Popular around the world, parsnips are undeservedly overlooked in the mainstream American diet. That’s simply not fair, because parsnips are loaded with vitamins, packed with subtle flavors, and are a healthy alternative to potatoes for those limiting their carbohydrate macros.
Parsnips look similar to a carrot except they are cream-colored and can be thicker around. They are actually in the same family as carrots, along with parsley. Parsnips have a sweet flavor with a hint of spice lingering in the background.
Half a cup of cooked parsnips contains 3 grams of fiber and just 55 calories. This half-cup provides 11% of the recommended daily intake of Vitamin C and is an excellent source of folate (providing 11% of the recommended daily intake), as well as manganese (10% of daily intake).
Parsnips have received favor as a substitution for potatoes, which is higher in sugar and carbohydrates. But you don’t have to be counting your carbs to enjoy parsnips! They are a flavorful addition to any meal and worthy of being an attention-grabbing vegetable. Anyone who has felt the drudgery of making dinner day in and day out can welcome a new healthy and tasty item into their rotation.
Parsnips are delicious mashed as an alternative to mashed white potatoes. Simply steam the parsnips until tender, around 15 minutes, then “mash” with an immersion blender and your choice of butter and half-and-half (or non-dairy substitute). Mashed parsnips go great with a traditional gravy or doll them up by added roasted garlic and parmesan cheese before blending.
Another great way to prepare parsnips is to treat them like fries. Slice them into thin sticks, toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper and then roast in a very hot oven for 20-30 minutes. The crispy roasted edges are a perfect complement for the light sweetness inside of parsnips. These parsnip fries go great with homemade aioli or ketchup for dipping.
Using parsnips as an alternative to potatoes – either mashed or as “fries” – is a great way to introduce them to skeptics. However, parsnips can hold their own as a delicious veggie! Try letting them shine in a creamy soup, a parsnip gratin, or roasting them as a side dish. Parsnips are in natural harmony roasted with other root vegetables like beets and carrots. A squeeze of lemon juice emphasizes their subtle bite in just the right way.
If you have a home garden, try planting parsnips. They are winter hardy and even get sweeter when they stay in the ground after a frost. Long ago in Europe, parsnips were used to sweeten cakes before sugar was widely available.