Salad Dressing

Extreme Makeover: Carrot Salad Edition

April 26, 2018

Old-school carrot salad goes something like this: Grate carrots like cheese. Toss with mayo, maybe sour cream, probably sugar. Add in some raisins and pineapple and call it a day. It’s cookout food, picnic food, especially popular in the South. The sort of recipe everyone’s mother and their mother made.

Not mine. My mom always bought those faux-baby carrots—you know those little nubs—chopped them into chunky coins, tossed with lettuce and tomato and balsamic vinaigrette. I had trouble getting them on my fork, like spearfishing, or bad spearfishing, which led me to believe: I don’t like carrot salad. Or carrots in salad. Or both.

Photo by James Ransom

I was wrong. So wrong! Cut the carrots another way and it’s a whole different ball game. In fact, don’t cut them at all. Shave them into long, thin ribbons, like pappardelle. This looks impressive and dramatic but, lucky us, couldn’t be easier. Which is to say: No mandoline needed. Since you already have the vegetable peeler out, just keep going, keep going, until you’re left with a thin core. (Psst: This wants to become a carrot stick for down-the-road hummus-dipping.)

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Now, what to wear? The mayo-sour cream situation is down blanket–thick, not what I’m craving as we shed our layers, dust off our flip-flops, and head into summer. I wanted something sheer and light, but still bold in flavor. And then this Genius salad from Maricel E. Presilla caught my eye: a limey cumin dressing.

In fact, the whole salad caught my eye. Maricel chars pineapple, a little burn to balance the sweetness, and combines that with buttery avocado. A just right route for old-school carrot salad to wander along, then arrive in 2018. The only thing missing was the raisins. Which, if you know me, I would never, ever cut out (she writes from her desk, where she keeps an emergency bag of raisins).

Another recipe on the site held the answer: a caper-raisin vinaigrette via Sarah Jampel via Six Seasons by Joshua McFadden. Oh, raisins! Is there anything you can't do? Instead of adding them to the salad, I added them to the cumin-lime dressing, a little chunky, a little sweet. You might have some leftover, but I have a hunch you'll find a way to use it.

What's your favorite way to carrot salad? Tell us in the comments!

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Emma was the food editor at Food52. She created the award-winning column, Big Little Recipes, and turned it into a cookbook in 2021. These days, she's a senior editor at Bon Appétit, leading digital cooking coverage. Say hello on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.