As summer fades away, and with it the season's bountiful produce, we find ourselves turning to root vegetables to get us through the fall. Carrots are among my favorites, and though their moisture and sweet flavor profile make them delicious in carrot cake, we find that savory applications are best for showcasing their versatility—bright and crunchy when raw, intensely sweet and tender when roasted, and all along the spectrum in between. All you need to unlock their potential are a few simple techniques. To get you started, we've rounded up 16 of our favorite carrot recipes, from roasted carrots with black sesame paste or harissa to a make-ahead carrot and chickpea salad and a creamy vegan soup.
One of our favorite ways to cook carrots is to blanch them quickly in salted water before shocking them in an ice bath, which takes off the raw edge while leaving them pleasantly crisp. Here, we serve the blanched carrots in a simple vinaigrette flavored with just a couple teaspoons of creamy, nutty tahini paste.
Try to roast raw carrots, and they'll end up shriveled and unappetizing—a better idea is to par-cook them in boiling water before finishing them in the oven. Roasting carrots does a great job of bringing out their natural sweetness, which we balance out in this recipe with an earthy, slightly bitter black sesame dressing.
Once you've mastered the boil-then-roast technique, you can dress up your roasted carrots with anything you want, really—in this recipe, that means coating them in a mixture of spicy harissa, cumin, and black pepper before they go into the oven and balancing them out with rich and lightly tangy crème fraîche for dipping. If you can't find the latter at your grocery, it's ridiculously easy to make your own crème fraîche at home.
Even when it's not exactly cookout season, the tastiness of this recipe just might make it worth your while to fire up the grill. Roasting carrots over indirect heat for about 45 minutes leaves them sweet and tender. Here, we brush the carrots with a glaze made of honey (to enhance their sweetness) and soy sauce (for some salty contrast) toward the end of cooking.
For the most interesting combination of flavors and textures, this quick salad uses carrots two ways—thinly shaved strips and sliced carrot cores that are pickled in a simple brine until bright and tangy. We pair the carrots with tiny, sour-sweet barberries (though you can substitute chopped unsweetened dried cranberries or cherries if barberries prove elusive) and counteract those vegetal and tart flavors with a rich dressing of yogurt, ghee, and herbs.
This hearty salad pairs roasted carrots with thin-sliced radishes, mixed greens and herbs, pumpkin seeds, and mole poblano for a dressing. Because real-deal mole is an all-day project, here we use a simplified version that still gets tons of flavor from chilies, toasted sesame and pumpkin seeds, peanut butter, dark chocolate, and raisins.
Chickpea salads are among my favorite lunches—they're easy, nutritious, and affordable, and they taste even better if you make them the night before and let them sit for a while to absorb the dressing. They're also incredibly versatile, as chickpeas lend themselves to pairing with all sorts of other ingredients. This chickpea salad is made with soft and juicy grated carrot, toasted pumpkin seeds, and crunchy celery, then dressed with a simple dill vinaigrette.
For a salad that's as filling as it is bright and refreshing, try mixing chewy cooked rye berries—we love their flavor, though wheat berries or barley would work, too—with carrots, onions, cilantro, celery, and toasted Marcona almonds, plus a simple olive oil vinaigrette. To cook the carrots evenly and give them the best flavor, we simmer them whole until they're tender, then cut them into bite-size chunks.
Glazing vegetables seems straightforward enough, but on a home burner, it can be hard to get the liquid to boil violently enough to emulsify correctly. Our solution is to add a little bit of thickener (xanthan gum is great, but cornstarch works, too), which helps keep the mixture stable. The glaze for these carrots is a simple one flavored with fresh thyme and sharp ginger.
Sous vide isn't usually the best technique for cooking produce; it tends to erase the fresh flavor most of us are looking for in our vegetables. But carrots are a great candidate—they take well to slow-cooking, and sous vide seals in their flavors, producing more intensely carrot-y carrots. After they've cooked sous vide, empty the butter and sugar from the vacuum bag into a skillet and cook for a few minutes to reduce them to a shiny glaze.
Once you're comfortable with a basic glaze, you can start adding flavors—in this case, that means a dash of sunny orange juice and zest. We serve the glazed carrots with barley cooked with spinach and spring ramps; outside of ramp season, use a mixture of scallions and garlic instead.
Yes, you could make a fine soup by simply sautéing squash and carrots and blending them together. This vegan recipe, however, uses a different approach for each of the two main ingredients in order to maximize what they contribute. We roast the squash, which concentrates and deepens its flavor, but instead of roasting the carrots as well, we juice them and use the juice in place of water, giving the soup the proper texture and plenty of bright, fresh carrot flavor.
This soup uses the fiery North African spice paste harissa to flavor an otherwise mild mix of carrots, ginger, and aromatics. We finish the soup by puréeing it in a blender and slowly drizzling in olive oil, leaving it smooth and creamy without so much as a drop of dairy.
Be sure to save some of your homemade harissa for this Moroccan carrot dip, made by blending up carrots with cumin, coriander, garlic, ginger, capers, olives, and parsley. Since our version of the dip starts with sweet roasted carrots, we like to use at least two tablespoons of harissa to give it enough heat for balance.
Though this looks like nothing more than plain old mashed sweet potatoes at first glance, it's actually a combination of sweet potatoes and carrots—the potatoes on their own can be a little one-note, and adding carrots lends the dish some vegetal complexity. It's still plenty rich, given all the butter and cream added to the mix, and gently warmed up with a little brown sugar and cinnamon.
Traditional potato latkes are hard to improve upon, it's true, but we see no reason not to expand your repertoire with a few latke variations. In this version, sweet potatoes replace the usual russets, while shredded acorn squash and carrot add extra flavor. A mix of ginger, paprika, cumin, and coriander keeps the sweetness in check.
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