Turnip Greens Recipe Sauteed and So Easy

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Whether you buy fresh turnip greens from the store or are trying to make the most from your harvest, I explain how easy it is to prepare turnip greens. They are edible but bitter and peppery when fresh so most people cook them instead of eating them raw. Cooking or sautéing them with herbs and spices helps minimize the sharp taste.

Turnip leaves, turnip tops and turnip greens are all the same thing. The green leaves grow above ground while the turnips are root vegetables that grow in soil. I first had turnip greens when I grew turnips in my winter garden. Since then, I’ve been buying the tops from the grocery store when I can find them.

Many grocery stores will sell turnips (with the leaves and roots already chopped off) so you will have to look around for the greens. You may find loose bundles of turnip greens where the loose lettuces and collard greens are. Some stores will also sell the greens already chopped and washed in sealed plastic bags in the section with bagged prepared salads, kale, etc. 

turnip greens recipe
Sauteed turnip greens recipe

If you are buying them instead of using what you have (if you grew turnips yourself), be sure to buy more than you think you need. Like spinach leaves and kale, the leaves will shrink down when you cook them.

Learn how to prepare turnip greens to enjoy this traditional southern dish. They are easy to prepare and cook.

how to prepare turnip greens
Preparing turnip greens is easy but takes time to separate the leaves from the stems

How to Prepare Turnip Greens

It’s important to discard any wilted leaves or leaves that are yellow, brown, or those that just don’t look good. When you buy them fresh in the grocery store — like when you see bunches of kale — there may be some leaves that have been damaged from handling or just aren’t as fresh.

Also, I always cut away the stems at the bottom. They are thicker than those higher up.

You can throw the bad parts away, compost them, or feed them to chickens. (You may want to blend up the stems before giving to chickens to make it easier for them to eat.)

homegrown turnip
If you have homegrown turnips, remove the thick stems at the top of the turnip (below the leaves) before washing and cooking
turnip greens from garden
Turnip greens from garden

If you have a turnip with the leaves and root intact

  1. Place turnip on cutting board. With a sharp knife, cut the roots off. 
  2. Then separate the greens from the turnip by cutting them off. Set the turnip aside to prepare later.
  3. Then wash the greens.
washing turnip greens
Wash turnip greens to remove soil, especially on the bottom if turnips are homegrown
how to wash turnip greens
Wash turnip greens in colander or large bowl in bunches

How to Wash Turnip Greens

  1. Remove bad leaves.
  2. Cut away thick bottom stems. 
  3. Put greens in large colander or large bowl. Wash thoroughly by running water over them. Scrub them between your hands to get all the dirt off. Pay attention to the area by the stems, veins, and on the bottoms where soil may have collected. 
  4. Take a leaf and fold it in half vertically. From the top, tear the leaf away from the stem.
  5. Continue with all the leaves. Rinse the leaves again under cold water.
  6. Rip leaves by hand or chop them into smaller pieces. 
removing turnip leaves from stem with knife
Removing turnip leaves from stem with knife

You can leave some smaller stems but it’s best to remove the thicker stems. I find it’s best to tear away the leaves by hand but you can also use a knife. Cutting the leaves from the stems is time-consuming but easy.

If you only have the tops from a few turnips, this will go quickly. If you buy several bunches, it will take more time. When you buy turnip greens in sealed plastic bags, they are typically washed with the stems removed and ready for cooking. 

stems from turnip greens
Compost or throw away bad leaves and stems 

Sautéed Turnip Greens Recipe

This is a simple turnip greens recipe. It calls for the leaves, garlic, onion, seasoning, and olive oil. The great thing about making it is it’s forgiving. If you add a bit more or less of an ingredient, it will still turn out great. All of these ingredients go together well. 

When you sauté them, turnip greens cook up quickly. The time-consuming part is washing and preparing the greens. Many recipes call for chicken broth or vegetable broth. This is an easy recipe that relies on olive oil for sautéing.

Ingredients

  • 5 tablespoons olive oil, avocado oil, or vegetable oil 
  • 1 white or yellow onion
  • 4 – 6 garlic cloves
  • 2 pounds chopped turnip greens (1 pound = 8 cups fresh leaves)
  • 2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning or creole seasoning (I love Tony Charchere’s Original Creole Seasoning.)
  • 2 teaspoons salt or smoked salt
  • Optional: 2 teaspoons liquid smoke
  • Optional: Cooked meat

Variations: You can add already-cooked meats in as you are cooking up the leaves. 

turnip greens cooking in pot
Turnip greens cooking in pot

Equipment Needed

  • Cutting board and knife
  • Colander or large bowl to wash greens
  • Large pot or pan to sauté greens
  • Spatula

Tip on the pot: I have a large pan that is wider than tall. It’s perfect for sautéing. I use it to cook turnip greens because I can fit a lot in it, and they all cook fairly evenly. You can use any large pot or pan.

How to Make Turnip Greens

  1. Wash greens thoroughly. Fold leaves lengthwise, and tear the leaves from stems. Rip or cut leaves into smaller pieces. (Save some leaves to tear for when the onion and garlic are sautéing.)
  2. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to large pan.
  3. Wash and chop onion and garlic cloves; add to pan. Cook on medium heat for about 2 minutes, until they are translucent.
  4. Add greens.
  5. Cook on medium-low heat so the leaves wilt and are cooked down. Once they start to wilt, add creole seasoning, salt, cooked meat if using, and liquid smoke if using.
  6. Continue to add more leaves and olive oil as the greens cook down and there is more room.
  7. Covering the pan will create moisture. I alternate between keeping the lid on and removing the lid to stir while they are simmering so they are sautéd.
  8. Once all the greens are cooked, combine and cook on low without the lid for an additional 2 – 5 minutes to combine all the flavors.
  9. Remove from pan and serve.
turnip greens sautéing in pan
Turnip greens sautéing on stovetop

Variations

You can make turnip greens vegetarian or with meat. Some recipes use meat to enhance the flavor and to cut down on the bitterness. Adding meat also makes the dish more hearty. 

easy turnip greens recipe
For a very easy turnip greens recipe, you can use olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder

Some variations to add to the greens include:

  • Add cooked meat in with the greens as they are cooking. Ideas: turkey, chicken, shredded beef, pork, already-cooked bacon, etc.
  • Use smoked salt or 2 teaspoons of liquid smoke for a smoky flavor.
  • Top with crumbled bacon.
  • Drizzle balsamic on top.
turnip greens with roasted turnips
Turnip greens with roasted turnips 

The greens from turnips are a side dish you can serve like you do other cooked vegetables. They go well with meats, soups, sweet potatoes, and more. If you add meat to the greens, it can stand on it’s own for a filling lunch or dinner. Many people also enjoy it with cornbread or rolls. 

Storing Sautéed Turnip Greens

Store turnip greens covered in the refrigerator for 3 – 5 days. You can also freeze fresh or cooked turnip leaves in freezer safe bags or containers. If using freezer bags, be sure to get the excess air out before sealing. You can use freeze them for 3 – 4 months.

turnip leaves growing
Turnip tops growing

Where to Buy Turnip Greens

You can find fresh turnip greens in the produce section in many grocery stores. Turnips are seasonal. In the United States, they grow in the fall and winter months. When in a grocery store, look alongside the refrigerated wall where they sprinkle water on the fresh produce to keep it fresh. If the store carries them, they will be among the collard greens, romaine, and other loose bundles of greens.

Some grocery stores, including sometimes Walmart, sell sealed bags of turnip greens already washed and chopped. Again, these are usually available seasonally.

Year round, you can buy turnip greens in cans in grocery stores. They are located in the aisle with the canned vegetables. The canned turnip greens will already be cooked; you will just need to reheat them. You may choose to add to them (if desired). This is very different than buying fresh turnip leaves but many people enjoy them.

Turnip Greens Conversions to Cups

Stores such as Walmart, Kroger, Fry’s, etc. often sell bagged turnip greens. When you buy the bags, you will see they have the ounces and gram sizes on the bags. I’ve found them in 12 ounce and 16 ounce bags.

  • 160z bag is 454g = 8 cups greens
  • 12oz bag is 340g = 6 cups greens

You can also buy them loose in some grocery stores. Weigh the greens if you want or grab a few bundles. Remember, they will cook down so it’s important to buy more than you think you will need. 

FAQs

What are turnip greens?

The green leaves and stems on top of a turnip are turnip greens. When you grow turnips at home, they are what you see growing out of the ground.

Are turnip greens and turnip leaves the same thing?

Yes, turnip greens and turnip leaves are the same thing: the top of the turnip. Sometimes you’ll find turnip greens have most of the stems removed. 

Can you eat turnip leaves?

Turnip leaves are edible. They are peppery with a strong flavor (like radishes) when eaten raw. Cooking or sauteeing them cuts down on their bitterness.

How do you make turnip greens less bitter?

You can make turnip greens less bitter by cooking them instead of eating them raw. Adding salt will also help cut down on the bitterness. 

What are turnip tops called?

Turnip tops are called turnip greens or leaves.

Are turnip tops collard greens?

No, turnip tops are different than collard greens but both are often called “greens”. You can often find turnip tops and collard greens in loose bundles in the refrigerated section of many grocery stores. Turnip tops are the green stalks, stems, and leaves that grow above the turnip. When you harvest turnips, you gently pull on the turnip top at the base of the turnip to loosen and remove it from the soil.

What do turnip greens taste like?

Raw turnip greens have a sharp, bitter, peppery, mustard flavor. It’s similar to radishes in the bitterness which is why many people cook turnip greens or sautée them.

Are turnip tops the same as turnip greens?

Yes, turnip tops are the same as turnip greens.

Can you eat turnip leaves raw?

Yes, you can eat turnip leaves raw but they have a bitter taste.

Are turnip leaves poisonous?

No, turnip leaves aren’t poisonous. You can eat them raw or cooked but you should wash them thoroughly first. Washing them well will help remove pesticides and excess soil.

How much is one pound of turnip greens?

One pound of fresh turnip greens is approximately 8 cups of chopped greens with most of the thicker stems removed. To determine this, I looked at a bag of already-chopped turnip greens at the grocery store. It was a 16 ounce bag (454 grams). I saw the same statistic (8 cups of turnip greens with the stems removed) on another site as well.

When you buy them in loose bundles from the grocery store, one pound is more than 8 cups because of the stems. When you cook them, they will shrink. Eight cups per pound is when they are fresh/uncooked.

What can I put on my greens to make them taste better?

I like drizzling balsamic vinegar or extra virgin olive oil on greens to make them taste better. Sometimes, I top them with cooked bacon. Another option is to add creole seasoning and salt.

You can also cook them in chicken or vegetable broth. (You can use a bouillon cube mixed with water as well.) Other ideas include making greens with onions and garlic which will add flavor.

turnip greens growing
Growing turnips in home garden

Turnip Greens

I think it’s best to sauté turnip greens. They are fast and easy to sauté on the stovetop while you are preparing other foods. A serving size is around 1 cup raw which cooks down.

Whether you grow them yourself or buy them, preparing the tops is a way to use all of the plant.  You can make roasted turnips and other delicious recipes such as leg of lamb with rosemary, and au grain potatoes. Learn how to grow turnips for a complete harvest-to-table meal!

turnip greens recipe
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Turnip Greens Sautéed

Sautéing turnip greens is fast, easy and uses simple ingredients. If you grow your own or buy them in bundles (instead of in already-chopped bags) allow time to wash the greens and remove the leaves from the stems.
When cooked, the greens shrink. Cook as many leaves as you have. This recipe is forgiving. If you add a bit more or less of an ingredient, it will still turn out great. All of these ingredients go together well.
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Keyword how to make turnip greens, how to prepare turnip greens, how to wash turnip greens, recipe for turnip greens, sautéed turnip greens recipe, turnip greens, turnip greens recipe, turnip greens recipe sautéed
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings 2 cups

Ingredients

How to Wash Turnip Greens

  • 5 tablespoons olive oil avocado oil, or vegetable oil
  • 1 white or yellow onion
  • 4 – 6 garlic cloves
  • 2 pounds chopped turnip greens or 16 cups 1 pound = 8 cups fresh leaves with stems removed
  • 2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning or creole seasoning I love Tony Charchere’s Original Creole Seasoning.
  • 2 teaspoons salt or smoked salt
  • Optional: 2 teaspoons liquid smoke
  • Optional: Cooked meat

Instructions

How to Wash Turnip Greens

  • Cut away thick bottom stems. Remove bad leaves.
  • Put greens in large colander or bowl. Wash thoroughly by running water over them. Scrub them between your hands to get all the dirt off.
  • Take a leaf and fold it in half vertically. From the top, tear the leaf away from the stem. Rip leaves by hand or chop them into smaller pieces.

How to Make Turnip Greens

  • Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to large pan.
  • Wash and chop garlic and onion; add to pan. Cook on medium heat for about 2 minutes, until they are translucent.
  • Add turnip greens.
  • Cook on medium-low heat so the leaves wilt and are cooked down. Once they start to wilt, add creole seasoning, salt, cooked meat if using, and liquid smoke if using.
  • Continue to add more leaves and olive oil as the greens cook down and there is more room.
  • Alternate between keeping the lid on and removing the lid to sauté them.
  • Once the greens have shrunk, stir, and cook on low without the lid for an additional 2 – 5 minutes.
  • Remove from pan and serve.

Notes

  • When washing greens, wash away dirt that gathers by the stems, veins, and on the bottom where it attaches to the turnip.
  • You can leave some smaller stems but it’s best to remove the thicker stems. I find it’s best to tear away the leaves by hand but you can also use a knife. Cutting the leaves from the stems is time-consuming but easy.
  • Cut away some leaves and save the rest to separate while the onion and garlic are cooking.
  • If you buy turnip greens in sealed plastic bags, you won’t have to wash or trim them.