Carrots make an appearance in every kind of food, from breakfast muffins to dessert and everything in between. Here's how to buy, store and cook this popular root veggie.

Hilary Meyer and Lisa Kingsley
April 06, 2020
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Carrots, second only to beets in sugar content, are probably enjoyed most often in their purest form than in any other way—scrubbed, peeled and munched on raw. Most carrots are orange, but there are yellow, purple, white and red varieties as well—and they come in an array of shapes and sizes, but they all taste the same. The sweetness of carrots pairs well with the savory members of their plant family, including dill, parsley, chervil, cilantro, coriander, fennel, anise and cumin, like in this Hot Moroccan Carrots recipe. The sweetness of carrots can be enhanced with honey and orange or balanced by an acid, such as lemon juice or vinegar.

How to Buy the Best Carrots

Choose carrots that are firm, with smooth skin and bright color. If the greens are attached, be sure they look fresh, not dry or wilted. (The greens are edible but bitter. Use them in small amounts in salads.) Avoid cracked or soft carrots or those with green skin at the top. Small carrots have sweeter flavor than large ones. Ideally, choose carrots that are less than 1 inch in diameter.

"Baby" carrots, sold peeled and prewashed in plastic bags, are usually not baby carrots at all but rather pieces of large carrots that have been cut down and shaped. Real baby carrots are simply harvested before they reach mature size. True baby carrots have a "shoulder" at the top and often still have some greens attached as well.

How to Store and Prep Carrots

If the carrots have greens attached, remove them and store separately or discard. Store carrots, unwashed, in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for 2 to 4 weeks.

When ready to use, scrub carrots under cool running water with a vegetable brush. Not all carrots need to be peeled. In fact, many nutrients are in or just below the skin. If the carrots are young and fresh, simply scrub, then trim at each end. If the carrots are not at their freshest, peel with a vegetable peeler, then trim each end.

How to Freeze Carrots

Carrots should be blanched (briefly cooked in boiling water) before freezing. To begin the process, peel and cut carrots into 1/4-inch slices or cubes.

Bring 1 gallon of water per pound of prepped carrots to a boil in a large pot. Add the carrots, cover, return to a boil and cook for 2 minutes. Transfer the carrots to a large bowl of ice water. Drain well and pat dry.

Spread them in a single layer on a large baking sheet and freeze until solid. Pack the frozen carrots in quart- or gallon-size freezer bags, or pack them in bags that are made to use with a vacuum sealer, and seal them airtight before storing in the freezer.

Pictured Recipe: Healthy Carrot Cake Muffins

Easy Ways to Cook and Jazz Up Fresh Carrots

Boil

Scrub, trim, peel (if desired) and cut carrots into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Cook in a small amount of boiling water, covered, until tender-crisp, 7 to 9 minutes. Drain; toss with butter and finely chopped fresh herbs. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Roast

Scrub, trim, peel (if desired) and cut 2 pounds carrots on the diagonal into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Combine 4 teaspoons melted butter, 2 teaspoons canola oil, 1 teaspoon ground cardamom and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Add the carrots and toss well to coat. Spread in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast in a 450°F oven until tender and golden, about 30 minutes, stirring twice. (This serves about 6.)

Pictured Recipe: Maple Roasted Carrots

Steam

Scrub, trim, peel (if desired) and cut carrots into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Place in a steamer basket over 1 inch of boiling water. Cover and steam, stirring once, until crisp-tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Toss with butter and finely chopped fresh herbs. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.

How to Cook Frozen Carrots

Frozen carrots have a softer texture than fresh making them good for smoothies, soups and baking recipes. You can also use them in stir-fries and sautés, without defrosting them first. The key to keeping their texture firm, is not to overcook them. For a simple side-dish, place carrots in a microwave-safe dish with a lid. Heat for 2 minutes on full power. Stir and continue heating in 20 second intervals until heated through. Toss with a pinch of salt, pepper, melted butter or extra virgin olive oil and fresh herbs.

Carrot Nutrition Facts

Carrots are one of a handful of vegetables whose nutrients are actually more accessible to the body cooked than raw. With the exception of carrot juice, raw carrots are harder for the body to break down than cooked carrots.

These root veggies contain falcarinol and falcarindiol, two compounds that lower blood sugar by pulling glucose from your bloodstream into your cells to use for energy.

1 cup of chopped raw carrots has 52 calories, 12 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams total sugars, 4 grams fiber and 410 mg potassium.