Parsnip Gratin is a delicious and healthy alternative to the traditional "potatoes au gratin." Tender parsnips nestled in a creamy Gruyère sauce with a hint of leeks and sage, then topped with a crispy topping!
The rich, savory flavor of this winter root vegetable pairs beautifully with just about anything-beef, turkey, chicken, pork or fish.
If you've walked by this "white carrot," but never really considered it, this recipe will change your mind.
What's a parsnip?
A parsnip is a winter root vegetable that is in the carrot family - technically the "Apiaceae" family which hosts a number of flowering plants like dill, coriander, celery and cumin.
The parsnip is not related to other white vegetables, namely turnips and rutabagas. These white vegetables belong to a completely different family.
What do parsnips taste like?
The flavor of a parsnip is hard to describe. It's not as sweet as a carrot, but more earthy, like a potato or rutabaga, but it also has a nutty flavor to it. The flavor profile also varies depending upon how you cook parsnips.
Parsnips do not taste like turnips, which tend to have a bitter flavor.
What's a gratin?
A gratin, or a dish labeled "au gratin" is a baked or broiled dish that is topped with a crispy topping of either breadcrumbs or cheese, or both. Gratins are typically cooked in a thin casserole dish.
You're probably most familiar with "potatoes au gratin" where thin slices of uncooked potato are layered with cream and cheese, baked, then topped off with a layer of broiled breadcrumbs and/or cheese.
This Parsnip gratin is of similar structure but with a healthy dose of fiber and complex carbohydrates!
Why this recipe works
Baked root vegetables (think carrots, rutabagas, turnips) take on a delicious flavor which is a little different from the flavor and texture of roasted vegetables.
Even naysayers of vegetables like this dish - that's probably due to the Gruyère cheese and cream, but the leeks and sage add a nice flair to the dish.
Some recipes call for onions, but I used a milder form of onion, the leek, which gives just a hint of onion flavor.
The texture is firmer than potatoes, so it's best to slice the gratin when serving, as oppossed to using a serving spoon.
Here's what you'll need
How to make Parsnip Gratin - Prep
Peel the parsnips with a potato peeler; rinse, cut in half
Cut the bulb and tough green leaves off the leek; separate leeks and rinse thoroughly
Note: you're only going to use the middle part of the leek; throw away the bulb and green leaves
Assemble the gratin
Butter the baking dish and preheat oven to 375ºF degrees
Place a single layer of the smaller parsnips in the pan; add ⅓ of the leeks, ⅓ of the Gruyère cheese, ⅓ of the cream; lightly season with ⅓ of salt, white pepper and sage
Repeat process, using the small pieces of the parsnips first; reserve the bigger pieces for the top
Cover with foil and bake until parsnips are fork tender
Remove from oven; remove foil; set oven to broil; place dish under broiler until topping is toasty, golden brown
If you want a crispy bread topping, melt butter and combine with breadcrumbs, sprinkle over dish then broil
Let sit a few minutes before serving
This recipe makes about 4 cups of parsnip gratin. Keep in mind that, as a side dish, it is highly unlikely anyone would eat a cup of this, so it's safe to say you'll easily get 8 ½-cup servings out of this recipe.
The yield will also depend upon the size of baking dish you use. If you use a 9 x 13, the parsnip gratin will be thin and you might get 12 ¼-cup servings. If you use a taller, square baking dish, you'll have a taller gratin with fewer servings.
Tips for Parsnip Gratin
Peel away skin with a potato peeler
Use a super sharp knife or a mandolin to slice the parsnips; cut about ¼" inch
Cut the smaller pieces (the skinny part of the parsnip) into ½" - ¼" inch pieces - just make sure they're about the same size so they'll cook evenly
Use the smaller pieces on the first two layers; use the nice big round pieces on the top for a pretty gratin
Cook time will depend upon your oven and how thick you slice the vegetables; allow at least 45 minutes baking time
The center or core of the parsnip is rather tough, so be sure to check the center of a slice of parsnip when determining doneness
For best results, allow it to cool a bit before serving, then slice the gratin into square servings versus using a serving spoon (sliced pieces look better)
How to select parsnips
These white winter vegetables start showing up at the grocery store around September or October. Choose the ones that are firm and free of spots with only a few "hairy" strands on them. If the tops are attached (which usually they aren't), make sure their nice and green.
How to store parsnips
Store unwashed parsnips loose, in the refrigerator vegetable bin, just as you would carrots. They should keep for up to 3 weeks, however, if you notice them getting soggy or limp- toss 'em.
How to cut and clean leeks
You'll need one cup of finely chopped leeks for this recipe. Take a large leek and cut off about ¼" inch of the bulb and most of the green leaves. You're only gonna use the middle part of the leek.
Separate each of leaves and rinse them in a collander really well. Leeks have a tendency to be gritty, so after you rinse them, put them in a large bowl of water and swish 'em around.
Use a slotted spoon to remove them; pat dry with paper towl and slice into fine pieces.
If you buy leeks in advance, store them unwashed and loose in the refrigerator vegetable bin until ready to use.
Parsnips are high in fiber, potassium, Vitamin C and complex carbs! Complex carbs are "the good carbs" - they're the ones that give you energy and keep you feeling full longer!
Naturally low-fat and low-cholesterol, parsnips are an excellent alternative to potatoes, rice and pasta.
Make parsnip gratin ahead of time; just assemble everything, cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days - cooked or uncooked. When ready to serve, place covered dish in 375ºF oven and bake until parsnips are fork tender or heated throughout.
Remove, add breadcrumbs (optional), return to oven under the broiler for 2-3 minutes.
Add cubed raw parsnips to soups and stews for additional nutrition, flavor and texture.
Parsnips pair well with savory herbs like sage, thyme and rosemary. They also pair well with a sweet factor like maple syrup, honey or agave nectar.
You can also serve mashed parsnips, just like you'd serve mashed rutabagas. Just boil them then mash them with some butter, a touch of sage, salt and pepper and you're done!
If you're looking for a creamy side dish, this parsnip gratin with Gruyère, leeks and sage is a delicious complement to any entree!
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If you make this recipe, please scroll down and leave a comment and rating! I love to hear from you!
- Sharp knife or mandolin
- 3 pounds parsnips ,peeled and sliced to ¼"-inch thickness
- 1 cup chopped leeks ,(about 1 large leek)
- 12 ounces Gruyère cheese, shredded , or Swiss cheese
- ½ cup heavy cream (divided into thirds for each layer)
- 1 tablespoon butter , to grease baking dish
- 1½ teaspoons ground sage (divided into thirds for each layer)
- 1 teaspoon salt (add ⅓ teaspoon to each layer)
- 1 teaspoon white pepper (add ⅓ teaspoon to each layer)
- ½ cup breadcrumbs (optional) , for crispy topping
- 2 tablespoons butter (optional) , for crispy topping
- Preheat oven to 375ºF
- Butter baking dish; set aside1 tablespoon butter
- Peel parsnips; rinse and slice into ¼"-inch slices3 pounds parsnips
- Layer the smaller pieces of parsnips in the prepared baking dish (See Recipe Notes)
- Sprinkle ⅓ of the leeks over the parsnips1 cup chopped leeks
- Sprinkle ⅓ of the cheese over the leeks12 ounces Gruyère cheese, shredded
- Season with ⅓ of each of the following: salt, white pepper and sage1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon white pepper, 1½ teaspoons ground sage
- Drizzle ⅓ of the heavy cream over the parsnips½ cup heavy cream
- Repeat process two more times, ending up with cheese on the top
- Cover with foil and bake for 50 minutes or until parsnips are fork tender; remove from oven
- If you want to add a crispy breadcrumb topping do so now. Melt butter and combine with breadcrumbs; sprinkle over parsnips; if you don't want to add breadcrumbs, go to the next step2 tablespoons butter (optional), ½ cup breadcrumbs (optional)
- Turn oven to broil; remove foil from dish; return parsnips to oven and broil for 3-5 minutes until the cheese (and/or breadcrumbs) are golden brown
- Let dish rest for 5 minutes before serving