Pickled turnips are a crunchy condiment with a delicious sour flavor. Make this Lebanese pickle recipe easily at home for a tasty snack!
Pickles are popular all over the world, and they can be made with nearly any food, far beyond the delicious cucumber pickles that most of us are familiar with.
Lemon pickle, eggs, asparagus, cabbage, and there so many others to make!
Middle Eastern Pickled Turnips
Cuisine: Arab (Lebanese, Persian, Turkish)
No matter where you travel throughout the Middle East, you’re likely to find regional pickles. From Persian torshi to Turkish tursu, and Lebanese pickles like these Lebanese pickled turnips, also known as kabees.
pink pickles, kabees
snack / appetizer / mezze / condiment
Difficulty: Easy 🥄
Difference between Pickling and Fermenting
The term pickling can be misleading, because there are two different ways to preserve food; quick pickling and fermenting.
The processes are similar, but the results are different because fermented foods are shelf stable, whereas foods like quick pickled turnips must be refrigerated.
Quick pickling involves preserving foods in a hot salt water brine with an acid (usually vinegar). Often, pickling spice or other ingredients are included in the boiled brine to add flavor. This type of food preservation dates back thousands of years.
Depending on the food being preserved, the quick pickling process can take anywhere from a couple of days to a week.
Common examples of quick pickles are kimchi, sauerkraut, and corned beef.
Because the process of fermentation can take several weeks, very few home cooks choose to do it. If you’re interested, the University of Minnesota has an article on how to make fermented pickles.
Making pickled turnips
Lebanese turnip pickles take 5 days to make, but the prep work for them only takes 20 minutes. After that, it’s nothing but wait time… and if you’re like me, you’ll be anxious to eat them. Pickling requires patience.
- Prep the vegetables.
You’ll need to peel and slice a few turnips, and a beet as well. The beet is what gives the pink color to the brine, hence their nickname, pink pickles.
I realize this is a recipe for turnips, but had a bumper crop of radishes this summer, so I decided to add a few to the mix along with the beet for color.
They ended up tasting good, but I didn't much care for the texture compared to the turnips which remained crisp and crunchy!
To flavor the brine, I use bay leaves, a few cloves of garlic, and a serrano chile. If you have different spices that you prefer, feel free to use them instead.
Cutting the vegetables
It doesn't matter if you cut the turnips into slices or matchsticks, as long as you keep them similar in thickness.
Keep in mind that the vegetables do soften slightly in the brine. If you want extra crunchy pickled turnips, just cut them a bit thicker.
Wear disposable kitchen gloves and an apron or shirt that you don’t mind getting messy. The gloves prevent the beet juice from turning your skin pink and the apron will protect your clothes.
- Make the pickle brine.
The pickled turnips will stay in the brining solution for five days, so it’s very important to bring the water to a full rolling boil. The heat will kill off any bacteria and/or microorganisms that could otherwise make you sick.
- Clean the jars.
As a reminder, these Middle Eastern pickled turnips are not shelf stable. They will need to be kept in the refrigerator and used within a couple of weeks.
With quick pickle recipes, it isn’t necessary to sanitize the jars like you would for shelf stable preserving. However, you should still thoroughly wash the jars and lids with hot soapy water, then rinse and dry them well.
Uses and Serving Suggestions
In addition to enjoying turnip pickles as a snack, you can add them to salads and sandwiches.
I like to wrap them in a pita with some shirazi salad or shawarma and a bit of yogurt sauce. They’re delicious! Squeeze them in your chicken pita or kibbeh wrap. They’re a great addition to a mezze platter, too.
Middle Eastern Pickled Turnips
- 2 lbs turnips (peeled and cut into ½ inch fries)
- 1 small beet (peeled and cut into ½ inch fries)
- ⅓ cup kosher salt
- 3 bay leaves
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 serrano chile (optional for heat)
- 1 cup white vinegar
- Using the side of a chefs knife, smash the garlic slightly to open it up. Trim and discard stem from chile and cut thin slices.
- In a medium saucepan, add 3 cups of water, kosher salt, bay leaves, garlic and chile. Bring to a boil, add the vinegar and turn heat to simmer. Stir to dissolve salt and cook 3 minutes more.
- In a large jar or container (with a tight fitting lid), add the turnips and beets. Pour the entire pickle brine over the vegetables. When cool, secure with lid and let sit for 5 days out of the sun on the counter.
- At this point they are ready to eat and can last a month covered in refrigerator. I prefer them cold myself.
*The information shown below is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist's advice.