Biting into a soapy-tasting raw carrot is just the WORST. When I was a kid, our carrots were soapy by default; I thought that’s how carrots actually tasted, instead of the slightly sweet crunch they ideally offer. It took me years to overcome my aversion and enjoy munching on raw carrots.
Why did those horrible carrot sticks of my childhood make me want to gag, and why on earth did they taste soapy in the first place? It’s chemistry! And it’s preventable. Here’s why some carrots taste soapy, and how to store them so they will reliably taste like carrots when you eat them.
The Reason Raw Carrots Taste Soapy
Most raw carrots don’t start out tasting soapy. Why would they be such a popular vegetable if that were the case? Nope, carrots become soapy-tasting because of a chemical reaction right in your fridge.
Carrots get their signature flavor from compounds called terpenoids. Some terpenoids can have a bitter flavor, and carrots we perceive to have a pleasant flavor have a good balance between sweet terpenoids and slightly bitter ones. So far, so good.
Where it most often goes wrong is in storage. Fresh produce gives off harmless ethylene gas, some (like apples and bananas) more so than others. Ethylene triggers carrots to produce more terpenoids and, once they hit a critical mass, leads them to have that gag-inducing soapy taste that’s particularly noticeable when you eat them raw.
If your carrots have been poorly sealed or were kept in a crisper drawer with lots of other ethylene-producing fruits and veggies, the soapy taste will assert itself. (I guess my family stored our carrots all kinds of wrong when I was growing up.)
Terpenoids are highest when carrots are young, so carrots harvested too early can be bitter. But baby carrots are actually made from mature carrots, so if you have a soapy baby carrot, storage is most likely the culprit.
How to Keep Carrots From Tasting Soapy
If you have baby carrots, once you’re home from the store, transfer them from the bag they came in and drain off the water. Then pop them into an airtight container or zip-top bag. Keeping them sealed will help the ethylene gas knocking around your fridge from getting to them as easily, plus it helps keep the carrots from drying out.
Same deal for larger, regular unpeeled carrots: keep them in an airtight bag. If the bag the carrots came in is loose or punctured, consider moving the carrots to a new, sturdier bag. And if your carrots have the greens still attached, remove them and store them separately as if they were herbs (might as well make a batch of carrot top pesto while you’re at it). Stash the carrots in the fridge away from apples, pears, and other ripening fruits that will give off the soapy-triggering ethylene gas.
Kept this way, carrots can last for months without getting soapy.
Are Soapy-Tasting Carrots Safe to Eat?
Yep! They just taste gross. But not all is lost. The soapy taste mellows once those carrots are cooked, so consider putting glazed carrots on the menu tonight.