This spice roasted carrots recipe is a welcome departure from the usual olive oil+herbs treatment, with a spicy-sweet seasoning mix that’ll seriously up your side dish game. Chili powder and cinnamon are rounded out by paprika and ground coriander, plus just a little hint of sweetness. It’s delicious straight out of the oven, or you can dress it up for a fancy evening with a drizzle of yogurt and a sprinkle of crunchy walnuts and parsley.
Roasted vegetables are on my dinner table almost every single night. It’s so easy to throw a pan full of veggies in the oven and have my stovetop and hands free for other things. But since I’ve switched up my diet to think of vegetables first, I’ve been focused on making my side dishes new and interesting, while keeping my main dish preparations more simple. This recipe for spice roasted carrots came out of that effort, and it’s my current favorite recipe for roasted carrots.
Cinnamon flavor is not just for sweets
It may seem strange to some folks to be using cinnamon in a savory dish, but cultures all over the world consider it to be a savory spice. It’s used in savory Moroccan, Thai, and Indian dishes, and extensively in both sweet and savory Mexican dishes. I have always loved cinnamon flavor in all of its applications, but I’m not sure I ever had it on carrots before now. It turns out that it’s a perfect foil for the sweet-earthy flavor of my favorite starchy vegetable.
Cinnamon also offers numerous health benefits, not the least of which is a powerful ability to lower blood sugar. In fact, studies suggest consuming cinnamon may even help prevent insulin resistance, and thus, type 2 diabetes. There is evidence that cinnamon may also help prevent heart attacks, neurodegenerative disease, and cancer. It’s really an incredible compound, and one worth adding to your diet as much as possible.
There are two varieties of cinnamon available, cassia (or Saigon) cinnamon and Ceylon cinnamon. Both demonstrate the health benefits mentioned above, however Ceylon cinnamon is considered “true” cinnamon. It’s more potent nutritionally and safer in higher quantities than the more typical cassia variety. If your cinnamon is not labeled with a variety, it is most likely cassia.
Customize the heat in your spice blend
Just because this recipe has chili powder in it does not mean it has to be spicy. Chili powders vary dramatically between types, brands, and even batches. In most recipes I will tell you to reduce the amount of chili powder to your liking, and you can do that. But if you’d like to retain the chili flavor but not the heat, then mild chili powder will be your best friend. I find it in the Mexican food section at my grocery store, or on Amazon.
That said, I do like a little bit of heat in these carrots, so what I generally do is blend some spicy chili powder with the mild chili powder to get a heat level that my family is comfortable with. I use about ¾ mild chili powder to ¼ spicy chili powder, and it usually comes out perfect. When I’m just making something for myself, I usually go half-and-half. It’s the perfect way to manage the heat in this dish while still maintaining a balance with the strong cinnamon flavor.
Q: Can you suggest a chili powder substitute?
Chili powder is actually a spice blend itself, usually made up of a combination of ground dried chilis, cayenne pepper, cumin, paprika, garlic powder, and sometimes oregano. If you don’t have any on hand or if you are sensitive, the easiest chili powder substitute I’ve found is to blend equal parts paprika and cumin.
Q: Is the sugar in this spice rub really necessary?
Absolutely not. It's really delicious, but as long as your carrots are fresh, they will roast up plenty sweet using this method. I personally eat very little sugar anyway, since I don't have a sweet tooth and mostly eat whole foods that I've prepared myself, so I don't worry about adding a little bit to a spice rub. But if you are watching your sugar intake, it's an easy choice to leave it out.
Tips to make perfect spice roasted carrots
- Make sure to use a sheet pan with short walls. The pan you use really matters when you are roasting vegetables! Using a short-sided pan allows the hot oven air to flow over the top of your vegetables and cooks them from the top in addition to the hot metal of the pan cooking them from the bottom.
- Arrange your carrots in a single layer. Making sure your carrots have good contact with the hot metal of your sheet pan ensures they are cooked through and pleasantly browned. If you double the recipe and have too much volume to lay the carrots out in a single layer, use a second sheet pan to roast the remaining carrots.
- Switch up your toppings. These carrots are absolutely delicious with no toppings at all, but when I have the time, the garnishes really take this dish over the top. You can vary the nuts, the herbs, and the acid you use to cut the yogurt. Pecans, sage, and oregano are all great substitutions, and you can cut the yogurt with lemon juice instead of apple juice for another delicious twist.
Prep ahead and storage
The carrots, spice mix, and toppings can all be prepped up to two days ahead. I often make several batches of the spice mix at once and keep it on hand, since it’s also good on butternut squash, sweet potatoes, and chicken. The spice mix will keep in a sealed container for a year or longer.
Cooked carrots will keep for 3-4 days in a sealed container in the refrigerator. I don’t recommend freezing them.
I love hearing from you!
Questions, comments, and ratings are welcome and encouraged. Let me know what you think of these spice roasted carrots! You’ll make my day!
Spice Roasted Carrots
For the carrots:
- ½ teaspoon chili powder see notes
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon brown sugar optional
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon ground coriander
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 ½ pounds carrots
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil plus more for drizzle
For the optional toppings:
- 2 tablespoons Greek yogurt
- 1 tablespoon apple juice or apple verjus see notes
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped walnuts
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and prepare a sheet pan with cooking spray or parchment paper.
- Combine the spices, brown sugar, and sea salt in a small bowl and stir to combine thoroughly.
- Peel and cut the carrots in half lengthwise, then cut into 2-inch long pieces. If there are any particularly fat parts of the carrots, cut those into quarters. Add the carrots to the sheet pan.
- Drizzle the carrots with the extra virgin olive oil and toss them to coat, then sprinkle with the seasoning and toss again. Make sure the carrots are spread out in a single layer and roast for 20 minutes.
- Working quickly, take the pan out of the oven and close the oven. Use a spatula to turn over the carrots (try to get every one turned over), then return the pan to the oven and roast for another 15-20 minutes.
- Prepare the toppings while the carrots are roasting. Combine the yogurt and apple juice in a small bowl and set aside, and chop the parsley and the walnuts.
- Check the carrots for doneness, a fork should easily pierce the largest pieces. When done, remove to a serving bowl or platter and drizzle with the yogurt mixture. Sprinkle on the walnuts and parsley and serve.
- Chili powders vary dramatically between types, brands, and even batches. I buy a mild chili powder in the Mexican food aisle that has no heat, and will blend it in with whatever chili powder I’m using to cut the heat without sacrificing flavor. Ancho chili powder is also quite mild and would work great for these spice roasted carrots, or you can substitute equal parts paprika and cumin.
Apple verjus is the pressed juice of tart apples that are harvested in early summer before they ripen. It has a pleasing acidity just below that of lemon juice. It is available online. Apple juice and apple cider also work in this recipe, especially unsweetened versions if you can find them.