Turn Carrot Tops into Tempura

By Sandy Hu
The latest from Inside Special Fork

In this season of plenty, it’s easy to overbuy fruits and vegetables, and to think nothing of wasting perfectly good, edible parts that are peripheral to the produce. Like carrot tops.

With the growing movement to avoid food waste, these leafy greens are now being regarded with new interest—to make into pesto, add to salads and to simmer in stocks.

We buy beautiful organic baby carrots at the farmers’ market and I admit, I’ve been dropping the green tops into the compost bin. It always seems like such a waste because surely, as a dark green, leafy appendage to the carrot root, they should be highly nutritious.

There has been some question as to whether or not carrot greens are okay to eat. Food scientist Harold McGee says there is no evidence carrot tops are unsafe. You might want to do your own research before trying this recipe. Regardless, I’d only eat the tops of organic carrots; because farmers expect the tops to be discarded, they may be more liberal with pesticides.

The bigger challenge is how to make carrots tops taste good. The leaves may look delicate, but they’re tough and have a strong, slightly bitter flavor.

Recently, I remembered that my mom used to make tempura with the leafy carrot tops and it was delicious—lacy and light, crisp in texture and mild in flavor. So I made some up as a snack to test, and even my toddler grandchild enjoyed this treat.

Carrot Top Tempura
Leafy tops from 1 or 2 bunches organic carrots
1 egg
2/3 cup ice water
1 cup cake flour
Vegetable oil for deep frying

Wash carrot tops well and break off leaves to form smaller branches about 4 inches long. Pat with paper towels to dry well; set aside.

To make tempura batter: In a medium bowl beat egg lightly with a fork. Add the water and flour and continue to mix with fork until blended. A few small lumps may remain.

In a heavy-bottomed skillet add oil to a depth of about 2 inches and heat over medium heat to 355°F on a candy thermometer or until a drip of batter added to the oil immediately sizzles and rises to the surface. Using tongs, chopsticks or your fingers, hold carrot top by the stem end and dip in the tempura batter to coat. Lower the carrot top into the oil, very gently swishing it in the oil so the leaf spreads out and doesn’t clump up. Be careful because oil will be hot and may spatter.

Continue to add batter-dipped carrot tops into the oil, but do not crowd the pan. When the batter turns golden, remove carrot tops from oil using chopsticks or tongs and drain on rack. Continue until all greens are used. Occasionally, use a strainer to strain out bits of batter that have broken away, to keep the oil clean.

To make the dipping sauce: Combine mayonnaise with sriracha, to taste. Serve with tempura.


  • The yield will depend on how many carrot tops you have; if you have remaining batter, use it to dip sliced eggplant, green pepper or carrots to make vegetable tempura.
  • For an alternate aioli dipping sauce, instead of sriracha, mix mayonnaise with some finely minced garlic and a squeeze of lemon juice.
  • For a traditional Japanese tempura dipping sauce, you can buy bottled tempura sauce mix from an Asian grocery; dilute following package directions.

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Posted: Jul 5th by Sandy_Hu