I’ll try to write down a recipe that I always just make out of my head for you today, okay? After making it once, you won’t need the recipe again either (score for time-saving!).
Sometimes you’ve been using a recipe so long, you can’t even remember the first time you made it. This healthy parsnip fries recipe is one of those. (Actually, I would guess it was for an early Whole30 when I was pushed out of my comfort zone and had to buy more vegetables. But I wonder why I tried parsnips?)
All I know is parsnip fries were a surprisingly huge hit with my kids the first time we made them!
They even took leftover parsnip fries to school the next day in packed lunches and ate them cold. Even though they “waffle” sometimes in their love of baked parsnip fries (pun intended), it’s burned into my brain that the kids go gaga over them. 🙂
If you’re working to increase your variety of vegetables, which you should be since the Human Microbiome Project recommends 25 different plant foods every week for a human being and their trillions of dependent bacteria, new healthy recipes like this one, especially because it’s kid-friendly, are golden for your repertoire.
I’ve read that 25% of the “vegetables” kids in America eat are actually French fries. Not sure that should count!! 🙁
Healthy French Fry Alternative
Time to think of some new ideas for a side dish when meat is the main, and parsnip fries are a great potato/French fry alternative with sandwiches, burgers, Instant Pot keto BBQ chicken, roasted chicken and more. Because parsnip fries fill the oven, meats that cook in an Instant Pot or grill make orchestration easiest.
I wish I could say parsnips are an extremely inexpensive vegetable, but they’re about middle of the road, and this recipe does take a bit of time. I highly recommend “hiring” some sous chefs of the under-5-feet variety. (I will teach your kids to peel and cut vegetables for you if that helps!) 😉
The true benefit of making parsnip fries is that when your kids ask, “What’s for dinner!?!” and this recipe is on the list, they might just be like my family and give up a cheer! That’s the best gratification ever for a mom seeking to keep her family healthy.
Plus, let’s think about it: when you’re making stuff in the shape of French fries but not using starchy, carbohydrate-laden potatoes, you are definitely winning.
The dips help as well. We are a mustard-crazy family in general, our default condiment for meat. Ketchup only comes out for French fries and hamburgers (because of the high sugar content).
When we serve this parsnip fries recipe, the kids all mix mustard and ketchup together and love it. They recommend the same to your kids… But I’m sure you could use any dip that would help them be as popular as French fries! 😉
What do Parsnip Fries Taste Like?
I will never really understand starches because white potatoes are often demonized for their high carbohydrate content, and I’ve even had comments on the blog telling me that I feed my family pure sugar just because I use them. 😮
And yet sweet potatoes, turnips, and even these innocent parsnips all taste much more sweet to me than a potato.
Some people use parsnips as a potato alternative in soups or casseroles, but I can tell you right now that my kids would not like that. They barely tolerate when I replace 1/4 of the potatoes in a soup with turnips. Parsnips would be too sweet for many savory dishes IMO.
Thankfully the kids still love these parsnip fries, which have the approximate texture of an extra fibrous carrot with a similar sweetness but milder flavor. It’s hard to describe taste in text!!
Let’s just say if you can put a vegetable in cupcakes like Mary’s low-sugar gluten-free parsnip cupcakes, they must have something going for them in the taste department, eh?
The Best Shape for Parsnip Fries
It seems a little crazy at first that the shape in which a vegetable is cut can impact its flavor and your family’s enjoyment, but it is so true.
Perhaps particularly because I have some Highly Sensitive People in my family, presentation is the first key to palatability.
We have tried cutting parsnip fries in many ways:
- Sticks like regular French fries
- Simple circles with a chef’s knife
- With a crinkle cutter for cottage fries
The crinkle-cut shape is definitely the best because they look super cute and I’m guessing the wavy parts might catch and hold more oil and seasoning. They really do taste better that way!
Unfortunately, because parsnips are so dense, little kids can’t really use their crinkle cutter well to cut the parsnip cottage fries. It requires adult strength, and it’s definitely quicker anyway to just use a chef’s knife.
We’ve made this parsnip fries recipe a few times to look more like a healthy French fry alternative, cutting the parsnips into sticks. Technically because of the woody core which Bethany describes in this how-to cook parsnips post, the sticks should be easier to eat. It doesn’t work that way for us! I’m not sure what it is, but my family isn’t as much of a fan. My hunch is that because parsnips have a fat end and a thin end, it’s difficult to cut perfectly straight fries. There’s always a much thinner bunch, which tends to burn a little and be too hard to chew. My highly sensitive kids don’t like that feeling in their mouths. (Obviously a little more care to seek consistency and I could get this shape to be accepted too, I imagine!)
When I cut either circle shape, I’m careful at the skinny end of the parsnip to make the fries about a centimeter wide, then getting narrower to maybe 3-4 millimeters in an attempt to help them all cook at the same rate.
Best Seasoning for Parsnip Fries
We’ve played around with seasonings as well, and I remember my husband making someone else’s recipe once with fresh garlic and Parmesan cheese. That was amazing, by the way, but when I’m really moving in a hurry in the kitchen, I prefer the simple.
As you’ll see in the recipe, I generally just use a simple olive or avocado oil toss with salt, pepper, and dried dill.
I switch it up with turmeric and paprika as well, but I think my kids prefer the dill.
Because I season parsnip fries on the baking sheet before roasting them, I can choose two different flavors even on one day.
The Best Way to Cook Parsnip Fries
This should seem obvious, just follow the recipe, right?
I wanted to let you know that I’ve tried a faster method, and although it “worked” logistically, it did not work for the children.
We’ve always roasted parsnip fries, and as we talked about last week, roasting is a great method for kid-friendly vegetables because it brings out that sweetness. The crispy, brown edges of the parsnip fries are an absolute favorite for one of my kids.
I’m starting to think roasting also has a sort of “savory sweetness,” because when I got behind one day and decided to just saute my parsnip fries, they were still very sweet. They just didn’t have any variety in texture, remaining rather mushy all the way through to the edges. Apparently that touch of crispy on the outside from roasting is where the magic comes in.
I just realized something when I thought about parsnip fries as a healthy french fry alternative for you: I’ve never tried them truly deep fried in coconut oil like when I make actual homemade french fries. I can’t imagine that would go badly! 😀
But obviously it’s a lot more work and time, so I’m very happy to roast parsnip fries and avoid hovering over every batch.
To roast parsnip fries, you’ll need simple supplies:
- Peeler (I prefer this Y shape)
- Chef’s knife or crinkle cutter (this one is sharper and makes your work faster, but this one has a much better, deeper crinkle shape)
- Mixing bowl
- Stainless steel baking sheets
- Optional: to reduce dishes clean up, you could cover the baking sheet with parchment paper (but I really don’t find these to make a mess at all, nothing like sweet potatoes, so I would not recommend it)
Parsnip fries are a great alternative to French fries: roasted at high temps, the edges caramelize, and they’re a perfect sweetness for kids to love! I’ll apologize in advance for the lack of measurements on the recipe. You don’t need to measure!
- Preheat oven to 450F.
- Wash and peel the parsnips.
- Cut into preferred shape: sticks like a French fry, wheels, or crinkle cut. We prefer the latter, but it’s time-consuming. Your primary goal must be even sizes.
- In a large mixing bowl, toss with enough oil to coat.
- Spread in a single layer on two baking sheets.
- Sprinkle salt, pepper, and dill to taste. (Alternative: turmeric and paprika is very pretty!)
- Put in the oven for 15 minutes.
- When the timer goes off, flip the parsnip fries around a bit on the tray, then switch the top and bottom trays. Roast for another 15 minutes.
- Here’s where things get a little tricky: you’ll have to check to see if they’re done. When the edges of the parsnips are getting browned, you’re winning. The outer parsnips will brown first, so it’s important to rotate those to the center of the tray and keep roasting in increments of 5-10 minutes until as many of the parsnip fries as possible have brown edges without burning too many to a crisp. (Hint: Look at my pictures to see what “done” is like.)
Serve hot with mustard and ketchup or your kids’ favorite dipping sauce. I’m sure they’d be delicious with homemade ranch!
Keywords: French fry alternative, healthy vegetables, kid-friendly veggies
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