Rainbow Carrots in Tarragon Brown Butter Sauce is a simple side dish of colorful carrots roasted before being tossed in a butter-tarragon glaze. This easy side dish recipe is vegetarian and gluten-free and comes together quickly; it may become your go-to to serve alongside any of your main dish recipes. Serve this as a colorful side dish for easy weeknight meals or holiday meals. Either way, you won’t find a more elegant side dish for 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 regular orange carrots did not grow in that color naturally. In fact, regular carrots are a hybrid of yellow and red carrots! In parts of the Middle East, the purple carrot has been all the rage for decades, if not centuries. Rainbow carrots, also known as heirloom carrots, are not artificially colored, nor are they abnormal, nor is there a taste difference. We, in the States, are just catching up to the rest of the world. Think of rainbow carrots like purple yams or sweet potatoes- they’re just the same veggie with different colors.
These vibrantly colored carrots still have the same health properties as their orange step-cousin. Lycopene is found in red carrots. Purple carrots contain anthocyanin, a pigment found in any “blue” or violet food, which is great for regulating immune responses. Orange carrots contain beta-carotene, which is great for healthy eyesight. Yellow carrots are full of lutein, which is also great for the eyes. White carrots have less beta carotene than orange carrots but still contain the important antioxidant.
And after all that freaking healthiness, guess what? We’re gonna toss 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, fresh garden carrots from home or the farmer’s market, or baby carrots to make this easy recipe. In addition to the rainbow carrots, you need fresh tarragon, kosher salt, black pepper, and unsalted butter. Baby carrots require the least work since you don’t have to trim the carrot tops off or peel them. Whatever you can find in your market is acceptable. If you live in a big city, you should have no issue finding store-bought carrots. If you can’t locate rainbow carrots in your area, use the standard orange carrots instead. The recipe will still be amazing and easy.
You also only need a sheetpan, a saucepan, a cutting board, a knife, and a spoon.
What Does Tarragon Taste Like?
Tarragon is a delicate, leafy herb with the faint taste of anise or licorice. Now, before you go twisting up your face because I mentioned licorice, know it doesn’t have a heavy licorice flavor. It’s super-mild, but its flavor balances out the natural sweetness of the rainbow carrots and the nutty brown butter.
Can I Replace the Tarragon With a Different Herb?
Carrots and tarragon complement each other beautifully, with sage and carrots being a close second. If you’re not a fan of tarragon, many other fresh herbs can replace it. Use fresh parsley, sage, rosemary, or thyme if you have an aversion to tarragon or have picky eaters who won’t enjoy it.
To prepare the tarragon for the rainbow carrots, 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, give it a nice mince with your knife and set the tarragon to the side.
How Do I Prep the Rainbow Carrots?
Whether you are using standard or baby carrots for this recipe doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you prep them to finish roasting within the cooking time. To do this, you need to cut your carrots into equal sizes.
For standard carrots, peel the carrots and trim off the green tops and ends. Next, use a chef’s knife to cut the carrots into 1/2-inch thick slices on the diagonal. I prefer cutting the carrots on a bias, which makes them look more appealing.
For the baby carrots, cut them in half, lengthwise (also on the diagonal). You only need to do this if the carrot is over an inch thick. Anything slimmer you can leave as whole carrots.
You’ll have slender rainbow carrots along with thicker ones in your bag. The carrot on the left of this image is about 1/2-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 to the same size, some will still be crunchy while others are roasted to charcoal.
How Long Does It Take To Roast Carrots?
Once your carrots are cut, spread them in a single layer on a lightly greased sheet pan (or baking sheet) and roast them for 25 minutes at 450°F (232°C) 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?
Browned butter is not the same as burnt butter. Browned butter, even dark brown butter (or beurre noir), gives recipes a nutty flavor. Try browned butter on your favorite veggie side dish recipes, starting with the glaze for these rainbow carrots.
Brown butter results from toasting the fat solids in melted butter until they are caramelized and emit a nutty scent and flavor. The image above shows butter that’s just melted. The fat solids are still white in the pot. Brown butter takes a few minutes longer until the fat solids are deep golden brown.
Melt a stick of unsalted butter in a saucepan over low heat. 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. You can go from nutty and beautiful to acrid in seconds. When in doubt, pull it too soon rather than too late.
Once your butter melts, it will foam up quite a bit. Stir the butter constantly to dissipate the foam and move those butter solids around.
How Do I Know If My Butter Is Browned Enough?
Once you see golden flecks of 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 the image above, 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 in 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, 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.
Add the tarragon to the brown butter as soon as you remove the butter from the stove. It quickly sautés the herb, which gives it a more unique flavor, and the addition of the tarragon drops the temperature of the butter, so it keeps the butter from browning any further.
Set the pot of tarragon brown butter sauce aside to cool while your carrots finish roasting.
How Do I Finish the Rainbow Carrots?
Remove the roasted carrots from the oven after 25 minutes. Quickly pour the tarragon brown butter over the carrots and toss the two together with a spoon. Make sure each carrot is 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 may prefer less salt or pepper.
Transfer the rainbow carrots to a small serving platter and garnish with more chopped tarragon if desired.
What Do I Serve With These Tarragon Brown Butter Rainbow Carrots?
Serve roasted rainbow carrots with your favorite entrees like:
- Ham with Spiced Brown Sugar Pineapple Glaze is always a hit, especially during the holidays.
- Chuletas Fritas (Puerto Rican Pan-Fried Pork Chops), whose flavor combines well with the sweetness of 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 rainbow carrots to an airtight container and refrigerate them for up to 3 days.
To reheat leftovers, heat them in the microwave or stovetop until warmed through.
Can I Freeze Leftover Rainbow Carrots?
You can prepare rainbow carrots and freeze them for later or freeze leftovers.
Just follow the cooking 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 them in the microwave or stovetop over medium-high heat until warm.
Your weeknight dinners will be so much easier with this delicious side dish. If you have never tried tarragon, I’m excited for this to be your introduction. You’ll be surprised at how well it balances the sweetness of the carrots and how the nutty brown butter ties them 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 leave a star rating if you made them.
Pin this Rainbow Carrot in Tarragon Brown Butter to your sides board for later. It’s going to be a tasty addition to your next holiday dinner.
Rainbow Carrots in Tarragon Brown Butter Sauceat Sense & Edibility
- 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.