This is no ordinary carrot pasta sauce. Carrots and other root vegetables are caramelized to perfection and then combined with tangy mustard, zesty lemon juice, and creamy sour cream. The natural sweetness of the veggies and the savory herbs make this carrot sauce both filling and flavorful, a perfect addition to your dinner table.
We do like our pasta, may they be quick & easy or rich & filling. Have you seen this delicious creamy hidden vegetable pasta sauce with 7 veggies? How about this asparagus lemon pepper pasta or this 15-min marinara sauce? If you like more vegan pasta recipes, we have lots of tasty ones for you to browse through.
What to expect?
It is not a simple spaghetti sauce with carrots, nor is it a creamed carrot puree. It is probably nothing like you have ever tried. But everyone who has ever tasted this carrot sauce loved it. So we are pretty sure you will love it too.
This carrot pasta sauce is actually a family recipe that is very typical for Hungarian cuisine. It is called “Hunter’s Stew” or in Hungarian “Vadas Sauce”. The sauce is usually served with dumplings and roasted game or beef (here is a pretty accurate video on how to make it like that). But there are other untapped ways to eat this delicious sauce meat-free.
It is special because you have to caramelize on high heat not only the onions, but carrots, celeriac, and parsnip as well. Adding a mix of mustard, lemon juice, sour cream, and bay leaves will result in a rich, filling sauce that is just a bit sweet and savory at the same time.
To make delicious pasta with this sweet and tangy carrot sauce, you’ll need only a handful of ingredients.
- Carrots → Choose young carrots since they are sweeter actually than baby carrots. Since baby carrots are rounded pieces of broken-off carrots.
- Cane sugar → You need this to caramelize the root veggies.
- Vegetable broth
- Bay leaves → These are essential. Bon Appetite did a pretty good job at describing what they do: “Bay leaves have a minty flavor (somewhere between spearmint and menthol) with subtle hints of black pepper and Christmas tree pine. They add a subtle bitterness that keeps heavy soups and stews from being so, well, heavy.”
- Lemon juice
- Sour cream – You need to compensate for the sweetness of the caramelized root veggies. Heavy cream, milk, or other alternatives will just power up the sweetness. Mustard, lemon juice, and sour cream on the other hand fit perfectly. They add a bit of tangy, sour, savory flavor that makes this sauce all refreshing instead of syrupy sweet.
🛒 You can find detailed measurements for all ingredients in the printable version of the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
Preparing the ingredients
- Peel and chop the onion.
- Wash, peel, and chop carrots, celeriac, and parsnip.
- Squeeze the half lemon.
- Measure all other ingredients.
- Boil water. Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain when it is ready.
Making carrot pasta sauce
- Preheat a large pot over medium heat. Add vegetable oil and cane sugar. Let it melt until it is a light brown caramel.
- Add chopped onion and cook it for approx. 1-2 minutes.
- Add chopped carrots, celeriac, and parsnip. Stir and caramelize them for 5-6 minutes.
- Add vegetable broth, lemon juice, bay leaves, salt, and black pepper. Cover it with a lid and simmer until the veggies are soft.
- Add all cooked veggies to a blender with the juices from the pot. Add sour cream and mustard and blend until you get a creamy carrot pasta sauce. Taste it and adjust the seasoning of salt and black pepper if necessary.
- Chop vegetables evenly, and small – Ensure that the root vegetables are uniformly chopped and into small pieces. They require long cooking, thus reducing their size would also reduce the cooking time.
- Vitamix vs Regular Blender – You can use a hand blender, a food processor, or a regular blender to create a creamy carrot sauce. For those who desire a velvety smooth texture without any discernible chunks, we recommend opting for a high-power blender such as a Vitamix.
Carrots are a must, but you can substitute parsnip with maybe turnips in equal amounts. Choose young small/medium carrots as they are sweeter than large, thick ones. The sweetest ones in my opinion are those where you can see the fresh, soft, young carrot greens, which by the way are also edible.
Consider experimenting with a variety of pasta shapes. While longer pasta such as spaghetti, fettuccine, tagliatelle, and linguine provides an excellent foundation for the sauce.
Rice noodles can be a great gluten-free alternative that is both tasty and light. The sauce itself is free of gluten, allowing you to select any of your preferred gluten-free pasta options. For a distinctive twist, quinoa spaghetti, edamame spaghetti, or chia flour pasta may be used to enhance the dish’s texture and flavor.
While you can enjoy this carrot pasta sauce on its own, we definitely have some ideas you can try. 🙂 We served it with mushroom meatballs, but this sweet and tangy sauce pairs with many things.
- Spaghetti and meatballs like eggplant meatballs, chickpea meatballs, TVP meatballs, tofu meatballs, or IKEA veggie balls.
- Add pan-fried oyster mushrooms, sauteed button mushrooms, or vegan shredded chicken on top of your pasta.
- Drizzle it on top of cauliflower steak or tofu steak.
- Pour over sweet potato gnocchi.
- Pour over oven-roasted asparagus, broccoli, roasted cauliflower, or potato wedges.
- Instead of gravy, try this sauce over your mashed potatoes.
In the fridge: To store this carrot sauce, wait until it is completely cold. Transfer it to an airtight container and refrigerate it for up to four days. Don’t store the pasta and the sauce together. If you leave the pasta in the sauce, it will be mushy and soggy, as it will absorb more of the sauce as the days go by.
Reheat: When you’re ready to use it, simply reheat the sauce in a saucepan over low heat and mix it with freshly cooked pasta.
In the freezer: You can freeze the carrot sauce and the pasta separately. To thaw, simply leave it in the refrigerator overnight and reheat it as usual.
Yes, you can. Instead of classic tomato-based pasta sauces, give other vegetables a try. You can make delicious sauces using carrots, spinach, cauliflower, pumpkin, and practically any type of ingredient you like.
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Caramelized Carrot Pasta Sauce
- Peel and chop the onion. Wash, peel, and chop celeriac, parsnip, and carrots. Juice half a lemon.
- Preheat a stockpot or a Dutch oven over medium heat and add oil.
- Add cane sugar and wait until it melts into a light brown caramel.
- Add the chopped onion and caramelize it for 1-2 minutes.
- Now, add all chopped root veggies (carrots, celeriac, and parsnip). Stir and caramelize for 5-6 minutes.
- Add veggie broth, lemon juice, bay leaves, salt, and black pepper. Cover it with a lid and cook veggies until soft.
- Add all cooked veggies to a blender with the juices, add sour cream and mustard, and blend until you get a creamy carrot pasta sauce. Adjust seasoning of salt and pepper if necessary.
- Chop vegetables evenly and small – All root veggies are hard, so they need a long time to get tender. The smaller you cut the veggies, the shorter will be the cooking time.
- Vitamix vs Regular Blender – You can certainly use a hand blender (aka immersion blender), a food processor, or a regular blender. They all make a creamy sauce. However, if you want this sauce to be extra smooth without a single little piece to find, we recommend using a high-power blender like Vitamix*.
UPDATED: This recipe was originally posted in January 2021. It has been updated with more tips, info, and what to serve with ideas and republished in March 2023.