6 Questions About Carrots (With Answers)

What are carrots?
Roasted carrots with dill. Robert Linton / Getty Images

What are Carrots?

Carrots are one of the most common vegetables in the kitchen and one of the most fundamental ingredients in the culinary arts. Easily one of the most versatile vegetables, carrots can be blanched, steamed, sautéed, roasted — or eaten raw. They're also an important flavoring ingredient for stocks, sauces, and soups.

Carrots are a root vegetable, belonging to the broadly defined category of tubers — which also includes parsnips, radishes, beets, turnips and others.

Are There More Than One Type of Carrots?

Carrots can be bred in any number of colors ranging from white and yellow to very dark purple. But the most common color of carrot is bright orange.

Carrots can also vary by shape. The most common carrots are relatively long and taper to a point. Other types are more cylindrical and can be very short and stubby. Some varieties are nearly round.

What are Baby Carrots?

Baby carrots are so named because they've been harvested early. These young carrots are small and tender and generally don't need to be peeled — a good rinse should be sufficient. The longer carrots continue to grow before harvesting, the more they mature and develop a woody texture. These older carrots should be peeled before using them. Older carrots are also good to use for mirepoix when making stock.

What's the Best Way of Cooking Carrots?

Younger carrots should be cooked quickly, with high heat, preferably in small batches.

Steaming or sautéeing are ideal cooking methods for preparing younger carrots. Older carrots, which are tougher and woodier, can be braised or puréed, and are also good for making soups, stews, and sauces.

When properly cooked, carrots should remain bright orange, though their color can fade somewhat when overcooked.

Overcooking can also cause nutrient loss.

How Does Cooking Affect Carrot Color?

Unlike green vegetables, carrots are largely immune to color changes that occur from cooking in a liquid with a high acid content. That's because their orange pigment (which is also found in corn, tomatoes, and red peppers) is fairly stable.

What Foods Go Well with Carrots?

Carrots combine nicely with orange juice, ginger, butter, parsley, dill, fennel, tarragon, coriander, mint and nutmeg, as well as peas, celery, and zucchini.

Here are three recipes that feature carrots: