The Unloved Parsnip

Know Your Ingredients: Winter Vegetable Series 

parsnipsYour friendly author confesses to a serious love of the botanical world in all its glory and splendor. Allow her to present a medley of recipes for a neglected member of the vegetable world, the humble-looking parsnip, relative of the carrot, a sweet root vegetable that is a powerhouse of nutrition. This vegetable has been neglected for a very long time, but it is making a comeback.

Parsnips contain a wide variety of vitamins and nutrients including a potassium for the heart, vitamin C for the immune system, and fiber. The soluble fiber in parsnips aids in reducing chronic inflammation and helps you feel satisfied longer. We use steaming for the soup—a low-fat cooking method.

What is the benefit to the dysphagia patient or the patient with chewing or swallowing difficulties? This recipe offers maximum flavor and nutrients. It is satisfying and can be a blank canvas to add other favorite flavors, such as the mushroom stripe, the sun-dried tomato stripe or even the pesto stripe. In fact, if one uses sautéed leeks instead of shallots, the dish tastes a lot like potato-leek soup, the French classic. The idea of the variations is that with one basic recipe, you can serve many dishes. This helps to escape patient boredom. The person with the swallowing or chewing difficulty is always surprised.

Cream of Parsnip Soup with Shallots

Prep Time: 25 minutes  |  Level: Easy  |  Serves: Two


  • 1 tbsp. olive oil or coconut oil
  • 2 shallots, sliced thinly
  • 2 lbs. of baby parsnips, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup of coconut milk


The parsnips should be diced evenly. Two inch dice. I suggest baby parsnips because the mature parsnip may be fibrous, not good for puree. The baby variety should be steamed for ten minutes until soft. See my recommendations for steamers.

In a sauté pan, heat the olive oil and sauté the shallots until they are golden brown, about five minutes.

Add the coconut milk and cook for two minutes until a light simmer is reached.

Puree the parsnips in the bowl of a food processor or a blender.

Add to the soup and cook for another minute.

Tip: A Second Dish–How to Make Macaroni and Cheese

The Essential Puree Cream of Parsnip soup makes a fantastic base for macaroni and cheese. You use the cream of parsnip soup instead of making a béchamel or white sauce from butter, wheat flour and dairy milk. Here’s how you do it: Follow the above recipe until the point when the soup has come to the simmer. Add your cheeses, say a half cup of cheddar and a half cup of Monterey jack and a quarter cup of grated parmesan or Romano. Any combination you like will do, but don’t use a cheese that gets stringy, such as mozzarella or gruyere. These will not be good for the dysphgia patient and are to be avoided. Check with your healthcare provider, as always, before inventing in the kitchen. 

Meantime, you cook a cup of elbow macaroni, which makes two cups. You could substitute any other small pasta you like, whole wheat or gluten free, rotini or penne. You cook in salted water until the noodle is softer than al dente. You want your pasta soft but not mushy for the puree.  Drain the pasta and add the two cups to the soup a half cup at a time. You want to keep the balance between the cheese sauce and the noodle. Bear in mind you will want a little extra sauce for the puree.

When the mac and cheese has cooled, take a cup and puree in the bowl of a mini food processor or a blender. You can add extra soup or coconut milk or dairy milk if you need to thin the puree. You add extra noodles if you want to thicken it. This is a terrific mac and cheese.  If you are celebrating a holiday or in the mood to splurge, you can add cooked crabmeat or cooked lobster meat, a half-pound, cleaned and picked over for shells, to the puree. I sometimes add fresh tomato that has been de-seeded to mac and cheese. I like the combination. I sometimes add frozen peas to the warm mac and cheese. The peas are already cooked and the mac and cheese warms them up.

Quite Tasty!