Turnip vs Rutabaga: What’s the Difference?

Belonging to the Brassicaceae family, turnips and rutabagas share their roots in the vegetable world. The rutabaga is believed to have originated from an ancient union between a turnip and a cabbage, making it a distinctive hybrid. These root vegetables serve as excellent sources of complex carbohydrates, enhancing the flavor and nutritional profile of soups, stews, and casseroles. Both turnips and rutabagas offer edible greens, providing a versatile culinary experience.

In this article, we will know their Differences, Similarities, Tests, Flavour, and others. So let’s start:

Turnip vs Rutabaga

Also Read: Pumpkins vs Squash: The Ultimate Showdown

What is Turnip?

A turnip is a root vegetable belonging to the Brassicaceae family, including cabbage, broccoli, and radishes. The scientific name for the turnip plant is Brassica rapa. Turnips are known for their distinctive round or cylindrical shape, with a bulbous root that can have white, purple, or red skin, depending on the variety. The flesh inside is white or pale yellow.

What is Rutabaga?

A rutabaga, also known as a swede or neep, is a root vegetable that belongs to the Brassicaceae family. Its scientific name is Brassica napobrassica. Rutabagas are believed to be a hybrid between a turnip (Brassica rapa) and a cabbage (Brassica oleracea), giving them distinctive characteristics. These vegetables are larger than turnips and have a unique flavor profile.

Overview Of Turnip vs Rutabaga

OriginsAncient cultivationThe hybrid of turnip and cabbage
Root TypeTaprootTaproot
FlavorMild and slightly pepperySweet and nutty
ColourWhite, purple, or red skinYellow or beige skin
Interior ColorWhite or pale yellow fleshYellow flesh
TextureCrisp and tenderDense and firm
Nutritional ValueHigh in vitamin C, low in caloriesRich in vitamin C, dietary fibre, and minerals
Use in CookingVersatile; can be eaten raw or cookedSuited for soups, stews, and roasting
GreensEdible greens with a slightly bitter tasteEdible greens with a milder flavour
Common DishesMashed, roasted, salads, soupsMashed, roasted, stews, casseroles
StorageKeep in a cool, dark placeStore in a cool, humid environment

Similaritis: Turnip vs Rutabaga

Certainly, here are some similarities between turnips and rutabagas:

  • Family: Both turnips and rutabagas belong to the Brassicaceae family, known as the cabbage family.
  • Root Vegetables: Both are root vegetables with a bulbous shape, although rutabagas are larger.
  • Edible Greens: The greens of both turnip and rutabaga plants are edible, offering additional culinary possibilities.
  • Nutritional Value: Both vegetables are nutritious, providing vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber. They are low in calories and contribute to a healthy diet.
  • Versatility in Cooking: Turnips and rutabagas are versatile in the kitchen and can be prepared in various ways, including roasting, mashing, and adding to soups and stews.
  • Storage: Both vegetables are stored in cool conditions to maintain freshness, with turnips stored in a cool, dark place and rutabagas in a cool, humid environment.
  • Root Type: Both are characterized by taproots, the primary root systems that grow vertically into the soil.

Different: Turnip vs Rutabaga

Turnip and rutabaga are root vegetables from the Brassicaceae family, including cabbage, broccoli, and mustard. While they share some similarities, there are notable differences between the two.

Botanical Characteristics:

  • Turnip (Brassica rapa): The turnip is a small, round vegetable with white or purple skin and crisp, white flesh. It is smaller in size compared to rutabaga.
  • Rutabaga (Brassica napobrassica): Rutabaga, also known as Swede or yellow turnip, is larger than a turnip and has a more elongated shape. It has a yellow or tan-colored skin and a yellowish-orange flesh.


  • Turnip: Turnips have a peppery and slightly bitter taste. The younger, smaller turnips tend to be milder and sweeter.
  • Rutabaga: Rutabagas have a sweeter and milder flavor compared to turnips. They are often described as having a subtle earthy and nutty taste.


  • Turnip: Turnips have a crisp and tender texture when raw. Cooking them softens their texture, and they can be mashed or roasted.
  • Rutabaga: Rutabagas have a denser and firmer texture than turnips. They hold their shape well when cooked and are often used in soups, stews, or roasted dishes.

Nutritional Content:

  • Both turnips and rutabagas are low in calories and rich in nutrients such as vitamin C, fiber, and various minerals. Rutabagas contain slightly more calories and carbohydrates than turnips.

Culinary Uses:

  • Turnip: Turnips are versatile and can be eaten raw, sliced in salads, or cooked in various ways, such as boiling, steaming, roasting, or mashing. They are a common ingredient in soups and stews.
  • Rutabaga: Rutabagas are often used in savory dishes like casseroles, soups, and stews. They are also suitable for roasting, mashing, or pureeing. Rutabagas are less consumed raw compared to turnips.


  • Turnip: Turnips are generally smaller, with a round shape and white or purple skin, depending on the variety.
  • Rutabaga: Rutabagas are larger, with an elongated shape and yellow or tan-colored skin.

Also Read: Broccoli Rabe vs Broccoli: A Comparative Guide to Choosing the Perfect Green

Is a turnip the same as a rutabaga?

Certainly! Despite their similar appearance and common association with root vegetables, turnips, and rutabagas are distinct botanical species with notable differences. Turnips, scientifically known as Brassica rapa, are smaller, typically round, and exhibit white or purple skin. They have a crisp, white flesh and a flavor profile that can be peppery and slightly bitter. On the other hand, Rutabagas belong to the species Brassica napobrassica and are larger, featuring an elongated shape and yellow or tan-colored skin.

Rutabagas are known for their sweeter and milder taste, often described as having a subtle earthy and nutty flavor. These differences extend to their culinary uses, with turnips being versatile for raw consumption, salads, or various cooking methods, while rutabagas are often favored for savory dishes like casseroles and stews. Despite their distinctions, both vegetables are nutrient-rich and contribute unique flavors and textures to various dishes.

Can I substitute turnip for rutabaga?

Yes, in many recipes, you can substitute turnips for rutabagas and vice versa, especially in dishes without crucial flavor and texture differences. However, it’s important to remember that turnips and rutabagas have distinct tastes and textures so the substitution might result in a slightly different outcome.

Why do Americans call it a rutabaga?

The term “rutabaga” is used in the United States, but it’s worth noting that different names in various regions and countries know this vegetable. Historical and cultural factors likely influence the use of “rutabaga” in the United States.

The word “rutabaga” is of Swedish origin, derived from the Swedish dialectal word “rotabagge,” which means “root ram.” It’s believed that Swedish immigrants brought this term with them to the United States, and it gradually became adopted into American English.

In other English-speaking countries, particularly in the United Kingdom and Ireland, the vegetable is more called a “swede” or “Swedish turnip.” The name “swede” reflects the vegetable’s association with Sweden, where it was developed as a hybrid between a turnip and a cabbage.

Language evolves and adapts over time, and the names of vegetables can vary regionally based on historical influences, agricultural practices, and the preferences of the local population. In the case of the United States, the term “rutabaga” likely persisted due to the influence of Swedish immigrants and their cultural contributions to American agriculture and cuisine.


Although turnips and rutabagas may share some similarities, they are distinct in flavor, texture, and culinary applications. Whether you prefer the tangy crunch of turnips or the sweet earthiness of rutabagas, both vegetables offer a range of delicious possibilities in your kitchen. So, the next time you come across turnips or rutabagas at the grocery store or farmer’s market, don’t hesitate to bring them home and explore the wonderful world of root vegetables.

Also Read: Ube vs Okinawan Sweet Potato: Which One Reigns Supreme?


What is the difference between a turnip and a rutabaga?

A turnip is a root vegetable with white flesh and a slightly bitter taste, while rutabaga is larger, with yellowish flesh and a sweeter flavor.

Can turnips and rutabagas be used interchangeably in recipes?

Yes, turnips and rutabagas can be used interchangeably in most recipes, although the flavors and textures may vary slightly.

How should turnips and rutabagas be stored?

Both turnips and rutabagas should be stored in a cool, dark place, such as a cellar or refrigerator, where they can last for several weeks.

Are turnips and rutabagas nutritious?

Yes, both turnips and rutabagas are nutritious. They are low in calories, high in fiber, and a good source of vitamins and minerals.

How should turnips and rutabagas be prepared before cooking?

Before cooking, turnips and rutabagas should be peeled, and any tough or woody parts should be trimmed or removed.

What are some popular ways to cook turnips and rutabagas?

Turnips and rutabagas can be boiled, roasted, steamed, mashed, or added to soups and stews. They can also be used in stir-fries or as a side dish.

Are turnips and rutabagas good for weight loss?

Yes, turnips and rutabagas can be a beneficial part of a weight loss diet due to their low calorie and high fiber content.

Are turnips and rutabagas suitable for people with certain dietary restrictions?

Turnips and rutabagas are gluten-free and can be suitable for people with gluten intolerance or celiac disease. However, individuals with specific dietary restrictions should consult with a healthcare professional.

Can turnips and rutabagas be eaten raw?

While turnips can be eaten raw, rutabagas are typically cooked before consumption due to their tougher texture.

Are turnips and rutabagas used in any specific cuisines?

Turnips are often used in European, Asian, and American cuisines, while rutabagas are found in Scandinavian and British dishes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *