I have a bit of a carrot obsession. They’re just so yummy and filling and the perfect venue for highlighting fresh herbs and spices, and they last forever in the fridge so they’re easy to always have on hand for a healthy snack or side dish. Plus, carrot cake. Let’s dive into the world of carrots and some of the best ways to enjoy them…
Classic Spices and Herbs That Pair Well with Carrots
Here’s some of our favorites to sprinkle on carrots:
- Garlic (minced, powder or granules)
- Onion powder or granules
- Black malabar pepper
- Cinnamon (Cassia for sweeter, Ceylon for sweetness with some more complex savory and vanilla flavors)
- Nutmeg powder
- Cayenne pepper powder
- Ginger powder
- Aleppo chili
- Allspice powder
- Smoked paprika
- Cardamom powder
- Coriander powder
- Classic herbs: Basil, Oregano, Cilantro, Dill, Parsley, Thyme, Sage, Mint, Fennel
Have some fun and mix and match spices. Get creative and experiment. Here’s a few starter ideas:
- thyme, rosemary, salt, pepper, garlic powder
- cumin, coriander, smoked paprika, cinnamon, allspice, ginger, cloves
- cinnamon, nutmeg, cayenne pepper, turmeric
- thyme, basil, oregano, sage
- ginger, parsley, cinnamon
- coriander, cardamom, cumin, oregano, pepper, salt
- nutmeg, garlic powder, salt, cayenne
- paprika, cumin, coriander, parsley
- fennel, onion granules, garlic granules
- oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage
Bonus tips: Squeeze in some lemon or orange juice to add some fresh tartness, or top with a little honey or brown sugar for some sweetness.
The Best Seasonings and Pinch Spice Blends for Carrots:
- Herbs De Provence* – The French classic of basil, rosemary, thyme, parsley, marjoram, lavender and tarragon
- Buffy’s Slayer Helper – An amazing garlic lover’s mix that protects you against vampires
- Ras El Hanout* – A Moroccan blend of 26 spices. Complex, warm & floral
- Spice Melange – Southwest Tex Mex seasoning
- Piri Piri* – Spice it up with this fiery African and Portuguese dish
- Honey Chipotle BBQ – Sweet, smokey and spicy (note: this is not a vegan spice blend)
- La Dulce Vita – Our slightly sweet Italian-style blend with a tiny bit of heat
- Za’atar – Bring in some robust nutty and a little tart flavor of the Middle East
- Dry Ranch Seasoning – A silky, chemical-free ranch (note: this is not a vegan spice blend)
- That’s Amore* – Fresh Italian herbs
- Chili Powder* – A salt-free burst of flavor
- Garam Masala* – A sweet and savory Indian spice
- Madras Curry Powder* – Aromatic spices with a kick of cayenne and cooling turmeric, fenugreek and cinnamon
- Sizzling Steak – For a classic salty and peppery flavor (a little goes a long way)
- Ethiopian Berbere – A spicy 16-ingredient blend that pairs fiery peppers with cooling and sweet flavors
- Sage and Truffle Popcorn Sprinkle – A salty and savory treat
- Bright Star – Citrusy blend with bright and sweet chilies
- Mrs. Pinch* – Dill, onion and celery-forward salt-free seasoning
- Veggie Sprinkle – An herbal, citrusy mix
- Specialty Salts: Balsamic Salt, Porcini Salt, Black Truffle Salt, Hawaiian Black Lava Salt, Cherry Smoked Salt
*Salt-free spice blend
The 6 Best Ways to Cook Tasty Carrots
There’s a lot of different ways to make carrots and people tend to have their favorites. Here’s the top six techniques in the Pinch household…
- Use a frying pan that you have a lid for.
- Make sure carrots are dry after you wash them (or they won’t char as well), and chop them into bite size pieces.
- Add just enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan with a thin coating and heat over medium-high to high heat. We like using grape seed oil because it’s a solid high-heat oil, but olive oil can work, just be careful to not smoke out the kitchen.
- When you notice the oil shimmer- or right as you see it start to lightly smoke, add in the carrots and spices (leave the fresh herbs for topping at the end). Cover and cook for 2 minutes, undisturbed.
- Remove cover and confirm the bottom of the carrots are browned. Then flip and let the other side crisp up for another 1-2 minutes.
- Take out of the hot pan, squirt some fresh lemon juice on top if you wish and serve.
- Add carrots to a large saucepan and add water so they’re covered by 1/2 inch of water.
- Heat on high and bring to a boil.
- Lower the heat and simmer for 4-6 minutes until they’re tender enough to be pierced with a fork (but not soft).
- Turn off the heat, drain the water from the pan and add in butter or oil.
- When the butter is melted or the carrots are well coated with oil, toss in your spices and enjoy.
- Preheat over to 425 degrees
- Toss carrots with your favorite oil in a big bowl. We like avocado oil, and olive and coconut work really well too. Make sure the carrots are evenly and well-coated.
- Toss in your spices – be generous so they get a good coating on all sides.
- Spread out the carrots on you baking sheet(s). Don’t crowd them, give them space. When you crowd them they steam more than roast.
- Roast for about 30-45 minutes (depends on size of carrot pieces, smaller pieces cook faster). When in doubt, over roast a little. You want to see them start to char and they’re tender enough to pierce with a fork.
- Take out and sprinkle with salt to taste or another few dashes of the spices you’re using.
- Toss carrots with olive oil and season with your spices, coating well. It’s fun to cut them like french fries.
- Set your air fryer in 390 degrees and fry for 11-14 minutes depending on size of cuts (less time for smaller/thinner pieces), shaking/turning them 2-3 times throughout the cooking time.
You can grill carrots in foil over the grill with oil or butter and spices, but here’s our favorite way to get that sweet, smokey grilled carrot taste with that awesome char:
- Peel the carrots, then cut them in half. The widest part of a carrot should be no more than 1/2 inch thick (otherwise they won’t cook evenly and you’ll end up burning the thinner parts in order to cook the wider parts). If you’re working with big carrots, cut them into quarters.
- Toss generously with olive oil and your spices
- Lay out on the grill and cook for 4-5 minutes on each side. If they’re taking too long to cook to tenderness and they’re starting to go in the “burnt not charred” route, then move them to the top rack to finish cooking them.
Caking (Yep, We’re Saying It’s a Thing)
- Make carrot cake. Here’s a few of our favorite recipes: Edna Lewis’ Carrot Cake from Brown Sugar and Bourbon (or we highly recommend buying her cookbook), Brown Butter Carrot Cake From “BraveTart” Recipe, A Brown Table’s Masala Chai Carrot Cake, NYT Cooking’s Carrot Cake and The Food Gays’ Sheet Pan Carrot Cake.
- Eat carrot cake. This is called #winningatcarrots
Fun Facts About Carrots (#CarrotNerds)
According to the World Carrot Museum (it’s a thing), the carrot is the second most popular vegetable in the world (next to potatoes). There are hundreds of variants. In fact, for every letter in the alphabet, there’s a carrot variant.
Carrots range in color from orange, yellow and purple to white, red, maroon and nearly black. Their color can tell you a lot about them. While the vitamins and minerals are pretty much the same no matter what the color (fiber, carbs, protein, fat, sugars), the kinds of antioxidants differ a bit:
- Orange carrots: Highest in beta-carotene (great for eye health and some studies say it could slow cognitive decline), less alpha-carotene (studies say it has anti-carcinogenic properties, lowers risk of cardiovascular disease and helps immune function), gamma-carotene (possibly has anti-carcinogenic properties and may boost immune function), lutein (anti-inflammatory properties and thought to improve or even prevent age-related macular disease), zeaxanthin (protects eyes from ultraviolet rays and other damaging light rays).
- Red carrots: Highest in lycopene (linked to heart health and protection against certain types of cancers and damage caused by pesticides, herbicides, MSG and some fungi) less lutein, beta-carotene, alpha-carotene.
- Purple carrots: Highest in anthocyanins (thought to help protect against diabetes, cancer, inflammation, cardiovascular diseases and obesity) pus beta-carotene and alpha-carotene and less lutein and zeaxanthin.
- Purple carrots/orange inside: High in anthocyanins, beta-carotene and alpha-carotene.
- Purple carrots/red inside: Lots of anthocyanins and lycopene
- Purple carrots/white inside: Anthocyanins, little beta-carotene.
- Yellow carrots: Lots of lutein, sometimes has zeaxanthin.
- White carrots: No antioxidants based on pigment
Ok, enough carrot nerd talk. Happy cooking!