The English Kitchen: Butter Fried Parsnips

My mother always hated parsnips.  She used to tell a story about how, when she was a small child and during a family meal, she had refused to eat or touch the parsnips on her plate.  She simply did not like them. Her grandfather tried to tempt her by putting a nickle on the table and telling her that she could have it if she would only eat one piece of parsnip.

As you can imagine, during the Great Depression (in the early 1930’s) five cents, or a nickle would have been quite a sum of money. You probably could have purchased a cup of coffee for five cents or two newspapers and a penny stamp. Eight cents would buy you a pound of beef, so five cents was quite a bit for a little girl to have.   

End result, she hated parsnips so much that you could not even tempt her with five cents to eat even a tiny bite of them. 

They were not something that we ever had to eat.  I can remember once when I was a teenager mom buying some and frying them (as her mother had cooked them) so as to see if her tastes had changed in the intervening years.  They had not. She still hated them, but I took one taste of them and fell in love with them and have been eating them ever since.

Parsnips are a root vegetable which somewhat resemble very pale carrots.  They are commonly grown in cold climate regions, as they need a longer growing period to develop their sweet flavour and in fact I have been told that they are at their best after the first frost.  Interesting to note that at one time this rather anoemic looking vegetable was more popular in Europe than either carrots or potatoes, and considered to be a good meat subsitute during Lent!

They are a good source of folate, potassium and vitamin C. They also contain fiber, which is beneficial for digestion.

Putting that all aside, they are a vegetable I love and one which I use frequently in soups and stews, and of course roasted along side roast dinners. A MUST for our holiday meals!

I had not tasted butter fried parsnips since my teen years however, and that one time my mother had made them.  Yesterday I was longing for them.

I couldn’t remember exactly how my mother had cooked them  . . .  if she had parboiled them first or what  . . .  so I decided to wing it.

Pan frying them in butter was how my great grandmother and grandmother had cooked them, and I like to think that all three of them  . . .  my mother, nan and great nan were standing next to me while I was cooking these yesterday.

I did nothing special to them  . . .  I simply peeled them and cut the larger ones into half moons and the smaller ones into rounds.  I then sliced them about 1/4 inch thick.

They can act a bit like a sponge, absorbing any liquid or fat around them.  So make sure your butter is foaming before you add them to the skillet, and also leave some butter to stir into them at the end.

These were seasoned simply with some fine sea salt and black pepper . . .

Try not to rush them.  Cook them slowly in the hot butter, and at a low temperature so that the butter doesn’t burn . . .

Flip them over when they are golden on the underside and lightly season them again  . . . . continue to cook them slowly until they are soft, and lightly caramelised  . . .  and that is when you add a final taste touch to them . . .

One final knob of butter and a soupçon of mild flavoured honey. Perfection  . . .

Butter Fried Parsnips

Butter Fried Parsnips

Yield: 4


Pan fried in butter, lightly caramelised and sweeted with just a touch of honey.  Something so simple and yet so very delicious.


  • 2 large or 4 small to medium sized parsnips
  • fine sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 TBS butter, divided
  • 1 TBS of honey


  1. Peel your parsnips and then slice into rounds. If they are very large, take the largest part and cut in half down the centre and then into half moons.  (About 1/4 inch thickness.)  Cut the smaller parts simply into rounds.
  2. Melt 2 TBS of the butter in a heavy bottomed skillet over medium low heat.  Once it begins to foam add the parsnip slices in a single layer. (You may need to add them in batches, moving cooked ones to the side as you go.)
  3. Season lightly all over to taste with salt and pepper.  Cook until beginning to turn golden brown on the underside and then flip them over, seasoning the other side lightly.  Cook until fork tender and golden brown. 
  4. Add the remaining TBS of butter and the honey, stirring to coat them all.
  5. Remove from the  heat and serve immediately. Delicious!
Did you make this recipe?

I really love recipes where I can feel the tug of my ancestors leading me on, inspiring me to cook well and to feed my family as they had always done, don’t you?  We are the sum of our roots and those who came before us. Family is everything. Its a pity not everyone “gets” that. For me, it is enough that “I” do.

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Author: alexbyu

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