Parsnip is an absolute staple in soups, yet often mistaken for white carrot. While they have a similar appearance, the taste is quite different, more earthy and nutty. Parsnip belongs to the parsley family, and it is usually seen in a typical British Sunday roast.
Given its distinct, unique flavor, can parsnip be adequately replaced in dishes? Well, if you decide to go with a parsnip substitute from our list, it is safe to say that you’ll be pleased with the result.
The best substitutes for parsnip
Parsnips are usually cream-white in color and they’re root vegetables resembling carrots. Even though they can be eaten raw, they’re usually cooked, boiled, roasted, steamed, or even fried. Before use, a thin layer of the peel should be removed, which will leave you with aromatic white parsnip flesh.
If washed thoroughly, parsnips can also be consumed with their peel. However, the flavor of the peel tends to be a little bitter, so it is advised to remove it. What’s more, bigger, more mature parsnips may have a darker, more chewy core that should be removed when cutting, due to their woody texture and unpleasant taste.
Younger parsnips are delicious when roasted, whether you use them whole or chopped. You can also try frying them, baking them alongside your meat dish, or cut them up into chips or fries as a great potato replacement. However, parsnips are mostly used in soups, stews, and other slow-cooked dishes, which allows them to release all their juices and earthy aroma.
When it comes to flavor, parsnips are usually compared to carrots. However, when properly cooked, they’re even sweeter than carrots – only with a touch of mild pungency and distinctive earthiness to them.
Whether you’re unable to find parsnips at your local market, or you prefer to use something else, there are several substitutes for parsnip that can work just as great in your recipes.
1. White carrot
When it comes to appearance and texture, there’s no better substitute for parsnip than white carrot. Just like parsnips, white carrots also have pale-fleshed white roots of somewhat bitter-sweet taste. Even though white carrots have almost an identical taste to orange carrots, they’re less popular.
Not only are they a good alternative to parsnips, but white carrots are also suitable for carotene allergy sufferers. Many people also find them to be sweeter and juicier than the “regular” orange carrots. This type of carrots is ideal for all kinds of juices, soups, pan-roasted chicken dishes, fish stews, fish curries, and so on.
2. Orange carrot
You’ll find an orange carrot to be a head-on substitution for parsnips if you disregard the bright orange color. Carrots are, without a doubt, one of the most versatile root vegetables out there, and they can replace parsnips in pretty much any dish you can think of. It is hard to decide whether they’re better cooked, roasted, slow-cooked, baked, steamed, or boiled.
Not only are carrots extremely nutritious, but they’re also low in calories, and extremely easy to prepare. Many people enjoy eating them fresh in salads, but they’re just as great in recipes such as garlic butter roasts, homemade vegetable soups, or smoothies alongside fresh ginger and apples. You’ll also love them as main dishes, grilled with salsa verde on top, glazed, pickled, or even in desserts such as carrot cakes.
Parsley is perhaps the best substitute for parsnips in soup since they have a similar bitter, fresh, herbaceous taste that becomes even more prominent in slow cooking. Parsley is quite versatile and available both in dry and fresh forms. Even though it is primarily used as a garnish due to its vibrant green color, the power of its aroma in cooking shouldn’t be overlooked.
You’ll usually come across flat-leaf parsley which has a slightly peppery taste, and it is quite similar to cilantro in appearance. Other popular varieties of parsley include curly leaf parsley, Hamburg (parsley root), and Japanese parsley that has thick stems which can be eaten alone. Besides soups, parsley is a great base for chimichurri, salads, sauces, quinoa dishes, and stuffed peppers.
Turnips also belong to the root vegetable family, often compared to radishes and arugula. Even though they’re widely available all year round, they reach their full maturity in the fall. However, you want to avoid larger turnips with rough, textured skin, as they can have a predominantly bitter flavor.
The main difference between parsnip and turnip, besides the appearance, is in their taste when raw. While parsnip is usually not served fresh, you can snack on raw turnip, and add it to your salad for a slightly zippy flavor. Other than that, turnips can easily replace parsnips in the majority of dishes, including soups and stews.
Kohlrabi is definitely not a vegetable many reaches for, and many people aren’t aware of its potential. Besides being a great addition to your soups, stews, and sauces, kohlrabi can be served raw, stuffed, fried, roasted, baked, or steamed. It offers great versatility in cooking, which ranks it high on our list of parsnip substitutes.
Kohlrabi is also known as German turnip, or cabbage turnip, and its taste reminds of the very root of a cabbage. It is semi-sweet, sometimes a bit zippy, and extremely flavorful and aromatic when cooked. Also, the taste sometimes depends on the size of the bulb, as smaller bulbs tend to be milder and crunchier.
White radish, also referred to as Mooli or daikon, looks just like parsnip on the outside and the two are often confused. However, white radish tends to have a more peppery, hot flavor, and it can be eaten both with or without the peel. While white radish is usually harvested in the winter and cooked, spring radish (which is usually smaller and pinkish-red in color) is eaten raw.
Besides eating them raw and adding them to your salads, radishes have many applications in the kitchen. They can be pickled, roasted, grilled with meats and veggies, or mixed into a pesto with the addition of other vegetables and herbs.
Can you even imagine a soup without celery? Celery and parsnips come from the same family, which explains the similarity in flavors and aromas. Celery is not only a great addition to cooked dishes, but it also makes for a great low-calorie snack and a popular ingredient in detox smoothies.
Celery is an amazing, refreshing addition to any salad if you’re looking to achieve a more crunchy texture. It is also delicious when braised, added to coleslaw, rice dishes, vegetable broth, red potato salad, or any stuffing.
8. Celery root (celeriac)
Celery root is a root vegetable resembling a roundish bulb similar to grapefruit. It is commonly used in soups, sauces, stews, salads, but also as a good substitute for potatoes – especially if you’re following a low-carb diet. This substitute for parsnips has a mild flavor, and it is somewhat sweeter than celery stalks.
Even though you may think that celeriac is the root of the celery stalks we commonly use, it is actually an entirely different plant, bred specifically for the root. Celery root makes for a delicious mash, stew, and soup, but you can also experiment with it and even make noodles using a spiralizer.
Rutabaga is a predominantly sweet root vegetable, and a nutrient-packed parsnip alternative. It is essentially a hybrid between wild cabbage and turnip, and they only grow in cold climates. You’ll notice that rutabaga, as opposed to turnip, has a rather large bulb of yellowish color.
Rutabaga may not be one of the most commonly used vegetables, but when cooked in soups and sauces, it can replace that distinct parsnip taste. It can also be mashed, cut up into fries, roasted, or baked with other vegetables.
Salsify resembles a long, thin parsnip, and beneath the dark, thick skin, it also has creamy, white flesh. Before peeling salsify, it is best to scrub the root under cold water, and then carefully remove the thick peel. To choose the best quality salsify, look for green tops, and firm and smooth texture.
Salsify is also known as the oyster plant because of the subtle oyster-like flavor it releases when cooked, and it belongs to the dandelion family. Nevertheless, when it comes to its flavors and uses, salsify is considered a parsnip relative, and it can replace parsnip in pretty much any recipe that comes to mind.
11. Sweet potato
While sweet potato may not be a common ingredient of soups and stews (but it certainly can be prepared this way), it is a delicious replacement for parsnips in baked dishes, mash, roasts, and side dishes complimenting fish and all kinds of meats.
On top of that, sweet potato is often used as a replacement for regular potato, due to its specific sweet flavor and eye-catching yellow-orange color. It is also a great choice for air-fried chips, fries, as well as desserts such as brownies or carrot cake due to its sweetness.
How to choose a parsnip substitute
Being that parsnip has so many applications in the kitchen, it’s no wonder there are many substitutes for each of its roles.
If you’re looking for a taste similar to parsnip, especially in your vegetable soups and chicken broth, you can’t go wrong with white carrot, parsley, turnip, rutabaga, celeriac, salsify, or even celery sticks. All of these vegetables have that distinct, earthy, nutty aroma you’d expect from a parsnip.
While they can also be cooked in soups, stews, and sauces, orange carrots, radish, and sweet potato, and kohlrabi are mostly seen in other versions, including salads, roasts, steamed veggie mix, mash, and healthy fries. Each of the mentioned veggies offers great versatility in cooking, and they’re suitable for multiple recipes.
If you aren’t familiar with some of these parsnip substitutes, we highly encourage you to get out of your comfort zone and allow some innovations in your cooking!