Parsnips with Drawn Butter Sauce

Parsnips with Drawn Butter Sauce in Bowl

I seem to get into ruts when making vegetables, so am always on the lookout for recipes for some of the less common vegetables. When I saw a recipe for Parsnips with Drawn Butter Sauce in a hundred-year-old cookbook, I decided to give it a try.

The recipe turned out well. The sweet, nutty, earthly parsnips were cut into strips about 2-inches long and cooked, and then embedded in a rich, buttery sauce.

Recipe for Parsnips with Drawn Butter Sauce
Source: Boston Cooking School Cook Book (1923)

I was surprised that the old recipe for the Drawn Butter Sauce called for water and flour. Today, Drawn Butter is generally just a clarified butter – but apparently it was a thickened butter and water sauce a hundred years ago.

When I made this recipe, I made half a recipe for the drawn butter sauce. I used hot water rather than fish stock. I peeled the parsnips rather than scraping them. (Does anyone scrape parsnips – or carrots for that matter – anymore?)

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Parsnips with Drawn Butter Sauce

  • Servings: 3 - 4
  • Difficulty: moderate
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1 pound parsnips (about 4 medium parsnips)


1 teaspoon salt + 1/4 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons butter

1 1/2 tablespoons flour

dash pepper

3/4 cup hot water

1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

Peel parsnips and cut into pieces two inches long and 1/2 inch wide. Put in a saucepan, cover with water; add 1 teaspoon salt.  Bring to a boil using high heat, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes or until tender.

Melt half of the butter in a saucepan using medium heat; stir in the flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper. Gradually add the hot water while stirring constantly. Bring to a boil while continuing to stir, reduce heat and continue to stir while the mixture slowly boils for 5 minutes. Stir in remaining butter and the lemon juice. Immediately remove from heat and pour the sauce over the cooked parsnips. Gently stir to combine.

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
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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.

Parsnip Balls

Parsnip Balls 2

Winter farmers’ markets in the small suburb where I live are always a bit of an adventure, and I’m never quite sure what will be available. I recently was thrilled to find some lovely parsnips, but then I had a challenge: Could I find an interesting hundred-year-old recipe that called for parsnips?

I browsed through a couple 1916 issues of Good Housekeeping magazine and came across an intriguing recipe for Parsnip Balls, and decided to give it a try.

The Parsnip Balls only had a few ingredients and were surprisingly easy to make. They turned out awesomely. The balls were coated with ground walnuts which added a bit of crunch to the earthy, sweetness of the parsnips. This recipe is a keeper.

Here’s the recipe adapted for modern cooks:

Parsnip Balls

  • Servings: 3 - 4
  • Difficulty: medium
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3-4 medium parsnips (1 cup, mashed)

15 saltine crackers (1/2 cup  cracker crumbs)

1 egg yolk

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup ground walnuts

1/2 cup shortening or lard

Peel parsnips and cut into 1/2 inch cubes. Place cubed parsnips in a medium saucepan and cover with water. Using high heat bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until parsnips are tender. Drain parsnips, and then mash. In the meantime, crush the saltine crackers to make crumbs.

Combine mashed parsnip, cracker crumbs, egg yolk, and salt in a bowl. Shape the mixture into 1-inch balls; then roll in ground walnuts. Place the shortening into a frying pan, and heat until hot.  Drop balls into the hot shortening, then gently roll the balls with a fork until all sides are a light brown. Remove from heat and drain on paper towels.

And, here is the original recipe:

Source: Good Housekeeping (May, 1916)
Source: Good Housekeeping (May, 1916)