These stove top brown sugar glazed carrots are tender, buttery, perfectly sweet, and flavored with orange and a hint of fresh thyme. An essential part of any holiday table, they're quick and easy to make, and won't take up valuable oven space.
Were glazed carrots a part of your holiday table growing up? I think they were usually on mine, but I don't recall jumping for joy at the sight of them. To be honest I kind remember them as mushy and overly sweet.
But I was thinking about classic holiday side dishes recently, and it occurred to me that glazed carrots could easily be rescued from that fate, and really have a lot of potential.
Why This Recipe Works
- Instead of keeping these carrots one-note sweet, I built in some layers of flavor by adding a little orange juice and fresh thyme.
- Then I cooked them just long enough to make them tender without letting them get too soft.
- I was tempted to try roasting them, since that's usually a good way to coax maximum flavor out of vegetables. But ultimately, I stuck with the traditional stovetop method because we all know oven space is at a premium when cooking a holiday feast. By the way, for another delicious stovetop carrot recipe, try these buttery sautéed carrots!)
They have so much buttery flavor as it is that I think the additional caramelization from roasting was really unnecessary anyway.
In the end I was so happy with how they turned out that a good third of them never made it to the table, as I kept forking them into my mouth in the name of "testing for doneness".
So. Since holiday meals tend to be quite a process, you might be wondering:
Can I make Glazed Carrots ahead of time?
And the answer is "absolutely!". Just follow the recipe to the end, keeping the carrots a wee bit on the crispy side, let them cool, and transfer them to an airtight container. Store in the fridge for up to 3 days.
When ready to eat, just heat them back up in a covered saucepan over medium heat, about 5-10 minutes. Stir frequently so they reheat evenly and don't burn.
What kind of carrots should I use?
Any kind, really.
I kept it simple and used a 1 lb bag of baby-cut carrots here. You could also use regular carrots and peel and slice them on the bias into 1-inch pieces. The important thing is to keep pieces roughly the same size so they cook evenly.
My market sometimes has yellow and purple carrots that make a lovely presentation. Use what you like!
By the way, did you know? The peeled baby-cut carrots you buy in a bag, often just called "baby" carrots, are not really tiny little carrots! They are actually just regular carrots that have been whittled down to this size and shape.
How do you make brown sugar glazed carrots?
Here's the step-by-step!
- Get your ingredients ready:
- 1 lb of carrots (either baby-cut carrots, or large carrots, peeled and cut on the bias into 1-inch pieces).
- vegetable or chicken broth
- brown sugar
- unsalted butter
- 2 teaspoons orange juice (add up to 1 teaspoon of orange zest if you would like the orange flavor to be more pronounced)
- fresh thyme
- kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, place the carrots, broth, 1 tablespoon of brown sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cover for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally to cook the carrots evenly, until they are almost tender.
3. Uncover the pot, stir, and continue simmering until the glaze has reduced to about 2-3 tablespoons and thickened a bit, about 5 minutes. Stir in the butter, remaining brown sugar, and thyme, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the carrots are tender.
4. Stir in two teaspoons of orange juice (and up to 1 teaspoon of zest for more orange flavor), and season with additional salt and pepper to taste.
Transfer the carrots to a serving dish, spooning the glaze over them, and serve immediately.
A few more vegetable side dishes you might like
Brown Sugar Glazed Carrots
- 1 lb baby-cut carrots or regular carrots, cut on the bias into 1-inch pieces
- 1/2 cup vegetable broth or chicken broth
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar divided
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed orange juice
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme chopped
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt divided
- freshly ground pepper
- In a medium saucepan, combine the carrots, broth, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
- Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the carrots are almost tender, about 10 to 15 minutes.
- Uncover the pot and continue to cook the carrots, stirring frequently, until the glaze has reduced to 2 or 3 tablespoons, about 5 minutes.
- Add the butter and remaining brown sugar to the pot and cook for an additional 5 minutes or so, stirring frequently, until the carrots are fully tender.
- Stir in the orange juice and more salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.
- You can add up to 1 teaspoon of orange zest along with the orange juice if you'd like to bump up the orange flavor.
- Be sure to stir the carrots frequently to ensure they cook evenly. Those on the bottom will naturally cook more quickly.
- You can substitute maple syrup, honey, or regular white sugar for the brown sugar if you prefer.
- Make ahead: Glazed carrots can be made up to 3 days ahead. Follow the recipe to the end, leaving the carrots just slightly crispy. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. To reheat, place the carrots and any accumulated glaze in a medium saucepan, cover, and reheat over medium heat (about 5 minutes).