Parsnips vs Carrots: Differences Between Them


Let’s take a look at parsnips vs carrots and the significant differences between them as far as their appearance is concerned and how they’re consumed. Both are seasonal root vegetables that are traditionally grown from seeds. And both of these seasonal vegetables have a similar appearance and shape. But what’s the main difference?

What is the Main Difference?

The major difference between carrots and parsnips as far as looking beyond their predominately different colors has to do with how they’re traditionally consumed as well as their flavor. 

Raw parsnips are not very good for eating because of their tendency to have a bitter flavor, and so they’re usually cooked.

But, carrots can be eaten either raw or cooked and have an underlying sweet flavor either way. 

What is a Carrot?

A carrot is a root vegetable with a leafy green top, that’s traditionally orange in color, due to the presence of beta carotene.

It has a generally sweet flavor and is known for its natural sweetness. 

Unlike parsnips, carrots can be consumed in the raw form just as well as being cooked. They’re also used in soups, salads, and a variety of other dishes. 

carrots as a substitute for mushrooms
carrots as a substitute for mushrooms

What is a Parsnip?

A parsnip is a root vegetable, with a green leafy top that looks a lot like white carrots. However, they have more of a nutty flavor and earthy taste compared to the predominately sweet taste of carrots. 

There are several varieties of parsnips that come in a variety of colors, similar to there being several varieties of carrots.

Parsnips are generally consumed in the cooked form whether they’re roasted, fried, baked, or grilled. 

Parsnips tend to be fatter in diameter than carrots which are skinnier in appearance. 

How Do They Grow?

Both parsnips and carrots are traditionally grown from seed. They are planted in well-drained soil in the spring, then can be harvested in the fall for a sweeter taste.

When harvested before then, they tend to have more of a bitter taste because the sugar content hasn’t yet fully developed. 

Peak season for both parsnips and carrots is in autumn right before the ground freezes. This is when you’ll find the best flavor as well as experience the ultimate sweetness of parsnips. 

Where To Buy Carrots and Parsnips

There are a variety of places where carrots and parsnips can both be obtained. Grocery stores carry carrots year round. And some larger stores carry parsnips throughout the year as well.

You can generally find them in the produce aisle. Since parsnips are a fall crop, they can most likely be found when in season. 

Your local farmer’s market is another place to watch for both parsnips and carrots. These options can be more flavorful as many are grown locally and taste delicious. 

How to Cook Parsnips and Carrots

There are a variety of methods that can be used to cook both parsnips and carrots. Though carrots are often eaten raw, parsnips are rarely consumed while still raw. Instead, they’re generally cooked before they’re served. 

Both carrots and parsnips can be boiled, grilled, fried, or roasted. 

Both are best consumed after removing the outer layers of skin. You can simply use a sharp knife or a carrot peeler to remove the skin before processing them to be sliced or cooked.

If you choose to eat them with the skin on, it doesn’t adversely affect the human body but rather will simply increase the grams of fiber consumed. 

To roast carrots or parsnips, wash and peel them first. Then, cut them in slices, rounds, or chunks according to your preference. Next, on a sheet pan, line the pan with olive oil and toss the cut vegetables. Add salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar and any other seasonings.

Roast in the oven at 400F degrees for 15-20 minutes, or until the desired doneness is achieved. Roasted parsnips have a delicious flavor that is somewhat sweet and earthy. 

To boil carrots or parsnips, wash, peel, and slice as desired. Then add them to a pot of boiling water. Boil until tender, drain excess water and add any desired seasonings to serve. 

​To fry carrots or parsnips, prepare them by washing, peeling, and slicing as desired. Then prepare your frying pan with a bit of olive oil in the bottom.

Cook on medium heat, turning them regularly until they’re tender. Add salt or any other desired seasoning for flavor. 

How to Store Carrots and Parsnips

Having grown up on the edge of our family’s farm, we’ve learned some of the best practices for storing root vegetables such as carrots and parsnips.

Our grandfather, the farmer, used to grow large quantities of both carrots and parsnips in his day, then would store them for use throughout the winter months and into early spring.

The key with storing both carrots and parsnips is that they need to be kept in a cool, dark place so that they maintain their freshness. When they’re kept at room temperature for a long length of time, they tend to dry out or to get rubbery in texture.

Large parsnips and large carrots will last longer under these storage conditions, but keeping them in an ideal location will help them to stay fresh for a longer length of time.  

Parsnips and carrots can be harvested in late fall, before the ground freezes. Then, if you don’t have a root cellar to store them, they can be stored in the ground.

The method our grandfather used was to dig a hole that was about 2 feet deep, then fill the hole with straw. Finally, place the carrots and parsnips in the hole, and cover the top with dirt. 

This method of storage helps to keep the root vegetables fresh and protects them from freezing. It also, allow easy access to them throughout the winter and early spring since the straw remains flexible even when the ground freezes. 

To store parsnips or carrots, we never recommend using a plastic bag. Plastic captures the moisture and promotes the growth of mold and rotting. Rather, it’s better to maintain good airflow in whatever storage method you choose to use. 

If you have a smaller quantity of parsnips and carrots, you can simply store them in your vegetable crisper drawer of your refrigerator until you’re ready to use them.

This will also help to maintain freshness. Wrapping them in plastic food wrap will help to keep them fresh and will protect them from drying out. 

Health Benefits

There are a long list of health benefits that can be gleaned from consuming both carrots and parsnips, or one or the other. And we’ve outlined just a few of them for you below. 

If you’re at risk of heart disease, the nutritional value of both carrots and parsnips are heart healthy foods.

Scientifically speaking, consuming vegetables such as carrots and parsnips has been known to help cholesterol levels and diminish calorie intake.

Along with heart health, eating carrots and parsnips can help strengthen a person’s immune system.

They are loaded with vitamins such as vitamin k, vitamin a, vitamin b, and known to be a great source of vitamin c. They can help keep free radicals and diseases at bay.

The third aspect of health that carrots and parsnips add to your health is dietary fiber. Sometimes digestive health gets overlooked, but it too is a valuable part of well-rounded health.

Eating these vegetables can help with weight loss too. 

Related Ideas:

Following are more parsnip and carrot ideas that you might be interested in. We’ve included a parsnips recipe for salad as well as some of the best carrot salads and snack ideas.

And although you can eat them a variety of ways, they’re better for you than potato fries. 

Grated carrot and celeriac salad

Parsnip parmesan parsley and lemon salad

Carrots and peanut butter

Carrot mint salad

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Sarah is known for her extra fancy yeast breads, melt in your mouth pies, and everything salads. She has won awards as a home cook, and is passionate about helping others feel smarter in the kitchen. Sarah is the cooking genius of the sister duo.

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