A deliciously colourful salad with roasted heirloom rainbow carrots and red onions layered on top of a bed of chewy pearl couscous, fresh mint and chopped almonds. A salad that satisfies.
- Why You’ll Love This Salad
- What Are Heirloom (AKA Rainbow) Carrots?
- Where To Buy Rainbow Carrots?
- Do Rainbow Carrots Taste The Same?
- How To Cook Rainbow Carrots
- Recipe Overview
- Variations and Substitutions
- How to Roast Rainbow Carrots and Onion
- How to Make Pearl Couscous
- How to Make the Honey Dijon Dressing
- How to Assemble the Salad
- How to Serve
- Frequently Asked Questions
Why You’ll Love This Salad
When I see multi-coloured carrots, it sparks joy. I have no idea why, but it does! Just so pretty, and when roasted, the sweetness of heirloom rainbow carrots are even more elevated.
To match with the roast lamb we were having for dinner, I wanted to create a roast vegetable dish but not too heavy. So when I saw colourful heirloom rainbow carrots, I knew what I was making to match.
Combining roasted heirloom carrots and pearl couscous, this is a lighter roast carrot side dish compared to roast potatoes or pumpkin for roast lamb.
I coated the heirloom rainbow carrots with toasted cumin seeds to add warmth and earthy flavours. Then layered with roasted red onions on top of a bed of chewy pearl couscous, mint and chopped almonds. Together this is a flavoursome and eye pleasing roasted rainbow carrot recipe.
Colourful, beautiful and healthy, this easy heirloom carrot recipe can be prepped ahead of time for midweek dinners and special festive holiday meals.
What Are Heirloom (AKA Rainbow) Carrots?
Have you seen the term heirloom attached to a carrot bunch and wondered what heirloom carrots are? Are heirloom carrots passed down from generation to generation like a piece of heirloom jewellery?
Well, technically, yes. An heirloom variety is an old cultiver of the plant grown commonly in earlier periods of human consumption but not commercially cultivated. They are passed from family to family for their own personal use.
So what about rainbow carrots? Are they the same thing? Yes, heirloom carrots is the name of the variety of carrots, whilst rainbow carrots is the nickname we give these wonderful multi-coloured carrots.
Where To Buy Rainbow Carrots?
I normally find my rainbow carrots are our local farmers’ markets. However, you will start to see them more often in good boutique greengrocers or larger open air markets. Heirloom carrots are generally sold with the green tops on.
Do Rainbow Carrots Taste The Same?
Whenever you visit the grocery store, you usually only see orange carrots. Commercially grown, this variety of carrots are the most common.
However, you may not know that carrots also come in other colours – white, yellow, red, magenta and purple. And sometimes, the colour of the carrot’s outside is different from the colour on the inside!
There are subtle differences in taste and flavour with the different coloured carrots.
- Orange carrots – sweet, nutty and have the highest levels of vitamin A, which is very beneficial for eye health.
- White or cream coloured carrots – have a milder flavour and are less earthy than the others. They are also considered to be sweeter.
- Purple carrots – I find them more robust. Sweet but earthy. I love grating them for slaws or other salads to create fabulous colour.
- Red carrots – they are probably the most similar to orange carrots in flavour. The red colour comes from lycopene, the same antioxidant in tomatoes.
- Yellow carrots – similar flavours to orange carrots, and they contain lutein, which is another nutrient that aids in eye health.
How To Cook Rainbow Carrots
You can use rainbow carrots the same way you would use regular or Dutch carrots.
A quick blanch in hot water, toss in olive oil and season well with salt and pepper is a good start. Or you can try one of our delicious dressings/sauces like Green Goddess Dressing, Tahini Ranch Dressing or Sweet Mustard Vinaigrette. They would all work a treat with rainbow carrots.
Otherwise, I love roasting rainbow carrots. Roasting carrots bring out the sweetness, and the slightly charred bits on the ends add to the delicious caramelisation flavours. A delicious glaze to add roasted rainbow carrots is maple syrup or balsamic vinegar.
Flavour/Texture: I love the texture of roasted rainbow carrots as they are super tender but still retain a slight crunchy/chewy bite. It’s not mushy like boiled carrots! Together with the fluffy pearl couscous, it’s a great combination.
Flavour wise, I have kept it simple with roasted rainbow carrots as I want the natural flavours of the produce to shine through.
A scattering of toasted cumin seeds adds warmth to the rainbow carrots. And to tie in the pearl couscous, I used a honey Dijon dressing that is slightly sweet and refreshing.
Ease: There is cooking involved in this salad recipe but not overly complicated. Red onions and rainbow carrots are roasted in oven and then pearl couscous cooked on the stove.
Time: By using the oven time wisely, you can prepare the different elements simultaneously. All you need is about 45 minutes.
These are the ingredients you need in Roasted Rainbow Carrots with Pearl Couscous.
Heirloom rainbow carrots: Commonly available in Australia, heirloom carrots are not very big, and you get approximately 8-10 small carrots in a bunch. If you find them too small, I would get two bunches of rainbow carrots to serve 4 people.
Cumin seeds: Lightly toast cumin seeds before use helps bring out the aroma and oils. I love the aromatic warmth of cumin seeds in recipes, but it can be overpowering, so sometimes less is more with this spice.
Red onions: Rather than slicing raw red onions in the salad, which you can, I prefer to roast them. It adds another dimension of texture and also enhances the sweetness. Again with the roasted rainbow carrots, I love the caramelisation that occurs with the roasting process.
Pearl couscous: Also known as Israeli couscous, pearl couscous is made from semolina and is shaped into tiny balls, toasted and then simmered to eat. It is larger in size than couscous and is chewier in texture.
Vegetable stock/Water: To cook pearl couscous, you can use vegetable stock for more flavour, or water is fine too.
Mint: Fresh mint leaves offer an element of freshness and garnish.
Honey or rice malt syrup: I used honey as my sweetener in the salad dressing, but you can use rice malt syrup for a vegan option.
Variations and Substitutions
Rainbow carrot substitute: You can substitute with Dutch carrots if you can’t find heirloom rainbow carrots at your local greengrocer.
Nut free option: Omit almonds in the recipe for a nut free option. You can substitute with pepitas.
Vegan option: For a vegan salad recipe, substitute honey with rice malt syrup or maple syrup.
Follow these instructions on how to make Roasted Rainbow Carrots with Pearl Couscous.
How to Roast Rainbow Carrots and Onion
Preheat the oven to 200°C or 400°F.
If you have smaller varieties of rainbow carrots, there is no need to peel or cut. Instead, you can roast them whole. Otherwise, peel and slice them in half lengthwise.
Over medium heat, dry roast cumin seeds in a frypan for 2 minutes to release the aromates. They may start popping in the pan.
In a mixing bowl, place toasted cumin seeds, rainbow carrots, olive oil and salt together. Toss well.
At the same time, you can roast the red onions. First, peel and cut the red onion in half. Then cut each half into thirds. You end up with 6 pieces per onion.
Place rainbow carrots with toasted cumin seeds on one side of the sheet pan and red onions on the other side. Drizzle the red onions with olive oil and season with sea salt.
Roast in the oven for 20 minutes or until tender. We want to see caramelisation around the edges.
Remove roasted rainbow carrots and red onions from the oven once done.
How to Make Pearl Couscous
Pearl couscous is larger with a more chewy texture and nutty taste than regular couscous. If you are looking for another pearl couscous recipe, you can try our deliciously easy Blistered Tomato and Basil Salad.
Take 1 cup of pearl couscous and give it a rinse before cooking. In a medium saucepan, add pearl couscous and then top up with 1 ½ cups of vegetable stock. Simmer gently over medium heat with the lid on for about 10 minutes.
If you don’t have vegetable stock, you can use water as well.
It is cooked through when the tiny balls have puffed up, and the texture is al dente.
Wash and roughly chop mint leaves
Over medium heat, dry roast whole almonds for a couple of minutes. Then remove from heat and roughly chop.
How to Make the Honey Dijon Dressing
This versatile and straightforward dressing can be used in any leafy green salad or roasted root vegetables like beetroot or parsnips.
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together olive oil, apple cider vinegar, honey and Dijon mustard. Add salt and pepper to taste.
How to Assemble the Salad
In a large mixing bowl, place pearl couscous, roasted red onions, mint leaves and ½ almonds together. Add ¾ honey Dijon dressing into the bowl and toss well.
Use a large serving platter and tumble the pearl couscous and red onions mixture onto the platter.
Now place the roasted rainbow carrots into the mixing bowl and dress with remaining honey Dijon dressing. Mix and then tumble on top of the pearl couscous and red onion mixture.
Scatter remaining chopped almonds and serve.
How to Serve
Here are some main dishes that will go well with Roasted Rainbow Carrots with Pearl Couscous.
Honey Dijon chicken thighs make for an easy dinner with the pearl couscous as a great hearty filler. For red meat lovers, this wagyu ribeye is flavourful, juicy and marbled to perfection while the pan seared garlic herb lamb shoulder chops are super delicious as they finished of in the oven to lock in all the goodness.
Frequently Asked Questions
No, not necessarily. Depending on the size of your rainbow carrots, you don’t need to peel them. Instead, I would give them a good wash to remove excess dirt and roast them with the peel.
Yes, you can prepare this salad ahead of time. Assemble everything and cover until ready to serve.
Both! You can serve this roasted rainbow carrot salad at room temperature if you have prepped it ahead of time. Otherwise, keep rainbow carrots in the oven until ready to serve if you prefer it warm.
No, you generally can not substitute pearl couscous with couscous and vice versa in recipes. As much as these two ingredients have couscous in their name and are both made from semolina, they are quite different in texture.
Pearl couscous is not gluten free as it is made from semolina, a granule of durum wheat.
Perfect for cooler nights, this roasted rainbow carrot with pearl couscous is a fantastic side dish to serve with a cozy vegetable tagine or a hearty roast chicken dinner. An easy one to share with friends or eat alone. I think you will love it.
More Healthy Salad Recipes:
Roasted Rainbow Carrots with Pearl Couscous
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- Preheat the oven to 200°C or 400°F.
- Wash heirloom carrots and trim the tops. Peel them if you need to.
- Over medium heat, dry roast cumin seeds for 2 minutes to release the aromates.
- In a mixing bowl, place toasted cumin seeds, heirloom carrots, olive oil and salt together. Toss well.
- Peel and cut the red onion in half. Then cut each half into thirds. You end up with 6 pieces per onion.
- Place heirloom carrots with toasted cumin seeds on one side of the sheet pan and red onions on the other side. Drizzle the red onions with olive oil and season with sea salt.
- Roast in the oven for 20 minutes or until tender and browned. Remove roasted heirloom carrots and red onions from the oven once done.
- Wash and roughly chop mint leaves.
- Over medium heat, dry roast whole almonds for a couple of minutes. Then remove from heat and roughly chop.
- In a small mixing bowl, mix all the salad dressing ingredients together.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- In a large mixing bowl, place pearl couscous, roasted red onions, mint leaves and ½ almonds together.
- Add ¾ honey dijon dressing into the bowl and toss well.
- Use a large serving platter and tumble the pearl couscous and red onions mixture onto the platter.
- Now place the roasted heirloom carrots into the mixing bowl and dress with remaining honey dijon dressing.
- Mix together and then tumble on top of the pearl couscous and red onion mixture.
- Scatter remaining chopped almonds and serve.
- If you can’t find heirloom carrots, dutch carrots work the same.
- For a vegan salad recipe, substitute honey with maple syrup or rice malt syrup.
- You can substitute vegetable stock for water when cooking pearl couscous.
- For a nut free option, switch the almonds for pumpkin or sunflower seeds.
*Disclaimer: Nutritional information provided is an estimate only and generated by an online calculator.
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