This Turkish carrot salad with yoghurt is as simple as it is delicious. Made of sautéed carrots mixed into a garlicky yoghurt, it’s perfect as part of a meze spread or as a side dish to salmon.
— I’ve never eaten carrots this way.
Our guest, visiting from Britain, was visibly delighted.
— In Britain, we always think of carrots as something boring, something we eat because it’s good for you, not because we want to. But this dish is fantastic!
Humble though I am, I couldn’t agree more.
The dish in question wasn’t of my own conception, so I took (and take) no credit. What I had served was a traditional Turkish meze dish of sautéed carrots mixed with yoghurt and garlic.
It sounds simple. And it is.
Yet the flavours are so much more than the sum of its parts.
A carrot salad of many names
I’ve called this Turkish carrot salad, though I’m happy to hear better suggestions. The Turks themselves in fact have a range of names for this dish.
I know it best as havuç tarator. Tarator was originally a simple dish, or sauce, made from ground walnuts and vinegar. The concept spread far and wide and took on different meanings in different places.
In the Levent, tahini sauces are sometimes referred to as tarator. In the Balkans, it’s come to mean a runny mixture of yoghurt and cucumbers, similar to Greek tzatziki or Turkish cacık.
In Turkey, it’s most likely to conjure up an image of a garlicky walnut and yoghurt sauce. Calling this dish “carrot tarator” (havuç being the Turkish word for carrots) therefore make sense.
Others go for a simpler approach, simply referring to it is yoğurtlu havuç (“carrot with yoghurt”).
A google search for havuç salatası returns as many recipes for this dish as it does for various forms of raw carrot salad. So that seems ot be used as well.
How to make this tasty Turkish carrot recipe
Whatever you choose to call it, this classic Turkish dish is simple to make.
What makes all the difference from what you’d normally think of as “salad”, is that you start by sautéeing the carrots in olive oil. For some reason, most Westerners think of the concept of salad as one made with primarily raw ingredients. In my part of the world, salads may be raw or cooked.
This step is crucial, as it helps bring out the natural sweetness of the carrots. This is a perfect match for the slight acidity of yoghurt.
For best results, make sure to use a good quality olive oil when sautéeing the carrots. This will add to both the flavour and texture of the final dish.
A great olive oil will never feel greasy, even if you use a lot of it. I use a mild extra virgin olive oil when making this Turkish carrot salad.
I’ve suggested 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to get the perfect balance between sweet and sour, but I encourage you to use your senses. Yoghurts come differently, from the creamy to the tangy. Even the same packet of yoghurt will change over time, as it becomes slightly more sour the longer it sits in your fridge.
And don’t be skimpy on the salt here. It will probably need a little more than you think!
This Turkish carrot salad with yoghurt is a great meze dish. As such, it’s great served as one of several dishes. You can find a few more Turkish meze recipes in my archive.
Meze is a great way of entertaining. I rarely serve starters when having friends over for dinner. Instead, I serve a selection of meze. Sometimes I don’t even serve a main course. Instead, I start with cold mezes, then follow with hot mezes.
This dish is also great as a side dish. I find it works particularly well with fish. I like it with salmon, for example. In which case a good helping of dill works really well on top!
If making ahead, make sure to keep in the fridge until serving. Otherwise, the olive oil and whey may separate. If that happens, though, no worries, as you can usually just stir it back together.
Make sure to take it out of the fridge in plenty of time, so the salad has time to come to room temperature. The coldness of the fridge will dull the flavours considerably.
The recipe makes enough to serve 6-8 as part of a larger meze spread, or 2-4 as a side dish.
- 3 Tbsp olive oil (I use a mild extra virgin)
- 1 large clove of garlic, finely chopped
- 500 g (1 ⅛ lbs) carrot, peeled and shredded
- 250 g (1 cup) greek yoghurt
- 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
- pul biber (Aleppo pepper) or fresh herbs, to sprinkle over (optional)
- salt and pepper
- Heat a large, thick bottomed frying pan over medium heat. Fry the garlic in the olive oil until just starting to soften but not yet coloured, around 30 seconds. Add the carrot. Fry until the carrot begins to soften, stirring regularly, 12-15 minutes. If necessary, add more olive oil during cooking. Set aside to cool.
- Mix the yoghurt, extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice with a little salt and pepper. Add the cooled carrot mixture and mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Keep cool until serving. Sprinkle a few chili flakes or some finely chopped fresh herbs before serving, if you like.