RECIPES: Five carrot soups rooted in flavor

Carrots shine in the lead role

Carrot and Almond Soup With Mint-Saffron Yogurt (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)
Carrot and Almond Soup With Mint-Saffron Yogurt (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)

Pity the carrot.

The orange (but not always) root vegetable is everywhere as a supporting player — crudite platters, mirepoix, pot roast vegetable mix — but rarely the star of the show. And when it is served solo, it's often as a side dish gilded in syrupy layers of brown sugar or honey.

I recently remarked to my husband, after biting into an edible but slightly bland braised carrot, that I wanted carrots that taste like magic. The way good corn on the cob slathered lightly in butter tastes like sunshine. Or asparagus grilled or roasted until it teeters on the edge of crisp and tender, tasting vegetal, nutty and caramelized all at once. Like a juicy ripe tomato in July served thickly sliced with a shower of flakey salt. Okra tossed in cornmeal and fried until crisp and the edges are deep burnished brown. Cauliflower roasted in olive oil and lemon. Radishes (raw or roasted) with butter and salt.

I wanted carrots that make my taste buds sing.

Carrot magic is elusive. Roasting is a good option, but it is all too easy to go too far and end up with shriveled brown spikes.

On my quest for carrot magnificence, I stumbled into the world of carrot soups — each vastly different from the last. So different and delicious, I shifted my focus from all types of carrot dishes to just soup.

Five soups to be specific.

Each is magical in its own distinct way.

Note: Carrot sizes can vary drastically. One of our 2-pound bags of carrots included a single carrot that weighed well over a pound. Another 2-pound bag contained more than dozen slender carrots. With that in mind we've avoided telling you how many carrots are needed in the following recipes. Instead, ingredients are listed by weight or cup measures. But if you don't want to bother with a scale or eyeballing half a 2-pound bag of carrots, one pound is roughly 5 or 6 (roughly 1 inch thick at the top, 6 inches long) carrots.

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By the third bite of this rich, deeply flavored soup I was in love. Almond butter gives this soup a rich, full body while a swirl of yogurt flavored with lemon, mint and saffron adds a bright, tangy finish.

Carrot and Almond Soup With Mint-Saffron Yogurt

  • ¼ teaspoon saffron threads
  • 1 tablespoon boiling-hot water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small to medium yellow onion, diced
  • ¼ cup almond butter, preferably without added sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 1 ½-inch pieces (about 3 cups)
  • 4 cups low-sodium broth (vegetable or chicken)
  • 1 cup plain yogurt (I used 2% Greek yogurt)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • ¼ cup finely chopped fresh mint

In a small bowl, crumble the saffron threads and add the boiling-hot water; stir or swirl to thoroughly moisten the saffron. Set aside.

In a large saucepan over medium, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add the almond butter, coriander and 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the carrots, broth and ½ cup water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to a gentle simmer and cook until carrots are tender, 20 to 25 minutes.

When the carrots are tender, remove the pan from the heat and cool for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together the yogurt, lemon juice, mint and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Set a fine-mesh strainer over the bowl and pour in the saffron water; discard the solids in the strainer. Stir the yogurt mixture until well combined. Set aside.

Working in batches, puree the carrot mixture in a blender until completely smooth. Return soup to pot and cook until heated through. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve topped with some of the yogurt mixture.

Makes about 4 servings.

Recipe adapted from "Milk Street Vegetables" by Christopher Kimball.

  photo  Roasted Carrot Soup With Ginger (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)  This velvety smooth soup gets a pleasant zing from ginger-infused broth.

Roasted Carrot Soup With Ginger

  • 1 ½ pounds carrots, trimmed
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided use
  • Salt, to taste
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 piece ginger, an inch long, peeled and sliced OR 1 tablespoon ginger paste
  • 1 sprig thyme, plus more for garnish
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • Ground black pepper

Peel and cut the carrots into ½-inch thick rounds. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the carrots with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt. Set an oven rack 6 to 8 inches from the heat source and turn on the broiler. Broil the carrots until they brown and soften, turning them over with a spatula every 5 minutes or so; this should take 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring the stock to a boil, add the ginger and the sprig of thyme and simmer gently for 15 minutes.

In a medium stock pot, cook the onion and garlic in the remaining olive oil, stirring frequently, until the onion is translucent and beginning to soften. Add the carrots and cook a few minutes more. Strain the stock into the pot with the onion and carrots (discard the thyme and ginger) and bring to boil; reduce heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.

Reserve about 1 cup of the broth. Using an immersion or a standard blender, puree the mixture until smooth. If the soup seems too thick, thin with the reserved broth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. To serve, garnish with chopped fresh thyme.

Makes 3 to 4 servings.

Recipe adapted from Food52.

  photo  Roasted Carrot and Bell Pepper Soup (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)  Roasted bell peppers add a layer of smoky sweetness to this soup.

Roasted Carrot and Bell Pepper Soup

  • 1 pound carrots, trimmed and peeled but left whole
  • 2 red bell peppers, halved, stem, core and seeds removed
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3 cups broth
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons cilantro, optional garnish
  • Sesame seeds, for garnish

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Arrange carrots and red peppers (skin side up) on a large baking sheet in a single layer. Drizzle the carrots with a little of the olive oil and season lightly with salt. Roll carrots to coat. Roast for 15 minutes, turn carrots over, and continue roasting 15 minutes more or until carrots are tender. Remove from oven, pull corners of foil together and set aside until the peppers are cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes. Slip the skins off the peppers and cut the carrots into 2 to 3 inch lengths.

In a large saucepan, heat the remaining oil over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and bay leaf. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are softened and translucent, but not browned. Add the cumin and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add the roasted carrots, peeled bell pepper and stir to combine. Pour in the broth and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the bay leaf. Using an immersion blender or working in batches in a traditional blender, process the soup until smooth.

Return to pot and cook just until soup reaches desired serving temperature. Serve garnished with cilantro, if desired, and sesame seeds.

Makes about 4 servings.

Recipe adapted from

  photo  Roasted Carrot and Garlic Soup (Democrat-Gazette file photo)  Enriched with heavy cream and butter, this carrot soup tastes and feels luxurious.

Roasted Carrot and Garlic Soup

  • 1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 head garlic, cloves separated and peeled
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • ½ medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 small leek, cleaned and thinly sliced (white and very light green parts only)
  • 1 rib celery, finely chopped
  • 4 cups vegetable stock, divided use
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • Sour cream, creme fraiche, plain yogurt or unsweetened whipped cream, for garnish

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Arrange the carrots and garlic on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast 40 minutes or until vegetables are softened and browned.

In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add the onion, leek and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes. Add the roasted carrots and garlic to the pot and cook, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes. Then pour in 2 cups of the vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Add the heavy cream. Working in batches in a traditional blender or using an immersion blender, puree until smooth and velvety, adding the remaining stock as needed to create desired texture. Return to heat and cook just until heated through. Serve garnished with a dollop of sour cream, creme fraiche, yogurt or whipped cream.

Makes about 6 servings.

Recipe adapted from "The Ragland Road Cookbook: Inside America's Favorite Irish Pub" by Kevin Dundon.

  photo  Carrot and Orange Soup (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)  Orange juice gives this carrot soup a bright flavor while cumin, coriander and bay add some background spice. A swirl of heavy cream and a sprinkle of cilantro provide the finishing (but not necessary) touch.

Carrot and Orange Soup

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 1 small leek, halved and thinly sliced (white and very light green parts only)
  • 1 ¼ pounds carrots, peeled and sliced (can use baby-cut carrots without slicing)
  • 1 small potato, peeled and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 ¼ cups freshly squeezed orange juice (from about 5 baseball-size oranges)
  • 2 cups vegetable stock, plus more as needed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • Chopped fresh cilantro, optional garnish
  • Heavy cream, optional garnish

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium. Add the leek, carrots and potato and cook, stirring frequently, until the leek has softened and the mixture has reduced a bit, about 10 minutes. Stir in the coriander and cumin and cook 30 seconds, and then pour in the orange juice and 2 cups vegetable stock. Add the bay leaf and season with a little salt (not much if your stock is salted) and some black pepper.

Bring mixture to a boil; reduce heat, cover, and simmer about 30 minutes or until the vegetables are very tender.

Cool slightly, remove bay leaf, and then puree using an immersion blender or working in batches in a traditional blender. If soup is too thick, thin with a little more broth and return to heat until soup reaches desired serving temperature.

Serve garnished with cilantro and a swirl of heavy cream, if desired.

Makes about 4 servings.

Recipe adapted from "Vegetables Please: The More Vegetables, Less Meat Cookbook" by Carolyn Humphries.

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