How To Clean Carrots, Peeled Or Unpeeled

Carrots are the unsung heroes in the world of cooking. The perfect counterpart to ingredients like onions, garlic, and celery, these orange powerhouses play a key role in so many recipes that you may not even realize — adding crucial texture and that hint of sweetness to your favorite soup, stew, or sauce.

But carrots are root vegetables, which means they grow in the ground, which means they can be quite dirty. So in order to use them to their full potential, you have to know how to clean them properly. Luckily, that's a fairly simple process, whether you peel the carrots or use them as is.

If you're peeling your carrots for a recipe, all you need to do is peel the skin off and rinse the carrots under cold running water. If you're using unpeeled carrots, cleaning takes a little more effort. Rather than just rinse them, run them under lukewarm water while scrubbing the outsides well, ideally using something with tough bristles like a vegetable brush or scouring pad.

Tips for cleaning carrots

There are a few tips to keep in mind that'll ensure you clean your carrots in the best way possible, without damaging them or jeopardizing their final taste and texture.

First, timing matters when it comes to cleaning your carrots. Don't peel or clean them until right before you're ready to cook or eat them; carrots have a natural layer of protection on their skin that helps preserve them, and washing them can remove some of that and thus speed up the spoiling process.

If you're using whole carrots with the tops still on, cut them off to remove any leaves before you clean and cook with them. This will prevent your carrots from becoming dried out, since the carrot tops will continue to draw moisture out of the vegetable. And lastly, water is all you need to wash — peeled or unpeeled — so avoid using any soaps or other substances that the carrot can potentially soak up.

Creative ways to cook with carrots

While carrots make up part of a great base for many meals, there are so many other ways to use them in the kitchen. If you prefer to keep your carrots raw, they make a great addition to salads and slaws. Try slicing them into thin sticks, shaving them, or grating them into hearty salads, grain bowls, and cabbage slaws, or even quick-pickling them and using them as a tangy topping.

As far as cooking, carrots caramelize beautifully if given enough time in the oven. Slow roast them in your favorite spices, herbs, and flavors, from shawarma and sesame to mint and maple. You can also cook and puree carrots to create a plethora of interesting dishes, like carrot ginger soup, carrot hummus, carrot pesto, and even carrot mole.

And lastly, carrot cake isn't the only way to bake with carrots. Try using them in quick breads, muffins, coffee cakes, and cookies. Their flavor and texture adds sweetness and moisture to baked goods, and they pair wonderfully with flavors like cardamom, cinnamon, pistachio, and ginger.