Do Multi-Colored Carrots Taste Different Than Orange Carrots?

Multi colored carrots on a wooden surface
(Image credit: Tyler_ONeill)

Do different colored carrots taste different? If you've ever been enticed to purchase or plant rainbow carrots because they look so pretty, you may be wondering if these multi-colored veggies are really worth the extra money. Does color really affect the taste?

What Do Rainbow Carrots Taste Like?

When rainbow carrots first hit the market, they were accepted by many as novelty veggies. Retailers charged higher prices for these colorful root vegetables and consumers literally ate them up. What many people didn't realize is that before the 16th century, orange carrots didn't exist. Back then, purple was the most popular color.

Orange carrots were bred using varieties of purple, red, white and yellow carrots. Over the centuries, orange carrots became the color of choice. One reason for this rise in popularity is that purple carrots taste different than orange ones.

In fact, each color of carrots in a rainbow pack should have a slightly different flavor. Next time you purchase or harvest rainbow carrots, see if you can detect these differences.

What Does a Red Carrot Taste Like?

Red carrots are the most similar in flavor to orange carrots. Some varieties can have earthy overtones, while others rival the sweetness of orange carrots. The red pigment comes from lycopene, the same antioxidant found in tomatoes. If you like the flavor of red carrots, try these varieties:

  • Atomic Red – A very bright red, imperator-type carrot. The color intensifies when cooked.
  • Kyoto Red – Noted for its sweet, caramel-like flavor and scarlet color, this Japanese heirloom variety does best when planted in the fall.
  • Malbec – Excellent for roasting, the salmon-colored Malbec is an imperator hybrid variety with exceptional flavor and good disease resistance.
  • Nutri-Red – Although earthy when eaten raw, cooking intensifies the pinkish color and improves the flavor of this imperator-type carrot.

What Do Purple Carrots Taste Like?

Overall, purple carrots have a spicier, somewhat peppery flavor as compared to orange ones. Some varieties are sweet, but purple carrots can also have a woodier texture. They offer different health benefits as the purple pigment is due to high levels of anthocyanin, the same antioxidant found in blueberries.

  • Black Nebula – A very dark and antioxidant rich carrot which retains its color when cooked. Expect a sweet flavor that's reminiscent of berries.
  • Cosmic Purple – The vivid orange interior hidden beneath the bright purple skin makes this nantes-type ideal for slicing. It imparts an earthy, sweet flavor with hints of spiciness
  • Deep Purple – Imperator-type carrot with purple color throughout and an earthy flavor. Excellent for juicing.
  • Purple Haze – A sweet imperator-type carrot with purple skin and an orange interior. To retain the color, serve raw or lightly sautéed.

What Do Yellow Carrots Taste Like?

Yellow carrots tend to be sweeter than orange ones, but with fruitier overtones. When cooked, yellow carrots can have a sugary earthiness much like a sweet potato. Yellow carrots contain lutein, a carotenoid pigment that is associated with eye health benefits.

  • Amarillo – Crunchy, juicy and sweet describe this bright yellow heirloom variety. Amarillo remains sweet when cooked.
  • Gold Nugget – A nantes-type hybrid which produces uniform carrots with excellent flavor.
  • Solar Yellow – Heirloom, danvers-type carrot with buttery yellow roots. Harvest young for fresh consumption or after a frost for more intense flavor when cooked.
  • Yellowbunch – A canary yellow, hybrid, imperator-type carrot with good storage capacity and resistance to alternaria blight.

What Does a White Carrot Taste Like?

White carrots have the mildest and sweetest flavor of all the colors. They are wonderful when eaten raw, but white carrots don't contain color pigments such as beta-carotene or anthocyanin. It's best to hill light colored carrots to prevent the shoulders from turning green.

  • Lunar White – A very popular heirloom variety which has a mild carrot flavor.
  • Snow White – Similar flavor to Lunar White, but this open-pollinated variety takes a bit longer to reach maturity.
  • White Satin – Bred for flavor as well as uniformity, this nantes-imperator hybrid carrot averages 8 to 9 inches (20-23 cm.) long and is adaptable to different growing conditions.
Laura Miller

Laura Miller has been gardening all her life. Holding a degree in Biology, Nutrition, and Agriculture, Laura's area of expertise is vegetables, herbs, and all things edible. She lives in Ohio.