Pickled Turnips

I know. It’s hard to get people excited about turnips. But on a recent trip to the Middle East, one of the things I loved most about the generous spreads of salads, roasted meats, and creamy-white cheeses that were a part of just about every meal, were the pickles – including pickled turnips, which were served even at breakfast. As someone who generally favors toast and butter for breakfast, I found myself quickly adapting to the Middle Eastern habit of fresh vegetables, herbed breads, vegetables brined in vinegar, and spicy sauces in the morning, which are a much livelier way to start the day that what I’m used to here in Paris.

It’s somewhat of a common thread amongst pastry people that we all universally crave salt and vinegar because we’re around the sweet stuff all day. And as an American, for some reason, we’re hard-wired to like spices – and lots of garlic. We tend to go full-tilt on both of those things, and I used to hold back on using them in some of my cooking here because I tend to lean heavily both of those directions. But I’ve been dialing them up as I go along, and no one seems to have any complaints.

So, when I made these pickled turnips recently, I snuck a lot of garlic into the batch, which I’d put on the table to go with dinner. And everyone couldn’t stop themselves from reaching into the glass jar for more, even though we were still on pre-dinner nibbles. Yet in spite of my protests that the tang might contrast a bit sharply with the Champagne we were swilling, my objections were waved away, and the pickles continued to disappear quickly.

turnips and beets for pickling

Turnips are kind of a hard-sell in some places. But in Paris, one finds turnips pretty easily, which I suspect may partially be because of a fairly good-sized population of immigrants from the Middle East. And I’ve been putting bowls out when serving Middle Eastern dinners, which often consist of things like eggplant caviar, baba ganoush, and hummus, and folks can dip into the crunchy pickles, which provide a nice counterpoint to natural sweetness of roasted eggplants and nutty sesame paste.

turnips for pickled turnipspickled turnips
pickled turnips pickled turnips

Turnip pickles are usually tinted with beets making them a lovely rosy-pink color. As they sit, they go through a remarkable transformation in terms of color. At first the brine is ever-so slightly tingled by the color of the beets. Then, a day or so later, the liquid deepens in color and the turnips take on a neon-pink hue, so much so that you can’t distinguish the beets from the turnips when the pickles are finally ready. They’re easy to make – just make a simple brine, some sliced up turnips, a few batons of beets, and a week to do their thing.

turnips for pickling

I find these pickles don’t last as long as others, and they’re best enjoyed up within a few weeks after they’re made. Thankfully they’re easy – and inexpensive – to make, so you can whip up a batch in no time. In fact, after my dinner guests wiped me out, I went out and bought more turnips. And now I have another jar in my refrigerator, ready and waiting for the next onslaught of guests.

Pickled Turnips


You can dial down the amount of garlic, but I like the slightly aggressive flavor of the slices in the brine. Use whatever white salt is available where you are, but avoid fine table salt as it’s quite unpleasant and bitter. Gray salt will discolor the brine.

For those who like to tinker, although these are usually served as they are, a few sprigs of fresh dill, or dill flowers, in the brine will take them in a different direction. A hot pepper will add some zip.


  • 3 cups (750 ml) water
  • 1/3 cup (70 g) coarse white salt, such as kosher salt or sea salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup (250 ml) white vinegar (distilled)
  • 2-pounds (1 kg) turnips, peeled
  • 1 small beet, or a few slices from a regular-size beet, peeled
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced


1. In a saucepan, heat about one-third of the water. Add the salt and bay leaf, stirring until the salt is dissolved.

2. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Once cool, add the vinegar and the rest of the water.

3. Cut the turnips and the beet into batons, about the size of French fries. Put the turnips, beets, and garlic slices into a large, clean jar, then pour the salted brine over them in the jar, including the bay leaf.

4. Cover and let sit at room temperature, in a relatively cool place, for one week. Once done, they can be refrigerated until ready to serve.

Storage: The pickles will keep for several weeks in the refrigerator. They’ll be rather strong at first, but will mellow after a few days. They should be enjoyed within a six weeks after they’re made, as they tend to get less-interesting if they sit too long. If you are interested in canning, check here for tips on canning pickles.


Related Recipes

Kosher Dill Pickles

Pickled Carrots

Kimchi

Moroccan Preserved Lemons

64 comments

  • I assume you add the rest of the water to the brine in Step 2 along with the vinegar?

  • Thank you for the recipe! I enjoy these at a local restaurant but never thought of making them myself. They’re strangely addictive, and I find myself doing much the same as your dinner guests once I get started eating them.

  • I first tinted pickled veg (swiss chard stems in particular) when I worked under Mike Anthony at Gramercy Tavern. We did shaved baby turnip yellow (saffron) but anyway, thanks for posting- brings back some good memories!

  • I love pickled turnips, it’s my all-time favorite pickle.

    As for their easy availability in Paris (and France in general), turnips are a staple of French peasant food, at least in my family it was. My grandmother tended to always put some in her soups, her stews, etc. They’re hardy and come handy in winter when vegetables are few and far between. They also don’t have much of a taste in themselves so it’s relatively easy to have children eat them. And glazed young Spring turnips are delicious, if you’ve never tried them.

  • I had pickled turnips for the first time about 2 years ago – there’s a suburb near me in Sydney that has a large Lebanese population. I feel in love with them straight away and am now totally addicted. I might give these a try (I’m not much for baking, but this I think I could manage…maybe).

  • FBC: Yes, turnips, potatoes, and beets, are really plentiful for that reason, too. However other root vegetables – specifically parsnips, rutabagas, and horseradish – are really hard to find (parsnips are becoming easier), and I’m not sure why turnips got selected to be plentiful while the others, which are really tasty, are less well-represented. But am happy to find turnips almost everywhere!

    hilary: Yes, the rest of the water is added with the vinegar.

    jamie: I’ve had these pickles done with raw cauliflower but should try chard stems, since it’s always a quandry what to do with them.

  • I **love** pickled turnips and would eat them every day if I could! Unfortunately it’s hard to find a regular supply of fresh turnips in my bit of the Bay Area. David, I always enjoy your posts about savory foods–thanks especially for this one!

  • Hi, I feel dumb asking this, but in which step do you add the remaining two thirds of the water… greetings from Turkey, where the pickle stands strong.

  • It looks beautiful! Can I make the recipe with kohlrabi instead? I don’t know how my kids feel about raw turnip, they don’t like cooked turnip for sure. Thank you!!

  • When I saw the pink turnip pickles in my rss feed I thought, “Wow, who knew turnips were such a sexy food?” These look great. And I know my kids would at least try them because the are little girls in the midst of pink obsession!

  • I’ll certainly try this!
    About vinegar, I can’t find white wine vinegar here in my bit of France, only the industrial strength type which is great for cleaning and removing scale but way too acidic at 8% for consumption – for my taste. Or champagne vinegar which is too expensive in comparison. So I use apple cider vinegar which of course imparts its own distinct flavour but the result is always delicious if not always authentic.

    Same problem with olive oil – can only find extra virgin which should not be heated too much so can’t/don’t use it for frying many things.

    Any advice would be appreciated.

  • It looks exactly like what my grandmother used to make. Are you sure the origin of the recipe is Middle Eastern? I do live in Israel, but my grandmother’s family (she was born here, her parents weren’t) was Polish, and she cooked fairly traditional food… I didn’t like them when I was little, but I might try to make it now (grandmother is long gone) and see if it is as good as my family says it is.

  • Similarly, I make pickled cabbage tinted with a beet. This cabbage is cut in a large wedges and called “flower petals” in Ukraine. David, thanks for the cool idea – pickled, fuchsia colored turnip sticks look neat and sexy. Interestingly those beets add zero to the taste but ton of visual appeal to otherwise pale turnips. I also lo-o-ove use of bay leaf – it’s one of my favorite aromatics…great recipe!

  • Shelly: I’ve not tried it with kohlrabi but you might want to give it a try with turnips. The color (and taste) are quite different than raw and the color might be enticing enough for the kids to try. But I’m sure it’d work with kohlrabi.

    JenniferB: I don’t know why it’s hard to find regular white wine vinegar in France. For some reason, the stuff in supermarkets is often aromatisé with shallots or walnuts. And I’m a bit suspicious of “flavored” vinegars, unless it’s a known brand. I use regular white vinegar for these pickles.

    Edmond Fallot does make plain white wine vinegar, which I buy at G. Detou in Paris.

  • As a fan of anything pickled, especially with garlic, I think I’ll make these this weekend. Do they retain their “crunch”? And would you use them on sandwiches in addition to just eating them?

    • They’re nice and crunchy and would be great on sandwiches, especially something like pulled pork if you sliced them a little thinner just before you put them on.

  • Looking forward to trying this recipe very soon. I have a question though: what size is the jar that you used to store them.

    • My jar is about 2 liters, and as you can see, there was a bit of extra room in there. You can use any size jars – including smaller ones, and divide the mixture and turnips amongst them.

  • Hi David — I grew up eating these pickles. They were a constant presence in our refrigerator, made by my dad. He added carrots, and the beets turned them a gorgeous neon pink. He also snuck in a few chilies, because he loved anything that was hot. He never tried garlic, but it sounds like a great addition too. It’s fun to futz around with the classic recipe.

  • This is a very similar method I use when pickling peeled icicle radish. A couple of beet slices added to the jar, turns them a wonderful shade of hot pink, too.

  • The perfect thing for fall dinners. Thank you!

  • Was just at the Farmer’s Market in Saranac Lake, NY where they did a whole demo/display/tasting of pickled produce purchased from the market to help give ideas on how to use many of the things sold there- needless to say, delish!

    Thanks for the recipe- will try it out this weekend :-)

  • Well, your pickled carrots have become a regular item on my dinner table, especially when I have people over, now will your turnips? Another favorite pickle is watermelon radish.
    thanks. I enjoy your posts – and your recipes.
    Merryll

  • There’s a Lebanese kebab/kefta sandwich place nearby that makes its wraps with pickled turnips, onion slivers, and tahini or garlic sauce, and no lettuce and tomatoes. The turnips provide a perfect, tangy contrast with any of the meat choices. The pickled turnips are very easy to make. I’m also generous with the garlic, but I like my pickles a darker pink than yours, David. :-)

  • Sorry, I’m confused. Which vinegar should one use, plain white distilled vinegar like the Heinz brand or white wine vinegar? The two are are so different, the Heinz distilled being quite harsh.

    • It’s distilled white vinegar. I don’t know what it’s referred to internationally so I used the global term. But I added that word to the ingredient list. (The brand I used is just the regular white vinegar, similar to Heinz. It mellows as it sits.)

  • David, you are an evil man. I read your blog for the sauce of your writing, the crispness of your photos, and because eating is a pleasure. But cooking? Oh no. With pickles however you have found a weakness. And turnips. The pink turnip pickles drove me crazy. So I embark on making pickled turnips and hope I am not sliding the slippery slope. Thanks a lot, dude.

  • I love pickles and adore Middle Eastern food. At a recent dinner at a Persian restaurant, we were served this most amazing pickled garlic with our dinner. It was absolutely delicious … sweet, tart, spicy, and strong. I smelled like garlic for few days but it was well worth it!
    This pickled turnip sounds lovely. I have never made pickled anything before but have to give this one a try.

  • Sadly, it is very easy for me to get excited about turnips! I feel bad for people who don’t! haha Thanks for the post!

  • along with turnip pickles, I like a god dish of Spicy Carrots.

    Briefly boil carrots sliced thin then shock in cold water.

    Make your brine but add some vinegar.

    throw in some coriander seeds and whatever

    add in dried hot chili’s

    pack it all in a jar

    Yummy, crunchy, spicy, addictive.

    cut the heat with yogurt-if you must.

  • This is the only way I relish eating turnips. I can eat them in stews but oh if pickled I’ll devour them all. Thanks for the recipe. I’m going to give it a try.

  • yum! love pink food, love turnips, love garlicky pickles – love the pictures. great post!

  • Ça y est ! c’est dans le bocal.

  • Hi David. The vinegar called for in your recipe is probably a 5% acidity vinegar and is a plain white vinegar made by Heinz in North America. Champagne vinegar is a 7% acidity and has a stronger bite but great for pickling artichokes and sweet cherry tomatoes or you could use the Heinze pickling vinegar which is also 7% acidity. Hope this helps to clarify the mystery for some of your readers. The guide that you give a link to says to use 5% acidity vinegar.

    Love your posts David, and the recipes I have tried have been fabulous. Thanks for the enjoyabe read and recipes.

    • I didn’t do cross-checking to see the equivalent in the US (or elsewhere) but the white vinegar (vinaigre d’alcool incolore) has 8% acidity. But I’ve made pickles like this with Heinz-style white vinegar in the states just fine. But thanks for the info about the other percentages.

      And glad you like the blog & posts : )

  • These are so cool – can’t wait to give them a try. I recently blogged about “pink pickles” I made using radishes. They were so fun to serve.

  • Hi David,

    It’s been a while now that I look at your website every day (yes, this is part of my everyday routine) and I love all of it! I am from Paris but moved in the US (Washington DC) five years ago. So reading your posts brings back fond memories of “my” France, and I surprise myself thinking “he is so right about the French” (not all the time though… like the French searching for treasures in dumpsters… maybe the financial crisis… lol…).
    And the second part which makes your blog attractive is the recipes! There are wonderful! I’ve tried the chocolate tart: it was fabulous and you reconciled me with making caramel… I tried also the chocolate cake and one more time, delicious… I promised myself that next will be your dip made with eggplants (I just bought wonderful little eggplants at the market) but those pickled turnips look so yummy and fun!

    Thank you so much for sharing your everyday life with us… Paris, your travels, your recipes,… thank you, thank you, thank you…

    Karine.

  • I lived in Japan for a while, and I’m from Sweden. Pickling is very common with every meal in Japan. Here in Sweden it’s a very common preservation technique.

  • Hi David,
    As a Master Food Preserver, we learned that whether you use white or cider vinegar, when pickling low acid foods like turnips, cucumbers, etc., you should make sure you are using 5% vinegar. If you use a weaker vinegar, you may be risking food safety. You could dilute a stronger vinegar with water to the proper acidity, however I am not chemist enough to figure out how to do this!

  • yuk! – I dont care ;) our parents tortured us with turnips….

  • Pinkled turnips I would call them !

  • I can’t wait to try these! I used to get them on top of my Middle Eastern dishes in Philadelphia. Since I moved to a small town, I haven’t seen them anywhere. Going to buy turnips tomorrow morning!

  • I love these! Believe it or not, there are several restaurants in Salt Lake That feature them. Thanks so much for the recipe!

  • Try cauliflower……same recipe…..addictive!

  • Thank you so much for swiss chard stems idea. I usually save them in the fridge, planning to make a gratin or something. Invariably they get thrown into the compost bucket. As I had stems just laying on my cutting board as I read this post. I ran to the kitchen and threw them into a jar of leftover pickled carrot brine. Will that work?
    I will be very happy to be able to use my stems from now on.
    In fact one of my CSA boxes contained chard legs, which are apparently why chard was created. It was for the white part which was called legs, and there was originally no green attached. Interesting. (those legs were unfortunately added to the compost bucket)

  • Thanks! Makes me think of the hard boiled egg jar at the bar!

  • I’m so intrigued! Have never had pickled turnips and now I’m dying to try them. Your Middle Eastern recipes lately get me almost irrationally excited to try new things! And I’ll always say yes to neon hued vegetables.

  • You’ve pushed me over the edge, David. I’ve been wanting to try a neon pickle and this sounds like a great recipe. These look great on a Banh Mi (though typically served with pickled carrots).

  • My kids actually love turnip pickles, even though sometimes they smell awful when you first open the jar. I am not sure though these pickles are safe to can. The brine for canning most vegetable pickles is half 5% acidity vinegar to half water. The ratio of water to vinegar in the recipe would not be acidic enough to make these pickles safe to can.

  • I grew up eating Korean food so I love anything pickled, but I don’t think I’ve had turnips before so I’d love to try these!

    P.S. This weekend I made your French Tomato Tart and it was phenomenal.. so easy to make, but the mix of flavors was simply perfect, especially with the addition of honey. Thanks for sharing :)

  • I love (lovelovelove) turnips, hate beets. HATE them. Number 1 on my DO NOT EAT list. But I’d add one in my jar for color. …just one…

  • Fell in love with these little lovelies @Rectangles, a long lost Yemenite restaurant in NYC. Now I have a big jar of them pickling on a shelf in my basement, next to my laundry detergent. Thanks David!

  • Just spent a week in Paris. Thanks to your website, I was able to hit a few places that I might not have found otherwise. Made it to Comme a Lisbonne for coffee and tartlets, Les Cocottes for a great dinner that especially hit the spot after flying from the states, and Breizh Cafe for some lunchtime crepes.

  • This sound fabulous – can’t wait to try. Would it be OK to mix in cauliflower AND radishes along with the turnips – would it still work? or best to keep solo?

  • The recipe looks terrific, and it will be fun to experiment with all the other vegetables suggested here in the comments.

    I’m glad that nobody ever told me that chard stems should be tossed in the compost or trash. I’ve been chopping them up and cooking them along with the leaves or adding them to veggie soup for over 40 years!

  • cool! and beautiful! i love unusual pickles…

  • I get excited about pickled anything… Well almost. I didn’t realize it was common for pastry chefs/lovers to crave pickles too but it makes sense and help digest all that sweet stuff ;0)

  • On Fridays, I share my favorite food finds in a series called Food Fetish Friday – and I love pickled turnips – they look amazing! So I’m featuring it as part of today’s roundup (with a link-back and attribution). I hope you have no objections and thanks so much for inspiring me…

  • Pickled turnips seem impossible to pair with wine! Maybe a Pinot Gris or Rose :)

  • The salt did not dissolve in one cup of water, even when heated and stirred–eventually most of the water boiled away, so I started over and used all three cups–this worked fine. (Really don’t understand why one wouldn’t start with all the water anyway, much easier to get it to dissolve–is it so that it will cool more quickly?) The brine is too salty for my taste (basing on tasting the turnips after three days), and I’d like to use less (or more vinegar)–would that be safe? I used a golden beet for one batch and a red beet for the other, and the bottles of pickles look lovely together.

    • You could certainly heat up all the water – it just takes a lot longer for everything to cool down. I don’t quite understand why the salt would not dissolve in the smaller amount of boiling water unless you are using extremely large-grained salt. No one found these too-salty and I’m not sure if it’s ‘safe’ or not to reduce the salt, since that helps to preserve the turnips. You could certainly rinse them before serving.

  • It does seem like a lot of salt for 2 pounds of veggie. It is safe to use less, and I will when I get the turnips dug. I’m thinking about making very thin slices. Has anyone seen sliced pickled turnips? Were they crisp?

    This is a ‘fresh, refrigerator pickle’ – it would not be safe to can, but it would be fun to make a jar at a time and have them often. ;> The same basic recipe and method can be used for any other vegetable. You can vary the spice without any safety issues. The vegetable should be covered completely in the brine. If the jar isn’t full, you should add more brine or weigh the vegetables down to keep them submerged.

    In the US, the USDA and Extension Office guidelines for pickles state you must use a 5% acidity vinegar (and then some recipes will cut it as much as 50% with water). You can interchange any 5% vinegar for taste. Here, I have to know where to buy in bulk to find a reasonably priced wine vinegar. I’m really surprised you can’t find it in France. The guidelines also say to use ‘canning or pickling’ salt. The addives in table salt will make the brine cloudy, taste bitter, and sometimes make the pickle mushy and soft.

    I can hardly wait to try these, and if company doesn’t show up or the rest of the family doesn’t like them, that will be ok. I can eat the whole jar – something I shouldn’t do with a pan of brownies, or a tart. Thanks for the recipe!

  • Alright, if you say so. I’ll give them a try. But I’ll have to wait until cooler weather. It’s still in the 90s and 100s here on the edge of the Mojave – and I don’t think there’s any place cool enough for them to sit for a week. Will it not work if they go immediately into the refrigerator?

  • These are my favourite things ever!! I just polished off a whole jar of them yesterday that I’d preserved last fall…. perhaps to take the edge off of the many bars of chocolate chestnut rocky roads I’d accidentally had for breakfast. ^^;; I love that you love these too!