Rainbow Carrots in Tarragon Brown Butter Sauce are an easy, vegetarian side dish that can elevate any meal. This colorful gluten-free recipe comes together so quickly, it might just become your go-to accompaniment. Serve this as a weeknight side, or add it to various holiday side dishes to complete a more festive meal. Either way, you won’t find a better way to round out dinner.
I originally posted this recipe in April 2019. I’ve added new images, included metric measurements, and streamlined the article for clarity.
What are Rainbow Carrots?
After tons of online and book research, I was shocked to discover that our beloved orange carrot is not a natural color for the root veggie. In fact, the orange variety is a hybrid of the yellow and red carrots! Shocking, I know. In parts of the Middle East, the purple carrot has been all the rage for decades, if not centuries. All that is to say, rainbow carrots are not artificially colored, nor are they abnormal. It’s just that we, in the States, are just catching up to the rest of the world. Think of rainbow carrots as you would purple yams or sweet potatoes- they’re just the same beast with a different shade of flesh.
All of that aside, these bright lovelies still have the same health properties as their orange step-cousin. The same lycopene that you’ll find in your salad tomatoes is found in red carrots. Purple carrots contain anthocyanin, a pigment you’ll find in any “blue” or violet food, which is purportedly great for regulating immune responses. Orange carrots- as I’m certain you already know- contain beta carotene, which is great for healthy eyesight. Yellow carrots are full of lutein, as well, which is also great for the eyes.
And after all that freaking healthiness, guess what? We’re gonna toss all these carrots in butter. So, I mean, whatever. Balance.
What do I need to make this Rainbow Carrots recipe?
You can use regular rainbow carrots or baby carrots as I have here. Either size works well, though the baby carrots require less work. Whatever you can find in your market is acceptable. If you live in a big city, you should have no issue finding rainbow carrots. I mean, any decent grocery store should carry them, but if you can’t locate them, just use the common orange carrot. The recipe will still be amazing and easy. Additionally, you need fresh tarragon, kosher salt, black pepper, and unsalted butter.
Five ingredients? You’d better screenshot this recipe because you know a 5-ingredient recipe from me is few and far between.
You also only need 5 kitchen tools to make this dish: a sheetpan, a saucepan, cutting board, a knife, and a spoon. I feel like this recipe merits an award of some kind.
What does Tarragon taste like?
Tarragon is a leafy herb that has the faint taste of anise or licorice. Now, before you go twisting up your face because I mentioned licorice, just know it’s not a heavy licorice flavor. It’s super-mild, but it balances itself out when you add it to the sweetness of the rainbow carrots and the nutty brown butter.
The pairing of tarragon and rainbow carrots should be a more popular one in the home kitchen. I’ve been tossing my carrots in it for decades.
I’ve had tarragon and hate it. Can I use something else for my Rainbow Carrots?
For me, carrots and tarragon are the best flavor match, with sage and carrots being a close second. That said, I respect it if you’ve tried it and you’re just not a fan. Use fresh sage instead. Same amount, same prep, just a different herb. Rosemary or thyme will also work in this recipe if you have an aversion to tarragon.
To prepare the tarragon for the rainbow carrots, just hold the tip of the stem between your fingers and thumb. Use the fingers of your opposite hand to run down the length of the stem, separating the leaves from the stem in one fell swoop. That’s all there is to remove the leaves from a stem of tarragon…or rosemary…or thyme! After you’ve de-stemmed the herb, just give it a nice mince with your knife and set the tarragon to the side.
How do I prep my rainbow carrots for roasting?
It doesn’t matter if you are using standard carrots or baby carrots for this recipe. What does matter is that you prep them to finish roasting at the same time. To do this, you need to cut your carrots into equal sizes.
For standard carrots, that means you need to peel the carrots and trim the ends. Once that’s done, use your chef’s knife to cut the carrots into 1/2-inch thick slices on the diagonal. I prefer to cut on the diagonal because it makes the carrots look more appealing.
For the baby carrots, simply cut them in half, lengthwise (also on the diagonal). You only need to do this if the carrot is over an inch thick, though.
The orange carrot on the left of this image is about 1/4-inch thick, so there was no need to cut it. The purple carrot on the right was about 1-inch thick, so I cut it. If you don’t cut the carrots down to the same size, some will still be crunchy while others are roasted to charcoal.
How long do I need to roast the carrots?
Once your carrots are cut, throw them onto a lightly greased sheet pan and roast them for 25 minutes at 450°F, or until they are tender and slightly charred. The carrots will look ashy on top but have a golden-brown crust on the bottom where the carrot is touching the hot metal.
Isn’t Brown Butter just burned butter?
Ugh! God forbid I should ever have you prepare burnt butter. Perish the thought! No. Browned butter is not the same as burnt butter. Browned butter, even dark brown butter (or beurre noir), amps up any side dish, but you can taste the difference between them and burnt butter. Though we’re using it to glaze rainbow carrots, here, I would strongly suggest trying this on all of your favorite veggies.
Brown butter is when you toast the fat solids in melted butter until they are caramelized and emit a nutty scent and flavor. The image above shows butter that’s only just melted. The fat solids are still white in the pot. Brown butter goes a few minutes longer until the fat solids are a deep golden brown color.
In a saucepan, over low heat, melt your stick of unsalted butter. Don’t crank up the heat thinking you’ll get your desired result faster- browning butter doesn’t work like that. The truth is that this process only takes about five minutes. Since you’re doing it while your carrots are roasting, you don’t need to rush it. The first lesson I learned in culinary school when making butter sauces was that browned butter and burnt butter go hand-in-hand. You can go from nutty and beautiful to black and acrid in a matter of seconds. When in doubt, pull it too soon rather than too late.
Once your butter has melted, it’s going to foam up quite a bit. Stir the butter constantly to dissipate the foam and get those butter solids moving around. Remember, that’s what we’re browning.
How do I know when to stop browning my butter?
Once you begin to see golden brown flecks of “stuff” (butter solids) in the bottom of your pan, know that 1 to 1 1/2 minutes remain until the butter is perfectly browned.
Remember, pulling it too soon is better than leaving it too long and having to trash the entire pot of butter. In this image (above), you can see the fat solids are just beginning to brown. Even if you were to remove it from the heat at this point, about 3 minutes into browning, it would still taste nutty and amazing.
But, you can go another minute, as well.
This is the sweet spot for me. Just shy of a very dark butter, but not too weak on the flavor. For these sweet carrots, brown, nutty butter is the perfect glaze. Removing it from the heat will stop it from continuing to cook. If you forget and go any darker, just throw it out because it will taste acrid.
Another important thing to remember when browning butter is to stir the butter constantly to keep the fat solids from staying in one place too long.
When do I add the tarragon to the brown butter?
I like to add the tarragon to the brown butter as soon as I pull it off the stove. I do this for two reasons: it quickly sautees the herb, which gives it a more unique flavor. Also, the addition of the tarragon drops the temperature of the butter, so it prevents the butter from browning anymore.
Set this tarragon brown butter sauce aside (off the heat) while your carrots finish roasting.
How do I finish the Rainbow Carrots?
Remove the carrots from the oven after 25 minutes. Quickly pour the tarragon brown butter over them and use a spoon to toss the two together. Make sure you’re thorough in your toss game, my friend! You want each carrot coated in that nutty brown butter sauce.
Once the carrots have been bathed in the brown butter, sprinkle the salt and pepper over them to your preference. I usually add the full amount, but you might like less salt or pepper.
Transfer the rainbow carrots to a serving dish and garnish with more chopped tarragon if desired.
What do I serve these Tarragon Brown Butter Rainbow Carrots with?
Now that you have your colorful, nutty, herby rainbow carrots hot and ready to go, you may want an entree to serve them with. Here are a few of my go-tos:
- Ham with Spiced Brown Sugar Pineapple Glaze is always a hit, especially during the holidays.
- Bistec Encebollao (Cube Steak Smothered in Onions) combines well with the sweetness from the carrots.
- Citrus-Brined Turkey pairs well with the herby rainbow carrots and the nutty brown butter sauce.
How do I store leftovers?
Transfer leftover carrots to a food storage container and refrigerate them for up to 3 days.
To reheat leftovers, just heat them in the microwave or on the stovetop until warmed through.
Can I freeze leftover rainbow carrots?
You can totally prepare these rainbow carrots ahead and freeze them for later.
Just follow the instructions completely. Allow the carrots to cool to room temperature and transfer them to a freezer-safe container. Freeze the carrots for 3 months. Thaw the carrots under refrigeration and reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop until warmed through.
Your weeknight dinners are going to be so much easier with this side dish. If you have never tried tarragon, I’m really excited for this to be your intro to it. You’ll be surprised at how well it balances the sweetness of the carrots and how the nutty brown butter ties them both together. If this is your first time tasting or cooking with it, let me know what you think in the comments below.
Don’t forget to pin this Rainbow Carrot in Tarragon Brown Butter to your sides board for later. And share it with your world, too!
Rainbow Carrots in Tarragon Brown Butter Sauce
- 1 tablespoon (15 milliliters) vegetable oil for greasing the pan
- 2 pounds (908 grams) rainbow carrots peeled and trimmed or baby carrots
- 1 stick (1/2 cup or 113 grams) unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 tablespoons (4 grams) tarragon de-stemmed and minced, plus more to garnish
- 1 teaspoon (5 grams) kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon (1) black pepper
Prepare and Roast the Rainbow Carrots
- Preheat your oven to 450°F (232°C).Lightly grease a half sheet pan with the vegetable oil using a pastry brush or a folded paper towel. Set the pan aside.
- Use your chef's knife to cut the carrots into 1/2-inch thick slices. If you're using baby carrots, cut only the carrots that are larger than 1-inch.Place the carrot slices onto the sheet pan- in a single layer without crowding the pan- and roast them for 25-35 minutes, in the preheated oven, or until they are fork-tender and slightly charred.
Make the Tarragon Brown Butter Sauce
- While the carrots are roasting, prepare the brown butter: in a 4-quart saucepan, over low heat, slowly melt the butter, stirring constantly.
- The butter solids (the white flecks on the bottom of your pan) will begin to take on a golden brown color as the butter heats.After 3-4 minutes, those butter solids will take on a peanut butter color. Remove the pan from the heat.
- Quickly toss in the minced tarragon and allow the heat from the butter to gently fry the herbs.
Coat the Rainbow Carrots in the Tarragon Brown Butter Sauce
- Once the carrots have fully roasted, remove the pan from the oven. Pour the tarragon brown butter over them and use a spoon to toss the two together thoroughly.
- Sprinkle the salt and pepper over the carrots to season them, then garnish the carrots with the remaining tarragon. Serve the carrots straight-away while still hot.
- If you can't locate rainbow carrots, orange carrots may be substituted.
- Replace the tarragon with fresh sage, thyme, or rosemary.
- Don't to rush the browning of the butter. It's not recommended to brown the butter ahead of time as reheating it (to melt it) may cause the butter solids to burn.
If you must make it slightly ahead of time (and the butter solidifies), don't melt it before tossing into the carrots. Let the residual heat from the carrots melt the butter when you toss the two together.
- When making the brown butter, if you accidentally overcook the butter to a very dark brown, throw it away and begin again, or the end result will taste acrid.
- Storage Instructions:
- Transfer leftover carrots to a food storage container and refrigerate them for up to 3 days.
- To reheat leftovers, just heat them in the microwave or on the stovetop until warmed through.
- Freezing Instructions:
- Allow the carrots to cool to room temperature and transfer them to a freezer-safe container.
- Freeze the carrots for 3 months.
- Thaw the carrots under refrigeration and reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop until warmed through.