Among all my cooking experiences, finding substitutes for carrots has been quite the challenge.
I actually think that it’s easier to find many substitutes for carrots in carrot cake than it is to replace these vegetables in savory dishes. Well, I’m not very good at making desserts so I might be wrong about my assumptions.
But let’s go back to finding substitutes for this delicious sweet root vegetable.
Best 14 Substitutes for Carrots
There’s one thing you should be aware of: carrots don’t have a very strong taste and most of the taste is lost during cooking.
They’re mainly used for their sweetness. That’s why most chicken broth recipes will require at least 2 carrots. I use at least 4 because I love them.
I’m saying this because pretty much any vegetable replacement that you’re going to end up using will have a much more pronounced taste and that will influence the overall taste.
If you’re using parsnips or parsley roots instead of carrots, their flavors are absolutely completely different.
The same goes if you use celery, turnips or beets or any other vegetable.
Carrots have their unique flavor but it’s a lot more mild than the flavors that other vegetables bring to a dish. There’s no perfect substitute for carrots because whatever else you end up choosing will taste completely different.
The only difference is if you use purple, yellow, white or rainbow carrots or if you use baby carrots as substitutes.
1. Purple, yellow, white carrots
My first recommendation would be that, if you don’t find orange carrots, maybe you can find purple, yellow, white or rainbow carrots.
I don’t think that it’s very likely to happen but it’s worth knowing that carrot varieties include other colors, besides the classic and very popular orange.
Moreover, you should know that this root vegetable belongs to the Apiaceae family. The Apiaceae family includes other delicious plants, like: celery, parsley, anise, coriander/cilantro, cumin, dill, fennel, parsnip, caraway, etc.
Even though they have different flavors, carrots and celery go so well in recipes, whether they’re cooked or eaten raw on a crudité platter. Let’s see if it also works as a carrot substitute and what other substitutes we can come up with.
2. Baby carrots
If we’re talking about substitutes for carrots that taste identically to the vegetable that we’re trying to replace, baby carrots are the choice.
The other option is to buy carrots that have different colors: purple, yellow, white or rainbow carrots.
Baby carrots are just carrots that have been harvested before reaching maturity and sold at a smaller size. There’s no other difference between the two.
You just need plenty of chopped baby carrots to make up for 1 chopped regular size carrot. You’ll need at least 3-4 baby ones.
The nice thing about the tiny version is that they can be found frozen, too. Or you can buy a combination of carrots and peas in a jar and just use the carrots if you don’t have any immediate need for the peas.
Some manufacturers even have canned baby carrots. These tiny vegetables can be found in many forms.
However, at the end of the day, the important thing is whether baby carrots are available where you live and whether they are within your budget.
Celery is quite the wonderful substitute for carrots. Just be aware of how different these two taste and that the recipe will have a different taste in the end.
If you’re trying to make Bolognese and you don’t have any carrot, just increase the amount of onion and increase by a bit the amount of celery.
Thus, as an example, if the Bolognese recipe calls for 2 carrots, 1 small onion, and 2 celery stalks, I would use instead: 2 small onions and 3 celery stalks. These 2 vegetables will take care of covering for the lack of carrots if you increase their quantities.
You can also use celeriac (celery root). However, celeriac has a more intense, earthy flavor. I don’t recommend making a 1:1 substitution because the celeriac might overpower the rest of the ingredients.
If the recipe calls for 1 cup of carrots, use 1/2 cup of celeriac.
4. Turnips (Kohlrabi)
Kohlrabi is the German turnip that I recommended as a substitute for cabbage. If it works for cabbage, including for slaw, it will also work as one of the best substitutes for carrots.
It’s also very sweet once it’s roasted or cooked, just like parsnip.
Moreover, it also brings something else to recipes because it has a spicy note that will remind you of radishes.
Overall, turnips have a sweetness similar to carrots and they turn sweet, nutty, and earthy when cooked.
If you want turnips that taste similar to carrots, cook with young turnips. The older, mature ones actually taste more like potatoes.
I recommended carrots as a substitute for parsnip and now it’s time to do the reverse.
However, these 2 root vegetables, even if they belong to the same family, don’t have that much in common in terms of taste.
I’ll tell you right away that if you’re using parsnips as a replacement, your recipe will taste quite differently in the end.
Moreover, parsnip has an intense taste. If you’re not used to it, I don’t recommend using it.
Even if you decide to experiment with parsnips, if the recipe calls for 2 or more carrots, use just 1 parsnip as a replacement because it can overpower the other flavors.
6. Parsley root (Hamburg parsley)
I much prefer using parsley root if I don’t have any carrots because it doesn’t have an intense taste and it has the same wonderful sweet taste that carrots have.
However, if I didn’t have carrots for a chicken broth, I would use a mix of onions, Hamburg parsley, celery/celeriac, parsnip, and a whole bell pepper to replace the carrots. All these can be added whole, not chopped, to the soup and removed at the end.
Some of these ingredients will also be required by the recipe so I would just increase the quantity of each of them by a bit to cover for the lack of carrots.
I’m not exactly sure if it’s easier to find carrots than it is to find daikon but it’s a substitute that you should consider if it’s available where you live.
Daikon, which is also called Oriental radish, will have a taste similar to a mild red radish. It certainly doesn’t seem that it tastes at all like carrots.
However, when cooked it has a sweet flavor similar to turnips.
I would mostly use it as a substitute for carrots in Asian dishes that don’t already mention daikon as an ingredient.
8. Sweet potatoes
I’m not sure if you were expecting sweet potatoes as substitutes for carrots but I think that this can definitely work.
However, I’ll leave it to you to decide which recipes would work best.
For example, you could substitute sweet potatoes for carrots in soups, stews, for oven roasted vegetables, and even for stir-fries. Here’s a simple recipe that can teach you how to cook sweet potatoes in a stir-fry.
But it doesn’t work for smoothies, juices, salads, or for Bolognese sauce. I recommend celery as the best option for those.
Is there a way to use zucchinis as the best substitutes for carrots? It is.
Even if we know that these two taste completely different, what I love is that zucchinis are another vegetable (you can also call them fruits) that have a mild taste.
Zucchinis can be used as a substitute for carrots in a variety of recipes: salads, soups, stir-fries, when making oven-roasted vegetables, to make bread.
What about desserts?
Can we use zucchinis to make carrot cake?
Since this is another vegetable that doesn’t have much of a taste, we can definitely use zucchinis if we don’t have any carrots for carrot cake.
Most recipes are zucchini carrot cake recipes, meaning that the recipe calls for using both vegetables together.
You can skip on adding carrots but you will have to take into account that zucchini won’t supply the same sweetness. Thus, you might need to add a bit more sugar.
Moreover, keep in mind that zucchinis are a lot more watery. One cup of zucchini contains 90% water. You’ll have to squeeze most of that moisture from them because you won’t be able to bake a cake with such a high water content.
This is an incredibly versatile vegetable/fruit. Yes, we can consider that pumpkins are fruits because their seeds grows inside their body. But we can call them vegetables without worries.
What interests us is that we can use pumpkin as one of the best substitutes for carrots, whether we’re making savory dishes or desserts.
The fact that it’s so versatile and can be used in desserts or savory dishes, that’s what makes pumpkin such an awesome substitute. It matches the versatility of carrots one on one.
We can even use pumpkins to make smoothies and juices.
Well, we can use it if we make Bolognese sauce but, other than that, it will work for most carrot recipes.
However, you must love the taste of pumpkin, which some people just don’t.
11. Butternut squash
We can’t talk about pumpkin as a substitute for carrots without mentioning butternut squash. Three orange, beautiful ingredients that are both sweet and savory.
Some say that the flavor of butternut squash is a bit like sweet potatoes. Overall, it’s a fruit that tastes sweet, moist and nutty.
Butternut squash is even sweeter than pumpkin. Thus, if you are looking for a substitute for desserts, butternut squash can be absolutely spot on.
It is also less stringy than pumpkin, which makes it so great for purees and soups. I love it.
And it can be used to make smoothies, as well. Thus, it covers savory dishes, desserts, and smoothies.
Another root vegetable that many people love is beets. Others don’t like it that much so there are definitely two camps as far as beets are concerned.
We all know that we can use beets in a wide variety of dishes.
However, you should also be aware that we can use them for desserts and smoothies. It’s a versatile root vegetable, as long as you like its taste.
Cabbage works as a substitute for carrots in plenty of savory dishes: stir-fries, salads, soups, etc.
Moreover, if you don’t have any carrots for coleslaw, just make it with cabbage as the sole ingredient. It won’t be as crunchy but it will still be delicious.
14. Fruits as substitutes for carrots in carrot cake
We talked about various vegetables that can work as substitutes for carrots.
Nevertheless, if what you want to make is a carrot cake, then these vegetables won’t work. Zucchini is the exception but that is also a fruit, from a botanical point of view.
When we replace carrots with fruits in a carrot cake recipe, the cake will taste like the fruit you’re using as a replacement. Thus, we must acknowledge that we’ll get a cake that tastes fundamentally different.
That goes if you’re going to use mango, papaya, pineapple, shredded coconut, and mashed bananas.
On the other hand, no carrot cake actually tastes like carrots.