Shredded carrots get oomph from fresh cilantro, a simple dressing of orange juice and spices with pepitas adding some crunch.
Years ago, almost twenty in fact, I lived in France for a year. It was a fabulous experience. I ate some of the best meals of my life while living there.
One of the things that I observed was that, contrary to popular belief, everyday French food does not have to be complicated or expensive. In fact, fresh, in-season produce played a central role in many of the meals I enjoyed with French families. One such dish was the carrot salad.
What is carrot salad?
French Carrot Salad is a simple salad of shredded carrots, tossed with a vinaigrette and fresh herbs. Unlike American versions, it has neither a creamy dressing nor dried fruit tucked into it. Instead, it is light and flavorful and full of fresh tastes.
It was served to me in many different ways in different locale throughout France, from the food line at the university canteen to the dining table of French friends.
My version here adds some south of the (US) border flavor with cumin, oregano, pepitas, and cilantro.
Carrot salad is amazingly easy to prepare and makes a delicious first course or side salad. It packs well, a day or two in advance, making it a creative and affordable addition to meal prep lunches.
This recipe is full of regular grocery staples, making it a go-to dish with a twist. Here’s what you’ll need.
Carrots – These orange root veggies are definitely a good cheap eat. Full of vitamins and minerals, this spring vegetable is very affordable. I regularly find the organic variety for about fifty cents a pound in bulk at Costco. You can buy them pre-shredded, however shredding your own is cheaper; as is cutting your own carrot sticks.
Pepitas – Pepitas are Mexican pumpkin seeds. You can find them with the nuts and seeds in most grocery stores. If you like, substitute your favorite chopped nut or seed.
Cilantro – a fresh herb ubiquitous in Southwestern cuisine, cilantro has a distinct flavor that some people absolutely love or decidedly do not. If you’re in the latter camp, use fresh parsley or basil for a slightly different flavored dish.
Orange juice – Freshly squeezed orange juice adds just the right sweet-tart acidity to the vinaigrette. If you prefer you can use lemon juice or apple cider vinegar.
Cumin and oregano – I kept with my southwestern flavor profile by using dried ground cumin and dried oregano. You can swap them for other spices and herbs if you prefer, but these offer a distinct flavor.
Oil – You can use any cooking oil you prefer.
This salad is super simple to prepare. Like really simple.
I make good use of the French housewife’s technique of mixing the vinaigrette in the bowl you’re going to serve the salad from. You reduce the number of dishes this way. Brilliant.
- Whisk together the juice and spices in the bowl. Add the oil in a thin stream, whisking to combine.
- Add the shredded carrots, pepitas, and fresh chopped cilantro.
- Toss the ingredients gently to coat with the vinaigrette. Adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper. Serve immediately or chill until serving time.
The salad is good in the refrigerator, covered, for 2-3 days.
Like cole slaw, the carrots will soften the longer it sits. If you prefer a crisper texture, add the dressing right before serving.
Knowing how much it costs you to prepare a recipe can help you decide if it’s the type of recipe to make regularly or one you might want to save for special occasions. Let’s crunch some numbers and see how this recipe pencils out.
- orange juice – $0.40
- spices – $0.10
- oil – $0.05
- carrots – $0.50
- pepitas – $0.30
- cilantro – $0.25
At a mid-range grocery store, purchased at non-sale prices, this recipe costs $1.60/batch or $0.20/serving.
I’m not sure that you can find a more fun side dish to serve at such a great price!
This recipe really couldn’t be easier than it is, but having the right kitchen tools can really make your time in the kitchen more enjoyable. Over time, I’ve honed my collection so that they are perfect for my needs.
- box grater or food processor – for shredding the carrots.
- Wire whisk – be sure to get one with a sealed barrel so dishwater doesn’t drip into your food. Yuck.
- stainless steel mixing bowl – a good set should last you a lifetime.
Carrot Salad with Cilantro and Pepitas
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1/4 cup neutral oil
- 10 oz carrots (shredded)
- 1/4 cup pepitas
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro (chopped) chopped
- In a large salad bowl, whisk together the orange juice, cumin, oregano, and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil in a thin stream.
- Add the carrot, pepitas, and cilantro.
- Toss the ingredients to coat. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper. Serve chilled or at room temperature.
This post was originally published on April 4, 2012. It has been updated for content and clarity.