How to Easily Carve a Turnip Jack-o-Lantern

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How to easily hollow out and carve a turnip jack-o-lantern. These traditional European lanterns pre-date pumpkin carving and can have an even scarier effect

On the Isle of Man, the 31st of October isn’t Halloween, it’s Hop tu Naa. Instead of celebrating a day for the dead, it’s the Celtic new years eve and has been around long before the modern holiday. The two holidays are different but have similarities. One is that it’s a lot more traditional to carve turnips, known locally as ‘Moots’, than carving pumpkins. Unfortunately, carving a turnip jack-o-lantern can be hard work but I’ve found an easier way to hollow them out.

How to easily carve a Turnip Jack-o-Lantern #jackolantern
A turnip jack-o-lantern carved with a spooky design

Moots are Scarier than Pumpkins

Even if you plan on carving a pumpkin this year, you should consider carving a turnip too. They have a long history and can be even creepier than a pumpkin. All of the turnip’s nooks and wrinkles can be used to create zombie-like faces. Their color is reminiscent of zombie skin too!

How to easily carve a Turnip Jack-o-Lantern #jackolantern
Power tools make carving a turnip jack-o-lantern a breeze

The first thing you’ll need to sort out is your turnip. You’ll need the larger type that is known by various names: swede, swedish turnip, rutabaga, turnip, moot. Cut off the top so that it angles away from the side that you want your face or design to appear on.

How to easily carve a Turnip Jack-o-Lantern #jackolantern
Use a knife to carve the design

Hollowing out your Turnip Jack-o-Lantern

Now comes the difficult bit. The only trouble with turnip jack-o-lanterns is the effort it takes to hollow them out. Most people chip away at the centers with spoons and it can take a very long time. This year we decided to be a little more clever and got the drill out. It made short work of the moots and it only took me six minutes to hollow my first one out.

The key piece of kit that we used was spade bits that attach to an electric drill. They come in different sizes and as you can see in the video (further below) I began with a larger size and swapped for a smaller one for around the edges.

Cleaning & Carving the Turnip Jack-o-lantern

Once you’ve made as many drilled holes as possible, it’s easy to chip away the remains using a wood chisel. I also used it to smooth the inner walls of the lantern. After it’s hollowed, carving the design is very similar to carving a pumpkin. Draw your design on with a pencil and then cut it out with a kitchen knife. Pop a tea light inside and your moot is ready to thrill! Watch the video above to see the entire process.

How to easily carve a Turnip Jack-o-Lantern #jackolantern

Learn more about the Isle of Man


  1. Love that you used power tools for this, Tanya – a woman after my own heart!! I was also wondering what you did with all the flesh that you hollowed out? I hope you’ll come back with a recipe for turnip mash or pie! (or cake, maybe?) Caro x

    1. It’s in the fridge but will be going into some Rotmos tonight :) That’s just a mash made with potatoes, swede, and parsnips. And thumbs up for braving power tools as well. I’ve met too many women who won’t even give them a chance. Once that fear is overcome you can make anything!

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