Many of us confuse it with parsley. But parsnips are tastier and have much more diverse uses in the kitchen.

Carrots, parsley and celery, three typical examples of root vegetables.

But many of us confuse parsley with parsnip.

What do they have in common, how do they differ, and how do you finally learn to tell them apart?

What is the best way to prepare parsnips?

Why is it worth setting aside a place for him in the garden?

Let’s take a closer look at this remarkable crop.

What is parsnip?

Parsnip, in Latin Pastinaca sativa , is a perennial herb classified as a root vegetable. Its appearance at first glance resembles parsley, but its sweet taste is much closer to carrots or celery. From the outside, its root is yellowish to brownish, the inner part is usually white or cream. In addition to the parsnip root, its leaves and fruits can also be consumed. It is popularly called “parsnip” or “sweet parsley”.

Parsnip roots freshly pulled from the ground.

What is the difference between parsnip and parsley?

Both plants together belong to the family of sedge plants. But many people confuse them in the store. Their shape and color are similar. But parsnips reach a greater weight and length than parsley. The roots are no exception, measuring around 40 cm and weighing over a kilogram. In terms of shape, the parsnip root is less pointed and its upper part is plumper, stronger.

Another clue by which the two types of vegetables can be distinguished is the place from which the stem grows. In parsnips, it grows from a kind of hole in the middle of its upper part. In the case of parsley, let it grow from the entire protruding upper part, not just from the middle. In addition, if we cut the thread, a purple ring will appear around the perimeter. Nothing like that happens with parsnips. While parsnip is sweet, its taste reminds many of a mixture of nuts and milk, parsley is more pronounced and sharper in taste.

Parsley roots on the pavement.

What does parsnip contain?

At first glance, parsnips are much more caloric compared to other types of root vegetables, such as parsley, carrots or celery. The reason for this is mainly the twice higher content of carbohydrates, which also give it its typical sweet taste.

Nutritional values of parsnips

Raw parsnip 100 g Raw parsley 100 g Raw carrot 100 g Raw celeriac
100 g
Raw black root
100 g
Energy 75 calories 36 kcal 41 kcal 42 kcal 82 kcal
Water 79.5 g 87.7 g 88.3 g 88 g 77 g
Carbohydrates 18 g 6.33 g 9.58 g 9.2 g 18.6 g
Proteins 1.2 g 2.97 g 0.93 g 1.5 g 3.3 g
Fats 0.3 g 0.79 g 0.24 g 0.3 g 0.2 g
Fiber 4.9 g 3.3 g 2.8 g 1.8 g 3.3 g

Vitamins and minerals

Parsnips are rich in many minerals, especially potassium, calcium and magnesium. Among the vitamins in it, we can find, for example, vitamin C or a varied palette of group B vitamins.

Raw parsnip 100 g Raw parsley 100 g Raw carrot 100 g Raw celeriac
100 g
Raw black root
100 g
Beta-carotene 0 µg 5050 µg 8280 µg 0 µg 0 µg
Vitamin B1 0.09 mg 0.086 mg 0.066 mg 0.05 mg 0.08 mg
Vitamin B2 0.05 mg 0.098 mg 0.058 mg 0.06 mg 0.22 mg
Vitamin B3 0.7 mg 1.31 mg 0.983 mg 0.7 mg 0.5 mg
Vitamin B5 0.6 mg 0.4 mg 0.273 mg 0.352 mg 0.371 mg
Vitamin B6 0.09 mg 0.09 mg 0.138 mg 0.165 mg 0.277 mg
Vitamin C 17 mg 133 mg 5.9 mg 8 mg 8 mg
Potassium 375 mg 554 mg 320 mg 300 mg 380 mg
Phosphorus 71 mg 58 mg 35 mg 115 mg 75 mg
Magnesium 29 mg 50 mg 12 mg 20 mg 23 mg
Sodium 10 mg 56 mg 69 mg 100 mg 20 mg
Calcium 36 mg 138 mg 33 mg 43 mg 60 mg
Zinc 0.59 mg 1.07 mg 0.24 mg 0.33 mg 0.38 mg
Iron 0.59 mg 6.2 mg 0.3 mg 0.7 mg 0.7 mg

Why eat parsnips?

Thanks to the significant amount of vitamins, minerals and high fiber content, regular consumption of parsnips is beneficial for our health.

  • Digestive system – parsnips are a great source of both soluble and insoluble fiber. One cup contains 6.5 grams of this nutrient, i.e. 26% of the daily requirement. Fiber passes through the digestive tract undigested, helping to move the bowels and optimize the health of the digestive tract.

  • Antioxidants – Parsnips are high in a variety of antioxidants that may prevent oxidative stress and chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

  • Weight reduction – this root vegetable is low in calories but high in water and fiber, both of which can aid in weight loss. Fiber moves slowly through the digestive tract and helps keep you feeling fuller for longer, which can reduce appetite and food intake.

  • Immune System – Parsnips are high in antioxidants that fight a variety of diseases, such as quercetin, kaempferol and apigenin, which can boost immunity and also protect against infections. In addition, it is also rich in vitamin C.

  • Urinary system – in addition to the root, parsnip fruits can also be used, from which a special infusion is prepared, which has beneficial effects for problems with the urinary system. It has a cleansing and diuretic effect.

  • Soothing effect – parsnips and carrots contain falcarinol, a kind of naturally occurring pesticide that protects the plant from fungal infection. Much of the falcarinol is lost during cooking, but the rest is absorbed and can have a calming, sedative effect. Falcarinol also affects the feel-good chemical serotonin in the brain. Animal studies suggest that falcarinol may improve symptoms of anxiety and depression, however, it is too early to say whether similar effects may be present in humans.

  • Skin ailments – freshly squeezed parsnip juice has beneficial effects on various skin problems, including psoriasis, eczema or acne. Just apply it once a day to the affected area.

Parsnips and allergies

Parsnips, or more precisely with its seeds, can be associated with a certain allergy in sensitive people. It belongs to the so-called photosensitizing plants, which, especially in connection with sunlight, can cause an unpleasant allergic reaction in the form of skin irritation.

What about parsnips?

Parsnips have a sweet taste similar to carrots, but with a nutty, earthy undertone. It can be mashed, roasted, stewed, boiled, baked, grilled or fried. It adds a rich flavor to all the dishes you add it to. By the way, thanks to its generally good tolerability, parsnip is often added to baby food.

It goes particularly well in soups, stews, puddings, au gratin dishes and purees. It can easily be substituted for almost any other root vegetable in your favorite recipes, including carrots, potatoes, turnips and kohlrabi. In addition to the root, the leaves can also be consumed.

To peel or not to peel?

Most of us always peel parsnips. But it is not absolutely necessary. Whether or not to peel depends, like carrots, on your taste preferences and preparation methods. Again, with the peel you also remove some of the valuable substances it contains or that are hidden close under it. Last but not least, it is advisable to take into account the possible chemical treatment of parsnips with pesticides in the case of possible non-peeling.

Unpeeled and peeled parsnip roots.

What to cook with parsnips?

  • We probably add parsnips to soups most often. We can use it in the same way as parsley in broths, but due to its delicious sweet taste, it is even more suitable for recipes for creamy soups , for example broccoli, mushroom or cauliflower.

  • Is parsnip also very tasty in various sauces? Do you know how to prepare the best sirloin sauce ? Replace the usually used parsley with parsnip, you will notice the difference in taste immediately.

  • Parsnips are also a great ingredient for a variety of vegetarian meatballs and casseroles, or you can cut them into pieces, sprinkle with spices and bake or fry them like fries.

  • Boiled or baked parsnips can be very easily blended into a puree, which can be served as a side dish, it goes well with, for example, lamb or beef.

  • Another option is to bake parsnips, either alone or in combination with other vegetables or cheese. In summer, you can make it part of many grilled vegetable recipes .

  • Caramelized parsnips are a real delicacy. First, bake it in an oven preheated to 160°C for approximately 25 minutes. After cooling, cut the parsnips and fry until golden in a pan with butter. Finally, add a small amount of maple syrup and red wine vinegar.
Plate with roasted parsnips.

What about parsnip dressing?

As with parsley or carrots, it is possible to process not only the root but also the stalk of parsnip in the kitchen. Especially if you grow it yourself. You can use its young leaves to flavor soups, salads, pasta or to make homemade pesto .

Parsnip sprig growing from the soil.

Growing parsnips

Parsnip (Pastinaca sativa) belongs to the extensive family of mullein, just like parsley, carrot, fennel, cumin or dill. The plant usually grows to a height of around 40-80 cm, in the second year of life small yellow flowers appear on it. It originally comes from areas of southern Europe and the Middle East. According to historians, it was already widely consumed by the ancient Greeks and Romans, and its consumption was also common in the Middle Ages.

During overseas discoveries, he also reached America and Australia. It was common throughout Europe until the 18th century, later it was largely replaced by potatoes, turnips and carrots. Currently, the largest producers of parsnips are the countries of the European Union, especially the Netherlands, Italy and Spain. But it is also widely cultivated in China, Mexico and the United States of America.

Parsnip harvest in the garden.

How to grow your own parsnip?

Due to its unpretentiousness, parsnip is a widely grown vegetable also in gardens. The soil should be deep enough to allow its roots to grow without restriction. It will do best in a sunny location.

Sow the seeds similarly to carrots in rows to a depth of approximately 1 cm. Individual rows should be at least 30 cm apart to allow the plants to thrive. The best time for sowing is mid-April. Young plants must be regularly watered and plucked.

Parsnips are harvested from around October, as soon as the stalk dries. Some gardeners advise to leave it in the flower bed even after the first frosts. They supposedly make the parsnip taste even more delicious. Considering this, it is possible to leave parsnips in the ground throughout the winter and harvest them as needed. Otherwise, the most suitable place for storage is a cool cellar.

Milan & Ondra

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