody core.

WATCH: Parsnip & pancetta tagliatelle

READ: Action stations: growing parsnips

WHAT ARE PARSNIPS?

Parsnips are a root vegetable. They are part of a family of plants called apiaceae, which also includes carrots, parsley, coriander and celery. A firm family favourite, they have a beautifully sweet, earthy taste. Parsnips are said to have an even better flavour after they have experienced a winter frost.

WHEN ARE PARSNIPS IN SEASON?

Parsnips are at their best from September to March, but you can normally get the sweetest ones in mid to late winter. Perfect for winter warmers!

HOW TO STORE PARSNIPS

Store parsnips in the fridge and they should last a good couple of weeks – just use them before they go soft.


What are the health benefits?

Parsnips are high in folic acid, which helps you stay alert and reduce tiredness. We love! One medium parsnip counts as one of your 5-a-day.


The 4 Best Ways to Cook Parsnips

The 4 Best Ways to Cook Parsnips prove that if you don&rsquot know how to cook parsnips or haven&rsquot eaten them, don&rsquot worry. I&rsquoll show you 4 simple, healthy parsnip recipes that can be made on the stove, in the oven, in your microwave or don&rsquot need any cooking at all!

I happen to love most root veggies, but parsnips are particularly versatile. These suggestions might seem like unusual parsnip recipes, but once you try them, they&rsquoll become a normal part of your repertoire.

Tired of cauliflower rice? Parsnip rice is maybe even better.

Want to try veggie noodles but don&rsquot want to buy a spiralizer? I&rsquoll show you an easy way to make parsnip noodles without one.

Roasted parsnips get all caramelized and sweet.

Mashed parsnips are a richer, creamier mashed potato alternative.

(Some of the links on this page may be affiliate links. If you purchase a product through an affiliate link, I&rsquoll automatically receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. )


Brunch

Why not try something different for brunch by swapping the potato in these latkes for grated parsnips? Fry them with fresh dill and serve with smoked haddock, spinach and a runny poached egg for the ultimate savoury comfort food.

Starters

Green chillies and coriander give this hearty soup its colour. Flavour your winter vegetables with fennel seed, turmeric and ginger.

If you’re hosting a buffet, these curried parsnip soup shots will make the perfect canapés. Serve with a dainty topping of prosiutto or choose crisp kale for a vegan option.

Turn the knobbly root into something altogether more elegant by puréeing and serving on Italian-style toasts for a light starter or as part of a canapé menu.

Main course

Who says parsnips have to be plain? Transform this veg into beautiful golden dumplings for an impressive vegan dinner-party main. Finish off the gnocchi with a sprinkling of thyme, pepper and crunchy toasted walnuts.

When the chilly winter nights start to draw in, a wholesome vegan curry may be just what you need! Crispy parsnips work perfectly mixed with soft chickpeas and coated in a creamy coconut sauce. Usinge a ready-made curry paste means you can prepare this dish in just 15 minutes, making it a speedy midweek meal. If you’ve got more time, try our fragrant, slow-cooked parsnip pilaf with a zingy mint salsa verde.

Sides

You don’t get much more wintry than this rustic mix. Finish your salad with a honey-rosemary dressing and serve alongside a vegetarian main course. Or, try our sesame parsnip & wild rice tabbouleh, which delivers two of your 5-a-day!

The beauty of this dish lies in its multiple textures – a creamy sauce, crunchy breadcrumb topping and chunky parsnips.

Polenta and cheese add a lovely crispy crumb to these roasted parsnip fingers, great for serving with roasted meat and fish. If you’re catering for veggies, make sure you use vegetarian parmesan. For a sweet-and-spicy twist, try our sticky harissa & marmalade roasted roots.

Desserts

Parsnips may not be the first thing you’d throw in a pudding, but believe us, this magic ingredient helps to both soften and lighten the sponge texture. The root veg also imparts a sweetness that balances the salty caramel sauce and zingy stem ginger perfectly, making it an all-round winner.

This bake won our 20th birthday cake competition, and for good reason. Parsnips and maple syrup are a heavenly combination, and when teamed with spices, mascarpone and pecans, it’s a seriously special sandwich cake.

We have plenty more parsnip recipes, or check out our guide for cooking with root vegetables.

We’d love to hear about your favourite parsnip dishes. Leave a comment below…


Many Ways to Cook Parsnips

Parsnips have a peculiar, sweetish flavor that is objectionable to some persons. Those who are fond of this flavor find that parsnips afford an excellent opportunity to give variety to the diet.

Parsnips can be used during the summer when they are immature, but are usually allowed to mature so that they may be stored and used as a winter vegetable.

The parsnip is much sweeter and richer in flavor when left in the ground until spring.

PREPARE PARSNIPS FOR COOKING
Scrape them if possible, instead of peeling them, so as not to waste any of the edible material. Try to obtain medium-sized parsnips, for they will be of much better quality than the larger ones. If uneven sizes must be used, the larger ones should be cut before being cooked, so that they will be similar in size to the smaller ones and therefore cook in the same length of time.

PARSNIP PUFFS
Take one egg, well beaten, and add one teacup* each of cold water and flour, one teaspoon baking powder, one-half teaspoon salt, and one teacup of well-mashed, boiled parsnips. Stir very lightly and only enough to mix. Do not let it stand long. Drop by the tablespoonful into hot, melted fat in a frying pan, and cook until a delicate brown.

*teacup – same as a jill or gill four ounces U.S.

CREAMED PARSNIPS
Clean and scrape parsnips and cut them into dice one-half inch in size, to make two cups. Put in sufficient boiling salted water to cover, cook until they may be easily pierced with a fork, then drain. Melt two tablespoons butter in a double boiler, and add two tablespoons flour, one-half teaspoon salt, and a dash of pepper. Stir in one cup hot milk and cook until the mixture thickens. Pour this sauce over the parsnips, heat together for a few minutes, and serve.

FRIED PARSNIPS
Scrape and wash parsnips, cut off the small end, and cut the thick part into half-inch slices. Put them in boiling water with a tablespoon each of salt and sugar. Boil an hour or until nearly done, and drain. Beat two eggs, four tablespoons flour, one-half pint of milk together, and season with salt and pepper. Dip the slices of parsnip into this batter, then in bread crumbs and fry in boiling lard or dripping until a golden brown. Pile them in a heap on a napkin and serve very hot.

PARSNIP FRITTERS
Scrape and boil some parsnips until tender, then drain thoroughly and mash. Mix in with them two beaten eggs, salt to taste, and add sufficient flour to bind them stiffly. Divide and mold the mixture into small round cakes with floured hands. Put a large piece of butter into a stewpan, place on the fire and let it boil. Then put in the cakes and fry to a nice golden brown color. Take out and drain, and serve on a napkin spread over a hot dish, with a garnish of fried parsley.

PARSNIP CROQUETTES WITH WALNUTS
Take two good-sized parsnips and peel and cook them until tender in as little water as possible. When done, press the water carefully from them and mash them smooth and fine through a colander. Put them back into the saucepan over the fire again, and add to them two heaping tablespoons of chopped walnut meats, a good heaping tablespoon of butter, and a tablespoon of rich cream. Stir well together and add at the last one egg, well beaten. Remove from the fire and turn out on a plate to cool, then form into cylinders, dip in egg and bread crumbs and fry in boiling fat.

MASHED PARSNIPS
Wash and scrape some parsnips, cut in pieces lengthwise, and put them in a saucepan with boiling water. Add a little salt and a small lump of dripping or butter. Boil till tender, remove and place in a colander to drain. Mash them till quite smooth with a wooden spoon, put them in a saucepan with a tablespoon of milk or a small lump of butter, and a little salt and pepper. Stir over the fire until thoroughly hot again, turn out on to a dish, and serve immediately.

PARSNIP SOUP
Cut up one-half pound parsnips, one-fourth pound potatoes, and one-half small onion. Cook until tender, then rub through a sieve. Return the mixture to the saucepan, then add one-fourth ounce butter, and pepper and salt to taste. Add as much milk as needed to make up the quantity of soup. Boil up and serve.

PARSNIP SOUP No. 2
Scrape three parsnips and cut them up fine. Then cut finely one head of celery and one onion. Set the vegetables over the fire with one quart water, one-half ounce butter, pepper and salt to taste. When the vegetables are quite tender, rub them through a sieve. Return the soup to the saucepan, add one-half pint milk, and one tablespoon of fine wheatmeal. Boil up for five minutes and before serving, add one tablespoon vinegar. This latter may be left out if preferred.

STEWED PARSNIPS
After washing the parsnips, slice them about half an inch thick. Put them in a saucepan containing enough boiling water to barely cook them. Add a tablespoon of butter, season with salt, then cover closely and stew them until the water has cooked away, stirring often to prevent burning. When they are soft, they will be of a creamy, light straw color, and deliciously sweet, retaining all the nutrition of the vegetable.

BROWNED PARSNIPS
Parsnips that are browned and sweetened with sugar seem to meet with greater favor than those prepared by other methods. To prepare them in this way, clean and scrape the desired number of parsnips, and slice them in thick slices, or if they are small, cut them in halves lengthwise. Put them to cook in boiling salted water and cook until they may be easily pierced with a fork, but are not tender enough to fall to pieces. Melt some fat in a frying pan and place the slices of cooked parsnips in it. Brown on one side, turn, and then brown on the other. Sprinkle with a little sugar and, if necessary, additional salt. Serve.

BROWNED PARSNIPS No. 2
Wash, pare and cut parsnips into one-half inch slices to make one quart. Cover with boiling water and boil until tender, twenty-five to thirty minutes then drain. Take two tablespoons butter or bacon drippings to grease a griddle or frying pan. Brown parsnips on both sides. Mix one teaspoon salt with one-eighth teaspoon pepper, and season. Serve hot.

PARSNIP CAKE
Boil two or three parsnips until they are tender enough to mash. Then press them through a colander with the back of a wooden spoon, and carefully remove any fibrous, stringy pieces there may be. Mix a teacup of the mashed parsnip with a quart of hot milk. Add a teaspoon of salt, four ounces of fresh butter, half a pint of yeast, and enough flour to make a stiff batter.

Put the bowl which contains the mixture in a warm place, cover it with a cloth, and leave it to rise. When it has risen to twice its original size, knead some more flour into it, and let it rise again. Make it into small round cakes a quarter of an inch thick, and place these on buttered tins. Let them stand before the fire a few minutes, and bake them in a hot oven*, about twenty minutes. They do not taste of the parsnip.


Parsnip

Parsnips are a root vegetable closely related to carrot and parsley. They are grown mostly in the UK, Ireland and USA. They are available in supermarkets all year round, but are best from autumn and throughout the winter. There are 2 main varieties - Tender and True, and Gladiator.

Cooking Methods

Wash parsnips thoroughly, top and tail and cut into chunks. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Add the chunks to the boiling water and leave to cook for 15-20 minutes, until tender. Remove from the heat, drain thoroughly and serve.

Preheat the oven to 450F/230C/gas mark 8. Wash parsnips thoroughly, top and tail and cut into diagonal slices. Toss with olive oil and salt together in a bowl. Spread onto baking tray and dot with butter. Place in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. Turn and roast for a further 15 minutes, until brown and tender. Remove and serve.

Wash parsnips thoroughly, top and tail, peel and slice into rounds. Bring 2 inches of salted water to the boil in a large pan under a steaming basket. Once water has boiled, place sliced parsnips into the basket and leave for 20-25 minutes to cook, until tender. Remove from the heat and serve.

When frying parsnips, it is best to parboil them first. Wash parsnips thoroughly, top and tail and cut into cubes. Add to a large pan of boiling water and allow to cook for 10 minutes. Drain thoroughly. Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat and add parsnips. Allow them to cook for 2-3 minutes, until they turn golden brown, then turn and fry on the other side. Repeat this turning method until they are ready. Then remove from the heat and serve.


Cooking Tips

This vegetable is versatile and can be prepared in many ways. With smaller and tender parsnips, you can peel and grate them raw to use in salads. On the other hand, if your parsnips are over-sized, you will need to trim out the bitter core before or after cooking. Peeled and pared parsnips will turn dark when exposed to the air, so it's important to cook them right away or hold them in water with a bit of lemon juice added.

Parsnips are best when they are roasted in the oven, although many like them steamed and mashed like potatoes. To avoid mushy parsnips, add them to the pot near the end of the cooking time. For cooked parsnips, many prefer to boil or steam the washed root and then scrape off the skin to preserve nutritional value. Complementary herbs include basil, dill weed, parsley, thyme, and tarragon.


We promise you won't even miss the meat with these hearty root vegetables.

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Whisky Marmalade Roasted Parsnips

Whisky marmalade is something which is normally spread on buttered toast and eaten for breakfast. It seems a shame, however, to limit the use of such a delicious and appealing product in such a way. Using whisky marmalade instead of honey to roast parsnips is just one idea for getting that little bit more out of this tasty preparation.

Allow one large parsnip per person. Scrape or peel the parsnip and chop in to large chunks as seen in the picture. Melt two ounces of butter in a non-stick frying pan and add the parsnip. Keep the heat at low to medium and season with salt and white pepper. Stir the parsnips around to ensure even coating in the butter and cook for six or seven minutes until soft. Add two teaspoons of whisky marmalade and continue to heat until the marmalade is fully melted.

Transfer the parsnips to a baking tray and be sure to pour as much of the marmalade and butter mix as possible over the top. Bake in the oven at 180C/350F for around ten minutes until the parsnips are beautifully glazed and burnished gold in colour.

The recipe is completed with some green beans which have been blanched in boiling, salted water for three or four minutes while the parsnips are in the oven.

The roasted chicken leg portions are laid on top of the vegetables on a serving plate

Vegetables to be roasted with the chicken

Vegetables are roughly chopped, oiled and seasoned

Chicken leg portions are laid on top of the vegetables

Chicken legs are cooked until the skin is crisp and golden

The vegetables are laid in a serving dish with the chicken legs on top


When cooked until tender, parsnips have a lovely, starchy texture that works beautifully roasted or added to soups and stews. Add parsnips the same way you would add carrots or potatoes to stews, knowing that they'll have a nuttier flavor than carrots and a sweeter, more distinctive, and less starchy flavor than potatoes.

Parsnips pair particularly well with other root vegetables like potatoes, carrots, celery root, and turnips. They're also frequently served with red meat like a pot roast or corned beef.


How to Prepare Cow Parsnip for Cooking and Eating

After reading my recent cow parsnip article and cow parsnip salad recipe, Susan asked “In Janice Schofield’s book Discovering Wild Plants, she says to peel [cow parsnip] stems. I didn’t see that step in your blog post, so maybe that’s optional?

Good question Susan. Discovering Wild Plants is the best resource for anyone wanting to forage wild foods in Alaska, so you’re wise to be asking about it. If you’re an Alaska forager or wannabe, this book is a must buy. It’s well researched, well illustrated, and quite reliable. I pull it out every year and always find new information.

About cow parsnip, Schofield says:

Cow parsnip stems can be eaten raw, or cooked stems should always be peeled before taking internally. (Some individuals are highly allergic to the plant. See Caution, following.) Stems, stuffed with cream cheese or seafood fillings, make an attractive hors d’oeuvre. For a mail meal, fill stems with cheese or meat and bake with tomato sauce. Cow parsnip makes an excellent substitute for celery in cream soups, casseroles, and stir-fries.

Under “Caution,” Schofield discusses the dermatological effects of furanocoumarins found in cow parsnip sap and outer hairs and specifically notes the danger if “unpeeled stems are touched to the face and lips.” There’s no mention of side effects other than dermatological.

I agree raw cow parsnip stalks must be peeled to be edible. Honestly, I’m so dermatologically reactive to cow parsnip I’m afraid to eat it raw, even if it’s been scrupulously peeled.

Immature Cow Parsnip Leaves & Stalks. Photograph by Laurie Constantino

On the other hand, over the last week, I’ve been on a cooked cow parsnip binge, haven’t peeled a single stalk, and have had no adverse reactions. I’ve roasted the stems, turned them into curry, and even into ice cream. Keep in mind, this is only one person’s experience. It’s important to eat only a small quantity the first time trying any wild plant to assess possible reactions.

In his books Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants in Wild (and Not So Wild) Places and The Wild Vegan Cookbook, famed Central Park forager “Wildman” Steve Brill, acknowledges the need to peel raw stalks. He says,

The very young leafstalks and very young flower stalks, which taste like celery, are the best parts of this plant. You can peel them and eat them raw, simmer them in soups, or boil them in a couple changes of water, depending on how strong they taste to you. The longer you cook them, the milder they get.

Without a definitive answer from foraging experts, I turned to the scientific literature.

According to an article in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry,

“Furocoumarins represent a family of natural food constituents with phototoxic and photomutagenic properties. They are found mainly in plants belonging to the Rutaceae and Umbilliferae such as celery, carrots, and parsnips.” Cow parsnip is a member of this same family.

As with cow parsnip, furocoumarins in celery causes skin problems. For example, “Celery workers and handlers in grocery stores as well as celery field workers have been affected by abnormal skin redness and blisters.”

My interpretation of what this all means, keeping in mind I have no scientific or medical expertise whatsoever, is raw cow parsnip stalks need to be peeled, while cooked cow parsnip stalks do not. We all regularly eat furanocoumarins to no ill effect and I see no reason to single out cooked cow parsnip for special treatment.

I’m very interested in others’ analysis of this issue, and hope that others with more knowledge and experience than I will weigh in.

In the meantime, I’ve finished two new cow parsnip recipes. The first, Cow Parsnip Chips (think Kale Chips) uses only leaves and the second, Roasted Cow Parsnip Stalks, uses only stalks. Stay tuned for Cow Parsnip Ice Cream. The recipe just needs one more test, but I know already that it’s a keeper.


Parsnip Recipe: Glazed Baked Parsnips

This is a delicious parsnip recipe, baked with brown sugar, butter and nutmeg. It is sweet and delicious.

I would serve this as a side dish with any plainer meat recipe, something like garlic roasted chicken.

What is salsify?

The recipe calls for either parsnips or salsify. We probably all know what parsnips are. They look like white carrots. But what is salsify?

Salsify is a root vegetable that is a member of the sunflower family of plants. Both its roots and leaves can be eaten.

Not a very attractive plant, it really looks like a large stick, but is quite delicious. When cooked the taste has been compared to an oyster, so it is often called the “oyster plant”.

Salsify is high in fiber and low in fat. It contains a healthy amount of Vitamin B as well as potassium.

It can be difficult to find salsify in large grocery stores. You many have to locate it in your local vegetable market or farmers market, or directly from local farmers.

It’s always a good idea to support our local farmers whenever you can. They feed us and need our support to stay on the land. Buying local is better for our health too, because vegetables and fruit are much fresher when they are picked locally and purchased possibly even the same day.