Sautéed Japanese (Hakurei) Turnips With Turnip Greens Recipe (2024)

Why It Works

  • Because the cooking process is divided into two steps (blanching and sautéing), the turnip bulbs come out beautifully browned, while the greens stay plump and tender.
  • Taking advantage of all parts of the vegetable gets the most out of a single ingredient.

Recently, a Japanese acquaintance asked me what recipes I was working on. "Oh, I just did a quick and easy thing with Japanese turnips," I told him. He stared at me blankly. That's when I realized, slightly embarrassed at my daftness, that "Japanese turnip" is probably not how they're known in Japan. "What do you call them?" I followed up. "You know, the little white ones that you can eat raw?"

Hakureiturnip, it turns out, is the answer. A delicate, sweet, crisp-tender root vegetable, Hakurei turnips have become a popular item at farmers' markets nationwide, even if, at least in the New York area, they're often slapped with the generic "Japanese" moniker. I can't get enough of them—and in late spring, the market stands are full of them.

Sautéed Japanese (Hakurei) Turnips With Turnip Greens Recipe (1)

If you count yourself among the rather sizable population of people who don't like turnips, I implore you to give Hakurei turnips a try. They're tiny things, sometimes called "small" or "baby" turnips, with a much milder flavor than the large winter ones. They hardly have any of that sulfurous funk typical of bigger turnips and many other members of the brassica family. Instead, they're slightly sweet, and surprisingly juicy—so much so that they're fantastic raw. Imagine supremely tender radishes, with none of the peppery bite.

Perhaps the thing I love most about them, though, is that each bunch almost always comes with its leafy green tops. There are a million things you can do with these, but one of my favorites is to serve the two together, the turnip bulbs sautéed until browned and the greens quickly blanched, then chopped and tossed briefly in the pan to combine.

I take an extremely simple approach to let the vegetables shine as much as possible; not even a clove of garlic sneaks its way into my skillet (not that garlic would be bad, but I just love these turnips so much as they are).

It's an easy one-two punch of blanching and sautéing to make them. I set a medium pot of salted water on the stove and bring it to a boil. (In case you're wondering why I don't bother with a large pot, seemy blanching tests here.) While that happens, I prep the turnips, cutting off the greens, discarding any yellow leaves, and washing them well of sand and grit.

Then I peel the turnips, which is an entirely optional step. The fastidious part of me loves how clean they look peeled, but the peels are edible, so a good scrubbing is all you really have to do. I also like to leave a small portion of the green stems attached to each turnip, mostly because I like how they look, though they also function as excellent handles if you decide to eat the turnips with your fingers. (The stems are edible, too, though, so don't discard them after nibbling at the turnip.)

Finally, I cut each turnip pole to pole into thin wedges.

At this point, the water should be boiling, so it's time to drop the turnip greens in and give them a quick blanch, just until they're softened, in a minute or so. I pluck them out of the water with tongs or a strainer and drop them into cold water to chill. Then I squeeze them of excess water and chop them up.

Meanwhile, I set a skillet over high heat with olive oil in it. As soon as the first wisps of smoke appear, I drop the turnips into the pan, tossing them just enough to allow them to brown but not burn.

Once they've browned nicely, I drop the chopped greens into the pan and toss it all together just until it's warmed through. You might be wondering why I bother blanching the greens first, instead of just adding them to the pan raw and letting them cook there. Truth is, you could do that, but I like how plump and vibrantly green they are from the blanching—they don't spend any more time in the pan than it takes to heat them up.

I season it all with salt and pepper and give it a good bath in fresh olive oil. That's it, done and done: a phenomenal (and phenomenally simple) side dish for roast chicken or a piece of fish. There's nothing terribly Japanese about it, but then again, what's in a name, anyway?

Sautéed Japanese (Hakurei) Turnips With Turnip Greens Recipe (2)

June 2016

Recipe Details

Sautéed Japanese (Hakurei) Turnips With Turnip Greens Recipe

Ingredients

  • Kosher salt

  • 1 1/2 pounds (675g) Japanese (Hakurei) baby turnips, with green tops

  • 3 tablespoons (45ml) extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, cut greens from turnip bulbs, leaving a small portion of stem (less than 1/2 inch) attached to each bulb. Wash leafy greens and turnips well of any sand. Peel turnips. (You can also leave the turnip skin on, as it's edible, in which case, just wash and scrub them extra well.) Slice each turnip pole to pole into 4 to 6 wedges of 1/2 inch thick each.

    Sautéed Japanese (Hakurei) Turnips With Turnip Greens Recipe (3)

  2. Add leafy greens to boiling water and cook just until tender, 1 to 2 minutes. Using tongs or a spider, transfer greens to cold water to chill, then drain, squeeze out excess water, and chop into small pieces.

    Sautéed Japanese (Hakurei) Turnips With Turnip Greens Recipe (4)

  3. Heat oil in a cast iron, carbon steel, or stainless steel skillet over high heat, just until the first wisps of smoke appear. Add turnip wedges, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring and tossing occasionally, until well browned in spots, about 3 minutes; lower heat if turnips threaten to burn.

    Sautéed Japanese (Hakurei) Turnips With Turnip Greens Recipe (5)

  4. Add chopped greens and toss to combine, cooking just until greens are warmed through, about 1 minute longer. Drizzle with fresh oil, season with salt and pepper, and serve.

    Sautéed Japanese (Hakurei) Turnips With Turnip Greens Recipe (6)

Special Equipment

Cast iron, carbon steel, or stainless steel skillet

Sautéed Japanese (Hakurei) Turnips With Turnip Greens Recipe (2024)

FAQs

How do you eat hakurei turnips? ›

Unlike other turnip varieties, hakurei do not need to be cooked. They have an even-textured density and the flavor pairs well with a variety of different food items. Eat them raw (just whole, or chopped/grated in salads), make a quick pickle, or cook with their greens to enhance their natural sweetness.

What is the best way to cook and eat turnips? ›

Baked, Boiled or Steamed. Use turnips any way you would use a potato, and then some. Try them baked or boiled in stews, soups and stir-fries, or lightly steamed with some butter, salt or lemon juice for flavor. homemade coleslaw.

What is the difference between Japanese turnips and regular turnips? ›

Tokyo turnips or Japanese turnips are smaller and completely white, and can even be mistaken for radishes, although many casino players notice that they have a milder flavor. Though it's less common with the larger turnip varieties, Tokyo turnips are tasty raw- sliced in salads, or even pickled.

What does baking soda do to turnips? ›

Wash greens and roots well. Some suggest soaking the greens in a little salty water. One turnip website from the United Kingdom notes that if you boil them, add a little sugar to tame the scent and add baking soda to reduce bitterness. Look for fresh turnips.

Do you need to peel hakurei turnips? ›

CULINARY TIPS. No need to peel, just wash well and trim the ends. The tops are also edible, either raw or quickly sautéed with oil and garlic. The turnip is an excellent source of vitamin C,B6, and E, fiber, and potassium.

What makes turnips taste better? ›

A variety of herbs and spices can be added to the mashed turnips. Try a tablespoon of finely chopped sage or rosemary, a clove or two of roasted or sautéed garlic, or a pinch of paprika or ground ginger. If your turnips came with the greens, don't throw them away.

How do you get the bitterness out of cooked turnips? ›

If you want to try a different cooking method, I tend to like turnip boiled and mashed. If the turnip is old (and likely bitter) you can add an apple. I've also read that you can stir in baking soda after the turnips have boiled to remove the bitterness. You would then need to rinse thoroughly.

What makes turnips taste good? ›

You can't make turnips taste better because they are the best tasting food there ever could be. Roast them instead of boiling them. Serve with salt, pepper, and butter. You can use other spices or things like vinegar too if you like.

What are hakurei turnips good for? ›

Hakurei turnips are versatile enough to pair with just about anything, and they're excellent in gratins, stir-fries, soups, or roasted with other root vegetables.

Can you eat hakurei turnip leaves? ›

You can eat the leaves and stems of the Hakurei Turnip, so there is no waste. The leaves and stems of these veggies can be consumed raw mixed in a salad or cooked as in this Ginger Soy Hakurei Turnip recipe.

What does hakurei turnip mean? ›

Turnip Facts

The name Hakurei means "white ray of light" in Japanese, referring to the turnip's bright white color. Turnips, not pumpkins, were used to carve the first Jack-o'-lanterns.

Why do my turnips taste bad? ›

Turnips can sometimes taste bitter due to the presence of certain compounds, such as glucosinolates and phenolic compounds. These compounds are natural defense mechanisms that some plants use to deter animals from eating them, as they can be toxic or unpalatable.

Why does my turnip taste bitter? ›

Bitter greens are leafy greens or vegetables that have an intense bitter flavor profile. They include kale, mustard greens, collards, turnip greens, broccoli rabe, radicchio, chicory, and endive. The bitterness comes from chemical compounds called glucosinolates that can be found in the Brassica family.

Why should avoid adding baking soda to green vegetables when cooking? ›

This is a bad practice, however, and you should avoid adding baking soda when boiling any type of vegetable. It has various unwelcome effects, such as softening the vegetable, altering the vegetable's flavor, destroying thiamine content, and hastening the loss of vitamin C.

Can you eat hakurei turnips raw? ›

Hakurei turnips are also known as Toyko turnips. These turnips are similar to other turnips, however, they can be consumed raw, so are also known as salad turnips. Turnips are a good source of vitamin C.

Is it better to eat turnips raw or cooked? ›

Turnips have a crisp, white inner flesh and a zesty, peppery flavor. People can eat them raw or cooked. However, roasting turnips tends to bring out their best flavors and qualities.

Are turnips better for you cooked or raw? ›

Turnips can be enjoyed raw, pickled, boiled, roasted, mashed, stewed, puréed, added to soups, or prepared almost any way you'd make potatoes. Turnips are a healthy alternative to potatoes; they're lower in calories and have fewer carbs. Smaller, sweeter turnips can be sliced into wedges and eaten raw like an apple.

What parts of turnips can be eaten? ›

The bulb portion of turnips is a good source of vitamin C, and the greens contain folate, calcium and vitamin E. Large turnips were used to carve Jack-O-Lanterns prior to the pumpkin. The roots, stems and leaves of a turnip are all edible.

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