Turnips can be cooked in several ways. Roast turnips, braise turnips in butter, make turnip and potato purée, glaze turnips, or make a turnip gratin.
Small young turnips are delicate and slightly sweet; larger more mature turnips can have the crisp flavor of an apple or offer the biting flavor of cabbage, mustard, or radish.
Turnips come to harvest from mid-fall to early spring.
How to Choose Turnips
- Select turnips that are firm and heavy for their size and that are smooth and without cracks or blemishes. Avoid turnips that are oversized; they will be fibrous and bitter tasting.
- Look for turnips that are no larger than 3 inches (7.5 cm) in diameter. If the leaves are attached, they should be deep green and crisp.
- Most turnips are white-fleshed. If you cut into a turnip and it is yellow-fleshed, you probably have rutabaga. Rutabagas look somewhat like turnips but are larger, rounder, denser, and sweeter than turnips.
- There is an all-white turnip about the size of a radish that is known as a Tokyo turnip and also called Tokyo-type or kobaku-type turnip. The Tokyo turnip has a delicate, buttery flavor.
How to Store Turnips
- Select turnips that are firm and heavy for their size and that are smooth and without cracks or blemishes. A
- Store them in the refrigerator in a perforated plastic bag for 1 to 3 weeks.
- Turnip leaves or greens should be removed and stored separately in a perforated plastic bag.
- Turnip greens will keep for 4 or 5 days in the refrigerator. To freeze turnips, first, blanch them for a couple of minutes or cook and then purée.
How to Prepare Turnips for Cooking
- Before using, wash turnips in cool water, trim the top and bottom, and peel if necessary. Young turnips do not need to be peeled, but older turnips will have tough skin that is best removed.
- Turnips take longer than carrots to cook; allow 10-15 minutes when boiling, slightly more when steaming.
- Turnips absorb fat easily so fried turnips will be high in calories.
How to Bake Turnips
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Rub the turnip with olive or vegetable oil; sprinkle it with salt. Prick the turnip with the tines of a fork.
- Place the turnip on a baking sheet or lay it directly on the oven rack,
- Bake for 45 to 60 minutes (depending on size); turn the tuber once at halfway.
- Bake until the skin is golden and crispy; the turnip will be baked when a sharp knife inserted in the flesh meets no resistance. The internal temperature should be about 210 degrees F.
How to Roast Turnips
- Roast turnips with the skin on or peeled. Cut large turnips into thick wedges.
- Precook cut turnips in a microwave until soft but still firm, about 4 minutes. Or boil in salted water until tender, about 10 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
- Spread the wedges on a pan or baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil or fat and toss well. The pieces should be evenly coated and the pan should have light, even oil across the surface.
- Season with salt, dry herbs, or spices.
- Roast 20 to 30 minutes, until bottoms are browned and a spatula slides under them smoothly.
How to Boil Turnips
- Peel and trim the turnip.
- Cook whole or cut the turnip into roughly equal size pieces, 1 or 2 inches in diameter.
- Place a whole or sliced turnip in a pot with water to cover and add a pinch of salt; or put in a steamer above the water.
- Add a teaspoon of sugar to give it a bit of a sweet taste.
- Bring to a boil and cook until the turnips are tender; about 10 minutes for cut pieces, about 35 minutes to cook whole.
How to Microwave Turnips
- Place the whole or sliced turnip in a covered dish.
- Sprinkle it with a bit of water.
- Cook in the microwave on high for about 10 minutes.
How to Stir-Fry Turnips
- Peel and trim the turnips.
- Slice the turnips into thin strips; the smaller the pieces the faster they will cook.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of corn oil in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat for 3 or 4 minutes.
- Add the turnip and a quarter cup of stock or water.
- Cook, stirring constantly, until the turnip is tender, about 7 minutes.
How to Mash Turnips
- Cut or dice turnips into pieces and place them in a pot. Cover them with water and add a dash of salt.
- Bring the water to a boil.
- Lower the heat and let it simmer until the pieces are tender, for 15 to 40 minutes depending on the size of the pieces.
- Drain the turnips and mash the pieces with a potato masher.
- Work in 4 to 6 tablespoons of melted butter and season to taste with salt and pepper or a pinch of powdered nutmeg or cinnamon.
How to Make Turnip Fries
- Cut turnips into spears or strips.
- Toss spears in olive oil along with salt and seasonings of your choice–garlic powder, dried thyme or cayenne.
- Place spears on a baking sheet or roasting pan and roast at 425 degrees F for 30 minutes.
How to Make Turnip Gratin
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Peel the turnips and slice them up to 1/4-inch thick.
- Layer the slices in an ovenproof skillet almost to the top. Overlap the slices slightly nearly to the top of the skillet.
- Dot the top of the slices with 2 to 3 tablespoons butter, cut into chunks. Pour in half-and-half (or a combination of milk and cream) to come 3/4 of the way to the top (about 2 to 3 cups).
- Place the skillet on the stove and bring the liquid to a boil; reduce the heat and cook for 10 minutes, until the liquid level drops.
- Place the skillet in the oven and bake until the top browns, 10 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to 300 degrees F and garnish the top with grated cheese (Cheddar, Gruyère, Parmesan). Cook 10 minutes more, or until tender and browned.
Turnip Serving Suggestions
- Turnips can be eaten raw, baked, boiled, or mashed. Prepare turnips as you would carrots.
- Sliced or grated raw turnips make a tasty addition to salads.
- Small turnips can be used as a substitute for radishes. Steamed or boiled turnips can be served with butter or cream.
- Turnips can be used in soups or stews or cooked around a roast.
- You can slice or julienne raw young turnips to add a crisp, crunch to salads.
- The French harvest turnips early when they are still young and braise or fry and glaze them.
Turnip Flavor Partners
- Turnips have a flavor affinity for cream, curry, duck, lamb, lemon, marjoram, onions, pork, potatoes, thyme, and vinegar.
- Turnips are a good source of vitamin C and potassium and contain folic acid.
- Turnips contain sulfur and may cause flatulence.
Get to Know Turnips
- The turnip is round and squat and looks like an old-fashioned spinning top with a rosette of bright green leaves growing from the top. The upper portion of the turnip’s slightly flattened orb is lilac-purple and the bottom half is white. Young turnips can be radish sized; mature turnips can be as big as a large orange or bigger.
- The turnip is not actually a root but a swollen stem base. The ancient Romans distinguished between at least two types of turnips: one called rapa whose stem was large and round, like present-day turnips; a second, called napus whose stem was slender and pointed.
- The turnip has been cultivated for at least 4,000 years and is believed to have originated in Northern Europe. During the Middle Ages, turnips were known by the name nepe (from the Latin napus). Nepe was combined with “turn”–as to “make round”–to become turnip.
- Turnips were introduced into China by traders about 2,000 years ago. From China, turnips were introduced to Japan about 1,300 years ago.
The botanical name for the turnip is Brassica rapa var. rapa
Also of interest:
How to Harvest and Store Turnips