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What Are Rainbow Carrots?

By Ms. Mary Michaela Parker, MSU Extension Service

Did you know that the classic orange carrot we all know and love is actually not the original color of carrots? (Photo from Canva)

Have you ever seen purple, yellow, red, or white carrots? The first time I saw a bag of ‘rainbow’ carrots in my grocery store, I had to do a double take. Carrots are only supposed to be orange, or at least, that’s what I thought.


Carrots are one of the most popular vegetables to eat. They’re sweet, crunchy, and an excellent source of vitamin A. Did you know that the classic orange carrot we all know and love is actually not the original color of carrots?


Carrots are descendants of wild carrots, or Queen Anne’s lace. It is believed that carrots originated in Asia around AD 900 and were actually yellow and purple in color! Orange carrots didn’t come along until around the 1400s - 1500s.


As we’ve learned, carrots can come in many colors, but do all carrots have the same nutrient value?

  • Purple carrots are high in anthocyanins, which are rich in antioxidants.

  • Yellow carrots contain xanthophylls, which is linked to having good vision.

  • Red carrots are a good source of lycopene, which can help fight against heart disease and some cancers.

  • White carrots lack color, but not nutrients, as they are a rich source of fiber.

  • Orange carrots are rich in beta- and alpha-carotene, which are great for reducing your risk of eye diseases.

The taste of each color differs by variety, but there isn’t a drastic flavor contrast between them. Some varieties have a sweet and spicy taste to them, while others are sweeter than orange carrots.


Learn more about different color carrots from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Illinois Extension.

The best way to test them out is to try them for yourself! Check out this Food Factor recipe for balsamic roasted carrots!

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