Sunburst Carrot Salad Recipe

A favorite carrot salad recipe - carrot ribbons sauteed in a bit of salt and olive oil and finished off with lemon zest, finely chopped serrano chiles, a quick squeeze of lemon juice, and lots of cilantro.

Sunburst Carrot Salad

What you see up above is a vibrant, flavorful, shaved carrot salad. I intended to serve it under thick slabs of cumin-spiked tofu. Sounds simple enough, right? It actually took a few tries on my part to get the carrot salad right. My failures were by no means spectacular, but they are notable. This is a long-winded way of saying that after spending exponentially more time on the carrot portion of the recipe (the tofu was a breeze), I realized the carrot salad warranted it's own write-up. The tofu recipe will follow on Monday.

As I worked toward the ideal carrot salad, I tried a bunch of things that didn't work very well - culinary dead ends. Each time I'd back up, rethink my approach, and try something different. For example, I thought it might make sense to barely blanch the the carrot ribbons in a pot of boiling salted water, just long enough to take the raw edge off. Not the best idea. The carrots ended up limp and lifeless, and they all stuck together. Thinking that I might be able to salvage the attempt, I gave them a spin in the salad spinner - didn't help. Swinging the pendulum in the opposite direction I tried a raw approach - uncooked carrots softened up by the acid in the citrus juice (I tried both lemon and lime juices). Not quite what I was after either. In the end I preferred the melding of flavors that came from zapping the carrot ribbons in a hot skillet w/ a bit of salt and olive oil. I finished them off with lemon zest, finely chopped serrano chiles, a quick squeeze of lemon juice, and lots of cilantro.

Carrot Salad Recipe

I sidelined my favorite deep magenta and red carrots in this carrot salad. They stain everything around them. You could do a version just using the more saturated carrots and be fine. I also realize they are harder to come by for many people, so I went for more forgiving hues of spring carrots.

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Sunburst Carrot Salad Recipe

Generally speaking, I don't buy the huge woody-textured carrots you find in many produce departments. I seek out bunches of seasonal carrots this time of year from various farmers, farmers markets, etc.

2 bunches carrots, preferably spring carrots
extra virgin olive oil
fine grain sea salt
1 green chile (serrano), deveined and minced
1 lemon, zest and juice
1 cup cilantro, chopped
1 cup green pumpkin seeds (pepitas), toasted

Start by washing the carrots. Use a vegetable peeler to shave each carrot into wide ribbons. If your carrots have beat up, dirty skins, peel them first before making ribbons.

Heat a big splash of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add a big pinch of salt and stir in the carrot ribbons. Saute for just 20 seconds or so - barely long enough to take the raw edge and a bit of crunch off the carrots. Quickly stir in the chiles and lemon zest. Remove from heat and stir in the cilantro, about one tablespoon of lemon juice, and then most of the pepitas. Taste. Add more salt and/or lemon juice if needed. Garnish with remaining pepitas.

Serves 4 to 6.

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

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Thanks for allowing us to hear about your mishaps. While I find cooking failures reality-show-like titillating to hear about, I also love learning what not to do! And thanks much more for a wonderful (and perfected) carrot salad recipe!


Hilary Easton: There is some evidence that olive oil may lose some properties when heated, but this shouldn't deter you from using it to cook meals that require sauteing or frying. If you are more concerned with getting the most benefits from olive oil, you could use it in salad dressings vs. cooking with it. I make an awesome poppy seed dressing with olive oil! The main thing you should be concerned with with any oil is cooking with the proper temperature relative to the oil's smoke point. Olive oil is a lower smoke point oil and should not be heated above 375 F or so. Doing so not only destroys the properties of the olive oil but releases bad chemicals that are potential carcinogens. If you're looking for an oil with a higher smoke point, try safflower oil.


This is beautiful! I will be adding this to my menu for Mother's Day. Perfect! Another grand-slam! Thank you!

Lisa E

This, as always, looks amazing! I'm going to try it this week, but I was wondering if you could recommend a pantry substitute for the serrano chile. Maybe chile powder? Thanks!


That looks absolutely delicious!!! :)


This sounds like a perfect fresh addition to my seder menu -- everything can tend to be so heavy, and this sounds wayyyy more refreshing than, say, carrot ring or carrot souffle. Kudos for doing all the tedious trial and error for us!! I think it would also be tasty to do a Moroccan-style version, by grinding the cilantro with a little garlic in a mortar and pestle, and add some chopped olives and a little cinnamon? maybe some preserved lemon?


The salad looks yummy.


I like all the receipes but some ingredients names are not known by all. Can you put in the name in a simple language so that all understand


I've used shaved carrots in salads - but never just ar the salad. Great idea to saute them quickly first... otherwise they can be a bit sharp.


Just a quick note to everyone. My server blew up on Friday and the database that handles comments, forums, my access to Moveable Type, etc has been down all weekend. It looks like we are just about out of the woods, but thanks in advance for your patience! I'll try to come through and answer some of these questions later this afternoon. -h


wow, such great ingredients and i concur with those above that professed their pumpkin seed love. i love them so much, i'd be yelled at to get a room, if i ate this


Thanks for the tip about sauteing the carrots to get a succulent-but-crisp texture. I worked at a high-end restaurant where we used "ribbons" of vegetables to compose a healthful salad. However, they were all raw, leaving something to be desired in the texture department. I'll prepare the carrots this way, chill them, and serve with thinly-sliced radish, cucumber, zucchini, and red onion. Thanks!


I love carrot salad, but usually opt for more Mediterranian flavors. I love that you have paired them with chili and cilantro. Lovely as usual!


Hmm..surely looks like an interesting way to fill yourself with those veggies:) I'd recommend adding lemon juice and chaat masala (indian spice) to bring in more flavor:)


Girl, you are so creative!

tiny morsels

This salad is soo pretty! I don't normally go crazy for carrots but the presentation makes me want to give them a try.


Wow!! That's looks almost too good to eat!!


Oh my goodness, those carrots look like ribbons - so gorgeous! Great idea.


i never ever woulda thought of this combo. EVER. so tell us heidi - how do you do it - time after time??? i have everything i need right here and it's looking like lunch!

Claudia (cook eat FRET)

When I first saw the picture, I actually thought this was going to be a recipe using wide egg noodles! How happily surprised was I that they were actually carrot ribbons! Carrots and cilantro is one of my all-time favorite combinations, and I can't wait until the farmer's market this weekend to pick up some fresh carrots! Thanks Heidi!

Jen (Modern Beet)

It looks so refreshing...simple and healthy. Thanks for your recipes.


Can you use the green tops of fresh carrots?


This is one of the prettiest salads I've ever seen! The salad looks great on its own, but I think it'd be really perfect with something cumin-y. Can't wait for the Monday recipe :)


Wow, this looks delicious. I'm definitely a salad person, and love vegetables, so finding something like this tickles my healthy food bone. :) I'll have to give this a try once the weather warms up a bit!


This reciept looks great and I am sure it will taste great but Im a bit worried about 'zapping the carrot ribbons in a hot skillet w/ a bit of salt and olive oil' isn't that the same as frying the carrots? Frying is something I try to avoid, when I do fry it would be in olive oil but some people say olive oil loses its healthful properties when it is heated, does anyone know if this is true?

Hilary Easton

That looks great. The colors are amazing. I'm so glad that you gave us the things you did wrong as well as what worked! I may have been tempted to blanch them as well!


So pretty! That's the most darling looking dish that I've seen in a long time. And because our "spring" today just means constant drizzle, I can't wait to make it.


Just incredible looking. You make me want to give up eating meat. I too, did not know I had a choice in carrots. Can't wait till I find some some and try them out. Thanks for making my day brighter.


I have everything for this (including the tofu!) except the carrots--going to experiment with my idea of cumin-spiked tofu and see how it compares to your Monday post. Surely it won't be as good but it's fun to challenge myself! Cheers Heidi :-)


I do something quite similar rather often - and it can only be recommended! The sweetness of the carrots need a little acidic balance of either vinegar or lemon juice/zest. And the combo with pumpkin seeds is a killer - something just right about it! Also good with orange wedges, when in season, and a touch of garlic.


My partner's mom salts her carrots (like you salt eggplant), then drains them and adds her flavourings. Yum.

Leah Bevington

Teddy, I'm certain a spicy mandolin tune would definitely liven up this dish. May I suggest a pairing of "Blackberry Blossom" with this fine recipe?


Just giving the carrots a quick blast of heat in the pan is a great idea. Boiled carrot is just not what you're after for a salad, but then again munching through a whole bowlful of completely raw carrots can be hard work. Nigella Lawson's carrot salad recipe with peanuts (I think it's called the rainbow room carrot salad) is worth seeking out too as another summery carrot salad


Since all your recipes, even the simplest of them are so tasty (spinach pasta, bulgar wheat pilaf), i gotta try this one too. I find it easier to make the non dessert recipes since the ingredients are more readily available here. for the sweet stuff which i'd love to try, i badly need a subsititute for whole wheat pastry flour. but then i hope substitution doesn't miss the point of the dessert all together.


This looks amazing! I'm going to the store to buy a paella pan tomorrow, and I'm wondering if you have a favorite paella recipe. I'd love something tried and true to break in my new pan!


Just curious, do you have a mandolin? this makes me ant to get one, I noticed the you used a veggie peeler but who couldn't use another toy? think this would work with a mandolin?? teddy


The salad looks so light and refreshing, very delicate. I like the use of crunchy pepitas and the bright flavor of cilantro. I'm sure this will make for a wonderful lunch on a hot summer day!


it really looks delicious. pumpkin seeds are such a good addition :)


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