Cooking is fundamental: Difference between rutabagas and turnips

These root vegetables are not one in the same

Left: turnip  Right: rutabaga

When you're shopping for a side for your turkey dinner, you may find yourself with a turnip in one hand and a rutabaga in the other, asking yourself, "What is the difference here?"

Although they are both members of the brassica family, the rutabaga is believed to be a hybrid of a turnip and a cabbage; whereas a turnip is, well, just a turnip.

The first and most obvious difference you may notice is the size, rutabagas are harvested when they are large, whereas turnips are harvested while they are still small. Another way to differentiate between them is through their colour. Turnips are generally white with a purple gradient toward the top, while rutabagas are yellow with a brown or purple-brown tinge toward the top. 

Flavour-wise, rutabagas are sweeter than turnips, which have a sharper flavour. As well, when cooked, the turnip will remain white, but the rutabaga will become a vibrant gold colour.

When shopping for either of these brassica members, they should both feel firm and heavy for their size.