Don’t toss those carrot tops! Reduce food waste by learning how to sauté carrot greens for a simple green side dish that’s big on flavor. Root-to-stem cooking at its finest!
Do you throw out the leaves on carrot stems? If so, don’t toss those tops! Reduce food waste by using carrot greens in place of other leafy greens in sauces, soups, and even as a side dish.
Carrot leaves are a perfectly edible leafy green that is a great replacement for herbs and light lettuces like parsley and spinach. In fact, carrot greens are great as a stand-alone side dish when sautéed lightly with garlic, red pepper, and olive oil.
👉 Want to learn how to sautéed carrot leaves? Let’s do it!
🎥 Recipe video
Watch the recipe video below to watch me sauté carrot greens, or keep scrolling for step-by-step recipe instruction photos.
🌿 How to pan fry the leaves of carrots (step-by-step)
1️⃣ Step One: Prep the carrot greens
The first step to sautéing carrot greens is to cut them from the carrot stalk and wash. Because carrots are a root vegetable, meaning they grow in the ground (re: dirt), the leaves and stems are usually dirty and could use a good wash before eating (check out our guide to storing carrots and carrot stems!).
First cut carrot greens from the carrot root, then cut the stiff stems right under where the greens start to grow. The stems are perfectly edible, but can sometimes be very tough so we want to use the softer stem areas, which are right under where the leaves begin to grow.
🥕 To wash carrot greens: fill a large mixing bowl with cold water and submerge carrot leaves on their stems for a few minutes, stirring or moving the leaves around with your hands to make sure as much dirt is removed as possible. Read our full guide on how to wash carrot leaves here!
2️⃣ Step Two: Remove remaining thick carrot green stems and chop garlic
When greens are dry, remove any remaining stiff stems and finely chop the garlic cloves in preparation for cooking.
3️⃣ Step Three: Pan fry the greens with garlic and red pepper
Now it’s time to sauté the carrot tops. Start by adding olive oil to a medium frying pan and heat over medium-low heat.
Next, add minced garlic and cook until it begins to brown and become fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Add the red pepper and cook about 20-30 seconds more, or until the pepper begins to release its color into the oil (do not overcook or the pepper will turn black and have a strong burnt flavor).
Then add the carrot greens to the pan and stir continuously until they are covered in oil and completely wilted and cooked down, about 2-3 minutes. Carrot greens are a very soft leaf, similar to spinach, so they cook quickly and reduce to about ⅓ the size of when they are dry.
When the greens are done, remove them from the pan and plate. Serve immediately for best flavor, and enjoy!
❓ Questions + quick tips about cooking carrot leaves
The leaves on carrots are not only edible, but they’re delicious. Carrot leaves are not poisonous, and in fact they are a nutritious green that tastes similar to parsley (in fact, carrot leaves are in the same family as parsley, coriander, and other herbs).
Carrot roots, carrot leaves, and carrot stems are all edible. However, the part of the carrot stem that is closest to the root is typically very stiff and doesn’t soften when cooking. These unused carrot stems and greens are perfect for flavoring stock.
Carrot leaves are a healthy leafy green that are high in vitamin K, vitamin A, and have about 90 calories per serving (about 1 cup of chopped greens) (USDA Food Nutrient Database).
Carrot leaves can be frozen for up to 2-3 months. Simply remove the greens from the thickest part of the stem, and then wash and dry them before storing in an airtight freezer bag wrapped in a kitchen cloth or paper towel.
♻️ Sustainable kitchen tips, tricks, and tools
Stock up during carrot season! The best time to make recipes using carrot greens is during the height of carrot season. In California that’s actually year round, but check out Seasonal Food Guide’s produce seasonality calendar to find when they are in season near you.
Store cut stems in water to keep them fresh. If you’ve cut the greens from the carrot roots before using, keep them fresh by placing the stems in a glass of water and storing in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. The water will keep the stems and leaves from wilting.
Use the discarded carrot stems in vegetable broth. Don’t toss the thick stems! Use them in a food scrap vegetable broth for flavorful soup stocks.
🥕 More recipes using carrot greens
Love this simple sautéed greens recipe using carrot tops? Check out our other plant-base carrot leaves recipes, like:
- Carrot Top Pesto
- Carrot Top Pesto Pasta
- Carrot Top Chimichurri
- Carrot Leaves Vegetable Broth
- Carrot Leaves Vegetable Soup
- No Waste Carrot Greens Smoothie
Did you make this recipe? Leave a comment below and rate the recipe to let us know how it turned out. Save this recipe for later by pinning to your favorite side dish Pinterest board and make sure to tag me on Fork in the Road’s Instagram to show me your carrot creations!
Sautéed Carrot Greens Recipe
- 4 cups carrot greens
- 4 whole garlic cloves minced
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 pinch red pepper flakes to taste
- 1 pinch salt and pepper
- Prepare carrot greens: First cut carrot greens from the carrot root, then cut the stiff stems right under where the greens start to grow. Fill a large mixing bowl with cold water and submerge carrot stems for a few minutes, stirring or moving the leaves around with your hands to make sure as much dirt is removed as possible. Next, remove the leaves from the water and use a salad spinner to remove water and put into a bowl or lay flat to dry (about 15 minutes).
- Remove carrot green stems and chop garlic: When greens are dry, remove stiff stems and finely chop the garlic cloves.
- Sauté the greens: To a medium pan heat olive oil over medium-low heat. Add minced garlic and cook until it begins to brown and become fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Next add the red pepper and cook about 20-30 seconds more, or until the pepper begins to release its color into the oil (do not overcook or the pepper will burn). Then add the carrot greens and stir constantly until they are covered in oil and completely wilted and cooked down, about 2-3 minutes. Remove to a plate and serve immediately.
- Notes: Carrot greens have a hearty, earthy taste and chewy texture, unlike softer greens like spinach. However, like spinach the carrot leaves will cook down to a very small amount (1 cup ends up being about ⅓ cup cooked).
- Tools Needed: glass mixing bowl, medium pan, knife set, cutting board, salad spinner
- Prep Ahead: Sauteed leafy greens like carrot tops are best eaten immediately, so we do not recommend cooking ahead of serving. However, you could wash and prep the greens up to a day ahead of time so they’re ready to be cooked. Any more than this and the greens will wilt and not look their best.
- Leftovers and Storage: Store any leftover greens in the refrigerator for up to two days and reheat over the stovetop or quickly in the microwave. We do not recommend freezing carrots greens after cooking.
- Nutrition notes: Nutrition information is estimated using all included ingredients. This recipe is vegan, gluten-free, and is a good source of vitamin K and potassium.
UPDATE: This recipe was originally published in June 2020 and was updated for clarity in February 2022.