Fact: Bringing an elaborate charcuterie board with an assortment of all the best kinds of creamy cheeses, cured meats, and dips is a surefire way to win over just about every person at every party, ever. No matter how many cheese boards we’ve grazed on, we still always seem to gravitate towards them the moment we show up to a social gathering (it’s eerily magnetic, no?).
But the fun doesn’t have to stop with brie and salami. Instead of limiting yourself to charcuterie boards piled with pre-dinner nibbles, try making a breakfast bagel bar featuring this delicious vegan carrot lox recipe by Love & Lemons that’ll add a pop of color to your next brunch party. Featuring roasted, marinated, and vitamin-rich carrots, this easy “lox” recipe is the trifecta of bagel-topping perfection: It’s dill-y, smokey, and savory. Pair it with a generous schmear of dairy-free cream cheese, thinly-sliced red onions, and a few briny capers, and you’ve got yourself one impressive plant-based breakfast bagel bar.
Why we love this vegan carrot lox recipe so much
A classic salmon lox recipe is typically made with cured or smoked salmon and regular cream cheese, with garnishes like sliced red onions, capers, tomato, and cucumber. Although salmon offers a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, among other health benefits, it certainly might not suit everyone’s dietary preferences, particularly those who follow a plant-based diet. That’s where this genius interpretation of this classic dish comes in. Enter: our favorite vegan carrot lox recipe, which uses a few simple culinary techniques—like salt-crusting and marinating—to achieve a smokey and flavorful “lox” that is entirely vegan-friendly. Not to mention, carrots are loaded with tons of vitamin A, vitamin C, and fiber which are essential for gut, skin, and eye health.
What is salt-crusting, and why is this cooking method essential for this recipe?
To achieve that salty, briny flavor, Jeanine Donofrio from Love & Lemons starts by roasting whole carrots in a salt crust, which means cooking an ingredient completely covered by a thick salt layer that acts as an insulation to cook food evenly and gently. Although this technique is usually used for cooking whole fish (like branzino), Donofrio discovered that it helped unlock and mimic the same savoriness of a classic lox recipe when applied to vegetables—carrots in this case.
Although you might be initially shocked by the amount of salt this recipe calls for, salt-crusting infuses the carrots in this recipe with tons of flavor, but fortunately, not all of the sodium content is absorbed or consumed in the final product. Instead, this coating helps carrots roast until tender without completely turning into mush. By salt-crusting them, they’re better able to maintain their firmness, which is vital for the texture of this lox recipe.
How to marinate the roasted carrots to nail the classic lox-like flavor
After Donofrio roasts the carrots to impart a salty, cured-like flavor, she focuses on the presentation and texture of the final dish. She starts by rubbing off the excess salt and then gently peeling the carrots into long strips, similar to the pieces of smoked salmon you would traditionally find in a traditional lox recipe. After she’s turned all of the carrots into ribbons, Donofrio transfers them into a marinade which is the second most crucial step in this recipe, IMO.
To make her marinade, Donofrio combines olive oil, rice vinegar, smoked paprika, lemon, and pepper for the carrots to soak in, which is essentially a quick-pickling technique. After about 15 minutes in the fridge, the tender yet firm carrots absorb the vinegar-based mixture for a tangy, slightly oily, and salty flavor and texture. She also notes that you can store carrot lox in the marinade for up to four days in the refrigerator.
Vegan carrot lox recipe
Yields 4 servings
4 large carrots
Sea salt, for coating
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
Big squeeze fresh lemon juice
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 475°F and line a medium baking dish with parchment paper. Coat the bottom with about a 1/4-inch layer of salt, then place the whole carrots in the dish and sprinkle with a good amount of salt (see photo). Don’t worry; you won’t be eating all this salt in the final result. Roast the carrots until easily pierced with a fork but not mushy. The timing will depend on the size and freshness of your carrots. Check them, starting around 40 minutes—my very large carrots took 60-90 minutes. This step can be done in advance.
2. Make the marinade: In a shallow dish or small bowl, combine the olive oil, rice vinegar, paprika, lemon juice, and several grinds of freshly ground black pepper.
3. Remove the carrots from the oven and let cool. Use your hands to rub off any excess salt. Use a knife to slice a thin strip off one side of the salty skin, and then use a peeler to peel the carrot into ribbons. If your peeler gets snagged on the soft carrot, that’s okay; just slice pieces as thinly as you can with a sharp knife. Place the strips in the marinade and toss to coat. Transfer to the refrigerator and marinate for 15-30 minutes.
4. Serve with bagels, cream cheese, cucumber slices, capers, chives, and/or dill.
5. If you have extra carrots, cover and refrigerate them in the marinade for up to four days.
Need a little immunity pick-me-up? This immunity-boosting smoky carrot soup might help: