Do You Peel Turnips Before Cooking Them?

By Joshua McCarron

A turnip is a root vegetable that sometimes come with the greens still attached, but it's usually found in the produce department as just the milky-white and purple root on its own. Different cooking methods and even different turnips can influence whether you should peel a turnip or just leave it be.

Woman with turnips in garden
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Turnips are a root vegetable and part of the cabbage family.

What to Look For

Smaller turnips are usually younger and will be sweeter with a more delicate flavor. The root end should still be attached and the skin of the turnip should feel smooth and be free of blemishes. When you pick up a turnip, it should feel heavier than it looks, and it should be firm when you give it a squeeze. Larger, more mature turnips have more of a woody taste. The ideal turnip has a sweet aroma.

When to Peel

Peel your turnips with a basic vegetable peeler, but only when it's necessary. Consider peeling them if they are large and potentially bitter-tasting or if you plan to roast them or bake them in the oven. Cut up these larger turnips into quarters to help them toward a tasty end result. For every cooking method, remove the roots and stems before cooking, but most of the time the decision to peel the outer skin is a personal one.

When Not to Peel

Boiling is a common way to cook turnips, and you won't need to bother peeling them if you choose this method. Just cut off the stem, place them in the boiling water and let them cook for up to 30 minutes. You can also boil the greens at the same time if you're using them. If you don't end up peeling the turnip before baking it, you can slide the skin and root off when it comes out of the oven and cools down. The smaller, baby turnips don't require peeling whether you boil, bake, roast or saute them.

Freezing and Storage

The peak season for turnips is from October to March, but they are available all year in most grocery stores. Keep turnips in your fridge for up to two weeks without worrying about spoilage. To freeze them, blanch them in boiling water for about 3 minutes first. This helps prevent the enzymes in the turnip from breaking it down. Cool them in ice water for a few minutes immediately after blanching, then dry them and seal them tightly. Freeze them for up to nine months. Turnips don't require peeling prior to freezing.