Tonight I decided to use up the parsnips I had sitting in my fridge. They were delivered to me over a week ago by Imperfect Foods, so you know they’ve got some staying power. I thought I’d share my experiences with this lesser-known ingredient; being stuck at home, now is actually a pretty good time to branch out and try out some new recipes.

What is a parsnip?

Parsnips are a type of root vegetable, and they have kind of a sweet, mild taste. They look like white carrots, and you usually find them in the grocery store without their green tops. Look for small to medium-sized parsnips as the larger ones can be woody or tough on the inside. (i)

Parsnips are, in my opinion, an undervalued and underutilized ingredient. In fact, I had never cooked a parsnip myself until I was in school to become a dietitian. I didn’t even know what a parsnip looked like, until I randomly bought a book called “500 Vegan Recipes,” which has a recipe for “Parsnippity Stew.” I tried it, and it was delicious. So much so that even my meat-loving husband enjoyed it. Parsnips have been a part of my cooking repertoire ever since.

Why are parsnips a good choice now?

Since parsnips are not popular, there is a good chance that they won’t disappear from the grocery stores as quickly as some of the other mainstay vegetables. As far as produce goes, parsnips have a pretty long shelf-life. They can last up to a month if stored properly in the refrigerator. Just remove any green tops and cover them up before refrigerating them. (ii)

Parsnips are good source of vitamin C. This is particularly relevant right now, because vitamin C bolsters resistance to infection and supports proper lung function. They are also a good source of folate and fiber. And just like any other vegetable, parsnips are nutrient-dense and low in calories. (iii)

Two easy ways to cook parsnips

Here are two simple ways to cook parsnips. The first recipe describes how I cooked my parsnips tonight. The second recipe is an easy alternative to traditional mashed potatoes.

Method 1: Easy Roasted Parsnips

  • Preheat your oven to 400ºF. 
  • Spray a roasting pan with oil to coat it. 
  • Wash, peel and chop your parsnips (~1 inch pieces).
  • Put the parsnips into your pan and drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Give them a few tosses to mix.
  • Roast for ~35-40 minutes, stirring once or twice during cooking.

Note that the roasting time will vary depending on how big you cut your parsnip chunks. I also think this recipe tastes delicious eaten cold straight out of the fridge the next day. 

Method 2: Parsnip Mash

Another quick and easy method for cooking parsnips is to steam them and then mash them like potatoes. Just make sure that your parsnips are sufficiently tender or they won’t mash well. (i) I personally would cook this in my Instant Pot, but a regular old pot on the stove also works just fine.

  • Fill a saucepan with ~2 inches of water and bring it to a boil.
  • While your water is heating, wash, peel, and chop your parsnips (~1 inch pieces).
  • If you’re using a steamer basket, carefully place the parsnips inside, then place the basket inside your saucepan. If you’re not, put the parsnips directly into the boiling water. Cover the pan with a lid.
  • Steam for ~10 minutes or until very tender. You can tell the parsnips are done if the chunks mash easily with a fork.
  • Drain and transfer the parsnips back to the saucepan. Mash with a potato masher or an electric mixer. Add whatever toppings you would typically add to mashed potatoes.

The next time you’re in the produce section of the grocery store, don’t hesitate to grab a few parsnips. Take them home and experiment with the recipes above. You just may find a new favorite vegetable.

What’s your favorite unusual vegetable to eat, and how do you like to cook it? Leave a comment below.

Yours in good health,

Helena Ramadan, MS, RDN

While Helena is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), she is not providing Medical Nutrition Therapy on this website. Anything found here, including downloads and other content, should not be construed as medical advice. The information provided by her is general nutrition/health/fitness information, and is not individualized to your specific medical condition. Helena is not liable for any losses or damages related to any actions you take (or fail to take) as a result of the content presented herein. Please note that the information presented here is not intended to diagnosis or treat any health conditions. Talk to a qualified health professional, such as a doctor or a registered dietitian, about your specific health questions or concerns. 

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  1. Labensky, S., Hause, A., Labensky, S. and Martel, P., 2010. On Cooking. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall, p.499.[][]
  2. Retelny, V. and Milivojevic, J., 2011. The Essential Guide To Healthy Healing Foods. New York: Alpha Books, pp.84-85.[]
  3. Mahan, L. and Escott-Stump, S., 2008. Krause’s Food & Nutrition Therapy. 12th ed. St. Louis, Mo.: Elsevier Saunders.[]