ina garten smiling
Ina Garten has plenty of recipes with a long list of ingredients, but the parsnip puree from her cookbook “Go-To Dinners” isn’t one of them. The recipe, republished by Williams Sonoma, only calls for four ingredients — parsnips, salt, pepper, and butter — but it rivals any method of making mashed potatoes. In fact, the celebrity chef features it in her Thanksgiving spread.
Though parsnips look similar to carrots, their taste is much closer to that of a potato. But according to Real Simple, parsnips, unlike potatoes, are naturally flavorful. They are slightly sweet and mildly earthy, so when you substitute them for the potatoes in mashed potatoes, you’re also adding a layer of flavor. While the Barefoot Contessa seasons her mashed potatoes with lemon zest or with garlic, she hardly adds anything to her parsnip puree.
But it isn’t just the extra flavor that makes parsnips a good potato alternative. It’s also the texture, Bon Appétit points out. Whereas mashed potatoes can quickly get gummy or dry if you don’t add fat or cream, it’s hardly an issue with mashed parsnips.
Parsnips Mash Better Than Potatoes
parsnips next to mashed parsnips
Mashed potatoes are deceptively foolproof. The more you mash them, The Kitchn explains, the more starch gets activated, and as a result, the consistency becomes gluey. Parsnips, on the other hand, can’t be overworked. Though both are root vegetables, per Foodstruct, parsnips have a significantly lower starch content. Without starch to cause them to turn sticky, parsnips only get smoother with more mashing.
For the same reason, mashed parsnips don’t require ingredients like crème fraîche or sour cream to achieve a smooth texture. Instead, you only need the leftover water you used to boil your parsnips. “It makes it creamier without adding cream,” Ina Garten explained to Bon Appétit. Though you might assume this would water down the mash, parsnips impart so much flavor into the cooking liquid, Bon Appétit notes, so you won’t have to worry about that happening. Butter and a dash of salt and pepper are the finishing touches, and the resulting flavor and texture speak for themselves.