Vichy carrots are a restaurant-worthy French-style way to prepare carrots, giving them a wonderfully gently sweet, buttery glaze. Despite how good they taste, they're really easy to prepare and perfect as a side to so many mains.
This post may contain affiliate links, where we earn from qualifying purchases. See more details in the policy page.
It's all too easy for side dishes to be a bit of an afterthought and feel a little like they are just there to bulk out the meal. True, throwing some vegetables in the oven can be a pretty safe bet to make them tasty, especially with a slight addition like maple roasted buttercup squash. But I'm sure we all have memories of overcooked and/or tasteless vegetables at some point or another.
Other times, though, with just a little extra help then the vegetables on the side can be just as special as the main. And that's certainly true of these wonderfully tasty French glazed carrots.
Best of all, they are really not difficult - you simple put a few pantry staples in a pot with the carrots and let them cook and absorb the flavors. The end result is tender, flavorful and addictively good.
What is the history of Vichy carrots?
"Carottes Vichy" or "carottes à la Vichy" in French is a carrot dish named after the town of Vichy in central France. Vichy is a spa town roughly halfway between Paris and Montpellier. It became particularly popular as a destination in the 18th and 19th century due to its spring water that was believed to have healing properties.
Vichy has naturally carbonated mineral water. You'll still find it bottled and sold across the country. Traditionally, this carrot dish is prepared with Vichy water, and was no doubt enjoyed at the many spa hotels in the city.
What kind of carrots are best?
A number of recipes for this dish call for Chantenay carrots which are a short, thick heirloom variety of carrot with a relatively sweet, earthy flavor. However they are not particularly widely available, and other carrots definitely work well too.
Look for fresh, bright carrots that have a good snap/crunch to them. If you manage to try one before, they should be slighty sweet and tender. I'd recommend new, smaller carrots rather than larger ones which can sometimes be a bit woody in the middle.
Preparing the carrots
Quite how you prepare the carrots depends a little on what kind you get. If your carrots are nice and fresh and organic, you can get away with simply scrubbing them, but to give a smoother outside, and if you are unsure, then peel them before slicing. Trim off the ends and any areas that don't look good.
With the small Chantenay carrots, you may simply cut them in half lengthwise. For other, "regular" carrots, you are best to cut them into slices. Traditionally, you cut the carrots on the diagonal - this gives a nice shape to each slice.
Cutting around ¼ inch thick (6mm) or a little thicker up to around ½ inch (1cm) works well so they are not so thin they break, but not so thik they take a long time to cook.
How to make glazed carrots
While you can use Vichy water if you have it, regular water will also work just fine in this dish. The key thing that makes these carrots stand out are the other additions. The simple preparation involves carrots cooked in water with a little butter and sugar. The liquid gradually reduces to form a buttery glaze over the carrots.
Once the liquid has largely evaporated you add a little salt, pepper, lemon juice and chopped fresh parsley. This balances the seasoning and adds a little extra freshness. Then they are ready to be enjoyed.
Can you use the Vichy cooking method with other vegetables?
Indeed you can! This method would also work well with parsnips as well as other firmer root vegetables like butternut squash, beets or rutabaga (swede). For all, you should try to make the pieces roughly large bite-sized and not too thick.
Vegetables like beet can take a bit longer to cook, so you may want to cook them partly covered, part uncovered. This allows them to cook a little longer to ensure they cook through properly. In all cases, simply test them with a knife to ensure they are tender before serving.
Can you prepare these ahead?
One of the great things about this dish is that while arguably a little better fresh, you can also make them ahead of time. If you know you will make them ahead, then I'd suggest you stop cooking slightly before all of the liquid is gone so you have some to reheat them with. But you can also cook them completely or save and reheat leftovers.
Simply allow them to cool and transfer to a sealed container to store in the fridge for a day or two. To re-heat, warm them over a gentle heat on the stovetop (best) or in the microwave. You can add a little extra butter and a splash of water if needed to make sure they don't burn or dry out, and keep their nice glaze.
What to serve with Vichy carrots
This carrots recipe is pretty simple which makes them very versatile in what you serve them with. They are a little rich from the butter and gently sweet, but not overly so. They pair well with things like glazed ham, as well as roast beef, chicken or other meats (try them with my garlic herb roasted chicken or German pork roast).
I could hardly go without mentioning that turkey would pair well, too. So they'd make a great addition to a festive spread for Christmas or Thanksgiving. Maybe add in some Dauphinoise potatoes and stuffings like fennel, prune and pork stuffing and our family favorite rutabaga, date and bacon stuffing.
Vichy carrots are a lovely French-style glazed carrots dish that make a wonderful side to so many mains. They are really easy to prepare but the simple additions give them such a wonderful flavor and texture. Soon they'll be a favorite side whatever the meal!
Try these other tasty simple side dishes:
- Sautéed French green beans
- Maple roasted parsnips
- German red cabbage with apples
- Cauliflower cheese
- Plus get more side dish recipes and French recipes in the archives.
- 1 lb carrots ideally fresh, smaller and sweet
- 2 tablespoon butter
- 2 teaspoon sugar
- ¾ cup water approximately
- 1 pinch salt to taste
- 1 pinch pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoon chopped parsley
- ½ tablespoon lemon juice approximately - a good squeeze, to taste
- Peel the carrots and trim off the ends. Cut the carrots on the diagonal into reasonably thin slices (around ¼in, ½cm thick).
- Melt the butter over a medium heat in a medium skillet/frying pan large enough to hold all the carrots, but without too much extra space. Once the butter has melted, add the sugar, stir to dissolve, then add the carrots.
- Toss the carrots gently in the butter to coat then add the water. You want to add enough to just about cover the carrot slices, but it's fine to have the tops sticking out a little.
- Bring the liquid to a boil and reduce the heat so that it simmers. Continue to cook for around 20 minutes until the liquid evaporates and the carrots are tender to a knifepoint. If they are not as fresh or slices are thicker, you may want to cook some of the time at the start with a lid on to help them steam and cook more, but I don't generally find I need to. Stir the carrots a couple of times as they cook to turn the slices and ensure those at the top swap to the bottom so all spend part of the time in the liquid.
- Once the liquid has evaporated, apart from a slight buttery glaze, and the carrots are tender, add a little salt and pepper, to taste, the parsley and lemon juice. Stir to coat evenly then serve.