Cooked carrots are a simple, nutritious, colorful side dish. And there’s no easier way to prepare them than boiling them. Boiling raw carrots is also useful if you want to puree them to use in a vibrant vegetable base for a protein, a thick soup, smoothies, homemade baby food, water balloons or any other concoction you’ve come up with. As a general guide, a pound of carrots yields four servings.
Prepping Raw Carrots
If you’re making one of the baby carrot recipes you found and have a bag of peeled and washed ready-to-eat baby carrots, obviously, there’s not much prep work to be done. They cost a little more than whole carrots, but you’re paying for the convenience. If you have whole raw carrots, some preparation is needed prior to cooking.
First, cut off the stem tips and the thin section of the root end. Then, peel the carrots and wash them under cold running water. You don’t have to peel carrots, but most people find them more visually a-peel-ing if you do. Don’t you just love vegetable humor? If you choose not to peel them, use a veggie brush to scrub all the grooves clean.
Baby carrots are typically left whole, but they can be chopped in half lengthwise or cut in half crosswise if you want bite-size pieces. Cut whole carrots horizontally into coins about 1/4-inch thick or into strips about 1 to 2 inches long and 1/4-inch thick. Uniform sizing is the key to uniform cooking.
Making Cooked Carrots by Boiling
Boiling carrots is quite simple; the biggest concern is just not overcooking them into mush. While you’re certainly welcome to cook them to your liking, the goal is generally to make them “tender-crisp,” meaning they’re soft enough to easily bite through while retaining a little crunch.
Over high heat, bring enough lightly salted water to a boil to completely cover the carrots. Add the carrots to the pot, return the water to a boil; then turn the heat down to medium-high. Below is a basic guide to cooking times. When the carrots are done, drain them and add salt, pepper and any other desired seasonings to taste.
- 8 to 10 minutes for whole baby carrots or baby carrots cut in half crosswise
- 6 to 8 minutes for baby carrots cut in half lengthwise
- 7 to 9 minutes for 1/4-inch-thick coin slices
- 4 to 6 minutes for 1/4-inch-thick strips
Making Cooked Carrots by Steaming
One thing to know about boiled carrots’ nutrition is that nutrients seep out into the water during cooking. For a similar stovetop alternative that better preserves the carrots’ nutritional value, consider steaming them instead of boiling them.
Put about 2 inches of water in a pot; place a steamer basket inside the pot, and then bring the water to a boil over high heat. Add the baby carrots or prepped whole carrots into the steamer basket, cover the pot and reduce the heat to medium-high. Cook them to tender-crisp and season them to taste, using the following cooking times as a guide:
- 9 to 11 minutes for whole baby carrots or baby carrots cut in half crosswise
- 7 to 9 minutes for baby carrots cut in half lengthwise
- 8 to 10 minutes for 1/4-inch-thick coin slices
- 5 to 7 minutes for 1/4-inch-thick strips
Adding a Glaze to Boiled or Steamed Carrots
No offense if you’re a hardcore carrot fan, but boiled or steamed carrots could be considered a bit boring. To take them to the next level, turn them into delicious glazed carrots. Since they’re already cooked, it’s really quick to do.
Dry off the cooked carrots while you melt about ½ cup of butter in a pan over medium-low heat. Stir in about 1 to 2 tablespoons of sugar or packed brown sugar (depending on how sweet you want to go), plus a pinch or two of salt. Add the carrots to the pan and toss them, coating them completely, and they’re done.
You can also use some additional herbs, spices or other ingredients if you like. For example, sprinkle in some thyme or rosemary, or add a little chile powder for a sweet-and-spicy preparation. Or, chopped walnuts or pistachios are a nice complementary topping for more depth of flavor and textural variety.
Eric Mohrman is a food and drink, lifestyle, and travel writer. He spent 10 years working front- and back-of-house in a few casual and upscale restaurants, adding professional experience to his love of eating and cooking. He lives with his family in Orlando, Florida. His stories on food and beverage topics have appeared in numerous print and web publications, including Visit Florida, Orlando Style Magazine, CrushBrew Magazine, Agent Magazine, Dollar Stretcher Magazine, The 863 Magazine and others.