French Carrot Salad
This French carrot salad recipe is simple, fresh, and delicious! Grated carrots, fresh parsley, and an easy honey Dijon dressing make the magic.
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Who knew that raw carrots could make up the bulk of a salad, and actually be exciting? The French, of course — they’ve known this for years.
A grated carrot salad is a French classic, and with good reason. It’s light, healthy, and delicious. It’s versatile and keeps well. And once you’ve grated the carrots, it takes all of 3 minutes to prepare.
The flavors are a delicate balance of sweet raw carrots, peppery parsley, tangy lemon juice, olive oil, Dijon mustard, and herbs. It’s all about simplicity. The ingredient list may seem basic, even homely, but the whole is far more than the sum of its parts.
You just feel good about yourself eating this salad — especially in the true French way: at the beginning of a meal.
The French family dinner
I first discovered the beauty of the carrot salad when we lived in Belgium, and I went on a mission to stop my then-one-year-old’s slide into extremely picky eating.
One concept I learned about and found intriguing is the traditional French family dinner, which, among other things, involves eating in courses, even for everyday meals, and always — always — starting with a salad or veggie.
I know the idea of multiple courses on the regular might seem crazy to the average American, but desperate times call for desperate measures. I tried it on for size, and started with the most classic of French maneuvers — the grated carrot salad.
Did it work? Well, that night, the one-year-old in question at least ate a bite, which I considered a victory.
Fast forward four years, and while I rarely serve anything in courses, we still eat this salad regularly, and the same little boy now eats carrots willingly — along with a satisfactory variety of other foods — so I consider it a success overall. 🙂
Ingredients in a French carrot salad
- Carrots: obviously! Carrots last a long time in the fridge, which is another reason this salad is a great back-pocket recipe. It’s saved me many nights when the fridge is otherwise a little bare.
- Parsley: I prefer the Italian flat-leaf variety, but curly works well here, too.
- For the dressing: Dijon mustard, lemon juice or red wine vinegar, olive oil, honey, kosher salt, and black pepper.
Preparation tips and tricks
- Carrot grating 101. Clearly, the carrots are the main event here, so you want to get them right. A traditional French version has very short, thin slivers of carrot that are primed to absorb the light dressing. This effect can be tedious to replicate at home without special equipment, so I usually just run the carrots through my food processor with the grating attachment or run them against the large holes of an everyday box grater. I’ve even been known to make this with pre-shredded grocery store carrots in a pinch. We all enjoy the salad regardless, so use what you’ve got!
- Herb swap. Flat-leaf parsley is my go-to with a grated carrot salad, but you can certainly experiment with swapping or adding extra herbs such as chives or tarragon.
- Work ahead. If you don’t plan to serve the salad right away, one option is to whisk the dressing together at the bottom of a serving bowl, then gently lay the shredded carrots and parsley on top. When you go to toss everything together, voila — nothing soggy! Of course you can also just keep the dressing separate, but this bottom-of-the-bowl method eliminates a separate jar and is sort of fun.
Though not necessary at all, thinly-sliced radishes and/or shaved fennel are nice additions if you want another vegetable.
For a sweet addition, toss in a handful of golden raisins (we never do; these invite disagreement).
For a bit more crunch and texture, add a tablespoon of toasted pistachios or cumin, fennel, or poppy seeds.
How to serve it
French carrot salad makes a lovely side dish with dry rub grilled chicken, steak, or nearly any protein. It’s also a welcome fresh offering at picnics, potlucks, and barbecues, and packs nicely alongside sandwiches and other lunches, even those on-the-go.
p.s. If you’re interested in learning more about the logistics of implementing a French-style family dinner, I found this blog post super interesting and helpful.
More easy side salad recipes
- Roasted Corn and Tomato Salad
- White Bean Tomato Cucumber Salad
- 5-Minute Arugula Parmesan Pine Nut Salad
- Spinach Salad with Balsamic and Sea Salt
If you try this French Carrot Salad, don’t forget to rate the recipe and leave a comment below. I love hearing how recipes turn out in your kitchen, and it helps other readers, too.
French Carrot Salad
- 1 lb. carrots peeled
- large handful fresh parsley coarsely chopped
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoons honey
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 10-12 cranks freshly ground black pepper
- Grate the carrots using either a food processor or a standard box grater. Combine in a large bowl with the chopped parsley.
- In a small jar or liquid measuring cup, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, Dijon, honey, salt, and pepper. Shake or whisk well to blend. Pour over the carrots and parsley and toss well to blend. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
This post was originally published February 28, 2017, and has been updated to include new photos and additional tips, tricks, and variation ideas for the recipe.