Baby carrots are tasty and nutritious but also benefit from proper preparation. Yes, you can often enjoy baby carrots uncooked, but cooking them in other ways will make them more enjoyable. There are many ways to cook baby carrots, including boiling and steaming them. With that said, how long to boil and steam baby carrots?
You must boil baby carrots in just half an inch of water for around 7 to 8 minutes. Steaming them will take about 5 minutes as steam is hotter than boiling water.
Going by these times, you will end up with tender baby carrots that still have some bite to them; this means you won’t end up with mushy carrots.
Read on to learn more about how long to boil and steam baby carrots to cook them to perfection.
How Long to Boil and Steam Baby Carrots?
When it comes to baby carrots, it does not matter too much how you serve them. The reason is that they will always taste great. This article will cover two of the most common ways of preparing baby carrots – boiling and steaming.
You will also know how long you will have to boil and steam the carrots. A rough guide would be boiling the baby carrots for around seven to eight minutes. As for steaming, you can finish it in around five minutes.
However, steaming and boiling are not the only ways to prepare root vegetables. They are versatile, and you can prepare them through caramelizing, sauteing, and roasting.
What Exactly Are Baby Carrots?
Lunch Box Staples for Kids and Adults
For decades, baby carrots have been staples in the lunch box fares for kids and adults alike. Parents love mini carrots because they are convenient and healthy. Kids also love them because carrots are naturally sweet, and they come in a cute shape.
However, why are they all the same, seemingly perfect size and shape? How come they don’t look like regular carrots? Why don’t they have the same hardness as regular carrots, and why are they all bright orange?
Cut Up Normal-Sized Carrots
Here is the truth. The “baby carrots” you can usually buy in supermarkets are actually “baby-cut” carrots. They are from bigger carrots peeled and cut into smaller sizes and rounded shapes.
In addition, the cut baby carrots came from larger ones bred to be smaller in diameter. They are sweeter than traditional carrots and do not have a hard inner core.
Avoid Wasting Misshapen Carrots
In the past, people used misshapen carrots to make baby-cut carrots. It all started with Mike Yurosek, a Californian farmer. It happened when he got tired of having to throw a large bulk of his carrot crop. The reason is that stores did not like how they looked.
Yurosek took a potato peeler and reshaped his surplus carrots into smaller pieces suitable for snacks.
Yurosek’s “mini carrots” proved quite popular among his neighbors. This encouraged him to invest in a green bean cutter to cut his carrots into 2-inch lengths. This made shaping them much easier. From there came the baby carrots that people enjoy today.
Are There Real Baby Carrots?
Are there real baby carrots, though? Yes, there are.
A “real” baby carrot is one harvested when it reaches the baby stage. This means pulling it out of the ground earlier than usual. The sign that farmers look for in baby carrots is the “shoulder,” the base peeking out of the ground.
People like these real baby carrots because they say they have better texture and nutrition. Sometimes, baby carrots are just the unintended result of crop thinning.
Certain carrots are specifically bred to be harvested as baby carrots, like the Amsterdam Forcing. Actual baby carrots are quite expensive compared to baby-cut carrots.
Upon reaching maturity, some carrot varieties have the same shape as a ping-pong ball. Real baby carrots often come packed with some green, showing proof that they are not baby-cut carrots.
How Do You Soften Baby Carrots Quickly?
Get as many nutrients as possible by eating raw baby carrots. However, not everyone likes to munch on raw carrots. Something about the texture of raw foods seems to turn off some people.
As mentioned earlier, you can cook carrots, but how long do you cook them for? Here’s a quick guide based on two of the most common methods of preparing the carrots – boiling and steaming:
How long should you boil carrots to soften them? Unless you put them in stews or soups, you don’t need to boil carrots to cook them.
This method involves using a shallow pan and less than an inch of water. In other words, you are essentially boiling and steaming the baby carrots at the same time.
Takes Less Than 8 Minutes
Softened yet crispy baby carrots usually take less than 8 minutes. If you are using them for a stew or soup, you need to boil them a bit longer. However, it should be no more than 15 minutes to prevent them from getting mushy.
Transfer the contents of the pan into a colander and let the carrots drain. The baby carrots should be a bit softer but will still have a bit of crunch left.
Steaming is the best way to cook baby carrots and vegetables. One thing to note about the steam is that it is hotter than boiling water. This means your baby carrots will cook faster, locking more nutrients. So, how long do steam baby carrots to soften them?
Requires 5-7 Minutes
Steam mini carrots for around 5 to 7 minutes or until the carrots are to your desired tenderness. Transfer to a bowl and toss with any dressings that you like.
If you don’t have much free time, you can use your microwave to steam baby carrots. By far, this is the most practical way to prepare baby carrots. The best part is that cleanup afterward is a breeze.
How to Boil Baby Carrots
Not that many people boil baby carrots as they are somewhat tender already. However, if you serve them as a salad, you want them to be a little softer yet crispier than when incorporated in stews or soups.
If you’re using the carrots for a salad or glazing them later, you must parboil them. This means cooking them roughly halfway.
Here are the usual steps in boiling baby carrots:
- Start by boiling some water in a pot or large saucepan. Boil enough water to cover the carrots. However, this does not necessarily mean submerging them completely. Around 2 to 3 inches of water should do.
- Add a pinch of salt and bring the water to a boil. Once boiling, carefully place the baby carrots into the boiling water.
- Cover the pot and lower the heat to medium. Allow the carrots to cook for 3 to 5 minutes. Drain the carrots immediately in a colander and allow them to cool before dressing them.
Are you planning to put the baby carrots in a stew or soup? Then it would be best to cut them in half so they can cook quickly. You aim to make the carrots soft but not mushy.
You should, therefore, put them in the stew or soup last. Simmer them for around 10 minutes or so. The carrots will still retain their shape, but they will have a softer texture.
Again, how long does it take to boil and steam baby carrots? Boil enough water to cover the baby carrots. Peel the carrots while waiting for the water to boil. Boil the carrots for 7-8 minutes; steaming the carrots will take less time as steam quickly cooks the carrots.
How to Steam Baby Carrots
Now, let’s go to the basics of steaming baby carrots. There are three ways to steam baby carrots – steamer basket, frying pan, and microwave.
Watch them and the clock closely. This is because these carrots only need to steam for a short while.
So here are the three items you can use to steam your baby carrots:
1. Steamer Basket
Using a steamer basket or an insert is the traditional technique for steaming baby carrots. You can buy a steamer basket you can place over a boiling pot of water.
I recommend getting the bamboo steamer because of its versatility. To steam baby carrots, here are the steps:
- Arrange the carrots in the basket steamer. Ensure enough space between each carrot to let the steam circulate.
- Pour around an inch of water into a pot, then boil it. You do not need to use a lot of water. You need just enough to boil quickly and create steam.
- Once the water steams, placing the steamer basket with the carrots over the pot should come next.
- Cover and steam for around five minutes or until tender to the bite. This should be enough time to make the baby carrots softer while still having a bit of crunchiness.
2. Frying Pan
You can also use a frying pan to boil and steam baby carrots simultaneously. In this method, you must be completely familiar with your stove and frying pan. Know how the two interact, too. That way, the carrots will steam instead of frying.
Here’s how you can use your frying pan for steaming baby carrots:
- Boil a bit of salted water in a large sauté or frying pan. You don’t have to use a lot of water. Around one-half inch of salted water placed in the pan should be enough.
- Put your trimmed, peeled, and/or chopped baby carrots in the pan once the water boils. Cover the pan.
- Cook the carrots for around five minutes or until they are tender to bite. You will also know that the steaming is complete if the water has already evaporated.
If you prefer more tender carrots, cooking them a bit longer should do the trick.
This is by far the easiest way to cook mini carrots. While learning how to boil baby carrots or steam them is easy, nothing compares to the convenience of microwaving them.
Steaming baby carrots in your microwave is quick, hassle-free, and challenging. It could be difficult to get steamed vegetables to an even and precise level of doneness when using a microwave.
Here’s how to use a microwave for steaming baby carrots:
- Rinse, trim, peel, and cut the baby carrots based on your preferred size. Put in a bowl that is safe to use in a microwave.
- Ensure the carrots have water clinging to them before putting them in a bowl. This should prompt a tiny pool of water at the bowl’s bottom quickly. If there is no water at the bottom, pour one tablespoon of water.
- Use a microwave-safe plate or lid to cover the bowl. Set the microwave at high power and cook for a minute.
- Test the carrots for tenderness. Repeat following a 30-second interval until you steam the carrots to your preferred liking.
When steaming carrots in a microwave, note that the process may need some drying or draining. This will depend on the amount of liquid you use and your microwave’s power.
Easy Baby Carrot Recipes
Most people eat baby carrots raw as snacks. Note, though, that you can also cook them in different ways to enjoy them in other more flavorful ways. Here are some easy yet tasty baby carrot recipes you can try now.
Roasted Baby Carrots
- ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- Two tablespoons of maple syrup
- ½ tsp crushed dried red pepper flakes
- 1-1/2 pounds of baby carrots
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Chopped parsley for garnishing (optional)
- Preheat your oven to 400°F.
- Mix the balsamic, olive oil, maple syrup, and pepper flakes in a large bowl. Put in the baby carrots. Season with salt and pepper. Then, toss until you coat everything with the dressing.
- Arrange the carrots on a lined baking tray. Make sure that they are not crowding one place.
- Roast the carrots for 30 minutes or until they are fork-tender and have a slight char on the outside. Transfer to a serving bowl/dish. Sprinkle with chopped parsley on top. Finally, serve while still hot.
Note: Omit the chili flakes if you don’t like it spicy. If you have no maple syrup, replace it with brown sugar and a bit of water. You may also use honey.
Sweet Baby Carrots
- 1 pound of baby carrots
- ½ cup butter
- Three tablespoons honey
- Place the baby carrots in a large saucepan and pour enough water to cover the carrots.
- Add a pinch of salt and place the saucepan on a stove on high heat. Cook the carrots until they are tender. This should take around 15 minutes. Remove from heat and strain the carrots.
- Place the saucepan on the stove. Add the butter and reduce the heat to low. Once the butter melts, add the brown sugar and honey. Stir until the sugar completely melts.
- Put the carrots back into the saucepan and mix until all the carrots are coated evenly. Cook for five more minutes and serve while still hot.
Spicy Glazed Baby Carrots
- Two tablespoons of cooking oil, whatever neutral-tasting oil you want
- 2 cups baby carrots
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- One teaspoon cinnamon
- A pinch of cayenne pepper and freshly grated nutmeg
- Place a skillet over medium heat. Add the cooking oil and heat until smoke starts to appear.
- Carefully add the baby carrots and the rest of the ingredients. Mix them until you have evenly coated the carrots.
- Cook for 10 to 15 minutes or until the sugar has caramelized enough.
Parmesan Crusted Baby Carrots
- 1 pound of baby carrots
- Two teaspoons butter
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Place the carrots in a steamer basket. After that, put the basket in a big enough saucepan with boiling water.
- Cover and steam the mini carrots for 3 to 5 minutes. You do not need to steam them too long as they will continue cooking later.
- Place the carrots in a large saucepan and put enough water to cover them. Then, bring them to a boil. Cook the carrots for around 7 to 8 minutes and drain them thoroughly.
- Melt the butter in a separate pan over medium-low heat. Toss in the carrots and stir for around 2 minutes.
- Sprinkle the Parmesan on top of the carrots. Wait a bit until the cheese starts to melt before stirring the carrots. Make sure that the cheese evenly coats all the carrots.
- Stir for two more minutes and then transfer to a serving dish.
In Closing – How Long Should You Boil and Steam Baby Carrots
You can often eat baby carrots as snacks in their raw form. However, you will miss out on a lot if you only prepare carrots that way. It would also be a good idea to cook the baby carrots. This will give them an entirely new taste and texture.
Among the usual ways of cooking baby carrots are boiling and steaming.
As for how long, note that you typically need to boil baby carrots for no more than 8 minutes; cook them for just 5 minutes if you are steaming them. The reason is that the steam is much hotter than boiling water.
Following these times, you will end up with tender carrots that have a bit of a bite at the center. Unless you want mushy carrots, don’t cook them for too long.