Rutabaga vs. Turnip: What are the Differences and Benefits?

Are you curious about the colorful world of vegetables? Let’s explore the unique characteristics of two popular root vegetables: rutabaga and turnip. While they may look similar at first glance, these veggies have distinct flavors and textures that can add a delightful twist to your meals. In this article, we’ll uncover the differences between rutabaga and turnip, helping you become a vegetable connoisseur in no time. So, let’s dive into the fascinating realm of root vegetables and discover what sets these two apart

The Main Difference Between Rutabaga and Turnip

Rutabaga vs. Turnip: What are the Differences and Benefits? Pin

Rutabaga vs. Turnip: Key Takeaways

  • Rutabagas are typically larger with yellowish-brown skin and orange-yellow flesh.
  • Turnips are generally smaller, with white and purple skin and very white flesh.

Rutabaga vs. Turnip: The Definition

What Does Rutabaga Mean?

The term rutabaga comes from the Swedish “rotabagge,” meaning “ram’s foot” or “root bag,” reflecting its large, bulbous form. Rutabaga is best for roasting, mashing, or adding to hearty stews.

What Does Turnip Mean?

Turnip comes from a compound of “tur-” or “torp-” meaning “round” and the word “neep,” derived from Latin napus, denoting the spherical shape of the vegetable.

When distinguishing between rutabaga and turnip, your key focus should be on their physical characteristics and origins. These root vegetables may look similar, but several features set them apart. Turnip is best for: Salads, pickling, quick sautéing.

Rutabaga vs. Turnip: Comparison 

Appearance: Rutabagas generally have a yellowish-brown skin and orange-yellow flesh inside, signifying their larger size. In contrast, turnips are smaller with white and purple exteriors and white flesh.


  • Turnips: Small, akin to a large radish or small apple.
  • Rutabagas: Larger, typically the size of a grapefruit.

Origin: Your rutabaga is a relative newcomer, believed to be a hybrid of a turnip and a cabbage, while turnips have been cultivated for millennia.

Texture and Flavor:

  • Turnips: Tend to have a sharper taste and are firmer, which changes to a milder flavor when young and small.
  • Rutabagas: Offer a sweeter and milder taste, often preferred for mashing due to their soft texture when cooked.
Aspect Turnip Rutabaga
Skin Color White with purple tinge Yellowish-brown
Flesh Color White Orange-yellow
Size Smaller (like a large radish) Larger (similar to a grapefruit)
Taste Sharper when larger; milder when small Milder and sweeter
Best When Small and tender Larger and fully matured

Tips to Remember the Differences

  • RutabagaYellowish-brown and large – “Ru” for robust and “tabaga” rhymes with “bigga”.
  • TurnipWhite and purple, smaller – Think “tur” for “turn it up” in salads where crisp and fresh is key.

Rutabaga vs. Turnip: Examples

Example Sentences Using Rutabaga

  • In Soups: You can add chunks of rutabaga to your beef stew for a sweet and slightly peppery flavor.
  • As Mashed: Try mashing rutabaga with some butter, cream, and spices for a hearty side dish.
  • In Casseroles: Incorporate diced rutabaga into your vegetable casserole for a delightful blend of flavors and textures.
  • Rutabaga Fries: Cut rutabaga into strips, toss with olive oil and seasonings, then bake until crispy for a tasty alternative to traditional fries.

Example Sentences Using Turnip

  • Roasted: Toss turnip wedges with olive oil and herbs before roasting them for a side that’s crisp on the outside and tender on the inside.
  • In Salads: Slice turnips thinly and add them to your favorite salad for a crunchy and slightly spicy element.
  • Pickled: Turnips can be pickled with vinegar and spices to create a tangy and versatile condiment for various dishes.
  • Gratin: Prepare a delicious turnip gratin by layering thinly sliced turnips with cheese and cream, then baking until golden brown.

Related Confused Words With Rutabaga or Turnip

Rutabaga vs. Potato

Rutabaga, also known as a swede, has a slightly sweet and peppery flavor with a yellowish-orange flesh, while potatoes have a more neutral taste and white, yellow, or red flesh. Nutritionally, rutabagas are lower in calories and carbohydrates compared to potatoes, making them a suitable option for low-carb diets. Additionally, rutabagas are a good source of vitamin C and fiber, whereas potatoes are higher in potassium and vitamin B6. In cooking, rutabagas are often used as a lower-carb alternative to potatoes and can be mashed, roasted, or added to soups and stews for a unique flavor and texture.

Turnip vs. Jicama

Turnips and jicama are both root vegetables, but they have several differences in terms of appearance, taste, and culinary uses.

Turnips are generally smaller and have a white or purple color with a distinctively spicy, peppery flavor. They are often used in stews, soups, and casseroles, and can also be mashed or roasted as a side dish.

Jicama is larger and has a brown, papery skin with a white, crisp flesh. It has a mild, slightly sweet taste and is often enjoyed raw in salads, slaws, or as a crunchy snack. Jicama is also popular in Mexican and Southeast Asian cuisines.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the nutritional differences between rutabagas and turnips?

Rutabagas are a bit higher in calories than turnips and have more carbohydrates, but they also provide a greater amount of vitamin C. Turnips offer less vitamin C but have a lower calorie count and fewer carbohydrates.

How do the flavors of rutabagas and turnips compare?

Rutabagas tend to have a sweet yet mildly peppery flavor and are denser in texture. Turnips are less sweet, sometimes even slightly bitter, and have a crisp, crunchy texture when raw.

What is the origin of the name ‘rutabaga’ in American English?

The name ‘rutabaga’ originates from the Swedish word “rotabagge”, which means “baggy root.” This name is used in American English to refer to the root vegetable which is known as “swede” in British English.

Can rutabagas be consumed raw, and are there any benefits or concerns with raw consumption?

Yes, rutabagas can be eaten raw and provide a crunchy texture and a slightly sweet taste to salads. Eating them raw preserves their vitamin C content, but they should be peeled as the outer skin can be tough and waxy.

What are some common recipes that feature both rutabagas and turnips?

Common recipes that feature both vegetables include root vegetable stews, roasted vegetable medleys, and mashed root side dishes, where their flavors complement each other.How do rutabagas differ from other root vegetables like parsnips, radishes, and kohlrabi?

Rutabagas are sweeter than the spicy-flavored radishes and have a starchier texture compared to the crisp kohlrabi. Parsnips are sweeter than both rutabagas and turnips and have a flavor reminiscent of a carrot with hints of nutmeg.


Last Updated on January 9, 2024

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