Spiced Carrot and Ground Beef Stir-Fry Recipe

During the winter months, the grower I get my weekly basket of vegetables from often includes bunches of small new carrots, not much larger than my middle finger, with the bright green tops still on.

Pretty, but a bit of a puzzle to me: the skin on those young carrots is so thin it doesn’t seem necessary to peel them, but they do have tiny fibrils shooting from all around their sides, and those I did not know how to handle. While I could scrape those off with the side of my blade, it felt finicky, and a disproportionate effort when compared to the amount of edible carrot I ended up with.

A lot of the carrot’s taste resides in its skin, so finding a way to keep it guarantees bold flavors.

Then, one day, I finally thought to ask Didier — that’s the name of the farmer — how he cleaned them. His response was quite liberating: “I just wash them, leaving a short section of the stem.” No scrubbing, no scraping, no peeling — it was simply a matter of removing any dirt or grit, without worrying about the fibrils that so disconcerted me.

It was all the permission I needed, and the dish I made the first time I prepped the carrots this way was so good it has practically become a weekly staple. A lot of the carrot’s taste resides in its skin, so finding a way to keep it guarantees a bold flavor.

For this dish, the carrots are sliced lengthwise, the better to show off their shape, and simply sautéed in a bit of fat — olive oil is good, but so much the better if you have chicken, duck, or pork fat lying around from a previous roast — with a touch of cumin and chili pepper, and the white parts of a bunch of spring onions.

When the carrots are nice and tender — I don’t think al dente does the carrot any favors — you add in some (organic) ground beef, which you crumble in the pan and mix in with the carrots, adding the green part of the spring onions while you’re at it.

This I finish with a squeeze of lemon or lime juice for the brightness, and some fresh cilantro if I have it, and end up with the most comforting and satisfying weeknight dinner there is. And a very quick one, too, especially if I’ve found the time to trim, wash, and halve the vegetables earlier in the day (I then keep them in an airtight container in the fridge).

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Are you able to find that kind of tiny carrot where you live, and what do you like to do with them? Is there any ingredient that you’ve learnt didn’t need as much fastidious prep as you once thought it did?

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Spiced Carrot and Ground Beef Stir-Fry Recipe

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Serves 2 to 3.

Spiced Carrot and Ground Beef Stir-Fry Recipe


  • 700 grams (1 1/2 pounds) small new carrots (weighed with the tops trimmed off, about 4 bunches of 10); regular carrots can be substituted
  • 1 bunch fresh scallions
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil or duck/chicken/pork fat
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground chili pepper, or more to taste
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • a splash of white wine or stock (optional)
  • 200 grams (7 ounces) organic ground beef, thawed if frozen
  • 1/2 fresh lemon or lime
  • fresh cilantro, roughly chopped (optional)


  1. Trim the tops off the carrots, leaving a 1-cm (1/2-inch) stem or trimming it off altogether depending on how fresh it looks. Wash in several baths of fresh water, rubbing the carrots together so they'll scrub one another's skin, and making sure you get the grit out of the stems as they can be sandy. (If using regular large carrots, simply peel and wash them.)
  2. Cut the carrots lengthwise in halves or quarters, depending on their thickness, so they're all about the same thickness. (If using regular large carrots, cut them into sticks about 10 cm [4 inches] in length and 1 cm [1/2 inch] in width.)
  3. Slice the scallions thinly, reserving white and green parts separately.
  4. Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the carrots and scallion whites, sprinkle with cumin, ground chili, and salt, and stir well to combine. Add a splash of water, white wine, or stock, place a cover slightly ajar on the pan, and cook over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring regularly, until the carrots are tender and the liquids are mostly evaporated.
  5. Push the carrots to the sides to create space in the middle of the pan. Add in the meat and crumble it with a wooden spoon, then combine it with the carrots. Add the scallion greens and cook for 5 more minutes, stirring regularly, until the meat is cooked. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
  6. Serve immediately, with a squeeze of lemon or lime juice and a sprinkle of fresh cilantro.
  • Peter Hertzmann

    During the carrot-cutting portion of my knife-skills classes I always start by asking the students why we peel carrots. Although their answers are often quite creative, seldom do I receive the answer I’m seeking. That answer is “tradition”. When I was a child, i.e., back in the 1950s, carrots came to the grocery store with all their greens and much of their dirt still attached. Peeling was part of the cleaning process; simply scrubbing didn’t always do the job. Now it’s really unnecessary since they have been washed multiple times before being sold to the consumer. BTW, I still tend to peel them.

    • When it comes to grated carrots at least, I’ve found it’s necessary to peel the larger, older carrots, as their skin can be bitter when raw.

      It’s probably less of a problem when cooked, but like you and everyone else, I still peel them out of tradition. Will think twice next time though!

  • Annabel Smyth

    What a great-looking recipe, and so simple, too – thank you! I think this one will go in the repertoire. (I tend to peel my carrots as I don’t like the texture of the skin) (and why has Disqus used such an old Facebook photo?)

    • Thanks Annabel, let me know if you try it!

      Re: the Disqus photo, I see a photo with “bye-bye brixton” in the back — is that not your current profile pic on Facebook?

      • Annabel Smyth

        Yes, it’s updated it now – it was showing a very old picture when I registered!

  • marysueh

    Looks like an easy recipe to make after a long day at work! Love the use of chili pepper with carrots – something out of the ordinary that would go over very well in this household. I can imagine this with other meats, such as pork. Will make this soon!

    • timmytherube

      In regard to other meats, I tried this last night with ground lamb, and it was wonderful.

      • marysueh

        Bingo! Lamb sounds intriguing. Must try :)

      • That’s great to hear, Timmy, I can definitely picture this working well with lamb. Ground lamb is not very easy to get in France, you usually have to pre-order it or grind it yourself, so ground beef is definitely more convenient.

    • marysueh

      I made this tonight to rave reviews. Based on timmytherube’s suggestion, I tried lamb, which is a meat I’ve been wanting to use. The only other modification was to sub thyme and a little mint for the cilantro, as that bunch of green leaves in the crisper turned out to be radish tops! This is such a great recipe, and obviously it is quite flexible. The lamb is scrumptious should you ever want to experiment.

      • I’m so glad to hear that, Mary Sue, thank you for reporting back! I’ll give it a try with ground lamb — I actually have a meat grinder attachment for my KitchenAid so this would be a good opportunity to use it!

      • timmytherube

        Mint! I was kind of sort of thinking mint was the last thing it needed after the lamb substitution took place. Thanks for the confirmation. Can’t wait to try this again. Yum!

        • I agree, mint would be the herb of choice if substituting lamb for the beef!

  • A very charming little anecdote… it’s so true how much can be learned from people at the market just by asking. I usually have tons of carrots in my vegetable drawer, and I’m always looking for more carrot-centric dishes that can still count as more than a salad. When I was living in France as a student, I had a friend who couldn’t eat gluten… and I felt so sorry that she couldn’t eat croissants and baguettes. But then one day she made me a plate of sweet sauteed carrots and fried eggs for breakfast and that set me straight. Thanks for another great idea.

    • Thanks Kate! I, too, marvel at the resourcefulness and inventiveness of people who have to cook under constraints. Some of the best dishes are born that way!

  • Simple awesomeness!

  • Pat Nyswonger (Pat and Dahn)

    The baby carrots I find this time of the year are actually larger carrots that have been cut and shaped to look like baby carrots. I am always tickled when I find true tiny carrots like the ones you have here. Lovely dish, I am inspired to buy some carrots.

    • The day I found out baby carrots were just big carrots carved into small ones, a part of my soul died. :)

  • Malaika Neri

    ooh this recipe is so simple and sounds yummy! I’m going to make it tonight. :D

  • heidi

    I prepared this recipe tonight, instead of the meat, adding a small parsnip and some saffron rice hidden in the fridge, oh and used a bit of duck fat ( I have a very nice fridge!) the recipe is super simple (my carrots took maybe 10 minutes to cook) and super good – thank you very much!

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  • Rasel Mahmud

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