How To Cook Parsnips

Farmers’ market parsnips are a great find — that is, if you can find them. Depending upon where you live, you’re more likely to see them at a grocery store.

Grocery store parsnips are bagged just like carrots and they even look like pale, cream-colored carrots. They taste far sweeter than carrots — so sweet that some people serve them at breakfast.

This fall/winter root vegetable is best after a frost, when the starch is converted into sugar. Low in calories and zero fat, parsnips provide a good dose of fiber and Vitamin C.

Parsnips can be boiled, baked, fried, steamed or sautéed. About the only way they aren’t served is raw.

My favorite way to prepare parsnips is to steam them and then puree in a blender for an ultra smooth texture.

Many recipes for pureed parsnips call for potato in addition to the parsnips to cut the sweetness, but I like the sweetness of pure parsnip puree. I’ll use toppings to counterbalance the sweetness, or pair them with bitter winter greens like collard greens or mustard greens.

Count on 1-1/2 to 2 pounds of parsnips to serve 4 to 6 people. First peel the parsnips and then cut them into rounds.

Place them in a steam basket and steam over salted water until tender, about 20 to 25 minutes. Save the steaming water.

Place 1/2 cup of the reserved steaming water in the bottom of a blender. (You could use cream or even buttermilk, which will temper the sweet taste of the parsnips).

You can also puree the parsnips in a food processor or run them through a food mill. Or, mash the steamed parsnips by hand or with a hand mixer.

I’ve found using a blender results in the creamiest texture, although it requires a bit more work.

You may need to add more water and stop the blender several times to scrape down the sides.

Add a pinch of salt and freshly ground white pepper and blend again. A dash of nutmeg wouldn’t hurt either, and helps bring the naturally nutty taste of parsnips to the forefront.

Once the parsnips are pureed, you have several options. You can serve them plain, or you can top with a variety of other ingredients.

Grated Parmesan cheese or cooked, chopped bacon add a salty counterpoint to the sweet parsnips. I’ve topped them with horseradish, too, for a sharp bite. Or, top with toasted, buttered bread crumbs for a crunchy element.

Pureed parsnips will keep for a few days, covered in the refrigerator, if you want to make them ahead of time. Just gently reheat in a pan over low heat, or in the microwave.

2 replies
  1. Jill Silverman Hough
    Jill Silverman Hough says:

    I LOVE parsnips, especially since I did a piece on them for Bon Appetit, which meant spending a good amount of time with them. My favorites are parsnip risotto (with parmesan, rosemary, and a drizzle of aged balsamic), a parsnip spice cake (a la carrot cake – surprisingly good), and just plain old roasted parsnips. I’ve never tried pureed, so that might be next! Thanks, Gwen.


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