Parsnips are a popular root vegetable in many kitchens, but what do you do when they're unavailable? Don't worry! There are many delicious and nutritious parsnip substitutes to choose from. Let's discuss the best parsnip substitutes that you can use to achieve a similar flavor, look, and texture in your dishes.
What are Parsnips?
Parsnips are root vegetables that are closely related to carrots and parsley. They are long, white, and tapered in shape. The taste of parsnips is slightly sweet and earthy, with a hint of peppery, though they have a relatively mild flavor overall. Parsnip recipes include soups, stews, and roasts. Parsnips can also be mashed or pureed for a creamy and flavorful side dish. I also love to make parsnip fries using my air fryer!
Why Substitute Parsnips?
They might not be in season, or you might not be able to find them at your local grocery store. Whatever the reason, there are plenty of alternatives!
To determine the best substitutes, it's helpful to understand the nutritional profile of parsnips. Parsnips are a rich source of soluble and insoluble fiber. They are also an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, Vitamin K, and folate.
As a winter vegetable, parsnips have a higher starch content than other vegetables such as leafy greens or cruciferous veggies (like broccoli). This helps give them a pleasantly soft interior and mildly sweet flavor when cooked. Now that we understand some background on the texture, flavor, and nutrients of parsnips, let's discuss alternatives!
Perhaps the best parsnip substitute is carrots. Also root vegetables, they have a similar sweet and earthy flavor. However, carrots lack some of the celery or licorice-like flavors in parsnips. Of course, these versatile root vegetables are used in a large variety of dishes, including soups, stews, and roasted veggie dishes. They also make a great addition to purees and mashes. White carrots will be the most visually identical if you can find them, but regular ol' orange carrots will serve as a great substitute as well. Substitute 1-2 carrots per parsnip in your recipe.
Another white root vegetable, parsley root may be the most visually similar to parsnips. Not only are they a good substitute for parsnips, but their tops can be used in place of typical parsley so very little of this veggie goes to waste. Their white flesh lacks some of the sweetness of parsnips, though, and brings a more assertive herbaceous flavor. It makes a great substitute in vegetable soups and savory dishes, but may not be best where the sweet flavor of parsnips is desired, such as in purees. It may be difficult to find in the United States as well. Substitute 1-2 parsley roots per parsnip in your recipe, lean towards one-to-one as parsley roots will have a stronger flavor.
Don't be deterred by their funky outer texture, the inside of celery root shares a white color and a very similar taste to parsnips, making it an excellent substitute. It tastes like a cross between fresh celery, parsley, and potatoes. Celery root is an excellent substitute for parsnips in soups, as celery and earthy flavors are often desired here. Simply remove the rough outer layer and dice. Substitute about one-for-one, though keep in mind celery root is stronger in flavor.
Sweet potatoes are a great parsnip substitute if you're looking for a sweeter flavor. When cooked, they have a creamy texture and a sweet taste. They mesh well with different vegetables in roasted preparations. They're also delicious mashed or fried. They can add a nice sweetness to stews as well. Sweet potato flesh tends to be softer than parsnips when cooked, so I would avoid this substitute if you need the final texture of your dish to stay relatively firm. Use one medium sweet potato in place of 2-3 parsnips.
With their white starchy flesh, regular potatoes can make a great replacement for parsnips in many dishes. While they have a milder taste, potatoes can be a great option for replacing parsnips in soups and roasted dishes. Potatoes do not offer as much fiber as parsnips, so a different root vegetable such as carrots or rutabegas may make a better swap if you are looking to maintain a similar nutritional profile in your dish. Additionally, I do not recommend substituting potatoes for parsnips in purees as their high starch content can give the puree a gummy texture. Use one medium potato in place of 2-3 parsnips.
Another popular parsnip substitute is turnips. While turnips are enjoyed raw for their peppery flavor and crunchy texture, they have an earthy, slightly bitter taste when cooked. Because they are also root vegetables, they are often used in the same dishes as parsnips. Turnips are a great earthy addition to soups and stews, and can also be roasted or mashed. Turnips work best in savory preparations as their bitter, nutty, and earthy flavors are a bit stronger than parsnips. Use one turnip in place of about two parsnips.
Rutabagas are a great parsnip substitute if you're looking for a slightly sweeter and nuttier flavor. With their bulbous shape, they are similar in appearance to turnips but have a sweeter taste. Rutabagas are often used in soups, stews, and roasted vegetables, and can also be mashed or pureed as many root veggies lend well to these preparations. Blended rutabagas can make for a great substitute in a creamy parsnip soup. One rutabaga can replace about 2-3 parsnips.
Winter squash, such as butternut or acorn, can also be a good parsnip substitute in certain dishes. It has a sweeter flavor and a slightly softer texture when cooked. Squash is best used in dishes where the sweetness of the squash will complement the other flavors, such as roasted vegetable medleys or purees. Winter squash also shares much of its growing season with parsnips, so they may be available if your local grocery or farmers market is out of parsnips at the moment. Depending on the size, one winter squash can replace four or more parsnips.
Whether you're looking for a sweeter, earthier, or nuttier flavor, there's a parsnip substitute out there for you. From carrots to rutabagas, there are many delicious and nutritious options to choose from.
When choosing the best replacement for parsnips in your dish, evaluate the different flavor profiles of these substitutes as well as their texture and appearance. You can also add celery, peppery, or earthy flavors of parsnip by adding celery/celery seed, black pepper, fennel, mustard, or turmeric to your dish to really re-enforce those parsnip flavors.
While visually similar, carrots and parsnips taste slightly different. Both have some sweetness, but parsnips also have some licorice-like flavor and a mild pepperiness.
Parsnips are more similar to carrots in flavor, texture, size, shape, and nutritional profile. However, potatoes can also make a convincing parsnip substitute. Both carrots and potatoes lack the licorice or fennel-type flavors of parsnips, though, so adding additional seasonings such as celery seed, fennel, or black pepper can add parsnip-type flavors to your dish.
Nope. Parsnips are lightly sweet with some mild peppery and celery-type flavors. Overall, though, their flavor is quite mild and not assertive.
Wow, you made it all the way to the end?! Thanks so much for reading and I hope you found this summary of parsnip substitutes helpful! Please let me know in the comments below how the substitute you chose worked out in your recipe. I'd be happy to help with any troubleshooting. Thank you!