What is the Difference Between Parsnips and Turnips

The main difference between parsnips and turnips is that parsnips are carrot-like root vegetables with a sweet flavor profile, whereas turnips are radish-like root vegetables that are comparatively less sweet.

Both parsnips and turnips are not the most frequently used root vegetables in modern kitchens. Even though you are not a chef or a gardener, you won’t find it difficult to distinguish between sweet parsnips and bitter turnips as they have varying appearances and contrasting flavor profiles.

Key Areas Covered

1. What are Parsnips 
     – Definition, Features
2. What are Turnips
     – Definition, Features
3. Similarities Between Parsnips and Turnips
     – Outline of Common Features
4. Difference Between Parsnips and Turnips
     – Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms

Parsnips, Turnips, Root VegetablesDifference Between Parsnips and Turnips - Comparison Summary

What are Parsnips

Parsnips are root vegetables with a candy-like nutty taste. Parsnips belong to the Apiaceae family. They are white in colour and have an appearance similar to carrots. Just like carrots, parsnip plants produce a thick taproot. This root is the vegetable and is usually harvested in the fall or spring.

The parsnip plant originated in Eurasia. Back then, the Greeks and Romans loved this vegetable. During the early times, it was used as a natural sweetener before sugarcane became popular. If you are making a soup or a stew, you can use parsnips as a substitute for carrots in order to add extra creaminess to your dish. Similar to banana and zucchini, we can add parsnips to baked food items to increase and secure the moisture.

Compare Parsnips and Turnips

When compared to other vegetables, sweet parsnip is relatively rich in calories. It always contains nutrients such as fiber, folate, vitamin C and vitamin K. The significant antioxidants present in parsnips not only boost immunity but also help to shed calories and improve digestion and your health as a whole.

What are Turnips

Turnips are a root vegetable that belongs to the Brassicaceae family, which also include cabbage and mustard greens. Turnips are less sweet than parsnips. However, it is possible to consume turnips raw like radishes or even cooked. When cooked, turnips are usually often served roasted or mashed together with other root vegetables.

Similar to parsnips, turnips are also mostly white in colour, although some species share a dark purplish top.  Turnips are usually bitter in taste. Therefore, farmers harvest “baby turnips” to maintain a softer taste. These baby turnips are usually consumed raw with some butter. Similar to parsnips, turnips also have a thick taproot. While parsnips have an elongated shape, turnips have a round shape similar to radish.

Parsnips vs Turnips

Turnips were originally cultivated in Northern Europe. Currently, turnips are cultivated all around the world. The greens of the turnip plant are also consumed. Farmers usually harvest turnips in cool weather before the high temperatures damage the roots and spoil them.

Compared to parsnips, turnips are low in calories, but they have a higher percentage of vitamin C. They are relatively low in fiber and antioxidant content compared to parsnips. Nevertheless, the turnips include loads of glucosinolates. They help to bring down oxidative stress and support the human body to fight against cancer. Furthermore, it is believed that these roots contain antidiabetic benefits that reduce blood sugar levels and support insulin production within type 2 diabetic patients.

Similarities Between Parsnips and Turnips

  • Parsnips and Turnips are nutrient-rich root vegetables
  • Both root vegetables are usually white in color and have thick taproots.
  • When they are raw, both vegetables have a hard texture to them
  • Generally, both parsnips and turnips share a similar price range in the local market.

Difference Between Parsnips and Turnips


Parsnips are sweet-tasting root vegetables that belong to the Apiaceae family, while turnips are bitter tasting root vegetables that belong to the Brassicaceae family.

Shape and Shade

Parsnips have an elongated shape similar to carrots, whereas turnips have a rounder shape similar to radishes. Both parsnips and turnips have a pale white shade, but turnips also have a dark purplish crown top.

Nutrient Profile

Compared to turnips, parsnips are more packed with vitamins and minerals. However, parsnips contain a relatively lower glycemic index. In contrast, turnips are low in calories, fiber and antioxidant content and contain lots of glucosinolates and Vitamin C.

Flavor Profile

Parsnips are sweeter in their taste like carrots, whereas turnips are a bitter root vegetable. However, baby turnips have a mild sweetness to their natural taste and can be consumed raw.

Culinary Uses

When it comes to cuisine, we usually use turnips as a substitute for potatoes. They can be often served boiled, steamed, mashed, or baked. Since turnips usually have a cabbage-like taste, we can even add shredded turnips to salads and coleslaw. But we can use parsnips as a substitute for carrots in order to add extra creaminess to soups and stews. Bakers also add parsnips to baked food items in order to increase and secure the food’s moisture.


The main difference between parsnips and turnips is that parsnips are a candy-like root vegetable that belongs to the Apiaceae family, while turnips are a bitter-tasting root vegetable that belongs to the Brassicaceae family. Despite their distinct flavor profiles, these two root vegetables are packed with nutrients and can be great natural additions to your healthy diet.


1. “The Health Benefits of Turnips: Cooking the Purple Vegetable.” Pritikin Weight Loss Resort, 27 Mar. 2017.
2. Brennan, Dan. “Parsnip: Health Benefits, Nutrients, Preparation, and More.” WebMD, 17 Sept. 2020.

Image Courtesy:

1. “Parsnips with greens” By Jeffery Martin – Own work (CC0) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Turnip 2622027” By thebittenword.com(CC BY 2.0) via Commons Wikimedia

About the Author: Anuradha

Anuradha has a BA degree in English, French, and Translation studies. She is currently reading for a Master's degree in Teaching English Literature in a Second Language Context. Her areas of interests include Arts and Literature, Language and Education, Nature and Animals, Cultures and Civilizations, Food, and Fashion.

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