Turnips vs. Beets – What’s the Difference? (ANSWERED) 

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turnip vs beets

Beets and turnips are two of America’s favorite root vegetables. Both are highly nutritious and delicious to eat but have you ever looked at them and wondered turnips and beets – what’s the difference?

If you have, then you are reading the right article. In this guide, we will look at:

  • The differences between turnips and beets?
  • Do turnips and beets taste the same? 
  • The nutritional content of beets and turnips.
  • How each affects your blood sugar.
  • How long it takes to cook turnips vs. beets.

Let’s get started.

What’s the difference between turnips and beets?

beets color

Beets (B. vulgaris) are a member of the amaranth family. Turnips (Brassica rapa rapifera) are part of the mustard family.

Both are shaped very similarly, kind of like a squashed teardrop, and come in the same range of sizes. Beets, however, are generally noted for their dark red/purple color, while turnips are a dirty white that may or may not fade into a purplish top on the root. 

Beets and turnips have similar flavor profiles, both being mildly sweet and spicy. Beets lean more to a rustic, earthy taste, with the sweetness being more of an undertone, even though they are much higher in sugar. Turnips taste more like cabbage but with the peppery spiciness carried more to the front. 

Both turnips and beets are nutritionally dense foods. It is difficult, though, to say that either has an edge on the other. 

  • Beets have more iron, potassium, magnesium, and zinc.
  • Turnips are higher in calcium, copper, and sodium.
  • Turnips contain more vitamin C and Vitamins B1,3,5, and 6.
  • Beets have more vitamin A, E, B2, and K.

Turnips and beets also differ in their histories. Traces of wild beets have been found in the cave dwellings of ancient man and were cultivated by the earliest Romans. The first records of turnips as an intentional crop go back only 4,000 years. 

Do turnips taste like beets?

beets color

Turnips have a flavor profile that is comparable to beets, but they do not taste the same. Beets have a more substantial earthy element than turnips. Turnips, on the other hand, taste sweeter and have a heavier spiciness. 

Nutrition Table

Per 100g Cooked Turnip Cooked Beets
Calories 22 (1% DV) 75 (4% DV)
Fat 0.1g 0.3g
Carbohydrates 5.1g 16.9g
Protein 0.7g 2.9g
Cholesterol 0mg 0mg
Fiber 2g 3.4g
Sugar 3g 14g
Iron 0.2mg 1.3mg
Vitamin A 0μg 3.4μg
Vitamin C 11.6mg 6.1mg
Vitamin B1 0 0
Vitamin B2 0 0
Vitamin B5 0.3mg 0.2mg
Vitamin B12 0 0
Biotin 0 0
Folate 9μg 136μg
Vitamin E 0mg 0.1mg
Vitamin D 0 0
Vitamin K 0.1μg 0.3μg
Vitamin K1 0 0

Glycemic Index 

beets glycemic index

Doctors use the Glycemic Index (GI) to aid in treating cholesterol and weight problems. It is one of the primary weapons in the fight against diabetes. The GI assigns a numerical value to foods based on how quickly and to what extent they impact blood sugar (glucose) levels. Foods with a higher glycemic rating cause faster and more extreme spikes. The scale runs from 0 for distilled water, which has no impact, to 100 for pure glucose.


Turnips have an average GI rating of 30. A 30 places them in the Low category with foods like yogurt, lentils, and Soy milk. Foods with a rating below 55 are considered safe for daily consumption.


Beets have an average glycemic rating of 65. A 65 places them in the intermediate category (55-70). Foods in this range include soft drinks, French fries, and pumpkin. These foods are considered generally safe in limited amounts but should be avoided if you have sugar or insulin sensitivity problems.

Cooking Time

beets cooking time

Turnips and beets are much alike in terms of texture, moisture content, and density. This makes their cooking times similar. Regardless of the cooking method, you can mix or use them interchangeably without making any adjustments in cooking time.  


To cook turnips for mashes or soups, it will typically take about 15-20 minutes of boiling for 1-inch cubes to be sufficiently softened. For oven roasting, 20-30 minutes is the standard cooking range. Turnips are also delicious fried. This will take approximately 10 minutes on a medium flame for quarter-inch slices. 


To prepare beets as a puree will take 15-20 minutes of boiling in water or stock. When oven roasting, you can expect cooking times in the 20-30 minute range. Frying will take about 10 minutes.