In some places of the world, parsnips are not exactly the easiest to find vegetables, which leads us to searching for the best parsnip substitute.
The most important thing to know about parsnip is that it’s a root vegetable. Obviously, that will lead us to search for substitutes among all the other root vegetables.
The most popular root vegetables are: parsley root (Hamburg parsley), celeriac (celery root), carrots, sweet potatoes, beets, turnips, rutabaga, and radishes. These are vegetables from which we consume the roots, thus the name.
Now, we must find which is the best parsnip substitute among all these root vegetables.
Obviously, you’ll have to find the best replacement for your recipe based on what you think would mix well with the other ingredients. Thus, there’s no singular substitute that we should all use.
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8 Best Parsnip Substitutes
Before picking the best parsnip substitute, let’s understand a bit what parsnip tastes like and how it can improve a recipe so that you are more aware of how you can replace it.
Parsnips have a sweet licorice-like taste. This is not the kind of vegetable you want to eat raw but you can taste a tiny bit to get an idea.
It doesn’t have the same sweetness as carrots or parsley roots but parsnips get close in terms of sweetness.
It also has a much stronger flavor, which is why some recipes only call for 1 root.
Depending on the recipe, it can easily overpower the other vegetables if you use more than you should. It’s a bit like celeriac in this respect, they both have strong flavor profiles.
1. Hamburg parsley (parsley root)
The recipes that call for 1 parsnip root together with vegetables like potatoes and carrots are a bit harder to find substitutes for.
In that case, I would personally use 1 parsley root. Parsnip has a more earthy flavor but I think that it’s a good substitute.
Parsley and parsnip roots are of a similar appearance, only that the latter has a creamier color. Hamburg parsley is quite white.
If you’re making a recipe like parsnip gratin that calls for at least 2 pounds of parsnip, can you use a substitute?
You can definitely use parsley roots or even turnips or maybe sweet potatoes, whichever root vegetable you can more easily find and prefer.
Just don’t use 2 pounds of celeriac as a replacement, that won’t do at all.
The difference is that we wouldn’t be calling it parsnip gratin and the end product will absolutely be completely different since the quantity is quite considerable. 2 pounds of roots pack quite the strong flavor.
When you’re substituting carrots for parsnips, you should consider if the rest of the ingredients go well together.
If the recipe already calls for at least a couple of carrots then there’s really no point to add more of them instead of parsnips. That’s what I’m talking about when I’m telling you that you have to consider the other vegetables when finding a replacement.
Or you can roast the cauliflower and carrots. Add some fresh herbs, maybe some walnuts, and you’ll be really happy with the result.
This is another root vegetable that can work as the best parsnip substitute.
If the recipe already includes carrots and you don’t have any Hamburg parsley, turnips are the vegetable to turn to.
Turnips and parsnips don’t exactly have an identical taste but they do come close enough, even if these 2 belong to different botanical families.
If, for example, you want to make a Korean dish that already includes turnips and radishes and calls for 1 parsnip, then skip it altogether. Or use 1 carrot, if the recipe doesn’t include this ingredient already.
4. Celeriac (celery root)
Celeriac and parsnip are 2 vegetables with quite a different flavor profile. They both can work together in a recipe, especially if you’re making soups or roasted vegetables.
If you want to use celeriac as a substitute, then add only just a small amount. A tiny piece of celeriac is more than enough because it has a very powerful taste. Celeriac doesn’t work on a 1:1 replacement.
The good news is that celeriac pairs well with all kinds of vegetables, can be used for ragu, and it does have an earthy flavor that I just love. That’s the reason why I also use parsnips as often as I can.
5. Sweet potatoes
Here me out: parsnips and sweet potatoes have absolutely nothing in common in terms of flavor.
However, if you want to make parsnip fries and you can’t find any, then just make sweet potato fries because they are some of the best. Cook them in the oven and you’ll fall in love.
Fries cooked in bacon grease are another guilty pleasure that you should make at least once, whether you’re making fries from parsnips, sweet potatoes or regular potatoes.
In some recipe, potatoes will work very well as a parsnip substitute.
As long as the recipe doesn’t already have potatoes, you can weigh and see if potatoes could work instead of parsnip.
I certainly think that potatoes should be considered a good substitute because this is one ingredient that all of us have easy access to.
Kohlrabi is also known as a German turnip.
In terms of taste, we could say that it’s delicious, as long as you like turnips. It has a sweet-but-peppery flavor profile.
The taste and texture might remind some of broccoli stems. For those who don’t like broccoli at all, you won’t be excited about using kohlrabi as the best parsnip substitute.
The amazing thing about this turnip variety is that it can be eaten raw, thinly sliced. That means that it can be used a parsnip substitute in salads without cooking it first.
Kohlrabi is also delicious when it’s oven-roasted. It certainly has that in common with many other root vegetables.
8. Salsify root
Let’s mention this one as the last possible substitute because I’m pretty sure that many people haven’t even heard of it. That means that it won’t be easy to find in many parts of the world.
This is a root vegetable belonging to the dandelion family.
What you’ll be interested to know is that salsify is also known as the oyster plant because of its similar taste when cooked. That doesn’t even come close to how parsnip tastes but if you want to try something unusual, give salsify a go.
Popular Parsnip Recipes
Let’s check out some recipes that might make us search for the best parsnip substitute.
Spicy honey-glazed parsnips
This is the kind of recipe that we can use all kinds of vegetables as substitutes.
Basically, any vegetable works instead of parsnips. Regular potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsley root, carrots, turnips, asparagus, broccoli, green beans, and the list can go on.
However, if you’re choosing to use sweet potatoes for this spicy honey-glazed parsnips, tone down the honey by a lot. This root vegetable is already sweet.
Don’t use the same honey amount for carrots, either. Use just a bit less.
If you want to come close to the taste of an earthy root vegetable, parsley root would be an awesome replacement.
Root vegetable tarte tatin
A combination of root vegetables is used for this recipe. Use whatever combination of root vegetables you can get and skip the rest. The taste will differ every time you make this tarte based on the vegetables you’re making it with.
Make the standard parsnip purée if you don’t have anything else and it will be an awesome side dish.
If you want something a bit different, you can make a parsley root purée. Or make a purée from the following vegetables: broccoli, sweet potatoes, peas, celeriac (celery root), etc.
Roasted parsnip soup
Once again, you can choose to use parsley root as a substitute. Or make a roasted celeriac soup. Or make a soup from soup potatoes or peas or broccoli, etc.
In the end, if the recipe involves plenty of vegetables, including carrots, and it only calls for 1 root but you don’t have any of the above best parsnip substitutes, then the best thing to do is to just skip it entirely.