Miso tahini soup with turnips and colorful veggies

May 25, 2014 at 7:00 pm (101 cookbooks, A (4 stars, love, favorite), breakfast, Cruciferous rich, Dark leafy greens, Derek's faves, Fall recipes, Grains, Japanese, Miso, Quick weeknight recipe, Root vegetables, soup, Spring recipes, Winter recipes, Yearly menu plan)

It’s turnip time! My farmer’s market here in Saarbruecken is full of beautiful bunches of white turnip, with the greens still attached. The name for these turnips is Mairübchen, literally “little May root” or “May root-let.” But they’re not little. Each turnip is about 2 to 3.5 inches in diameter. I’ve been buying lots of turnips just so I can eat the greens, but I had to figure out what to do with the turnips themselves.

I’ve never been a huge turnip fan, and I don’t have so many go-to recipe. I like them raw in salads, in soup (with leeks, potatoes, and chard), and in stews (like this tagine or Thai curry).  But I had one last delicata squash from the fall that was turning soft and needed to get used up, and some leftover brown rice int the fridge, so rather than making an old recipe, I decided to try a new recipe for miso tahini soup from 101cookbooks. I love Peter Berley’s miso-based tortilla soup with avocados, so the addition of avocado didn’t seem that odd. But a miso soup with tahini and lemon? I could not imagine it. I followed the recipe exactly except I didn’t have any chives so I added scallions instead. I cooked the vegetables for less than 15 minutes, as they were soft much earlier.

I made this soup for breakfast, which Derek wasn’t too happy about. He’s never happy when I say I’m making soup, and it being breakfast time probably didn’t help. But the soup was amazing. Both Derek and I loved it. The combination of the miso and tahini is great, the nori adds a great ocean dimension, both the turnips and the squash add different textures and flavors, the rice adds more texture and gives the soup substance, the lemon zest flavor shines adds a bright, zesty note, the sesame seeds… I could go on and on. Every ingredient is distinctive, salient, and contributes something special to the soup, while somehow managing to harmonize into a single taste sensation.

As another plus, the soup is very easy to make. It’s got a lot of components but the whole thing comes together quite quickly if you have cooked rice on hand. You can prep all the toppings while the vegetable cook, so the whole recipe takes about 10-15 minute total cooking time. I’d even say it could be a one pot supper, but it’s a bit low on protein. Maybe next time I’ll try throwing in a bit of tofu?

I liked this soup so much I made it again a few days later, to use up more of my turnips. But this time I used two large turnips, and the soup was just as good. So feel free to increase the vegetable quantities.

Rating: A
Derek: A/A-

Update Feb 2019:

I got a bunch of baby turnips in my CSA basket a few weeks ago, and I kept avoiding them because I wasn’t sure what to do with them. Then Derek suggested this soup, and I made it for Derek and I for dinner last night, after Alma was already asleep. I didn’t have any winter squash so I added sliced carrots and a few handfuls of kale (both also from my CSA basket this week). I served the soup over leftover red rice (still cold from the fridge). The soup was delicious, even without the delicata squash. Derek was very happy. 

This soup can take a lot of turnips, so don’t stop at one or two… Fill er up!

I think you could leave the sesame seeds out, but not the avocado.

Update #2 Feb 2019:

I got more turnips, so I made more soup! This time thought I put in zucchini and tofu. It wasn’t as good as the carrots and kale. Even though I waited until the end to throw in the zucchini, it got kind of limp, and it didn’t really add any flavor or texture to the soup. Alma wouldn’t touch the soup, even though she likes miso soup and likes tahini. She wouldn’t even eat the tofu out of it! I think I need to try a simpler version for her. Maybe just broth with one ingredient she really likes in it?  Despite the zucchini and tofu, Derek was still happy. I ate the leftovers mixed with some leftover scrambled tofu and cabbage and lots of sesame seeds (but no avocado or nori) and it was delicious!

Here’s a guess at a recipe for a slightly larger version (so there will be leftovers):

4 medium (2-inch) white turnips, peeled and sliced thickly
2 to 3 cups of other veggies (see below for ideas)
5 cups water
1/3 cup white miso
1/3 cup tahini
zest of one or two lemons

~3 cups of cooked brown rice
1 to 2 small avocados, sliced
toasted nori flakes, for serving
toasted sesame seeds, for serving


  1. Add the turnips and any firm vegetables to a large pot, cover with the water, and bring to a gentle boil. Simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 5 to 8 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and let it cool just slightly.
  2. While the vegetables are cooking, pour a few tablespoons of the hot water into a small bowl and whisk in the miso (to thin it out a bit–this step is to avoid clumping).  Mix in the tahini and lemon zest. Once the soup is slightly cooled stir the miso tahini mixture into the pot. At this point, taste, and adjust the broth to your liking, it might need a bit more miso (for saltiness)…or more tahini.
  3. To serve, place a generous scoop of rice in each bowl along with some of the turnips and veggies. Ladle broth over the vegetables, and finish with a few slices of avocado, toasted nori flakes, and sesame seeds.

Makes 5 medium-sized servings.

Veggie ideas:

  • 1 small-medium delicata squash, seeded and sliced into 1/4-inch crescents (add squash with the turnips) + two sliced scallions
  • 1 large carrot, thinly sliced + 4 handfuls of kale (add carrots with the turnips, but throw kale in at the end)
  • scrambled tofu and savoy cabbage
  • other ideas?? not raw tofu and zucchini!


  1. Jenn said,

    Thanks for the post. I always struggle when I get turnips in my farm share box. I’ll add this to my list for next time they pop up!

  2. What to do with a lot of lemon or lime zest? | The captious vegetarian said,

    […] miso tahini soup with turnips and delicata squash/ […]

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