Holiday meals call for great side dishes. Let's be honest, sometimes those are more fun the main course on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Honey roasted carrots and parsnips are a quick and easy additional to any holiday meal or weeknight dinner. A sprinkle of dukkah - a middle eastern spice blend and condiment - adds a unique and luxurious touch that truly makes this an impressive dish.
Many holiday side dishes we know and love are rich and heavy, like cheesy green bean casserole or brussel sprouts with bacon. And don't get me wrong, they are amazing and I would never skip having them at any holiday meal, but they are not always the healthiest or the easiest to make.
Roasting vegetables makes for a healthy and lighter side dish. They are quick and easy to put together, so you can focus on the other, more labor intensive dishes at your holiday meal. That's why these honey roasted carrots and parsnips are a welcome addition to your holiday or weeknight dinner.
While these are great simply roasted with honey, olive oil, salt and pepper, the addition of dukkah really puts these carrots and parsnips over the top. Don't know what dukkah is? Keep reading...you'll be wanting to have it on hand all the time.
What is dukkah?
Dukkah is this absolutely amazing middle eastern condiment. Admittedly, I am not the most well educated or broad in ethnic foods. I did not even know about dukkah until maybe three years ago. Trader Joe's sells it and it sounded amazing, so I grabbed it, and decided to read up on it late. I was never so glad to have bought something without knowing about it in my life.
So dukkah is aspice, herb and nut mixture that is most commonly used in middle eastern cuisine as a dip with olive oil for bread. How the hell I did not know about this is almost embarrassing, but hey, we all keep learning.
We eat this as a dip all the time, and I even sprinkle sometimes on hummus. And while I love the Trader Joe's dukkah, and use it often, especially in quick recipes like this. But homemade dukkah is even more incredible, and not hard at all to make, and you should definitely try it out.
One of the best things about roasting vegetables is that they really require minimal ingredients to turn out really delicious. For these honey roasted carrots and parsnips you will need:
- Olive oil
- Aleppo pepper. This is something I have used as a secret ingredient for years in dishes. It is absolutely delicious, and can replace cayenne, red pepper flakes or used in addition to regular black pepper. It is inexpensive, and while not optional in this recipe (you can use black pepper), I really think you should add this to your spice collection. You will find you use it all the time.
- Lemon juice. So my biggest tip ever in cooking (not baking) is acid in food. Just the tiniest bit creates balance in this dish, and will elevate it to something so much better. So many times I feel like acid in cooking is overlooked, and if I ever teach you one thing about cooking, it is that a little squeeze of lemon, lime or splash of vinegar will make you a near restaurant-quality cooking rockstar.
- Dukkah. This is also optional, but I highly recommend. It goes on after roasting as a finishing touch to the side dish.
Roasting vegetables really couldn't be more quick and easy. For this honey roasted carrots and parsnips recipe, I like a little bite to these, no mushy vegetables here, so I don't boil these ahead of time.
To peel or not to peel? Here are my thoughts on that:
- Small, thin young carrots and parsnips do not need to be peeled. They will cook in the appropriate time to be crisp-tender just like we want them for this recipe Just wash them and dry them.
- Oversized, thick carrots and parsnip get peeled. Huge, thick ones will need to be peeled to a more manageable size for roasting. What you don't want is a huge thick top tapered down to a ridiculous thin end. So if what you find are carrots and parsnips that are thick to super thin bottoms, peel down the tops to be reasonably thinner to match the bottom. This will promote better roasting, and ensure the top isn't too crunchy and undercooked, while also not burning the thin bottom.
My best reco on peeling or not it to try to find carrots and parsnips that are on the thinner, younger side. If you can't or can only find thin carrots but thick parsnips, then just peel accordingly. Make them all the same size as best you can.
Put your carrots and parsnips on parchment on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and honey, and then toss around a bit. Sprinkle with salt and Aleppo pepper and throw right in the super hot oven. The vegetable will get a lovely caramelization on the outside thanks to the honey, and slightly soften. Roasting them also gives a nice concentrated flavor.
When you take them out of the oven, give them a quick squeeze of lemon juice. Plate them, being sure to get all the good olive oil and honey scraped onto the plate and sprinkle with the dukkah if using.
Ingredient swaps and variations
Cooking is supposed to be fun, and also always adaptable. Here's a few ideas to enhance or switch up my honey roasted carrots and parsnips:
- Use only carrots or only parsnips. ANd this also means use any color carrot as well, they come in all kinds of fun colors.
- Maple syrup in place of honey is totally fine, and equally delicious.
- Make it a little spicy. The Aleppo pepper I recommend is mild in spice, but if your holiday meal is in need of a side dish that is a little spicy, sprinkle some red pepper flakes on before roasting.
- If you don't have a lemon, use a splash of red wine, sherry, apple cider or white wine vinegar. The point is to get a little acid in the finished dish, and any of these work fine.
- Add some pomegranates. They are delicious and slightly acidic and add an amazing ruby color to an already colorful and flavorful dish.
- Don't have dukkah and want to make these for your weeknight dinner, and still add something extra? Chop some pistachios, walnuts or almonds and sprinkle on top of the finished honey roasted carrots. They give a warm toasty flavor and a good texture.
My top tip for making these honey roasted carrots and parsnips is to really make sure to add your lemon juice or vinegar splash to the finished dish. I really can't stress enough how much a little acid can elevate something so simple.
- baking sheet for roasting
- 1 lb carrots
- 1 lb parsnips
- 4 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 tablespoon honey
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon aleppo pepper
- 3 tablespoon dukkah
- Preheat the oven to 425 and line a baking sheet with parchment or foil.
- If you are using thin, young carrots and parsnips that are all relatively the same size or thickness, then simply rinse off and place on the parchment. If the carrots and parsnips vary in size and thickness, peel the thicker ones until they are all similar in size, in order to promote even cooking.
- Once the carrots are ready and placed on the parchment paper, drizzle first with the olive oil and toss slightly to coat. Then drizzle the honey, add the salt and aleppo pepper and toss a bit more to coat them.
- Bake in the oven for about 15-20 minutes. Roasting time will depend on the thickness of the carrots and parsnips and exactly how soft you want them. At 15 minutes, check them for firmness and caramelization. If they are hard and not caramelized, continue roasting, checking every 5-8 minutes. Honey can caramelize quickly and go from lovely to burned in no time. So be sure to check on them.
- When finished, move to a serving plate and besure to scrape any caramelized bits and olive oil onto the serving plate. Sprinkle the dukkah over the vegetables and serve warm.