Radishes and turnips are two nutrient-rich root vegetables that can provide lots of flavor to your meals.

While they’re two different species — Brassica rapa (turnip) and Raphanus sativus (radish) — they are both cruciferous vegetables that belong to the Brassicaceae (mustard) family, due to the pungent smell of their plant compounds (1, 2).

Both have been widely studied for their potential benefits, such as prevention and treatment of several chronic diseases, namely cancer and metabolic syndrome (1).

Yet, despite sharing some similarities and being often confused with one another, they have different appearances, tastes, textures, and culinary uses.

This article reviews radishes and turnips and tells you what sets them apart.

Turnips and radishes stacked together.Share on Pinterest
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Radishes and turnips are both root vegetables — meaning that the root is the edible part of the vegetable — with multiple similarities.

However, their main differences involve their physical and sensory characteristics, such as appearance, taste, and texture.

On one hand, radishes have a small, round shape of about 0.8–1.2 inches (2–3 cm) long. They come in different colors, such as black, purple, white, and yellow, although the most common variety is red. They’re mostly white on the inside.

In addition, while they are smooth on the outside, they have a hard, crunchy texture that softens when cooked.

Lastly, radishes have a savory, peppery taste that’s slightly sweet when raw. However, their flavor turns spicier as they grow older and milder when cooked.

On the other hand, while they’re also rounded and white on the inside, turnips are much bigger — reaching up to 2–3 inches (5–7.5 cm) long — and are a purplish-white color on the outside.

They are also somewhat crunchy but have a rough outer texture. Compared to older and raw turnips, which have an earthy taste and are bitter and spicy, younger and cooked turnips have a sweeter flavor.

Summary

Radishes and turnips are both round, cruciferous vegetables that belong to the Brassicaceae family. However, they differ in size, appearance, color, flavor, and texture.

Radishes and turnips also have fairly similar nutrient profiles.

The following table compares the nutritional profiles of 3.5-ounce (100-gram) servings of raw radishes and turnips (3, 4):

RadishTurnip
Calories1628
Carbohydrates3.4 grams6.4 grams
Fiber1.6 grams1.8 grams
Fat0 grams0 grams
Protein0.7 grams0.9 grams
Vitamin C16% of the Daily Value (DV)23% of the DV
Folate6% of the DV4% of the DV
Potassium5% of the DV4% of the DV
Calcium2% of the DV2.3% of the DV
Phosphorus1.9% of the DV2% of the DV

Both vegetables are mainly composed of carbs, yet turnips provide twice as many as radishes. They also offer virtually no fats or proteins.

They are both good sources of vitamin C and provide a fair amount of folate and potassium.

Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that supports your immune system, while folate is needed for DNA synthesis and potassium for nerve transmission and muscle contraction (5, 6, 7).

Additionally, being Brassicaceae vegetables, radishes and turnips are rich in antioxidants like tocopherols and carotenoids, as well as glucosinolates — the compounds behind most of their health benefits (1).

However, note that their nutritional composition can be heavily influenced by the variety, processing, harvest time, growth environment, and cooking conditions (1).

Summary

Radishes and turnips have similar nutritional profiles. They’re both composed mainly of carbs and are good sources of important nutrients like vitamin C, folate, potassium, antioxidants, and glucosinolates.

Since radishes and turnips belong to the same family and have multiple beneficial plant compounds in common, they also share most of their potential health benefits.

Both vegetables are rich in antioxidants — namely flavonoids, anthocyanins, carotenoids, and vitamin C. These compounds defend cells from the damaging effects of oxidative stress, which may lead to chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer (8, 9, 10, 11, 12).

In fact, radishes and turnips are known for their potential anti-cancer properties — not just due to their antioxidant content but because, like other cruciferous vegetables, they’re also rich in glucosinolates and their derivatives, isothiocyanates (1, 10, 13).

Glucosinolates and isothiocyanates may help fight cancerous cells by inhibiting their growth, reducing their size, and inducing their death or apoptosis (1, 8, 10, 11, 13).

Furthermore, test-tube and animal studies suggest that radishes and turnips may have anti-diabetic effects.

They may help lower blood sugar levels by reducing intestinal glucose absorption, enhancing insulin production, and improving insulin sensitivity (10, 14).

However, these vegetables may cause side effects in some people.

For example, radishes and turnips both have the potential to trigger adverse reactions in people with mustard allergy — which also belongs to the Brassicaceae family (15).

Additionally, some people may be directly allergic to radish, which may lead to a generalized itchy rash and even anaphylaxis immediately after direct skin contact. However, radish allergy appears uncommon (16).

Summary

Radishes and turnips share various health benefits, including their antioxidant, anti-cancer, and anti-diabetic effects. However, they may also have some side effects in common, such as allergic reactions.

Radishes and turnips also differ in culinary uses. For the most part, radishes are commonly enjoyed raw, whereas turnips are often cooked.

Here are some easy salad ideas that can help you add radishes to your day:

  • Cut radishes and green apples into wedges and mix with chopped celery and some lemon juice, olive oil, and honey.
  • Mix thinly sliced radishes, cucumbers, and red onions with dill, lemon juice, salt, and pepper.
  • Toss sweet corn, thinly-sliced radishes, and chopped cilantro into a bowl and mix with lemon juice, cumin, salt, and pepper.
  • Combine thinly-sliced radishes with diced bell peppers and green grapes, chives, apple cider vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Alternatively, you could also make pickled radishes by following this recipe. Enjoy them in sandwiches, tacos, or rice bowls.

On the other hand, try one of these delicious ways to add turnips to your diet:

  • Dice turnips and carrots and roast with olive oil, garlic powder, black and cayenne pepper, and salt.
  • In a food processor, pulse peeled turnips until you get a rice-like consistency, then stir-fry with your favorite veggies and mix with scrambled eggs for a turnip fried rice.
  • Boil turnips until soft, season with salt and pepper, and blend with Greek yogurt to make mashed turnips.
  • Peel and cut turnips into fries, mix with olive oil, salt, pepper, and paprika, and bake until golden brown.

Furthermore, both turnip and radish leaves — also known as turnip and radish greens — are edible and make great additions to salads.

Summary

Radishes are commonly enjoyed raw and make a great addition to your salads. In contrast, turnips are often cooked and can make nutritious, delicious side dishes.

Radishes and turnips are two cruciferous vegetables with similar nutritional profiles and health benefits. They’ve both been studied for potential roles in preventing and treating chronic diseases, including cancer and metabolic syndrome.

However, radishes and turnips are different in terms of their appearance, taste, and culinary uses. Turnips are larger and are usually served cooked, while radishes come in many more colors and are often enjoyed raw, such as in salads.

Regardless of which you choose, these two flavor-rich vegetables may help you add more nutrients to your diet. They’re both high in important nutrients like vitamin C, folate, potassium, antioxidants, and glucosinolates.

Just one thing

Try this today: If you’re striving to eat more veggies like radishes or turnips, check out these 17 creative ways to add more produce into your diet. And if there are kids in your life who could use some help eating their vegetables, too, try these 6 clever ideas to encourage them.