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How to Cook and Serve Parsnips

Parsnips baked with herbs1

Parsnips baked with herbsParsnips can be peeled, sliced, and sautéed or steamed like carrots. You can boil and mash them with butter and cream like potatoes.

Parsnips can be cut into chunks and added to soups or stews or baked in the oven with meat stock and butter. Roast parsnips with beef, pork or chicken.

You can parboil and fry parsnips like potatoes. Slice parsnips into rings, dip in batter, deep-fry and eat as fritters.

Grate parsnips into salads or add chopped and peeled to casseroles or soups.

Parsnips can be lightly cooked and eaten cold.

How to Choose Parsnips

  • Select parsnips that are small to medium in size and well-shaped with uniform color.
  • Avoid limp, shriveled, or spotted parsnips or those that have splits or brown spots.
  • Large parsnips may have tough or woody cores.
  • Young roots will be more tender and have a milder flavor than mature, large ones.
  • If the parsnip’s green top is attached, it should be fresh looking. However, the attached tops will drain the root of nutrients.
  • The peak season for parsnips is fall and winter. The first frost of autumn will convert the parsnip’s starch to sugar and give it a sweet, hazelnut flavor. The parsnip is a hardy root vegetable that will continue to improve in flavor even as the weather turns to freezing.

How to Store Parsnips

  • The parsnip will keep wrapped in a paper towel in a perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. You can keep the parsnip in the refrigerator longer, for 2 to 4 months, but some of the flavor and texture will be lost.
  • Freeze parsnips whole or in chunks; first, blanch the whole parsnip for 5 minutes or cut parsnips for 3 minutes, then freeze.
Parsnips in kitchen
Scrub parsnips roots with a vegetable brush and trim the ends before cooking.

How to Prep Parsnips for Cooking

  • Peel parsnips only if their skins are tough or have been waxed. Otherwise, scrub and peel the parsnip with a vegetable brush under running water as you would a carrot.
  • The skin of the parsnip is easily removed after cooking.
  • Old parsnips may have to be cored. They can be hard, fibrous and tasteless.
  • The flesh of cut or skinned parsnips will darken on contact with the air. Cut parsnips should be immediately placed in lemon or vinegar water to avoid discoloring.

Ways to Cook Parsnips

Parsnips can be cooked whole or sliced crosswise into rings of equal thickness or lengthwise into halves. You can quarter or julienne strips of equal thickness. Thinner strips may be diced.

  • Before frying or cooking parsnips first parboil the roots for 5 to 10 minutes and then refresh them in cold water for 10 minutes before cooking further.
  • Simmer parsnips in a covered container until tender; whole roots will cook in 15 to 30 minutes, pieces in 5 to 15 minutes depending on size.
  • Steaming whole parsnips will take 20 to 40 minutes, pieces 5 to 10 minutes less.
  • Sauté or stir-fry parsnips without coating or batter for 10 to 15 minutes or until tender.
  • Pan fry or deep fat fry parsnips in a wet batter until the crust is golden brown.
  • Parsnips can be used in braises and casseroles; cook until they are tender, about 30 to 45 minutes.

How to Boil Parsnips

  1. Scrub each parsnip with a vegetable brush. Trim the ends.
  2. Cut roots into 1-inch pieces.
  3. Add 2 inches of water to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Add parsnips.
  4. Cook parsnip pieces 10 minutes, or until they are fork-tender.
  5. Drain and serve hot.

How to Mash Parsnips

  1. Boil 1-inch pieces (see above) and drain.
  2. Pour the boiled parsnip pieces into a large bowl.
  3. Use a fork or potato masher to coarsely mash the pieces.
  4. Season with butter and cream just as you would mashed potatoes.

Boiled and mashed parsnips can be blended into soups or stews. Mashed parsnips will add creaminess and body to soups or stews in place of flour or cornstarch.

Roasted parsnips and carrots
Roasted parsnips and carrots

How to Roast Parsnips

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Scrub the outer skin with a vegetable brush. Do not peel. Trim the ends.
  3. Cut the parsnips into pieces about 1-inch wide.
  4. Toss pieces with olive, salt, and pepper, or brown sugar, paprika, or chili powder.
  5. Arrange pieces on a baking sheet or ovenproof dish.
  6. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the largest pieces are fork-tender.

Parsnips can be baked alone or with other roots such as carrots vegetables cut to equal size. 

How to Sauté Parsnips

  1. Heat olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat.
  2. Scrub the outer skin with a vegetable brush. Do not peel. Trim the ends.
  3. Cut the parsnips into three-quarter-inch pieces. Or, cut the roots into thin strips or matchsticks.
  4. Add parsnip pieces to skillet. (You can add herbs such as rosemary or thyme at the same time.)
  5. Cook 5 to 10 minutes until pieces are fork-tender stirring every few minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Serve hot; drizzle with melted butter if you like.

How to Serve Parsnips

  • Bake, boil, grill, steam, or mash parsnips much the same as carrots. Parsnips can be prepared as you would carrots, salsify, or turnips. Parsnips will replace those vegetables in most recipes.
  • Serve parsnips alone or mixed with peas, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, onion, summer squash, potatoes, or a combination of these. Top parsnips with plain or flavored butter or margarine.
  • Parboil parsnips and drain, then stew in butter and garnish with parsley or a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.
  • Steam parsnips whole, slice them length-wise, and pan-glaze with butter, brown sugar, and nutmeg or garnish them with chopped walnuts and a dash of sweet sherry.
  • Parsnips will add a nut-like flavor to stews and soups. Place them around a beef roast to cook in the meat juices, or puree and add butter and seasoning.
  • Serve parsnips puréed or fried like Fresh fires or glazed like carrots. Serve parsnips cold dressed in a vinaigrette or as a vegetable side dish.

Parsnip Flavor Partners

  • Parsnips have a flavor affinity for apples, brown butter, brown sugar, cream, curry, leeks, oranges, root vegetables, stews, ragouts, and truffles.
  • Season parsnips with salt, pepper, dill, ginger, onion, parsley, nutmeg, mace, clove, cinnamon, allspice, caraway seed, celery seed, mint, rosemary, anise, marjoram, thyme, tarragon, bay leaf, fennel, mustard, curry powder, cumin, coriander, or brown sugar.

Parsnip Nutrition

  • Parsnips contain some vitamin A, C and E. Parsnips contain small amounts of iron.
  • An average serving contains 66 calories.
  • The carbohydrate content of a parsnip is higher than a carrot.
Parsnips roots in garden
Lift parsnips as needed through the winter.

Get to Know Parsnips

  • The parsnip looks like a pale yellow carrot. Its tapering root grows 4 to 9 inches (10-23 cm) long and 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter. The plant forms a rosette of compound celery-like leaves.
  • Parsnips can be left in the ground all winter but should be harvested before the second season or they will become fibrous and woody.
  • The parsnip is a native of the Mediterranean region and Western Asia. The ancient Romans cultivated parsnips, and during the Middle Ages, the parsnip was valued as both a source of starch and sweetness. It was eaten as a vegetable and as a sweet dish.
  • The word “parsnip” comes from the French, pastinaca with the ending “nip” to suggest that it is turnip-like.

The botanical name of the parsnip is Pastinaca sativa.

Also interest:

How to Grow Parsnips

How to Harvest and Store Parsnips


Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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