14 Easy Ways To Improve The Flavor Of Canned Carrots

Whether you're preparing for the end of the world, enjoy buying in bulk, or just like to keep canned goods on hand, we think it's a great idea. Canned vegetables are incredibly nutritious, last longer than fresh produce, and are always ripe and ready to eat. For foods that typically take a bit of prep work like peeling and chopping, it's worth it to save the extra time and buy them prepped and ready to go straight from the can.

Canned carrots in particular are a great option because they are pre-cooked, which makes them easy to work with. Although fresh foods typically taste better, there are plenty of ways to spice up your canned veggies so that nobody will know the difference. We've gathered together 14 easy ways to improve the flavor of canned carrots so that you can skip that extra trip to the grocery store and get cooking with the food you already have in the pantry.

Sweeten them

We love carrots because they are an incredibly sweet variety of vegetable. They're also beautiful to look at, and, of course, they are healthy. Usually, we wouldn't recommend that you take advantage of someone's sweetness, but with carrots, it's a different story. Lean into it and glaze them with all the sugar you've got (sort of). There are plenty of options to choose from when it comes to sweetening carrots. While New Englanders couldn't imagine a world where maple syrup isn't the primary sugar source, southern cooks might lean more towards brown sugar or hot honey. Either way you slice it, remember that carrots, especially cooked carrots, are naturally sweet so it's not necessary to drown them in sugar. 

Drizzle on a little maple syrup or sprinkle on a few pinches of brown sugar, along with a fat like butter or olive oil. Even when working with a sweet dish, salt and pepper go a long way and can help to round out the flavors. This salty-sweet combination will help to mask the canned carrot taste and will immediately help to improve the flavor of canned carrots.

Alternatively, consider adding some cinnamon to your sweetener and fat to really lean into a dessert-like side dish. Sweetening carrots work whether you're planning on popping them in the microwave for a few minutes or roasting them in the oven. There are no limitations here when it comes to preparation, so take advantage of your culinary creativity.

Bake a cake

Even those who aren't veggie fans can say with confidence that carrot cake is absolutely delicious. It's chewy, sweet, unique, and somehow loaded with vegetables. And even if carrot cake really isn't your thing, there is no denying that cream cheese frosting is entirely elite.

Perhaps the most laborious part of making carrot cake is shredding those darn carrots. It's a risk to the knuckles and can take quite a bit of time. For those of you with orange-stained cutting boards, you know the struggle. Luckily, canned carrots are much softer than fresh carrots, so they shred more easily. Be sure to buy whole canned carrots and, preferably, large carrots instead of baby carrots. These will be the easiest to grasp as you run them along the cheese grater. You'll still want to go slowly and guard those knuckles, but the process will tick along much faster.

This swap is perhaps best for those who like carrot cake but don't love getting a mouthful of chewy carrot shreds. Softer canned carrots tend to incorporate into the batter better than fresh ones do and tend to melt into each bite. This may not be a solution for those of you who enjoy the subtle crunch of a chewy carrot cake, but it's certainly worth a try. Simply replace fresh carrots with canned carrots in your favorite carrot cake recipe, and don't skimp on the cream cheese frosting.

Melt in some butter

Although most steamed vegetables are pretty darn delicious on their own, the ultimate way to improve their flavor is by adding fat. Vegetables are naturally low in fat and tend to have a clean, light mouthfeel. Sometimes those subtle notes are enough, but when we are dealing with canned vegetables it's often nice to have a little flavor to dress them up.

Try adding butter to the mix when heating up canned carrots. Butter will help to mask the canned flavor of the carrots, improve the texture, and add a little salt. For a healthier alternative, try using extra virgin olive oil. High-quality olive oil has a fruity and herbal flavor that can make any vegetable go from zero to one hundred with just a splash. Heck, if you want, you could even use leftover bacon or lamb fat to season your canned carrots. Whether you heat the carrots in the microwave, stovetop pan, or oven a little fat can go a long way.

Roast canned carrots

Air fryer owners know that you can throw just about anything into an air fryer to improve it. Cookies? Yup. Potatoes? Heck, yeah! Chicken wings? Sign me up. Air frying and roasting are both simple ways to take your canned vegetables to the next level. Think of your air fryer as a combination of an oven and a deep fryer (without all the oil). It's an ultimate roasting device, and air fryers give an extra crispy exterior. It doesn't use nearly the amount of fat that a deep fryer does, so it's a healthy alternative.

Much of the time when roasting or air frying it's a good idea to parboil tough root vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes, and carrots first. This is because in order to get the contrast between the soft, fluffy, and moist interior and the crispy exterior the cooking temperature must be very high. When roasting with canned carrots, you can skip that step because canned carrots are pre-cooked and are rather soft to begin with. Simply coat them in a little fat, your seasoning of choice, and toss them in the air fryer. Alternatively, crank your oven up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, toss them in some oil or butter, and lay them out on parchment paper. Keep an eye on your little orange roots to be sure they don't burn.

Include canned carrots in your stew

There's nothing like a good old-fashioned beef stew or slow cooker pot roast on a crisp autumn or chilly winter night. Even vegetarians and vegans can appreciate a good kidney bean stew loaded with potatoes, peas, carrots, and red wine. And while it's super easy to dump your ingredients into a slow cooker to take care of the rest, those of us who use the stovetop method know the importance of the order in which we add our ingredients. If you add your potatoes too soon, they will mush up. If you add your tomatoes too late, they will be acidic and won't have a chance to sweeten up. Carrots are another tricky one, but if you opt to use canned carrots, your life just got a little easier.

Add canned carrots toward the end of the cooking process. Because canned carrots are pre-cooked, you'll want to give them just enough time to absorb some of that flavorful broth you worked so hard on. Buy pre-chopped canned carrots and make your life even easier.

Blend canned carrots into bisque

A warm, spicy bowl of carrot ginger soup is always sure to hit the spot, whether it's made with a vegetable broth or coconut milk base. And while the entire process requires quite a bit of roasting, steaming, or sautéing, it doesn't have to be that way. For carrot ginger soup recipes that include sautéed garlic or onion, you'll still have to whip out the old frying pan for some quick heating. When it comes to heating your carrots in order to make them mushy-soft, skip it altogether. Instead, spring for a can of carrots to get the job done. These pre-cooked wonders will make your job much easier and significantly cut down on the amount of cooking time required.

Simply use your go-to carrot ginger soup recipe, and instead of going through the process of cooking the carrots, throw canned carrots right in the blender or on the stovetop when it comes time to emersion blend. The best part is that there are so many other ingredients swirling around in that pot that you won't even be able to tell you've used canned carrots. Now, how easy was that?

Flavor with dill

The best way to improve the flavor of canned carrots is by adding an herb or spice to give them a little extra something. But, which herb to choose? Carrots, like many vegetables, taste good with quite a large variety of herbs and spices. Carrots, along with squash, sweet potatoes, and other sweet veggies taste great with classically savory spices, as well as spices associated with sweet foods like cinnamon or cloves. One of our favorite ways to flavor carrots is with fresh dill.

Dill has a subtly sweet and refreshing flavor that you may have tried with dill pickles or on a bagel with lox. It's a delicate feathery herb that almost tastes similar to fennel, celery, or parsley. Heat your canned carrots in a subtle amount of butter or olive oil until warm, and then mix with finely chopped fresh dill. Dried dill can also be used, but it is more intense in flavor, so it should be used in moderation. Fresh dill has a beautiful appearance to it, so it might be worth splurging for the real thing.

Crisp them up with bread crumbs and parmesan

Although chefs know a thing or two about making vegetables taste delicious, we have to give the first-place trophy to parents. Disguising vegetables is an art form, and they have a gift. For anyone who doesn't have a degree in making vegetables desirable to a five-year-old, we will fill you in on a little secret: Anything tastes great breaded and caked in cheese.

Parmesan-crusted carrots go beyond just improving the flavor of your canned carrots, it makes them irresistible. You'll want to use an air fryer if you have one. In fact, you should cook vegetables in your air fryer frequently, and here's why. One of the main reasons people scour away from veggies is their texture. Remember when everyone hated Brussels sprouts and then we threw them in the deep fryer? Crispy Brussels sprouts are one of the trendiest foods in America now, it's all about how you prepare them. 

Take your canned carrots, rub them with oil, and roll in a mixture of bread crumbs, grated parmesan cheese, dried parsley, salt, and pepper. Unlike a mozzarella stick or fried chicken, it's not important that the carrots are coated entirely, they just need enough to stick to give them that desirable crunch. Toss them in your air fryer or hot oven and let the heat do the rest. Voila, irresistible parmesan-crusted carrots, ready to eat.

Thyme to get toasting

By far, the easiest way to make your canned foods more flavorful is by spicing them up. Salt and pepper can do the trick, but variety is the spice of life, so consider being a little more daring in your culinary creations.

Dried spices and herbs are more flavorful if they've been toasted. This simply means that tossing them in a little hot oil, or even a hot dry pan until they are aromatic before adding them to your recipe can go a long way. That being said, avoid just sprinkling spices right onto your microwaved canned carrots. If you are taking the microwave route, that's totally fine, just be sure to heat up those spices separately before mixing them in. If you're using the oven or air fryer, toss your herbs in with the carrots and let them toast together. Choose your spices wisely.

Consider using thyme paired with olive oil to improve the flavor of your canned carrots. Thyme is a potent herb with a lemony, earthy flavor. It's often found paired with meats, stews, and Thanksgiving foods. Thyme helps to balance the sweet taste of carrots and can improve your side dish significantly.

Garlic makes everything better

Meat, bread, vegetables, pasta, you name it. Whatever the savory dish, everyone knows that garlic can make anything irresistible. So much so, that most people take creative liberties and tend to double the garlic in most recipes. And we can't blame them. There are no exceptions when it comes to canned carrots. Start by throwing a little olive oil in a warm pan and adding some minced garlic. Once it's fragrant, toss in your drained canned carrots and let the two cook together until the carrots are warm.

For additional flavoring, add minced fresh parsley and a little lemon juice towards the end of the heating process. Even a little freshly cracked pepper can go a long way, not only in flavor but in presentation. Canned carrots make this otherwise long process rather quick, so you can spend less time in the kitchen, and more time at the dining room table.

Go spicy and sweet

We've established that carrots are some of the few vegetables that taste good doused in sticky sweet syrup, but there's so much more you can do with them than just loading them up with sugar. The devilish combination of spicy and sweet works to create a complex mouthfeel that is confusing yet intriguing. Foods like hot honey, pineapple barbecue sauce, and pepper jelly have been tantalizing taste buds for centuries. If you're ready to bring the sweet and the heat, give it a go on your canned carrots by using hot honey, as in a seasoning made of honey, chili powder, and olive oil.

While you're heating the canned carrots, drizzle them thoroughly with your sweet heat of choice. Both the sweetness of the honey and the heat from the spice will overpower any indication that you're using canned carrots and will enhance them greatly. Not a fan of honey? Get creative and use cayenne with maple syrup, or brown sugar and jalapeños. The options are endless.

Blend into a smoothie

Unless you've gone deep into the health food tunnel, carrots may seem like an odd pick when choosing smoothie ingredients. In reality, carrots are a fantastic choice for a vegetable addition because they are so naturally sweet and are incredibly nutrient-dense. The only issue with adding carrots to a smoothie is that unless you own a top-tier blender, those carrot chunks are rather hard to break down. You might end up doing more chewing than drinking.

Luckily, canned carrots are pre-cooked and can be added right into the smoothie with no problem. If you're still having difficulty wrapping your mind around what kind of smoothie would taste good loaded up with carrots, consider other orange fruits. Add sweet extras to a smoothie suggests Molly Yeh to hide vegetables, such as oranges, cantaloupe, and turmeric, which taste fantastic with the colorful root vegetable. We recommend using orange juice as a base and adding sweet and tangy fruits like apples and pineapple. Ginger pairs classically with carrots and can add a little kick to the recipe. 

Remember, carrots don't have to be the star of the show, so just add a little to start. If you're a carrot fanatic, lean into the flavor and make a carrot cake smoothie with carrots, dates, frozen banana, frozen pineapple, greek yogurt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and enough almond milk to blend. Top with toasted walnuts and enjoy.

Sauté with onions

One of our absolute favorite ways to serve vegetables is also one of the simplest ways. Sauté a thinly sliced sweet onion until it begins to brown, and then add a can of your strained carrots. Both are sweet and savory at the same time and complement each other beautifully. Consider seasoning with olive oil or butter, sea salt, and crushed black pepper. This will automatically improve the flavor of canned carrots without taking too much time or effort to do so. 

Just because something is delicious, doesn't mean it has to take hours to make. This dish is rather mild in flavor, so if you prefer something a little stronger, add a splash of balsamic vinegar and let the vegetables absorb it. The vinegar will eventually cook off, leaving behind a sweet sticky reduction that packs a punch of flavor. Serve onions and carrots as a side dish to almost any meal. The added nutrients, colors, and variety of flavors can be a major complement to most entrees.

Flip some carrot cake pancakes

Make your new favorite variation on America's favorite brunch food: pancakes. Simply follow your favorite pancake recipe, or follow a carrot pancake recipe. We recommend a sweet version using about ½ cup of blended canned carrots per six pancakes. Add a little extra sweetener like maple syrup or sugar to the batter, and go crazy with the cinnamon. If you truly want the carrot cake treatment, add raisins to the batter or chopped dates. Mix it all together, and cook them on the stovetop as you normally would.

Now, for the toppings. Everyone knows that cream cheese frosting is elite, so whip up a batch of classic cream cheese frosting to smear directly onto your carrot cake pancakes. You are welcome to drizzle the whole lot with maple syrup if you have a strong sweet tooth. Sprinkle toasted walnuts on top and just a dash of cinnamon. This recipe is unique, decedent, and can certainly take Sunday brunch from basic to extraordinary. The best part is that because canned carrots are nice and soft, you don't have to take the time to boil them before you blend them up into the batter.