Do You Have to Peel Carrots Before Cooking or Eating Them?

If you have a bag of vitamin-rich carrots in your produce drawer (or will have at some point), you may ask yourself, “Do I really have to peel carrots before I eat them?” We asked experts for their input.

It is well-known that we could all stand to eat more veggies. There are enough hurdles to getting the minimum veggie recommendation into our meal plan, so produce prep should not be another one. When it comes to carrots, there are plenty of pre-peeled options in the produce department. You can skip all the prep work and just open a bag and eat. But if you have a bag of whole, unpeeled carrots stashed in your produce drawer and are wondering if you really must get out the carrot peeler before you can enjoy a healthy snack or add the veggie to a recipe, we provide clarification from experts on if you need to peel carrots.

peeled carrots with peeler on wooden background
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Do You Need to Peel Carrots?

"There is no need to peel carrots before eating—many people enjoy eating them with the skin on," says Alan Hilowitz, Communications Director at Bolthouse Farms. "However, since carrots are grown in the ground, washing/scrubbing is important if you do choose not to peel," he adds.

Of course, you should always wash your produce to reduce your risk of illness and pesticides, so hopefully, that's nothing new.

Why Peel Carrots?

If we can just skip the carrot peeler ($11, Target), why should you ever peel carrots? There are some good culinary reasons to peel. "The peel does have a slightly different texture from the rest of the carrot, so it may stand out in a recipe, depending on the application," Hilowitz says. "Some varieties have skin that may be tougher, grittier, or more bitter than the rest of the carrot," he adds.

"Steaming or certain raw applications may be better peeled," says Hilowitz. "If you are going for a uniform visual look and texture, we suggest peeling."

Lynn Blanchard, the Better Homes & Gardens Test Kitchen director, agrees that scrubbing is sufficient, but there are cases when peeled carrots are best. If you want a smooth puree for a soup or for baby food, then peeling would be the way to go, Blanchard says.

When to Skip Peeling Carrots

"Juicing and roasting carrots are good times to avoid peeling," says Hilowitz. "If you are making a rustic dish, then leaving the peel on could potentially enhance the look and experience of the dish. If you are using the carrots for a stock, broth, or sauce that will require straining in the end, this is another instance in which it may be better to leave the peel on."

Blanchard sometimes determines whether she'll leave the peel on based on the carrot's exterior. "If [the carrot] is smooth and can easily be scrubbed, then I don't bother to peel, if using in a soup or stir fry," she says. Blanchard points out another benefit of not peeling carrots: less food waste.

Whether you leave carrots unpeeled or choose to peel them is mostly a matter of preference. If you do choose to peel your carrots, don't put carrot peels in the garbage disposal. They can cause clogs. Peel into a trash can or add to your compost.

Whatever your choice, you'll enjoy the health benefits of carrots. "Both peeled and unpeeled carrots have many benefits; carrots are not only an excellent source of vitamin A—important for vision, immune system, and reproduction—they're also high in fiber, calcium, and vitamin K, supporting everything from digestion to bone health," says Hilowitz.

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