The 11 best carrot substitutes for your recipes
Carrots are one of the most loved and used root vegetables. They are packed with fiber and beta-carotene, which makes them extremely nutritious and beneficial for our health.
In addition to being a healthy snack and a delicious addition to crunchy soups and saladsthey have many more uses in the kitchen that many people are not aware of.
However, if you don’t like the taste of carrots, or simply don’t have any at the moment, you may be tempted to find suitable substitutes. With vegetables similar to carrots you can stick with your recipe and make a delicious meal.
The best substitutes for carrots
Carrots are a root vegetable, orange or white in color, and have a predominantly sweet, somewhat bitter, earthy, and nutty flavor. The carrots we use in cooking are actually the domesticated version of the wild carrots native to Southwest Asia and Europe.
Although most recipes call for the root itself of the carrot, the stems and leaves can also be used in cooking. However, not all carrots taste the same, and their flavor and aroma largely depend on the conditions in which they were grown, as well as the variety.
The flavor is usually sweet and slightly acidic, but sometimes you can come across more woody and herbaceous varieties that are mostly older. Different cooking methods can help bring out the carrot flavor even more, especially its distinctive sweetness.
For example, roasting and steaming carrots tends to release the most sugar, while cooking them, especially in soups, enhances the herbal aroma. If you like sweet carrots, go for the darker colors, as those varieties tend to have the highest sugar content.
Also, keep in mind that most store-bought so-called “baby carrots” aren’t actually young carrots, but machine-cut slices of carrots from already-grown carrots.
Young carrots are harvested in May and June, early in the season, so you can find them at your nearest farmer’s market and freeze them for future use:
- Quickly blanch them in salted water, then place in an ice bath;
- Dry them well before placing them in an airtight container.
If you want to store the carrots in the fridge, follow these steps
- remove the green part. If you leave the green part, it will absorb all the moisture from the vegetables, causing them to wilt;
- Store carrots in an open bagor in a closed container with water in your fridge to preserve its freshness.
Whether you don’t have carrots stored in the freezer or fridge, or you just don’t like the taste of carrots and are looking for the best carrot substitute, we’ve got you covered.
These root vegetables are native to Eurasia, and are related to carrots, which explains their resemblance. Parsnips have a long, whitish root similar to carrots, and they also offer that unique sweetness that’s perfect for soups, sauces, and stews.
However, parsnips have a distinctive sweetness that is almost pungent and reminiscent of nutmeg, which is a specific flavor note that you don’t get from carrots.
Of all the vegetables that resemble carrots, parsnips can take the cake as their identical twin. They are so similar that the ancient Greeks and Romans confused them and referred to parsnips as carrots, according to some experts.
Many consider pumpkin to be a vegetable, when in fact it is a fruit (since it contains the seeds of the plant). And while we’re on the subject of classification, there are two types of squash: summer and winter.
It is native to Mexico, like beans and corn, but today it is cultivated and consumed throughout the world. Summer squash has a mild, sweet flavor and is an ideal carrot substitute in soup. It has a high water content and does not require much cooking.
In contrast, winter squash has a thicker skin and firmer texture that requires longer cooking, and unlike summer squash, the skin is inedible.
Here we have another root vegetable, and an ideal substitute for carrots, either raw or cooked.
Beets are fully edible, allowing for different cooking techniques such as boiling, steaming, and baking, which is possibly the most delicious way to prepare them.
They can also be eaten raw in salads or as a garnish, which is recommended because they preserve all their vitamins and nutrients.
They are very similar in shape to radishes and turnips, but they are not in the same family. Beets have a dominant earthy flavor with a dose of sweetness. They must be washed thoroughly to remove the earthy taste.
Turnips are closely related to arugula and radishes, and they all belong to the mustard family. While old turnips have a thicker skin that needs to be removed, young turnips are fully edible, and have a milder, carrot-like flavor.
Many people believe that turnips need to be cooked, but in reality they can also be eaten raw in salads or as healthy snacks, especially when they are young.
Turnips are slightly spicy, and their flavor could be described as a mix between potato and radish. They pair perfectly with other root vegetables and make a great base for soups and stews.
Daikon is very popular in Japanese cuisine, and is usually white in color, with a crunchy texture similar to carrots. This carrot substitute also tastes sweet and can be eaten raw or cooked.
Raw daikon is great for your garnishes, salads, and stews, while it can also be cooked, sautéed, or baked, releasing all of its sweetness.
Unlike red radishes, daikon is not as hot and spicy, and is much more subtle in both flavor and aroma, especially when compared raw. Daikon’s flesh is juicy and crunchy, like that of carrots, making it an especially good substitute for carrots.
Celery is a bog plant, and it is completely edible, since you can use its leaves, stems and roots. While the leaves are used as an herb, the stems are amazing in salads, dips, and sauces, and can substitute for chopped carrots.
Celery roots (also known as celeriac) can be roasted, baked, or boiled and then mashed like potatoes.
We have all heard of celery juice, its high fiber content and the many health benefits it provides. However, if you don’t like green juice, you can always add celery sticks to your dishes for that rich flavor and earthy aroma.
It’s also a must in soups, so you can easily swap carrots for celery.
Although we have already talked about pumpkin as a great substitute for carrots, we believe that zucchini deserves a special mention on this list, especially for its versatility.
Zucchini is a great option if you want to add more sweetness to your dish, whether it’s a stir-fry, soup, sauce, or grilled vegetable side dish.
However, since it is a summer squash and has a higher water content, remember that it does not need much cooking before it becomes soft.
The possibilities with zucchini are practically endless. You can stuff them, cut them into healthy noodles, fry them or bake them with all kinds of meat.
Kohlrabi is related to cabbage and broccoli, and grows as a bulb that can be white, green, or purple. However, the bulbs are not the only edible parts, since you can also use the stems and leaves for different culinary purposes.
If you intend to use it as a carrot-like vegetable, we suggest you use the bulb, as it can substitute for both the texture and flavor of carrots, especially fresh.
Kohlrabi is quite sweet, and like carrots, this sweetness intensifies when you cook it. It is also slightly spicy, but above all it has a mild flavor that goes well with other vegetables and all kinds of meat and fish.
You may have heard of this vegetable by different names, such as yam bean, Mexican potato, or Mexican turnip. It is a root vegetable native to Mexico, and is usually eaten raw.
It has a hard, brown skin, while the flesh is white and juicy. The root is actually the only edible part of the jicama, as both the seeds and the leaves are toxic.
Jicama is a great option if you make your sandwiches or salad ahead of time—it won’t oxidize, and it won’t turn brown or soggy once you slice it. If you prefer to cook it, it is delicious grilled or sautéed.
10. Water chestnut
The term itself comes from the obvious resemblance between this vegetable and chestnuts. Water chestnuts are very common in Chinese recipes, and they only grow in semi-tropical areas.
You can buy them both raw and canned, although the raw ones are much sweeter, juicier and crunchy, although they are more difficult to find. Freshwater chestnuts are predominantly sweet, with a hint of fruit and nuts.
If you opt for the canned version, keep in mind that they do not add as much flavor as fresh, raw vegetables. Water chestnuts can be added to any salad and garnish.
They are very flavorful in stir-fries, and you can add them to any cooked dish, just make sure you don’t add them too early in the cooking process so they don’t lose all the texture.
There are so many varieties of cabbage that it would be a challenge to name them all. The most popular are green cabbage, red cabbage, Napa, bok choy, and Savoy.
Although there are some differences between these types of cabbage, especially in color and shape, nearly all have that unique crunch, lovely sweetness, and versatility that is virtually unmatched.
Cabbage, while not physically resembling carrots, can substitute for them in almost any dish you can think of. It’s delicious raw (especially as coleslaw), but it can also be stuffed, sautéed, grilled, and cooked in a soup or stew.
How to choose a carrot substitute
If a recipe calls for carrots but you want to avoid them in your kitchen, it won’t be too difficult to find a suitable alternative.
All of the options we’ve mentioned above offer great versatility, but some of them may be better in certain dishes than others, depending on the texture and flavor you’re looking for.
Parsnips, turnips, and daikon resemble carrots not only in appearance, but also in texture and flavor. You can use them to replace carrots in soups, stews, fresh salads, and many other dishes.
Butternut squash, beets, and celery won’t give you a similar aesthetic, but they’re still great carrot substitutes, especially in dishes that call for that earthy-but-sweet flavor.
When you think of substituting carrots, zucchini, kohlrabi, and cabbage may not be the first solution that comes to mind. However, these greens are amazing in almost any dish and combination, and offer a complex flavor profile.
If you feel like experimenting and are tired of using the same greens over and over again, you might be pleasantly surprised by the jicama and water chestnut. The only problem with these options is that they can be a bit hard to find, but they are definitely worth it!