A few years ago, I followed the path of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza through La Mancha. The heart of Spain produces the most amazing (and expensive) spice in the world—saffron,  the hand-harvested yellow-orange stigmas of a crocus flower. While other parts of Spain, as well as Italy, Greece, Pakistan, and India, all produce saffron, in La Mancha they rightly claim the title of the world’s finest.

As we watched, four women worked intently over a table covered with lavender crocuses. The odor was intoxicating. To get one kilo of saffron, they must pick the stigmas from 250,000 blossoms. Inspired by my trip, I created this braised saffron carrots recipe, glazed in butter, sherry vinegar, and saffron. Be sure the saffron is fresh, and don’t use too little—or too much. And don’t add it too soon or it will dominate the carrots.–Jonathan Waxman

A white bowl of braised saffron carrots on a piece of burlap on a wooden table.

Braised Saffron Carrots

4.75 / 4 votes
These braised saffron carrots are tossed in a buttery saffron and sherry vinegar sauce for an easy Spanish-inspired side dish.
David Leite
Servings4 to 6 servings
Calories237 kcal
Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time15 minutes
Total Time35 minutes


  • 2 pounds smallish carrots, preferably a mixture of orange, yellow, and maroon, fresh as can be
  • Sea salt
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil, (depending on how decadent you’re feeling)
  • A good pinch saffron threads
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Freshly ground pepper


  • Trim and peel the carrots if you like. Leave the carrots whole or, if they’re quite thick, halve them lengthwise. Place them in a medium saucepan with 1 1/2 cups water and a little sea salt and bring to a boil. Cover and boil gently over medium heat until the carrots are al dente rather than completely tender through and through, 8 to 12 minutes. Drain the carrots and pat them dry. (You can set them aside at room temperature for a while if need be.)
  • Just before serving, warm the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the carrots and cook gently, turning occasionally, for 3 minutes. Add the saffron and sherry vinegar and cook for 2 minutes, turning the carrots once or twice. Add the butter, cover the skillet, and let stand off the heat for 5 minutes.
  • Season the braised saffron carrots with salt and pepper and serve immediately or at room temperature.
A Great American Cook

Adapted From

A Great American Cook

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Serving: 1 portionCalories: 237 kcalCarbohydrates: 22 gProtein: 2 gFat: 17 gSaturated Fat: 5 gMonounsaturated Fat: 9 gTrans Fat: 1 gCholesterol: 15 mgSodium: 158 mgFiber: 6 gSugar: 11 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2007 Jonathan Waxman. Photo © 2007 John Kernick. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

Wow—what a pleasant surprise! The saffron was such a natural match for the buttery carrots. I halved the recipe and needed to remove the carrots after about 12 minutes or so as they were getting too soft and starting to caramelize (no complaining here — yum).

They were tasty hot off the stove but also cooled down to room temperature. I’ll definitely be making this one again and again.

This carrot dish is unique and quite wonderful. How special can braised carrots be? Well, with the surprise of the sherry vinegar and hint of saffron, these braised carrots turned into something special.

The only caveat I have regarding the recipe, as it is written, is that the carrots are supposed to be braised to al dente, so be sure to check the carrots after even 8 minutes to see how they’re progressing. The dish is much better with carrots cooked al dente, as opposed to completely cooked to softness. The dish needs the slight “crunch” of the carrot to hold up to the sherry vinegar.

Yum! This recipe doesn’t require a lot of effort but delivers some great flavors. I couldn’t stop eating these. Make a big batch!

The carrots are kind of silken (I might use a touch less oil next time, but then again maybe not) and lightly spicy from the saffron.

What a wonderful, easy recipe. The end result was exceptional—sweet, tender and tasty. We served them alongside beans and oxtail, and, oddly enough, they paired amazingly well. This is a beautiful, tasty, and fast side dish for a weeknight.

This recipe is good, tasty, good for you, and extremely easy. The saffron is an unusual ingredient for carrots.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    I love a recipe like this one that takes a simple kitchen staple like carrots, and pairs them with elegant ingredients like saffron and rich sherry vinegar. The results are an unforgettably elegant side dish that worked really nicely when served with a simple Italian pasta of sautéed fennel, anchovies and broccolini.

  2. No one had an issue with the colors of the carrots getting muddled? Multicolored carrots are so attractive and seductive but my experience has been that they really need to be cooked separately and then combined for serving. The purple ones in particular overwhelm the others.

    Even when I’ve roasted them without any liquid, any touching of different colored pieces gets ugly fast. Of course that wouldn’t mean this recipe isn’t worth trying. I’d just approach it differently based on my experience. Or be extremely grateful to learn how to avoid the transfer of colors.

    1. Rainey, like you, I’ve had that happen with multicolored carrots but when roasting. None of our testers had an issue with that here. I suspect it’s because the parboiling perhaps “sets” the color. That’s my guess. Curious to hear how it goes for you.

      1. 4 stars
        We had it tonight with tri tip and mashies. The carrots were very nice and I have learned a useful technique!

        My purple carrots lost a good bit of their intensity and the water was quite purple when I was done but the orange and yellow carrots had not picked up any of the purple. When I sautéed them together, much to my relief, they each kept their own color.

        I’ve always loved the interesting interplay of the colors but I had given up on them as just too much trouble. Now we’ll be able to enjoy them more frequently so BIG thanks for this recipe!

        1. You’re so very welcome, Rainey. Magnificent to hear that the trick worked! Thanks so much for taking the time to let us know…!

  3. 5 stars
    I need to try this recipe immediately. What a great use for saffron. I can never find the multi-colored carrots here though. I have no idea why. I’ll have to search some new stores.

    1. Hey Kim, the multicolored carrots make a beautiful presentation but orange should be wonderful as well.