Turnip vs. Radish: Taste, Nutrients, and Uses

Radishes and turnips are two nutrient-dense root vegetables that can add a lot of flavor to your meals.

Although they are two different species… Brassica rapa (turnip) and Raphanus sativus (radish) — both are cruciferous vegetables that belong to the Brassicaceae (mustard), due to the pungent smell of their plant compounds (1, 2).

Both have been widely studied for their potential benefits, such as preventing and treating several chronic diseases, namely cancer and metabolic syndrome (1).

Yet, although they share some similarities and are often confused with each other, they have different appearances, tastes, textures, and culinary uses.

This article reviews radishes and turnips and tells you what sets them apart.

Both radishes and turnips are root vegetables — meaning the root is the edible part of the vegetable — with multiple similarities.

However, their main differences concern their physical and sensory characteristics, such as appearance, taste and texture.

For one thing, radishes have a small round shape about 0.8 to 1.2 inches (2 to 3 cm) long. They come in different colors, such as black, purple, white, and yellow, although the most common variety is red. They are mostly white inside.

Also, while they are smooth on the outside, they have a hard, crunchy texture that softens when cooked.

Finally, radishes have a savory, slightly sweet peppery taste when raw. However, their flavor becomes spicier as they age and milder when cooked.

On the other hand, although they are also rounded and white inside, turnips are much larger – reaching up to 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7.5 cm) long – and are of a purplish white color on the outside.

They are also a bit crunchy but have a rough outer texture. Compared to older, raw turnips, which taste earthy and are bitter and spicy, younger, cooked turnips have a sweeter flavor.

Summary

Radishes and turnips are round, cruciferous vegetables belonging to the Brassicaceae family. However, they differ in size, appearance, color, flavor and texture.

Radishes and turnips also have quite similar nutrient profiles.

The following table compares the nutrient profiles of 3.5 ounce (100 gram) servings of raw radishes and turnips (3, 4):

Both vegetables are mostly carbs, but turnips provide twice as much as radishes. They also offer virtually no fat or protein.

They are both good sources of vitamin C and provide a good amount of folate and potassium.

Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that supports your immune system, while folate is needed for DNA synthesis and potassium for nerve transmission and muscle contraction (5, 6, seven).

Moreover, being Brassicaceae vegetables, radishes, and turnips are rich in antioxidants like tocopherols and carotenoids, as well as glucosinolates — the compounds responsible for most of their health benefits (1).

However, note that their nutritional composition can be greatly influenced by variety, processing, time of harvest, growing environment, and cooking conditions (1).

Summary

Radishes and turnips have similar nutrient profiles. They are both composed primarily of carbohydrates and are good sources of important nutrients like vitamin C, folate, potassium, antioxidants and glucosinolates.

Since radishes and turnips belong to the same family and share multiple beneficial plant compounds, they also share most of their potential health benefits.

Both vegetables are rich in antioxidants, namely flavonoids, anthocyanins, carotenoids and vitamin C. These compounds defend cells against the damaging effects of oxidative stress, which can lead to chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer. (8, 9, ten, 11, 12).

In fact, radishes and turnips are known for their potential cancer-fighting properties, not just because of their antioxidant content, but because, like other cruciferous vegetables, they’re also high in glucosinolates and their derivatives, isothiocyanates (1, ten, 13).

Glucosinolates and isothiocyanates can help fight cancer cells by inhibiting their growth, reducing their size, and inducing their death or apoptosis (1, 8, ten, 11, 13).

Additionally, test-tube and animal studies suggest that radishes and turnips may have antidiabetic effects.

They may help lower blood sugar by reducing intestinal glucose absorption, increasing insulin production and improving insulin sensitivity (ten, 14).

However, these vegetables can cause side effects in some people.

For example, radishes and turnips both have the potential to trigger adverse reactions in people allergic to mustard – which also belongs to the Brassicaceae family (15).

Additionally, some people may be directly allergic to radish, which can lead to a generalized itchy rash and even anaphylaxis immediately after direct skin contact. However, radish allergy appears to be infrequent (16).

Summary

Both radishes and turnips share various health benefits, including their antioxidant, anti-cancer, and anti-diabetic effects. However, they can also have common side effects, such as allergic reactions.

Radishes and turnips also differ in their culinary uses. For the most part, radishes are usually eaten raw, while turnips are often cooked.

Here are some easy salad ideas that can help you add radishes to your day:

  • Cut radishes and green apples into quarters and toss with chopped celery and lemon juice, olive oil and honey.
  • Toss thinly sliced ​​radishes, cucumbers and red onions with dill, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
  • Combine the sweet corn, minced radishes and chopped cilantro in a bowl and toss with the lemon juice, cumin, salt and pepper.
  • Combine sliced ​​radishes with diced bell peppers and green grapes, chives, apple cider vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper.

Alternatively, you can also make pickled radishes by following this recipe. Enjoy them in sandwiches, tacos or rice bowls.

On the other hand, try one of these delicious ways to add turnips to your diet:

  • Dice the turnips and carrots and roast with olive oil, garlic powder, black and cayenne pepper and salt.
  • In a food processor, blend the peeled turnips until you get a rice-like consistency, then sauté them with your favorite vegetables and toss them with scrambled eggs for turnip fried rice.
  • Boil the turnips until tender, season with salt and pepper and mix with Greek yogurt to make pureed turnips.
  • Peel and cut the turnips into fries, mix them with the olive oil, salt, pepper and paprika and cook until golden.

Plus, turnip and radish greens — also known as turnip greens and radishes — are edible and make great additions to salads.

Summary

Radishes are usually enjoyed raw and are a great addition to your salads. In contrast, turnips are often cooked and can make nutritious and delicious side dishes.

Radishes and turnips are two cruciferous vegetables with similar nutrient profiles and health benefits. They have both been studied for their potential role in the prevention and treatment of chronic diseases, including cancer and metabolic syndrome.

However, radishes and turnips are different in terms of appearance, taste, and culinary uses. Turnips are larger and are usually served cooked, while radishes have much more color and are often eaten raw, such as in salads.

Whichever you choose, these two flavorful vegetables can help you add more nutrients to your diet. They are both rich in important nutrients like vitamin C, folate, potassium, antioxidants and glucosinolates.