Old-fashioned Fried Parsnips

fried parsnips in bowl

When I recently saw a hundred-year-old recipe for Fried Parsnips, I decided to give it a try. As winter begins to wind down, I’m enjoying some of the less common vegetables.

The parsnips are cut into large chunks. After they are cooked, each piece is dipped into a batter and then fried. The Fried Parsnips had a delightful earthy, sweetness which was accentuated by the crispy coating.

Here is the original recipe:

Recipe for Fried Parsnips
Balanced Daily Diet (1920) by Janet McKenzie Hill

I could not figure why the cooked parsnips were supposed to stand in the butter for half an hour, or why the batter was to sit for half an hour – so I didn’t include extended wait times when I updated the recipe.

I also substituted butter for some of the Crisco, and any shortening or lard works for frying.

Here is the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Fried Parsnips

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

2 pounds parsnips (6 – 8 medium parsnips)

1 egg

1/2 cup milk

3/4 cup flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

salt and pepper

2 tablespoons butter

shortening or lard

Peel parsnips and cut into 2 1/2 inch chunks. Place in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil using high heat, then reduce heat and simmer until tender (approximately 20 – 25 minutes). Drain.

While the parsnips are cooking, make the batter. In a mixing bowl place the egg, milk, flour and 1/4 teaspoons salt. Beat until smooth; set aside.

Melt butter in skillet, then add cooked parsnips. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then gently roll in the melted butter. Remove parsnip pieces from the skillet, then add enough shortening or lard to the skillet so that there is 1/2 inch of shortening once it is melted.

Dip each piece of parsnip in the batter to coat, remove from batter, let any excess batter drip off, then put the batter-coated parsnips pieces into the hot fat. Cook until lightly browned on the bottom, then gently roll several times to brown other sides. When browned, remove parsnip pieces from the skillet with a fork. Drain on paper towels, then serve.


42 thoughts on “Old-fashioned Fried Parsnips

  1. I was always told to make the batter an hour or so ahead, to enable the flour to swell. I do feel that the batter does work better given this extra time. It seems smoother, but it may be all in my mind!

    1. They’re tasty. Parsnips weren’t a food that we ate when I was growing up in Pennsylvania – but I’ve discovered that I like them in more recent years. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. If your husband likes parsnips, he’d like this recipe. I can see how they look like scallops in the photo. In real life, they looked less like scallops.

    1. At the store where I shop, they are in a small bin next to the turnips. I always have to look a little to find them. They apparently don’t sell very many parsnips.

    1. In my opinion, the texture of the parsnips is better when they are fried than when they are mashed. That said, the flavor of mashed and fried turnips is about the same, so if you didn’t like the flavor of mashed turnips, you probably won’t like these.

  2. This sounds great! Then I was curious to whatโ€™s the difference between turnips and parsnips…as Iโ€™ve grown turnips but not parsnips… parsnips according to google are more like carrots, where turnips arenโ€™t as sweet with a stronger taste. Would you agree?

    1. Yes, this is an accurate description of the difference between turnips and parsnips. I like them both – though I tend to serve parsnips more frequently than turnips, so I guess that I prefer them.

  3. Not sure I have ever tried parsnips fried. But they look and sound great! Good question from Deb.. What is the question between turnips and parsnips? I know we have had parsnips in curry (or was it turnips) and have used parsnips for making chicken soup in the past!


    1. I’m guessing that you had turnips in the soup – though it might possibly have been parsnips. In many ways parsnips and turnips are similar in taste, though parsnips are a little sweeter.

    1. If you like roasted parsnips, you’d like this recipe. It’s a nice change of pace, but the taste is basically the same (but with a crispy coating).

  4. I also like to roast them in the winter. They become available here late fall along with the turnips, rutabaga and squash. They all roast well and turn sweet.

  5. I should really revisit the parsnip. As I mentioned, my mom is a wonderful cook, but not the best with seasoning. Parsnips were in the brussels sprout category, if you know what I mean.

    1. I know what you mean. You should give them another try. I also didn’t like parsnips when I was young, but I’ve found that parsnips have grown on me over the years.

  6. Battered parsnips… that’s an idea (but I’d have to substitute a polyunsaturate oil for the butter). The way I like parsnips is boiled til they’re nearly done, drained and then fried with slices of garlic, til the garlic’s nearly burnt. ๐Ÿ™‚ If they’re fried til they’re nearly brown, they caramelize in their own sugar content and are delicious! (Butter is best for the latter, pref salted butter, unfortunately!)

      1. Do, it’s lovely. ๐Ÿ™‚ (If you slice cut them in thirds and then slice them lengthwise, they’re even tastier – not sure how, but that’s what happens!

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