Turnip vs. Radish: What’s the Difference?

by Charlie

Turnips and radishes are similar-looking root vegetables. And if you are in a hurry with your grocery shopping, you might even mistake one for the other. These two vegetables belong to the same family, Brassicaceae, which is a mustards, crucifers, or cabbage family. Also, both turnip and radish plants can be annual or biennial.

Their nutritional profiles are also quite similar. They are low in calories and high in water concentration. You can have them raw or cooked. With all these similarities, it’s natural to use them interchangeably in your food preparations. However, there are still some differences you need to consider when deciding which one to use in your recipe or whether to substitute one for the other.

So what’s the difference between turnips and radishes? The main difference between turnips and radishes is in the taste. Raw radish is lightly sweet, zesty, peppery, and crisp. But raw turnip is sweet, crunchy, and mildly spicy. Radish becomes more spicy as it matures. Turnips also become more spicy as they mature, but they also become more bitter and starchy.

Older radishes are sweeter, but younger turnips are sweeter. Cooking radish will bring out more of its sweetness. Cooking turnips will bring out its nutty and earthy taste. Cooking radish lessens its spiciness while cooking turnips intensifies its flavors.

What are Other Differences Between Turnips and Radishes?

There are more differences between turnips and radishes. For one, radishes (Raphanus Raphanistrum) are ready to harvest in as early as 22 days, while turnips are ready for harvest in at least 60 days.

Moreover, turnips (Brassica Rapa Rapa) are also more prone to plant disease than radishes. 

Another difference is that round radishes are smaller than round turnips. A round radish has a reddish top or skin color, while round turnips are creamy white-skinned with a purple top.

Lastly, turnip and radish also have some differences in nutrient composition. Turnip is 93% water, while radish is 95% water. In 100 grams, turnip has 67 mg of sodium, while radish has 39 mg. Turnip has 191 mg of potassium, while radish has 233 mg. Turnip has 3.8 grams of sugar, while radish has 1.9 grams.

Can You Substitute Turnip for Radish in Recipes?

Yes, you can substitute turnip for radish and the other way around. They belong to the same plant family. They still have similar tastes, and their texture and composition are similar. They blend in and flavor your dish in similar ways.

Just mind the type and age of turnip or radish you are going to use. Because depending on the variety you cook with, you can increase or decrease the sweetness, bitterness, and spiciness of your dish.

Is Daikon Turnip or Radish?

Some think daikon is turnip. But it is radish. It is an Asian variety of radish. It is milder in taste compared to the usual radish. It is commonly cooked in a dish and not really eaten raw.

One variety of daikon is Watermelon Radish. You can serve this raw, thinly sliced, and arranged on a cheese plate. This can also be cut into thin strips and mixed in fresh salads.

Is Rutabaga Turnip or Radish?

Rutabaga (Brassica Napobrassica), sometimes called swede or Swedish Turnip, is a hybrid of cabbage and turnip. It also belongs to the same family as turnip and radish, which is Brassicaceae.

When Should You Use Turnip?

You can use turnips fresh in your salads or cooked in a dish. You can lightly cook it in oil and seasoned to taste.

Sauté some cuts in garlic and butter. Season with herbs. Drizzle some olive oil and bake for 20 minutes or until done.

You can also go for a simple roast. Cut some slices, season with salt and pepper. Drizzle some olive oil and pop in the oven for 30 minutes or until done.

You can also mash turnips or panfry slices till golden. These are simple ways to use and serve turnips as a side dish to go with other cooked or grilled meat.

How about braising turnips in vegetable stock and herbs? This takes a few minutes. You only have to wait until the turnips are soft enough yet still crisp.

Turnip pickles are also popular. Mix and submerge them in rice vinegar, some sugar, and salt. Let them ferment for some time. They’re great for your sandwiches.

Green leaves or turnip greens are highly nutritious. You can boil the smaller leaves and season them. They taste like mustard greens. If you have larger leaves, separately pre-boil them a bit to remove some of the bitterness.

When Should You Use Radish?

You can use radish quite the same way as you would turnips. They are great eaten raw, but it is best to chop and combine them with other ingredients for a crunchy or leafy green salad or cook them with other ingredients for an elaborate dish.

Sauté radish slices with minced beef or pork. Or serve them sliced and use as a garnish for tostadas, enchiladas, or stew.

You can also use radish leaves in a potato soup or sauté them to serve as a side dish.

Some spiral radishes, season them with salt and chives to serve as finger foods with beer. 

Raw turnips are peppery and make good dressings and dips. Grate them finely. Blend them in some cream cheese and herbs. Season to taste and serve.

As with turnips, you can boil radish in scallions and ginger or braise some in broth to serve with your roasted meat.

Another simple way to serve radish is pan-seared. Season and use olive oil or butter. Cook for a few minutes only to soften them and bring out their sweetness.

If you need some natural diuretic, try the sweet and freshly-squeezed radish juice. You can also juice some with other fruits for a blended drink.

Did you know that some make radish paste and use it to treat skin issues such as allergies, rashes, and insect bites?

Final Thoughts

  • Raw turnip is sweet, crunchy, and mildly spicy. But raw radish is lightly sweet, peppery, zesty, and crisp.
  • Radish sweetens as it matures, while turnips turn bitter as it matures.
  • Turnips are ready for harvest in 60 days, while radishes are ready to harvest in 22 days.
  • Round turnip is bigger than round radish.
  • Round radish has a reddish top, while round turnip has a purple top.

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