A carrot is an incredibly versatile ingredient. It is used in virtually every hearty meaty savory recipe out there. And, it is even used fresh for its sweet flavor and uber crunchy texture.
However, not that we aren’t in love with these vegetables, but sometimes you are looking for something a little bit more exciting. So, that is when we went on the ultimate search for the best carrot substitutes, for all of their uses!
So, what are the best carrot substitutes? Personally, our top choices include parsnips, turnips, butternut squash, and daikon. These have pretty neutral flavors and very similar textures. However, some other great options that will also give your dish a unique flavor include beets, zucchini, celery, kohlrabi, and cabbage.
If we have piqued your interest, read on to learn more about the wonderful substitutes for carrots we will be looking at today. And, we have even included a handy guide that will help you choose the best one for your dish!
Characteristics Of Carrots
We are all very familiar with carrots. It is a staple ingredient in virtually every cuisine across the globe! These vegetables are extremely easy to grow, very accessible in even the harshest environments, and surprisingly affordable!
But, while we face this veggie on an almost daily basis, have you ever stopped and thought about its characteristics? Probably not, right?
So, we will have a more in-depth look at what carrots are. After all, how can you substitute it if you don’t understand what you are substituting?
So, a carrot is a type of root vegetable that is most commonly found in an orange color. However, you can also easily find purple, white, black, red, and yellow carrots. All of these are domesticated forms of wild carrot.
Carrots have a very firm rigid texture that is crunchy when it is ripe and still raw. The skin is often wrinkly and has to be cleaned of dirt before being prepared and cooked.
The stems and leaves of carrot bunches can also be eaten and are commonly used in fine dining dishes. While they aren’t as nutritious as the taproot (the main part of the carrot), they are still beneficial in some ways.
Because these vegetables grow underground, they have a natural earthy flavor. However, another noticeable flavor you will instantly pick up on is sweetness. They are actually a very sweet vegetable, which directly translated to the food.
Another flavor many people note is woodiness. This is quite interesting and something you wouldn’t expect. But, certain cultivars have this obvious trait.
As carrots cook, the woodiness disappears, but the earthy and sweet flavor enhances.
This is why you will see carrots are used to make broths and stocks. They help naturally balance the flavor of the entire dish without having to add sugar or salt.
Carrots are known to be very nutritious. They contain a ton of minerals, vitamins, and fiber. Plus, each carrot is low in calories.
Furthermore, they are exceptionally high in vitamin A, B6, K1, and Biotin. They are also an exceptional source of potassium, an essential mineral that can help control blood pressure levels.
Carrots have a ton of potential health benefits you can gain. We won’t go into these too much, but it is very easy to have in-depth looks about them online.
It may be important to know these benefits in case you want to substitute for them specifically.
How Carrots Are Used
Carrots can be used in hundreds of ways. They form the base ingredients of stocks. Stocks are in turn also a base ingredient of millions of other dishes! Ultimately, you can see carrots as an essential ingredient.
When raw, they can be used in delicious salads and to make fresh salsa, chutney, and other types of dips. However, they can also just make an easy snack, especially bite-sized carrots.
Now, the cooking part is where your options diversify. You can cook carrots in every way imaginable!
They can be steamed, boiled, roasted, baked, stir-fried, deep-fried, or grilled—the possibilities are endless! If you can think of a method, you can use it to cook carrots!
Then, whichever method you use will allow you to further create amazing dishes with varying textures.
For example, steamed carrots can be served as is. This is a way they retain most of their nutrients. But, you can also incorporate steamed carrots into textures sauces (for dips) or to make soup with.
Then, if you thought carrots weren’t versatile enough already, you can deep-fry carrot skins to make a healthy crispy snack.
And, you can add the stalks and leaves to smoothies, soups, or stocks. Or, you can simply use carrot tops as garnishes.
How To Choose The Best Substitute For Carrots
Now, carrots have a ton of characteristics that people use them for. And while there are a ton of substitutes, there aren’t many that will work for what you specifically want to substitute the carrots for.
First, decide what you are substituting. Are you wanting to add color to a salad? Do you want to substitute the earthy woody sweet flavor?
Or do you need to add texture to your meal? This is the biggest consideration to make before looking at substitutes.
Carrots have a very distinctive texture. Even when they are cooked, they will add a kind of soft crispness to your meal. However, they can also be cooked and blended to make a soup.
When they are incorporated into dishes raw, they add an extremely crunchy texture and the freshest flavor they can.
So, think about what you are using the substitute for. If you are making soup, your substitute doesn’t have to have similar textural characteristics because it will get blended.
But, if you are substituting the uber crisp crunch when it is served raw, you will have to choose a similar alternative.
Substituting the flavor of carrots can be challenging. They are so unique in that they add flavor but are not overpowering. So, if you are looking for an exact substitute, baby carrots are your best option. We know, that’s not a lot of help.
But as we have said, there aren’t really other options. However, you can choose substitutes that are relatively neutral or mild in flavor. Something like parsnips or turnips will work well.
But, if you are feeling up to the task, you can experiment with more unique flavors like cabbage and celery.
This is quite easy, to be honest. Simply choose vegetables that have a similar orange color than carrots do. And, if you were using purple or red carrots, the same rule applies.
Usually, people can use the color that carrots give to make a salad look more appealing and fresh. Or, the bright color can give an otherwise dull soup a more appetizing appearance.
But luckily, if you don’t have carrots, there are other vegetables, like butternut squash, that can be used as a replacement for color.
If you require very specific nutrients or are on a specific type of diet, then you will have to research each substitute’s nutritional profile individually. There isn’t one straightforward substitute when it comes to this.
If you want to substitute the vitamin A content of a carrot, you will have to specifically look at alternatives with high vitamin A content.
The 9 Best Substitutes For Carrots
Below, we have compiled a list of some of our most recommended substitutes for carrots. We have included some options that will work as an amazing alternative for their texture, color, flavor, and nutritional value.
We all but guarantee that you will find the ultimate carrot substitute for your needs!
Believe it or not, parsnips are related to carrots. This is why they basically look like a thick white carrot! Even the ancient Greeks used to refer to these as carrots.
Parsnip also has a uniquely sweet flavor to it. But, where it differs most from carrots is that they also have a hint of spiciness and a licorice undertone. The spiciness is similar to that of nutmeg or cinnamon.
In terms of texture, parsnips (being from the same family and all) also have that unique carrot-like texture. It is crunchy when served raw and can be cooked to varying degrees. This makes them suitable for soups, stews, roasts, and salads.
And, if you want to find a low-calorie alternative that is still packed with flavor, parsnips will make a fantastic option. They are very high in fiber and vitamin C—two essential nutrients to take in daily.
Not many people love using turnips, but we feel that this is an extremely underrated vegetable! Turnips are loaded with nutrients like vitamin C, calcium, iron, and manganese!
However, that’s not all that makes them so great! Turnips have a very unique flavor profile that can add some depth to your dish, especially basic ones like soup!
They are part of the mustard family and have a slightly spicy and peppery flavor. Imagine if a potato and radish had a baby; that would be a turnip!
You can even use two different types of turnips: old and young. The older turnips have very thick skin that has to be cut off before it is used. However, the younger ones (which also have a milder flavor) can be eaten as is.
3. Butternut Squash
So, while butternut squash may not be the closest flavor substitute to carrots, it is certainly the best color substitute. But, you have to always cook your squash before using it. Therefore you cannot use it in fresh salads.
But, once cooked, you can use it as a substitute in soups, roasted vegetable mixes, and even to make stocks. It has a wonderfully sweet earthy flavor that is also very simplistic like that of a carrot.
And, if you thought that it couldn’t get any better, they are loaded with vitamins and minerals, are extraordinarily low in calories, and are completely fat and cholesterol-free! Incredible, right?
Daikon is extremely similar to a turnip. Well, at least in its looks! It has a similar flavor profile too, but it is much milder. So imagine having a carrot with only hints of spiciness.
Furthermore, these cook in virtually the same way as a carrot does. It makes it an extremely easy substitute if you can get your hands on some.
Not to mention that you can use it raw! While it won’t give you a bright pop of color, the white will also stand out amongst other ingredients.
The best place to try to find it (if you cannot find it in your local grocery store) is at a healthy fresh produce market or an Asian food market.
Beets are also a root vegetable that is extremely popular and common in Western cuisine. And, it has a naturally earthy woody flavor, just like carrots!
Beets are also unique in their own way because they have an intensely deep purple or pink color. This makes it stand out amongst all of the other ingredients, while still giving you loads of nutritional benefits.
Just be mindful of how beets cook! When boiled, keep their skins on.
Only once fully cooked, peel the skins off with your hands (remember to use gloves) and cut them up into their pieces. A beet skin is very thick and tough and will be laborsome to peel off.
In our opinion, beets make the best substitute for roasted vegetable mixes, soups, stews, and similarly cooked dishes. While it is still popular raw (in smoothies and such), it has a very heavy flavor that can overpower other ingredients.
This summer squash vegetable is also known as courgette or baby marrow. They come in a wide variety of sizes, making them a great substitute for both baby carrots and mature carrots.
Furthermore, with the neutral flavor profile that also has a slight sweetness to it, it is arguably as versatile as carrots! They can be used cooked and raw in virtually every way that carrots are.
One thing to keep in mind with cooking zucchini is that they have a much softer cooked consistency than carrots.
So, if you are making crunchy cooked carrots, you will likely just have to boil or blanch the zucchini for a couple of minutes (even seconds if you have slices).
We much rather prefer using zucchini raw as a carrot substitute. It is fresh, crunchy, and pairs well with loads of other ingredients.
Celery is probably one of the last substitutes you would think of for carrots. However, when it comes to making stocks, soups, and salads.
It will add a ton of freshness to any dish and it’s also uber crunchy and crisp.
Kohlrabi isn’t a very new ingredient to the world, but it is only becoming more readily available as of late. It is closely related to cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and kale. But, its flavor is quite different from theirs.
It has a slightly sweet and peppery flavor that is semi-intense. And, its texture is very close to carrots. This makes it much easier to cook and even the cooking times are very similar.
When you choose the best kohlrabi vegetable, make sure that it is firm and blemish-free. While it may make more sense to choose the squishy ones, these aren’t fresh anymore and won’t have the best flavor or texture.
Cabbage may seem like another one of those substitutes that don’t make any sense at all.
However, it makes an excellent texture substitute for both fresh and cooked carrots. And, because of its structure, it also works exceptionally well in stir-fry, salads, and textured soups.
Cabbage has a pretty unique flavor that is more fragrant and aromatic than carrot. But, it will add crunchiness and a pop of color, regardless of if you are using red, purple, white, or green cabbage.
We recommend using baby cabbages as substitutes for carrots. This will help prevent food wastage when using a large one.
Looking for a good carrot recipe? Here’s an easy one that you can use any of these substitutes for from Tasty!