This classic French carrot salad is simplicity at its best – a fresh, two-ingredient salad tossed with the perfect lemon Dijon dressing for the most versatile side dish you’ll make all spring and summer long.
what is a French carrot salad?
French carrot salad, or carottes râpées (grated carrots,) is a salad you’ll see all over France, in every little café or bistro. It’s sold prepackaged in markets, and featured prominently in shop windows ~ this salad is popular! It’s served alongside just about everything, and is so chic, so elegant, and so easy to make. It may have come to France via Morocco, where they make a classic carrot salad with lemon and cumin, similar to this one.
If you’re trying to eat healthier these days, you’d be smart to consider adding this salad to your rotation. You can serve as a side with dinner, alongside (or on!) sandwiches and burgers, or really with just about anything else you’ve got going on your plate. You’ll be getting lots of beta carotene, fiber, important vitamins (A and K) and antioxidants. They key here is that it’s so easy to make, and so delicious ~ this is health food you want to eat. It’s a win, win, win.
exactly 2 ingredients go into a French carrot salad
Notice there are exactly 2 ingredients in this salad. The carrots are crunchy, sweet, and earthy. The parsley is clean and fresh. The combination is surprisingly satisfying, and a good example of the French habit of restraint when it comes to food. Note that this is a completely different animal from the American ‘old fashioned carrot salad‘ which contains, among other things, mayo, pineapple, and raisins.
- carrots, peeled and freshly grated ~ could you use bagged shredded carrots? Sure, but then that wouldn’t be in the French spirit, would it? Fresh carrots are brighter, moister, and much healthier than bagged.
- fresh parsley ~ in about a 1 to 4 ratio. It’s rare that you actually get to taste the lovely flavor of parsley in a recipe!
the best way to grate carrots for salad so they stay crunchy
It’s a matter of debate, but I prefer to use my food processor with the grating attachment. I like this method because the shreds are just a little bit thicker and sturdier than doing it with a box grater. This helps the carrots stay a little bit crunchier and not flop so much after you add the dressing.
ingredients for a lemon Dijon salad dressing
The ingredients are standard, but making any dressing should a very personal affair. You should always taste at least 3 times while you add and whisk your ingredients. Adjust until it’s just right for you. Once it is, memorize! You’re going to want to make this lemon Dijon vinaigrette often.
- olive oil
- lemon juice
- Dijon mustard
tips for making carrot salad
The short answer is: not long! Once you’ve made and dressed this salad it’s best eaten asap. The dressing will draw moisture from the carrots and they will lose their crunch. If you want to make this ahead, wait until serving to dress it.
Yes, you can shred them and then add to a zip lock baggie or other airtight container and refrigerate for up to a day.
You might try cinnamon, chili, paprika, coriander, or curry powder. Just a little goes a long way, you don’t want to overpower the carrots.
Carrots can go soggy if you grate them too finely, add too much dressing, or leave them sitting around too long. Avoid all and enjoy your salad the same day it is made for best quality.
You can try chives, cilantro, dill or tarragon. A little mint might be nice, as well. You will want to use less of these herbs because they are considerably stronger in flavor than parsley.
Lots of ideas here: raisins, currants, nuts like walnuts or almonds, radishes, oranges, feta cheese, spring onion, grated beets, shredded cabbage, red onion…
more spring-y sides
- Carrot Souffle
- French Potato and Onion Gratin
- Simple Asparagus Puff Pastry Tart
- New Potato Salad with Eggs and Mustard
- Chopped Asparagus Salad
- Spring Salad with Edible Flowers
French Carrot Salad
- 1 lb carrots, peeled and shredded
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley, lightly packed
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 tsp honey
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1/4 tsp ground cumin
- 1 pinch salt, more/less, to taste
- Add the shredded carrots and parsley to a mixing bowl and toss together.
- Whisk together all the dressing ingredients, and taste to adjust if needed.
- Add the dressing to the carrots and toss everything together gently to combine. Garnish with more fresh parsley if desired. Serve asap.
- This salad is best served as soon as possible after making. If you’d like to prep ahead, you can grate the carrots and keep them in a plastic zip-loc bag in the fridge for up to a day until ready to dress and serve.