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Carrots are a staple ingredient in many kitchens, deliciously eaten raw or cooked, used in savory and sweet dishes. They remain fresh and crisp when stored correctly, whether whole or cut. Carrots and other root vegetables have a high water content which dictates how they should be stored.
Properly storing carrots for a few days to weeks and months becomes essential for food preparation purposes. This root vegetable lends itself well to various processing methods to save that fresh, crisp taste. The four best techniques are storing cut carrots fresh, cooked, frozen, and dried.
Fresh carrots are often supplied in larger volumes than one can possibly eat at once. Although storing them whole is easy, it’s a time saver to have them prepped and ready to use for quick food prep. Here are some ideas:
Storing Fresh Cut Carrots
Bulk preparing and storing fresh carrots is one of the best options to keep a fresh, healthy snack at your fingertips. Cooking a meal by adding recipe-ready ingredients is a timesaver, making life so much easier.
Storing Cut Carrots in Water
Using this technique, keep fresh-cut carrots fresh for up to two weeks.
Bulk prepping carrot sticks at home is easy. After refrigerating for a few days, the challenge is to retain that crisp snap.
We can all relate to the uninspiring, slightly dry, and crooked-looking carrot stick. But carrot sticks are healthy and versatile, which explains their popularity for fresh food prepping and water storage. They are an ideal example to illustrate this method.
Cutting the carrot into sticks:
Start by slicing off the tops and ends of the carrot. Shorten long carrots for easier handling. Split each piece in half lengthwise by keeping the flat cut side on the cutting board. Continue slicing in half until you have reached the desired thickness for each stick. Gather the sticks and cut them into the length you need.
Water storage method:
Now, how to store carrot sticks without losing the fresh crunch? An effective way is to store them in water, standing up in a mason jar. You will need:
- Wide mouth mason jars (quart size holds a good size ‘stick’ standing up)
- Water to fill the jar
Pack the jar with carrot sticks. Fill with water and fit the lid. Replace the water three to four times weekly to keep things fresh.
To use the carrot sticks, remove them from water, pat dry, and serve with your favorite dip.
Did you know that the culinary term for carrot sticks can be Batton (thicker cut) or Battonet (thinner cut)?
Storing Fresh Cut Carrots Without Water
Like other root vegetables, carrots can simply be cut and stored in containers in the refrigerator. Cut carrots should last at least five days.
As root vegetables tend to dry out fast, placing a slightly damp paper towel at the bottom of the storage container extends shelf life. This method extends the storage time to approximately three weeks.
- Slightly dampen a paper towel
- Wrap the sliced carrots in the towel
- Carefully place in an airtight container and store in the crisper drawer or as close as possible to the freezer area.
TIP: Moistening the paper towel after a few days may extend the storage lifetime.
Freezing Cut Carrots
Freezing is a logical way to preserve a large batch or harvest of carrots, particularly if your goal is to prevent wastage. Freeze in easy-to-use volumes. To use, simply take a packet from the freezer and add it to the dish you are cooking. Nothing could be easier.
Carrots have high water content. When freezing high water content vegetables, the texture of the produce is changed when thawed. Ice crystals form inside the vegetable, causing damage to the protein building blocks of the carrot. When the ice crystals melt, the result is a softer, somewhat soggy carrot with less crunch. The flavor and nutrients are not affected.
Carrots frozen for longer than two months benefit by being blanched before freezing.
Blanching to Freeze Carrots
The proper way to freeze carrots is to Blanche them before freezing. Use carrots stored this way within 12 months.
Blanching partially cooks the vegetable and immerses in ice-cold water to stop the cooking process. It helps retain the vegetable’s flavor, color, and texture when frozen.
How To Blanche Carrots
Blanching is an easy technique, with a few steps:
- Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil
- Have a large bucket or bowl with ice water and cubes ready nearby
- Place your clean, cut carrots into the boiling water for 2 minutes (time this – much longer, and the texture will become rubbery and not good for freezing)
- Dain the carrots immediately and transfer them to the ice water to stop the cooking process
- Remove the carrots after they have cooled enough, approximately 2 – 5 minutes
- Drain the carrots thoroughly.
- Transfer into containers/bags and freeze.
Tip: ‘Pre-freeze’ cooled carrots to avoid sticking together when frozen. Distribute on a flat surface, for instance, a lined cookie sheet. Place in freezer. After an hour, the carrots should be frozen solid, and you can place them in bags.
Freezing Cut Carrots Without Blanching
It is possible to freeze carrots by skipping the blanching process. Use them within two months. Prep the carrots by washing and cutting carrots to the size you want. Pack in a freezer-proof container or Ziplock bag. Store in the freezer.
Freezing Cut Roasted Carrots
Freeze roasted carrots for up to 3 months.
To freeze, line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone sheet. Spread the completely cooled carrots in a single layer on the sheet. Freeze for about two hours before transferring into a freezer-safe container or Ziplock bag.
Roasted carrots will become completely soft when frozen. That shouldn’t be a deterrent, as roasting is all about flavor retained during freezing. Use these carrots in soup, stews, and sauces to add depth of flavor. Add to dished finely chopped, minced, or pureed.
Freezing Cut Carrots with Other Mixed Vegetables
The best way to create your own packets of mixed frozen vegetables, including carrots, is to prepare each type separately. Cut all vegetables roughly the same size, blanch, and freeze each type individually before mixing the vegetables in a single container or Ziplock bag. Use within 12 months.
Do Frozen Cut Carrots Need to Be Thawed Before Use?
If you’ve stored your cut carrots in the freezer, it’s best to use them in hot dishes directly from frozen. The texture of the frozen carrot changes from crisp to fairly soggy and soft, something that’s not noticeable in cooked dishes.
Soups, casseroles, stews, and any other hot dish where carrots are a called for an ingredient can use the frozen variety. No need to thaw them or shorten cooking times. But, if you do want to thaw, these two techniques are safe:
- Defrost in the refrigerator: Place the frozen carrots in the fridge to thaw overnight.
- Coldwater bath: Place the container or bag into a bowl or the kitchen sink filled with cold water for a fast thaw. Change the water often until thawed.
TIP: Leaving the thawed carrots at room temperature for any length of time increases the likelihood of bacterial growth. Store in the refrigerator if you will not use thawed carrots immediately.
Dehydrating Cut Carrots
Dehydrated chopped carrots are easy to store since they take up little space and weigh next to nothing. Dry storage is a great option if space in the fridge or freezer is limited or creating your personally blended herb and spice mixes.
Preparing the carrots for the dehydrator is similar to preparing for freezing.
- Wash under cold water with a bristle brush
- Remove the top and tail of carrots
- Optionally peel
- Slice in circles approximately ¼ inch (about 1/2 centimeter) thick. Any thinner pieces may fold and fall through the dehydrator shelves.
- Blanche for 2 minutes in boiling water. Cool immediately in ice-cold water and pat dry. Missing this step shortens the shelf life of the end product. The dried carrots will look brown instead of bright orange and reconstitute slower.
- Arrange the cooled carrot on dehydrator trays. Arrange in a single layer and ensure none are touching.
- Set the dehydrator to 135 F or 57 C. (Consult the dehydrator manual for more detail). Keep it going until the carrots are crispy/leathery dry. Carrot slices/chips should not have any moist patches when cut. Prepare to be patient as this may take anything from 6 to 12 hours, depending on the thickness of the cut carrot and the air humidity.
Before transferring the dried carrots to a container, let them cool completely.
How to Know if Carrots Have Gone Bad
Carrots that have spoiled will usually have an odor and a dark discoloration and be slimy. These should not be eaten but can be composted.
Wilting or shriveling and a soft texture indicates that the shelf life is ending. A white blush on carrots signifies that they are drying out. It’s worth trying to rehydrate the carrots by soaking them in cold water for at least an hour. Rinse them well.
If your carrots are ‘freezer burnt,’ they are still safe to eat. It means the moisture and some flavor has been lost. The food quality, but not safety, has been affected.
Storage Container Options
Whenever possible, choose glass containers for fridge and freezer use, especially those with vacuum seals. Glass storage containers are fantastic to use for storing carrots with qualities superior to plastic:
- Easier to keep free from stains and odors.
- Are oven and microwave safe – who doesn’t want to save on washing up dishes?
- Can be safely disinfected at high temperatures
- Are more environment friendly
Removing Air from Ziplock bags:
When filling Ziplock bags with carrots, leave at least an inch of headroom. It will make it easier to stack the bags without popping them open.
Remove as much air as possible from the Ziplock bags to prevent drying and freezer burn.
- Zip the top shut but leave a space to insert the tip of a soda straw.
- Use the straw to suck out the last bit of air before sealing the corner.
A vacuum machine is most effective at removing air. Vacuumed packets have a longer storage life.
Tips for Better Storage
Tip 1: Most refrigerators have drawers marked for meats and vegetables. Use these drawers. They make it easier to organize the fridge and, more importantly, maintain the temperature when the door is opened. The stored items will keep better.
Tip 2: Label and date carrots. They last for up to a year in a freezer. If using Ziplock bags, write the labels before filling the bag. It’s much easier to write on a flat surface.
Tip 3: Packing meal-sized portions of cut carrots increase the storage window as the left-over portions remain fully frozen.
Do You Have to Peel Carrots Before Cutting Them?
To peel a carrot or not to peel a carrot? The obvious first thought that comes to mind for processing carrots.
The internal conflict ranges from ‘life is too short to peel a carrot’ to ‘but is it harmful not to?’ You choose – there is no right or wrong answer when you want to store cut carrots. Carrot skin is perfectly edible, and some nutrients* like vitamin C and B3 are most concentrated in the skin. If the skin is bruised, seems thick and dry, or the carrot is very dirty, peeling it is the better choice.
It’s important to wash the carrots either way – get that stiff bristled vegetable brush out, submerge carrots in cold water and lightly scrub; remove any potential earthy residues.
Carrots are a healthy, versatile vegetable. Storing them fresh offers up the crisp goodness for your lunchbox without the hassle of daily prepping. Adding frozen carrots to any stew, soup, sauce, or cooked dish adds color and flavor instantly.
Dehydrating carrots is for long-term storage. Reconstituted carrots are used similarly to frozen carrots but are more versatile.
Finely grind up the carrot pieces and add to homemade herb and spice mixes or snack on them as you would on chips if cut thin enough. The uses are endless.