If you’ve eaten shawarma, you’re likely familiar with the bright purple pickles that are added to your meal.  Pickled turnip makes a great addition to a savory sandwich and adds a sour and slightly spicy accent to your meal.  It’s an exceptional match for the savory flavor of beans (including hummus) and is absolutely easy to make!

The bright color traditionally comes from the addition of beets (or beet juice) to the ferment.  Like many mass-produced products you’ll find that many modern versions are artificially dyed to obtain the color.  Since these are so easy to make (and a great way to learn how to ferment), why not skip the pre-made stuff and make your own?

I recently spoke to a friend who happens to be a Chef in addition to being Turkish.  We chatted about fermenting turnips and he surprised me by sharing that his grandmother grew turnips exclusively for pickling.  They weren’t used for anything other than pickled turnip and the only variation accepted was the addition of hot peppers.

I love this recipe because it allows me to use an ingredient that I would normally throw out!  instead of boiling tap water (to remove any possible chlorine) to make these pickles, I make these pickles after eating beets!  I often blanch or boil beets and, instead of tossing the water, I allow it to cool and use it for pickling!  I’ll write the recipe assuming you’re not having beets for dinner but remember this trick and I’m sure you’ll do the same!


This will produce enough pickles for one 1-quart (liter) mason jar.  You can scale it if you wish but they will take up room in your fridge and are best made in small batches.

  • 1 beet
  • 4 cups of turnips (you can use more or less).  This is often 4-6 medium turnips.
  • 4 cups of cool water (or the leftover cooking water from beets, per my note above)
  • 2 tablespoons coarse salt
  • 1 hot pepper (optional) cut into large slices
  • 1 conventional (i.e. not wide-mouthed) mason jar (1 quart/ liter in size)


  1. Peel the beet and cut it into small pieces, add it to the water and bring to a boil.  Boil until you want to eat the beet (or for several minutes).
  2. As the beet cooks, peel the turnip and cut it into batons (large rectangles). Place a few of the longest pieces to the side.
  3. Clean the mason jar with hot water and soap.  Rinse well.
  4. Fill the jar with the turnip and hot pepper.(keeping the long pieces to the side for now).
  5. Add salt to mason jar.  Place a lid on the jar and shake it around to distribute the salt.
  6. Wedge the longest pieces of turnip under the shoulders of the jar (they will run parallel to the bottom of the jar).  This is called seatbelting and will prevent the turnip from floating to the surface.
  7. Leave the turnips on your counter (avoid drafts or warm spots and allow the water to cool to room temperature for a few hours (I’ll often do this overnight).  The turnips will produce some of their own liquid and this will help the fermentation.
  8. Add the beet water to the mason jar (per step 7, I often do this the next morning)
  9. Mix the two jars, ensuring the turnip is submerged under the water.
  10. Place the jar on a small plate (in case it bubbles over) and leave on your counter or another part of your kitchen that’s room temperature.
  11. It should be done within 7 days but taste each day after day 2 when you’re learning (the longer you wait, the more sour it will become).
  12. Store in fridge and eat within 6 weeks for best taste.

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