One of my more intense-yet-least-productive recipe testing days has to be the day I compared the taste and texture of radishes, parsnips, and turnips. It took forever. Some things really didn’t taste that great. I couldn’t get my kids to eat most of the tested food. And I didn’t have a bar, cookie, cupcake, or candy to show for my efforts! However, I did gather some great data and narrow down my “potato substitute” options pretty well. I ended up with three potato substitutes, two of which are very low carb. And I discovered which ones mash the best—and which one really doesn’t taste like mashed potatoes!
I know that cauliflower has been all the rage for quite a while among those seeking to lower their carbs. I hear people rave all the time about this crust, that breadstick, the most amazing au gratin, the perfect rice sub, and more—all made from cauliflower. I have tried several of them only to have my cauliflower-loving husband ask me to just go back to quickly stir frying or oven roasting. Cauliflower is cauliflower, he says—not crust, rice, or au gratin. (I know many, many low carbers disagree with him!) Our son and daughter-in-law put cauliflower under everything—and love it. So to each their own, right?
So…for my experiment here, I was going for the veggie that most mimicked potatoes in combination foods, such as roast and potatoes, crock pot potato combination dishes, soups, stews, and, finally, mashed. What would fool my kids? ? What could my ten year old, potato-loving palette tolerate? What mashed up without being watery or stringy?
From left to right: orange bowl: Mashed radishes. Orange bowl: Cubed radishes. Blue bowl: Mashed parsnips. Blue bowl: Cubed parsnips. Yellow bowl: Mashed turnips. Yellow bowl: Cubed turnips.
Here are my findings (I’d love to hear yours!)
1. Radishes are great subs for red potatoes once they are precooked in a little broth. The color dissipates, and they look (and actually taste closely) like little red potatoes. They are great in roasts, combination dishes, cubed and fried like hash browns (once they are precooked), and more. However, even though the bitterness and spiciness is cooked out of them, they still give us heartburn. Thus, we stopped using them. If you are looking for a good alternative to potatoes, you should give radishes a try. They are inexpensive and super fast to prepare.
2. On the mashing front, radishes didn’t mash as easily as other choices. They were a little stringy and water settled around the edges after a while. Perhaps steaming rather than boiling would alleviate these? And they definitely need a lot of cream and butter to provide a close-to-creamy texture.
3. Parsnips were unacceptable to me as a potato substitute. First of all, they are not as low carb as the other options (see chart). Potatoes have near 30 carbs in a cup; parsnips have near 25. If I am going to eat that many carbs, it will be in buttery, Yukon gold mashed potatoes—not a sub that isn’t absolutely yummy! ? Plus, they really taste (and look) more like a carrot than they do potato. They are too sweet tasting to use for white potatoes.
4. Turnips are great for potato substitutes. They are the one thing I have used that people truly did not know they weren’t potatoes! You can see in the mashed potato picture how similar they look to mashed white potatoes. They are not as easy to prepare as radishes since they are large and difficult to peel and cut (very hard). However, they do taste good as a potato substitute, so I highly recommend them! (I should note here that I have tried to deep fry all of these and couldn’t get anything tasting like a French fry. I wonder if the turnips could brown like a fry if they were precooked before frying? Let me know if you try that!)
5. Rutabagas are another common potato sub that I didn’t try on my testing day. They are a little bigger and even harder to cut through than turnips. They actually taste a lot like turnips and are a good sub, but they are too high in carbs for me to consider a good option to use in place of potatoes.
6. Carrots are not often thought of as a potato sub—and worse yet, they are often considered carby. They are lumped together with potatoes as two high carb vegetables. How unfortunate! A cup of cooked carrots contains 4 net carbs. Green beans and broccoli have approximately the same carb count as cooked carrot rounds! And yet low carbers talk about the evils of carrots as though they were white or sweet potatoes! Sometimes I make a roast with just carrots and green beans—no potatoes or potato substitutes. And I always include carrots in vegetable soup, beef stew, stir fries, and more.
I hope you find your perfect potato substitute! Enjoying meals together is a great blessing—and preparing foods that everyone enjoys should be a big part of that.
P.S. What’s your verdict? Have you found your perfect potato substitute? What is it?