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Help me like turnips!

I love most everything - there isn't a cuisine I won't eat, except turnips. I want to like them, but don't like the bitterness I guess. I have tried them roasted and mashed, mixed with potatoes - all to no avail. We do successfully put them in lentil soup which masks the flavor, but I want to learn to love them in all their glory. So, anyone have a recipe that will change my mind about turnips - we have them coming in our CSA box this week.

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  1. When cooked with bacon and that old-timey classic, bacon grease, turnips sing in all their peppery glory. I also find that boiling them in chicken stock adds something to them. Another use is in an African peanut stew. Turnips seem to thrive off the strong flavor combinations.

    1. Try the Moghul Lamb Stew with Turnips in Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking. It's amazing.

      1. I have a related question.... I have the same problem with beets. For years I have tried them in numerous different preparations, only to find that I still think that they taste like dirt. Recently, I tried a gingered beet recipe that I fell in love with. It has just enough stong flavors in it (ginger, garlic, tamari) to mask the "dirt" flavor of the beets, yet let their sweetness shine through.

        Anyone have any other wonderful beet recipes?

        2 Replies
        1. re: chemchef

          I LOVE beets! Have you made beet chips or fries - try with golden beets first, because they are less messy to prep, peel, cut into slices, you may wish to rinse and dry after you peel if you are sensitive to the dirt flavor, and roast until they are carmelized. They turn yummy and sweet. In the last few minutes you can add a reduced balsamic glaze or orange juice glaze if you don't like the flavor of beets. It will mask the flavor some.

          1. re: jsaimd

            My favorite preparation for beets is to roast them in their skins, peel, chop, and mix them with red onions and mustard viniagrette. I add a bit of fresh goat cheese and a few chopped walnuts if I have them handy.

        2. Try this recipe I made from the Cookbook of the Month. I think the parsnips help more than anything.


          1. Switch to rutabagas. They're milder and more flavourful.

            1 Reply
            1. re: FlavoursGal

              If you can get them, try the little white japanese turnips...sweet and mild and wonderful. You would probably have to get them at a farmers market...I grew them several years ago and fell in love with them..you can eat them raw even.

            2. For the 'all their glory' recipes - the basic, veg-centric preparations that you describe - stop eating the overgrown, woody, bitter ones and eat them when they are young, mild, and sweet. If you have no choice look for stews or asian recipes with strong flavours (like a chu hou sauce) or a hint of sweetness to balance the bitterness.

              1. My sister-in-law adds cream and cinnamon to the mash. Really milds it down.

                1. Carrot and turnip either left chunky or mashed (as in mashed potato) with plenty of pepper (white is preferable, but black will do). I will admit to often using a Swede (Rutabaga) as an alternative, the flavour is more suitable and enjoyable.

                  1. If you only include the very pretty, but to my mind tasteless, lavender and white variety, I have to agree with you that God's reason for creating the turnip eludes me. But, if you widen the definition of "turnip" to include the homely but assertively flavored rutabaga, then I'm getting excited, and I'd love to get you excited too. Er, about rutabagas that is.

                    Hmm....root - ta - bay - gaz! How many hundreds of Thanksgiving cooks have posted here in despair, sometime in early November, completely at a loss for THE PERFECT side dish for that boring turkey. Well, that's got to be mashed rutabaga with plenty of buter and cracked black pepper.

                    The perfect winter soup? Scotch broth. Left over lamb, onions, celery, carrots, barley and mmmmmm... rutabagas!

                    The perfect roast beef dinner? Baked potatoes with all the trimmings, creamed spinach, yorkshire pudding, and rooty-tooty-baygas (mashed), of course.

                    It's almost Saint Patrick's Day! Corned beef and cabbage even if you love it is pretty prredictable. Rutabaga is the root vegetable that will wake up those other more prosaic root vegetables on your plate, and when swabbed with some coarse grained pommery mustard the rutabagas will make that corned beef and cabbage dinner come alive.

                    Well, my husband just came home and he can't find the clicker - so I gotta go. But, just don't think I'm leaving because I ran out of delicious uses for rutabagas.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: niki rothman

                      Like so many vegetables in the American market, turnips (yes, even the purple topped white ones) get a bad rap because they are not really fresh. If you could taste one cooked the same day it was pulled, you might have a different opinion. They are bitter because their natural sugars have turned to starch.

                      1. re: niki rothman

                        Rutabagas and/or turnips have always been on our Thanksgiving table, per my father's request. For years, no one else touched them. The first year that I served some up for myself, he snapped, "What are you doing with my turnips?!" When I explained that I had developed a taste for them he beamed with pride. The first Tday after he died, they almost got left off the menu. Apparently Mom didn't realize that two of us had been eating them for years. Now they'll always be my Tday nod to Dad.

                        In a less sentimental approach, I also include them frequently in winter soups.

                        Oh, and in reference to the recent thread on why someone might try to "learn to like" a food, I should comment that by learned to like rutabagas/turnips I really mean that I finally tried them after years of assuming I did not like them.

                      2. Have you tried them pickled, middle-eastern style?

                        They're tart, with a bit of a spicy bite and lovely fuschia colour (from the beets they are marinated with).

                        1. When in doubt - puree.

                          1. Well I tried the CSA turnips and yes they were very fresh and not bitter. I pureed them (boiled in stock) with apples, carrots with a bit of coriander, cumin and cinnamon, a tiny bit of butter. Good, but next time I'd roast everything to make it less watery. Thanks for all the suggestions - not so scared of these anymore. There is nothing that CSA box can bring that I won't conquer : )

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: jsaimd

                              We didn't eat turnips when I was growing up. Never had one until:

                              I found these beautiful, fresh, organic, locally grown, multicolored (gold ones and pink ones) babies at the gourmet market last summer.

                              I roasted them simply w/ a little salt and olive oil. They were disgusting and I threw them away. I guess you can't like everything.

                                1. re: danna

                                  That was hilarious. I almost spit coffee on my computer.

                              1. There's a great recipe for mashed tunips with crispy shallots in the Union Square Cafe Cook book

                                1. Try to make pan-fried turnip cake that is similar to scallion pancake in dim sum restaurants. Julienne the turnip into very thin strings (like potato string), mix with flour, bacon, onion/scallion (optional), and eggs. Then shape them into mini pancake size and pan fry them in oil. It is similar to making laktes. You will be surprised how sweet and tasty this is! And it is true turnip flavor, not masked by other ingredients.

                                  Turnip is used in Chinese cooking a lot and for making dim sum, so you should be able to find a lot of turnip recipes in Chinese cooking.

                                  1. Turnips are quite nice braised in duck fat and served with duck... Hey! There's my dinner idea!

                                    1. These are amazing. The recipe is from one of the best restaurants in NYC, Union Square Cafe, and any time I am there I have to have these. Even people who HATE turnips love these:

                                      Mashed Yellow Turnips
                                      with Crispy Shallots

                                      1 1/2 cups light olive or vegetable oil
                                      9 tbs butter
                                      5 to 6 shallots, peeled and sliced into thin rings
                                      2 large yellow turnips (rutabaga), about 4 pounds
                                      2 tsp kosher salt
                                      1 cup milk
                                      6 tbs butter
                                      ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

                                      1. In a saucepan, heat the oil with 3 tablespoons butter over medium-low heat until it begins to bubble. Reduce the heat to low, and the shallots, and cook until they are a rich golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Stir the shallots occasionally while they are cooking to make sure they brown evenly.

                                      2. Remove the shallots from the oil with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Once the shallots have dried and crisped, in about 15 minutes, they can be stored in a cool place, covered, for several days. Serve the shallots at room temperature.

                                      3. Peel the turnips to remove their waxy skins and cut them into generous 1-inch chunks. Place them in a saucepan with water to cover and 1 teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil and simmer, covered, until easily pierced by a paring knife, about 35 minutes.

                                      4. In a separate saucepan, heat the milk and remaining 6 tablespoons butter over low heat until the butter has melted and the milk just begins to simmer.

                                      5. Drain the turnips and puree (in several batches, if necessary) in a food processor. With the motor running, add the melted butter and milk in a steady stream. The turnips should be very smooth.

                                      6. Return the turnip puree to the saucepan, season with 1 teaspoon salt and the pepper and reheat, stirring over a medium flame. Serve piping hot, sprinkled generously with crispy shallots.

                                      1. Rutabagas (aka swedes or yellow turnips) are usually in much better condition than white turnips. I like them much better. Steamed, put through the ricer, mash in some butter and cream and seasonings, and bake for 30-45 mins in a medium oven to get caramelization going (it will be very mild, but noticeable).

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: Karl S

                                          Karl S, I make roast rutabaga mash, but I roast the rutabaga (cut into French fry-sized sticks) first. This way you achieve caramelization of every side of every stick of rutabaga, cooking the rutabaga at the same time (eliminating the steaming step). This method results in a delicious, caramel-flavoured rutabaga mash. Salt, pepper and a bit of freshly grated nutmeg, along with some butter and milk/cream, are all it needs.

                                            1. re: FlavoursGal

                                              Excellent! Nutmeg is, of course, the correct seasoning. Cardamom can be a nice touch, too.

                                          1. There is a recipe for turnip soup with gruyere croutons in Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone that is excellent. It uses the greens of the turnips as well as the root. I can post a paraphrased version if anyone is interested.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: chompy

                                              I've had that soup. I agree with you chompy--it's excellent!

                                            2. I cut them in large chunks with yams, brussels sprouts and carrots. I coat everything well in a baggie with lots of olive oil, fresh whole sage leaves, kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper. Place whole sage leaves under the yams so as not to blacken. Bake at 375 for about 35 minutes. Delicious.