Tender, silky turnip greens are a classic soul food side dish that’s easy to make vegan! A long, slow cooking time takes the bitterness out, making them absolutely delectable.
If you love my vegan collard greens recipe, then you’re going to want to make this recipe for turnip greens next! As you might guess, turnip greens are the dark green leaves of the turnip plant, and no, you don’t have to throw them out when you get a bunch of turnips—you can use them! Similar to collard greens, turnip greens have a slightly sharp and bitter taste that mellows with cooking.
Turnips are part of the Brassica family, which also includes cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and kale, and their greens have been a staple in Southern cooking for centuries. They are usually cooked with pork fat or bacon and served as a side dish—but you can easily make them vegan, too.
How Do You Get the Bitterness Out of Turnip Greens?
The bitterness in turnip greens comes from natural compounds called glucosinolates. The best way to reduce the bitterness is to cook them for a long time over low heat. This helps break down the glucosinolates and unlock the delicious flavour of the turnip greens.
Notes on Ingredients
Scroll down to the recipe card to find the ingredient quantities and recipe instructions.
- Olive oil
- White onion – A yellow onion works too.
- Vegan meat substitute – I recommend tempeh, vegan bacon, or Field Roast Sage and Garlic Roast or Smoked Apple and Sage Sausage.
- Apple cider vinegar – In addition to the slow cooking, vinegar also helps cut the bitterness.
- Turnip greens – Sometimes you can buy these alone, while other times, you’ll have to buy them attached to the turnips!
- Black pepper
- Brown sugar – Dark brown sugar has a stronger molasses flavour, while light brown is milder; you can use either here.
- Vegetable broth or vegan chicken broth
Do You Soak Turnip Greens Before Cooking?
No, you don’t need to soak turnip greens before cooking, but if your greens have a lot of dirt or grit on them, it’s a good idea. Place them in a large bowl or pot of very cold water, swish them around, let the grit sink to the bottom for about 15 minutes. Remove the greens, rinse them, and proceed with the recipe.
How to Make Turnip Greens
Makin turnip greens is easy, but it does take some time since the greens have to cook a while to mellow their bitter flavour. Just keep that in mind when planning your meal!
Cook the onion and vegan meat. Heat the oil in a large cast iron pot or skillet set over medium heat. Add the onion and vegan meat and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes, or until the onion is softened and the vegan meat is slightly crispy.
Add the next 2 ingredients. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, or until fragrant. Pour in the vinegar and scrape the browned bits from the bottom of the pot.
Wilt the greens. Stir the greens into the pot, along with the salt and pepper. After 2 or 3 minutes, the greens should wilt to about half their original volume; at this point, stir the brown sugar and broth into the pot.
Simmer. Bring the liquid in the pot to a simmer, then cover and reduce the heat to low. Cook for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Season and serve. Taste the greens and add any additional salt, black pepper, or brown sugar. Serve warm.
Tips for Success
Here are some simple tips to help you make the most out of this turnip greens recipe.
- Tear or chop the greens into bite-sized pieces. This will make it easier to eat them when they’re done!
- Don’t rush the cooking time. Bitter turnip greens really need that long, slow cooking time to be palatable. You can’t turn up the heat and get the same results.
- Save the potlikker! The broth left behind after cooking greens is called potlikker and it’s good stuff. Soak it up with vegan biscuits or freeze it and use it as a base for vegan gravy, soups, and sauces.
Instead of turnip greens, you can use kohlrabi turnip greens, which are also known as German turnip greens or turnip cabbage. Both were tested for this recipe and both turned out great! You can also use purple or green turnip leaves, or a combination of both. To make the dish spicy, add a few dashes of hot sauce or chili flakes.
How to Store
Store any leftovers in a food-safe airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Can This Recipe Be Frozen?
Yes, you can freeze cooked vegan turnip greens. Allow them to cool completely before transferring them to a freezer-safe container or resealable bag. Freeze for up to 3 months and thaw overnight in the fridge before reheating on the stovetop or in the microwave.
Vegan Turnip Greens
- 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil 25 grams
- 1 Small White Onion sliced (approximately 1 1⁄3 cups or 170 grams)
- 13 – 16 ounces Vegan Meat Substitute diced (approximately 373 – 453 grams) *(see recommendations in notes)
- 2 Teaspoons Garlic minced (8 grams)
- 1 Teaspoon Apple Cider Vinegar 5 grams
- 1 pound Turnip Greens washed and thick stems/ends removed (453 grams)*
- 2 Teaspoons Salt 16 grams
- 1 Teaspoon Black Pepper 2 grams
- 1 Tablespoon Brown Sugar 15 grams
- 3 Cups Vegetable Broth or Vegan Chicken Broth 678 grams/milliliters
- Place a large cast iron pot or skillet over medium heat and add oil.
- When the oil is heated, add the onion and vegan meat. Cook, stirring occasionally, for approximately 15 minutes or until the onion is softened and the vegan meat is slightly crispy.
- Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute until fragrant.
- Add the vinegar and scrape the browned bits from the bottom of the pot.
- Tear or rough chop the turnip greens and add them to the pot. Stir to combine.
- Immediately add the salt and black pepper and stir to combine. Allow the turnip greens to wilt down to half of their original size (after approximately 2 – 3 minutes of cooking).
- Add the brown sugar and broth. Stir to combine.
- Bring the liquid in the pot to a simmer then cover with a lid and reduce the heat to low.
- Cook for 45 minutes, stirring a few times while cooking. Make sure to keep the lid on the pot after stirring. Once done, taste the turnip greens and add any additional salt, black pepper, or brown sugar if preferred. Serve warm. Store the cooled leftovers in a food-safe airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
- Vegan Meat: Any of the following are suitable meat substitutes for this recipe
- Sage and Garlic Roast by Field Roast
- Vegan Bacon
- Vegan Smoked Apple and Sage by Field Roast
- Turnip Greens: You can use turnip greens commonly found at your local grocery store or farmers market. You can also use kohlrabi turnip greens; also known as German turnip greens or turnip cabbage. Both were tested for this recipe and both turned out great! You can also use purple or green turnip leaves, or a combination of both.