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Last Thanksgiving, I went up to Portland to enjoy the holiday with a group of old friends. By Saturday, we were all stuffed and vaguely tired of food – but our friend Eric managed to revive our appetites with a creative light meal consisting entirely of homemade pickles and two kinds of fried carbs (polenta and a salty fried batter called zeppole). Also on the pickle plates were preserved lemons and several sorts of brined peppers. It was a great combination: each bite of one thing made you hungry for a bite of something else.

Eric has been kind enough to share the turnip recipe with me; I’ve modified it very slightly based on my own tastes. Note that by “small” turnips I mean only those with a diameter of less than 1.5" (and ideally smaller, ~1"); above that size they just don’t taste right. Generally you can only get these at farmer’s markets, even during the winter season.

Equipment-wise, I just use old wide-necked spaghetti sauce jars (24 oz.) that have been through the dishwasher. Here I assume that you will use three such jars (which will be filled not all the way to the top, but that is OK – tight packing can bruise the turnips and make mushy pickles).

The final product is a beautiful deep red, has a strong but not overpowering radish-like heat, and (if you used good baby turnips) both sweet and mineral flavors. These definitely aren’t for everyone but they are a great way to get introduced to this underrated vegetable.

(P.S.: There are pickled turnips all over the Middle East; in Persia/Iran they are called "torshi left".)

Prep time:
Servings: 6 cups


Cost per serving $0.17 view details
  • sea salt – 1/3 c (I use La Baleine Salins du Midi)
  • water – 3.5 c
  • distilled white vinegar – 1.25 c
  • turnips, small white – 2 lbs.
  • garlic – 6 cloves
  • beet, small red – 1
  • celery leaves – 3


  1. In a clear glass bowl, dissolve the salt in the water and stir in the vinegar. I generally do this first and process the turnips while I wait for the salt to be completely dissolve.
  2. Wash the turnips and cut them away from the greens (don’t discard the greens; they are delicious sautéed with oil and garlic). Cut them into halves or quarters to make comfortably bite-sized pieces.
  3. Cut the garlic cloves in half lengthwise. Put two garlic cloves and one celery leaf into each jar.
  4. Peel the beet and cut it up into three pieces. Put one in each jar.
  5. Pack the turnip pieces into the jars, filling each jar roughly equally.
  6. Cover the vegetables with the vinegar brine solution and seal the jar.
  7. Store at room temperature out of the light. The turnips should mellow and be ready to eat in about 10 days. After that, store them in the refrigerator.
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Nutrition Facts

Amount Per Serving %DV
Serving Size 162g
Recipe makes 6 servings
Calories 8  
Calories from Fat 0 0%
Total Fat 0.04g 0%
Saturated Fat 0.01g 0%
Trans Fat 0.0g  
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 23mg 1%
Potassium 63mg 2%
Total Carbs 1.72g 0%
Dietary Fiber 0.5g 2%
Sugars 1.04g 1%
Protein 0.29g 0%



  • Barb Stuckey
    April 8, 2008
    It was the star ingredient in my butter lettuce salad at my last dinner party. Thanks, Chris!
    I've cooked/tasted this recipe!
    • daniellec1
      May 23, 2008
      These turnips turned out just perfect. We've been eating them from the jar but tonight we'll try them in an asian flavored salad.
      I've cooked/tasted this recipe!


      • Chris Patil
        April 8, 2008
        I have done this too -- they are great thinly sliced on lots of different sorts of salads.

        Another friend (who doesn't like the turnips themselves) really likes the brine, after the turnips have pickled in it. Mixed with good olive oil, I suspect it would be a good basis for a vinaigrette or bread dip.

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