Parsnip Soup

healthy winter soupParsnips might be one of the more overlooked root vegetables, the C-list has-been of the produce bin. Cultivated by the ancient Greeks and Romans and a staple of Yuletide feasts of yore, they eventually fell out of favor when potatoes came on the scene. Parsnips never quite captured the imagination of the New World, and Europe all but abandoned it as a sweetener once sugar became plentiful and cheap. Yesterday’s news, the parsnip.

But considering how delicately earthy-sweet and tasty these veggies can be, maybe they just need a better publicist? A For Your Consideration campaign to call their own.

A member of the carrot family (they look like ivory-pale monster carrots), they’re less starchy than the potato and sweeter than their orange cousins, particularly in winter. Raw parsnip has an astringent scent, but when cooked (roasted, mashed or as a base for a soup, as we’re doing here) it mellows into a fragrant mildness with a distinctly, er, parsnippish (parsnippy?) high note. The aroma is unique to the parsnip, let’s put it that way. Larger parsnips will have a tough, woody core, so when you’re at the market look for unblemished, firm, medium-sized specimens (about four to a pound). Store them in the refrigerator to coax out their sweetness.

And for a warming, late-winter meal (without the attendant calorie overload), purée the mineral-rich vegetable with stock and other aromatics into this refined, comforting soup. Serve with a few slices of pumpernickel toast and roasted cauliflower and cozy on up to the table. It’s a comeback.

Winter Parsnip Soup
adapted from Deborah Madison’s The Greens Cookbook; serves four to six

  • 2 lbs medium parsnips
  • 3-4 Tbsp butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 lb leeks (white and light green parts only), cut lengthwise, rinsed well & sliced
  • 1 quart (32 oz) vegetable stock plus 2 C water
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp fresh tarragon, minced
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme, minced
  • 1 tsp fresh rosemary, minced
  • 2 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 – 3/4 C heavy cream (optional)

Prep the vegetables and herbs except for the parsnips. In a heavy soup pot, heat the butter over medium. Cook the onions, stirring occasionally, for 10-15 minutes until golden and melted. Meanwhile, prep the parsnips: trim the tops, peel and cut lengthwise. With a knife or vegetable peeler, cut or scrape out and discard the fibrous core. Roughly chop; the parsnips will cook faster than the other vegetables, so cut them into larger pieces.

Add all the vegetables, herbs, salt, stock and water to the pot. Bring to a boil and reduce down to a simmer. Cook, partly covered, until the vegetables are softened but not mushy, about 15-20 minutes.

Let the soup cool slightly. Pass through a food mill or purée in a food processor until smooth. Return to the pot and add the vinegar and cream, if using. Adjust the salt to your taste. Garnish with additional herbs, if desired, and serve very warm.

Note: to make this recipe vegan, substitute olive oil for the butter and omit the cream (or substitute additional stock). The soup can be made well ahead.

parsnip soup

About scarpettakate

Scarpetta Dolcetto celebrates simple, seasonal, scratch home cookery.
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21 Responses to Parsnip Soup

  1. Wow this soup looks so creamy and delicious! I just started seriously eating parsnips this past year and am obsessed. I’ll definitely have to try this! Love your presentation too!

  2. Ellen says:

    Do you use a store-bought vegetable stock or make your own? If store-bought, what brand(s) do you like?


    • Hi, Ellen. I’ll make a big batch of chicken stock a few times a year and freeze it, but I also like Imagine brand for veggie stock and Kitchen Basics for chicken & beef. The Greens Cookbook included an easy stock for this soup, adapted here: take the parsnip peelings & cores, 1 1/2 C chopped leek greens, 2-3 chopped carrots, 2-3 diced celery stalks, a bundle of herbs, 1 tsp salt & 7 C cold water. (If you have any other veggie scraps or leftover hard cheese rinds, throw those in, too.) Put everything in the pot, bring to a boil, cover & simmer for 25 minutes. Strain and there should be 5-6 C.

  3. this soup looks fantastic. i’ve never had parsnips before. it’s a root vegetable right? i don’t know if we grow those out here where i live. thanks so much for sharing. cheers.

  4. I like the information behind the parsnip, I’m so inclined to give them a try now! I think trying them in soup (with yummy leeks!) is a good introduction.

  5. Parsnips are such and under-used vegetable! This soup looks delicious. Warm and comforting!

  6. Claudia says:

    I bought a whole bunch of parsnips (welcome to winter) this week and was wondering what to do with them. And here you are with a most inviting soup! Perfect!

  7. Tone Olsen says:

    Fabulous soup. Love parsnips and it was a rich and thick soup. Great for the cold day we had today. Loved your brussels sprout salad too!

  8. Kevin says:

    I love parsnips. This weekend = Parsnip Soup. Thanks.

  9. Sarah says:

    This looks great! One question: I have tried substituting lower fat milk for heavy cream in different recipes and had varying success, would you recommend doing so with this soup, and is there anything in a recipe (ie: certain ingredients) that tells you whether or not such subbing is a good idea?

    • hey, sarah! the cream works to thin out the texture and give the soup some richness, so using milk would be just fine, though less creamy. that said, i might just skip it and use extra stock instead! 🙂

  10. It’s true, parsnips really are under-rated. Whenever I cook with them, I scold myself for not buying them more often. They are so good and I love that earthy, vibrant smell! Your soup looks luxurious and comforting all at once. Nice!

  11. Ang says:

    I’m a big fan of parsnips, especially roasted. This soup would totally hit the spot on these brisk chilly days.

  12. I’m relatively new to parsnips. I don’t think I had ever tasted one until a chicken soup recipe I came across a few years ago called for them. After that I was hooked. Admittedly, I have not ventured much past roasting them or using them in said soup. I like this one a lot. Thanks for inspiring me to try something new. 🙂

  13. I do overlook parsnips, but I think I now have a better idea of what to do with them! I usually just roast them … now I can make some soup with them, too…. thank you for sharing this!

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  15. Fran says:

    We enjoyed your soup last night in front of the fire during a thunder snow storm! It was a great soup for using the last of the parsnips, carrots, leeks (frozen), thyme, and rosemary from our garden. Another keeper, thanks.

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