Roasted parsnip purée is rich, earthy, and creamy. Roasting the parsnips eliminates the need to boil them in cups and cups of milk or cream. With only four ingredients, this recipe is simple to prepare. It's a delicious side dish for any meal. And a mashed potato alternative worthy of any holiday, too.
In the same plant family as carrots, parsnips are a snappier, more nuanced root vegetable than their common bright orange cousins. And a purée of roasted parsnips is a creamy, subtly sweet, herbal and nutty side dish. Along with tarragon and fennel, parsnips contain hints of anise, a licorice-flavored compound with a mild kick of spice.
Many parsnip purée recipes call for simmering the roots in milk or heavy cream. But this one roasts the parsnips to a rich golden brown. And in all that beautiful color you'll find even more flavor. It's a delicious way to satisfy a craving for mashed potatoes with fewer carbohydrates. And a side dish worthy of any special occasion, Thanksgiving dinner, or holiday meal.
- Parsnips. Look for the cream-colored tapered root in the produce section. Unlike the endless options of packaged carrots, parsnips are typically sold loose and by the pound.
- Heavy cream and/or milk. The role of the heavy cream in any purée is to thin and enrich the mixture. Milk works, but doesn't lend the same creaminess. So this recipe calls for both. Use whatever you have on hand, and what you like to reach the desired consistency. To make a vegan parsnip purée without cream, you can substitute almond milk and your favorite plant-based butter alternative (see the Notes in the recipe card). You can also thin the blended parsnips out with vegetable stock (add it slowly so you don't end up with parsnip soup).
- Garlic cloves. If you enjoy the flavor and health properties of garlic, you can roast a couple of whole garlic cloves along with the parsnips.
- Butter. A classic finish to any purée, the butter will add a little shine and its signature richness. Use ghee or your favorite plant-based alternative.
- Ground white or black pepper, optional. White pepper complements the earthiness of the parsnips. But it comes with a bit of a spicy kick so it's not for everyone (or younger, more sensitive taste buds). Black pepper is classic, so use what you have and what you like. Or none at all.
- Italian parsley, rosemary, or thyme, optional. Garnishing the purée with any of these herbs offers a pretty color contrast and a fresh herbal finish.
- Freshly grated or ground nutmeg, optional. Grating in a little whole nutmeg is a festive spice when serving parsnips during the holidays. A little goes a long way.
Roasting parsnips in a high-heat oven gives this purée a deeper color and richer flavor than boiling the roots. And is conveniently hands-off since you don't have to keep an eye on a pot on the stove. A blender or food processor is the easiest way to purée the parsnips after roasting. You may need to adjust the amount of heavy cream based on the brand you buy and the moisture content of the parsnips themselves.
And most conventional heavy creams contain ingredients such as carrageenan, guar gum, or locust bean gum, which thicken mixtures differently. If you find the purée is too thick, you can add more liquid to reach that coveted mashed potato creaminess. Milk, vegetable stock, chicken broth, or more heavy cream all work well.
- Preheat and prepare. Preheat your oven to 400° F. Peel the skin off of the parsnips with a vegetable or y-shaped peeler. Then slice off the stems and woody tips of each parsnip.
- Chop and season. With a sharp knife, cut the parsnips into same-size pieces about an inch in size. The shape you cut them into isn't important. But if they look the same the pieces will cook the same. Which is what matters. Coat the chopped parsnips with oil and season them generously with salt. Spread the pieces in one layer on a rimmed sheet pan. I like to line my pans with unbleached parchment paper for easier cleaning. Add a couple of peeled whole cloves of garlic to the pan if you like.
- Roast to a deep golden brown. Roast the parsnips for 25 to 30 minutes, until the pieces are fork-tender and a deep golden brown. Shake the pan after the first 15 minutes to encourage browning on all sides. Or flip the pieces over with a large spatula or tongs. The parsnips are done when they are a deep golden brown and easily pierced with a fork.
- Blend until smooth. Cool the roasted parsnips on the pan for a few minutes, then place them in a blender or food processor with the heavy cream, milk, a pinch more salt, and butter. Blend until smooth. Add more heavy cream, milk, vegetable, or chicken stock as necessary to reach your preferred consistency. Aim for one similar to mashed potatoes.
- Taste, season, and garnish. Taste the purée, and add more salt and ground pepper, if you like. For a holiday meal, grate a bit of nutmeg over the finished purée. Or garnish with fresh chopped herbs, a few reserved roasted parsnip pieces, sour cream, crême frâiche, or a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.
- Core larger parsnips. Occasionally I find absolutely gigantic parsnips at my neighborhood market. And the larger the root, the woodier and tougher the core. So with larger ones, I remove the core from the wider part of the root. The easiest way to do this is the cut the peeled parsnips in half lengthwise. Then holding your knife at an angle, slice into the center of the parsnip half to cut away the core. Always cut vegetables with the flat-side down for stability.
- No blender? No problem! French chefs were making vegetable purées long before electric blenders arrived on the scene. If you don't have a blender or food processor, you can send the roasted parsnips through a potato ricer, or force them through a strainer with a spatula. The latter takes a bit of elbow grease but can be done with patience and effort. Once the parsnips are smooth, whisk in the remaining ingredients.
- On adding cauliflower. You may come across recipes that mention cauliflower as a substitute for heavy cream. It's worth a mention that cauliflower is one of the least starchy vegetables you can eat. And most heavy cream contains starches that add thickening power. So substituting cauliflower can lead to a much thinner purée. If you replace a portion of the parsnips with cauliflower, blend the vegetables first. Then add butter or olive oil, and last any stock or milk to thin it out, if even necessary.
- Add different flavorings. Add garlic cloves, inch-wide pieces of sliced fennel, or chopped turnips in place of a portion of the parsnips. Fennel and turnips especially are lesser-known but delicious vegetables with enticing flavors. Just be aware that you may need a different amount of cream or milk to reach your preferred consistency.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, indeed! A parsnip purée is a great make-ahead dish. Especially for winter holiday meals with many moving parts. You can certainly reheat parsnip purée in the microwave, but I prefer doing so in a pot over low heat. You may find you need to add a little bit of water or more butter or cream since the purée can lose moisture in the refrigerator.
Absolutely not! Boiling parsnips before roasting will add moisture and prevent caramelization in the oven. This Malliard Reaction - a tasty chemical reaction that happens when plant sugars and amino acids in meat cook to higher temperatures - happens best in the absence of moisture. So boiling parsnips before roasting will allow the roots to absorb water, which can then create steam during roasting. The parsnips may still brown toward the end of roasting, but not as well.
Why, yes! Carrots and parsnips hail from the same plant family and are both roots. So carrots make a great substitute for parsnips in this recipe. Since the starch content of the carrots will be slightly different, you may need to adjust the amount of liquid in any recipe you choose.
Parsnip purée is perfect to serve with any traditional meal that would demand mashed potatoes. But I also serve it under crispy roasted Brussels sprouts or sautéed wild mushrooms when my clients ask for a vegetarian entrée. Dipping and dragging rich roasted vegetables through the light purée is a divine way to dinner. And the smooth parsnips are a wonderful accompaniment to beef, meatloaf, lamb, and roasted chicken and pork.
This recipe was the first one ever published here on Edible Times in 2012. And more than ten years later I still love it just as much as I did then. Light on guilt and heavy on flavor, I often whip it up on a winter weeknight when comfort food is in order. When holiday guests are carb-conscious, I blend the roasted parsnips with plenty of roasted garlic and grated nutmeg. I highly recommend using the buttons on the recipe card to scale it up. Because one batch never seems to be enough.
Roasted parsnip purée is a delicious way to replace starchy mashed potatoes and add a little more fiber to your plate. This recipe is naturally gluten-free and can work within many low-carb and grain-free diets. See the Notes section for dairy-free tips.
- 1 pound or about 6 medium parsnips, peeled and trimmed
- 1 teaspoon of kosher salt (less if using table salt)
- 3 tablespoons of avocado, olive, or safflower oil
- ¾ cup of heavy cream
- ½ cup of milk
- 3 tablespoons of butter, ghee, or olive oil
- ⅛ teaspoon of ground black or white pepper
- Chopped fresh Italian parsley, thyme, or rosemary leaves, optional
Before you begin, wash your hands, gather your ingredients and equipment, and read through the recipe carefully. This is a chef's mise en place, and getting everything in place is just as helpful in the home kitchen.
- Preheat your oven to 400° F.
- Peel the parsnips with a vegetable or y-shaped peeler. Make a thin slice with a sharp knife to remove the stem and woody tip of each parsnip.
- Chop the parsnips into same-size pieces about an inch in size. Coat the parsnips with oil and season them generously with about half a teaspoon of kosher salt. Spread the parsnips in one layer on a rimmed baking pan.
- Roast the parsnips for 25 to 30 minutes, until the pieces are fork-tender and a deep golden brown. Shake the pan after the first 15 minutes to encourage more browning on all sides. Or flip the pieces with a spatula or tongs.
- Cool the roasted parsnips for five minutes, then place them in a blender with the heavy cream, milk, remaining half teaspoon of salt, ground pepper, and butter. Blend until smooth. Add more heavy cream, milk, vegetable, or chicken stock as necessary to reach your preferred consistency (or even water, in a pinch). Aim for a thickness like mashed potatoes.
- Taste the purée, and add more salt and ground pepper, if you like. Garnish with fresh chopped herb leaves or a dollop of sour cream, plain yogurt, crême frâiche, or a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.
- Store leftovers chilled for up to a week. Or freeze. Warm parsnip purée over medium heat in a pot on the stove, adding water, stock, or milk as needed to thin it out. Or microwave leftovers adding additional liquid as necessary.
On consistency. The water content of parsnips will vary, and so will how much the pieces dry out during roasting. The additives in your heavy cream will also affect the thickness of the purée (yes, there are starches in most heavy creams that thicken when exposed to heat and force such as blending). So how much heavy cream and milk you end up using depends on a few different factors. The best approach is to add heavy cream, milk, or vegetable stock a bit at a time to reach a mashed potato consistency. Any combination of heavy cream, milk, or stock works to thin the purée.
Vegan parsnip purée. Since this recipe roasts the parsnips in the oven (instead of simmering) you can easily make it without dairy. To replace the cream, you can substitute almond (or another nut) milk and your favorite plant-based butter alternative. You can also thin the purée out with vegetable stock. Add it slowly so you don't end up with parsnip soup. One cup of almond milk and three tablespoons of plant-based butter alternative is a good starting point for replacing the dairy in this recipe.
Without a blender or food processor. European chefs were making silky vegetable purées long before electric blenders arrived on the scene. If you don't have a blender or food processor, you can send the roasted parsnips through a potato ricer. Or force them through a mesh sieve (strainer) with a spatula or the back of a wooden spoon. The latter takes a bit of elbow grease but can be done with patience and effort. Once the parsnips are smooth, whisk in the remaining ingredients.
Keywords: parsnip puree, parsnips recipe, how to cook parsnips, roasted parsnips
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