Spiced Glazed Carrots in the Pakistani Manner

Mughal Emperor Akbar the Great was a mere thirteen years of age when he ascended the throne. While still a relatively young Emperor, he commissioned the construction of a new capital, known as Fatehpur Sikri. The buildings, a fusion of Islamic, Hindu and Jain architecture, reflect the Great Emperor’s beliefs of universal religious tolerance. It was under his rule that the Islamic jizya tax was revoked for non-Muslims and a new faith called the Din-i-Ilahi (Faith of the Divine) was created by him in an attempt to bring the diverse religions of the Mughal Empire together. To this day, only 18 people are said to have belonged to this faith, but one cannot help but admire Emperor Akbar for trying to unify his peoples.

A view of the Badshahi Mosque in Lahore, with the Hindu deity Hanuman in the foreground is just the sort of religious co-existence Emperor Akbar must have envisioned for his peoples.

Despite being a Mughal emperor, Akbar the Great practiced austerity when it came to food. During his reign, the Mughal kitchen produced saffron and rosewater flavoured biryanis with nuts and dried fruits brought in from Persia and Turkey, and murgh mussalam; chicken bathed in cinnamon, cloves and cardamom then roasted over coal embers. However,towards the end of his life, Emperor Akbar completely refrained from eating meat, subsisting mostly on rice, lentils and vegetables.

Majority of the vegetarian dishes from Pakistan are braised for a long period. Personally, floppy carrots which can be smooshed with your fork just put me off and remind me of the canteen in school in Nairobi. I like my carrots crisp, just barely glazed with a spiced oil, their sweetness exaggerated.

This is a dish which my Ami makes almost as one would a stir-fry. The carrots are gently glazed with a black mustard seed infused oil, with a few pinches of salt, turmeric and chili. A few stirs, steamed in its own juice for a few minutes, the carrots come out al dente.

Perfect for scooping up with a chapati with some raita; fresh-mint infused yoghurt.

The spiced oil and cooling effect of the yoghurt make this dish very moreish.

Hanuman and Badshahi Mosque photo courtesy of Ali Ahsan.

Serves 2 as a main or 4 as a side.
You will need a large wok or frying pan of 10in (25cm) diameter and a lid (the lid need not fit over the wok perfectly, it is needed for covering the carrots so they can steam in their own juices for 3-5 minutes at the end of the process).

* 2tbsp corn oil, or any other neutral oil
* 1lb / 450g carrots (julienned weight)
* 1 1/2 tsp black mustard seeds; known as rai in Urdu
* 1 tsp salt
* 1/2 – 1 tsp chili powder, depending on the amount of heat you prefer. (Start with 1/2 tsp)
* 1/8 tsp turmeric powder, known as haldi in Urdu. Available in Pakistani or Indian grocery stores.

* Julienne carrots or you can dice them if you so like.
* Place a wok or a frying pan on medium heat.
* Add oil and allow to heat for 2 minutes.
* Add mustard seeds and as soon as they start to sputter, remove from the flame (don’t turn the flame off) and add the julienned carrots. The reason for removing from the flame is because you don’t want the seeds to burn and become bitter.
* Stir-fry for a minute and place back on heat.
* Add turmeric, salt and chili powder and give it a whirl.
* Cover with a lid for 3-5 minutes- you don’t want to overcook the carrots, they should be semi-crisp by the end of this process.
* Remove lid, turn off the flame and serve with chapati (a Pakistani wholewheat flatbread) and some raita or have as a side with a whole roast chicken.



  1. I make carrots a similar way but without the mustard seeds but will definitely try them this way. They sound delicious.

  2. I love how easy this recipe is – definitely going to make it soon.

  3. Aha! Something even I can make! Delicious. I love carrots but agree, soft ones make me feel slightly funny..
    Lovely photo

  4. gourmand says:

    Akbar may have turned a vegan because of his Rajput wife Jodha Bai, but I have been almost, I mean almost converted, by your fantastic recipe and the fabulous pictures…

  5. Hi Shayma – Love the tadka of mustard seeds to the carrots but would never have thought of serving it with raita.

    Gorgeous pics as well!


    Devaki @ weavethousandflavors

  6. This does sound perfect to have with roast chicken!

  7. @Fiona Thanks so much. Am honoured by the visit. x

    @Su-Lin Thank you. Dreadfully easy. x

    @Mothership Thank you. x

    @Gourmand Thank you, as always, for the insightful comments you always leave. I never thought about that before- that Jodha Bai may have influenced Akbar’s love for vegetables.

    @Devaki Thank you- in our home we eat yoghurt with everything.

    @Habiba Thanks for the visit.

  8. Delicious – I’ve done something similar with cumin seeds, but never mustard seeds – I will give it a go. Like the idea of serving it with Raita too, never thought about that. I’ve also done a very similar recipe with spring greens with both mustard and cumin seeds, and a little more stirfrying, less steaming. Also very tasty, although without the delectable carroty sweetness you get here.

  9. First of all, I love the pic of the carrots and below the photo in Lahore; puts you right in the mood!
    That carrot dish with the raita and chapati sounds heavenly.

  10. This is really yummy. I love carrots as is, but sometimes it’s nice to add some zest. I love spices, especially Pakistani flavors! Thanks for sharing… I need to memorize your post and go impress my Pakistani friends :)

  11. Sounds lovely this dish. Will definitely try it. With a squeeze of lemon to finish off.

  12. I visited the beautiful red city of Fatehpur Sikri and ate plenty of delicious food in that region. I look forward to trying these carrots—maybe with a little mustard oil?

  13. Recently brought some carrots from the farmer’s market, and their flavor is big. This recipe would be a great way to display carrots. The mustard seeds, chili and turmeric would complement the sweetness of the carrots as well. Thank you.

  14. love carrots and this is a great recipe! Shayma joon, your photos are stunning! another great post!xxx

  15. Je découvre ton blog qui me plait beaucoup.
    je connais très peu la cuisine de cette région du monde et je reviendrai certainement te rendre visite.
    A bientôt.

  16. Wonderful, I must try these. And I love the history lessons and personal stories you weave into your blog. :-)

  17. How utterly divine! LLGxx

  18. What a wonderful history to go along with a fantastic looking dish! Thank you for the story, I always appreciate them:). I can’t wait to try this!

  19. Brings back memories once again. When I was young my parents would have dinner parties almost every weekend – and spiced carrots were frequently on the menu. I would ask my mother to save me a small bowl full so that I could have them for breakfast the next morning. I must remind her to make these again. xx

  20. I don’t use my mustard seeds enough………..I love the balanced flavours of sweet and spicy, and the perfect carrot chips!

  21. Had a trip to Jackson Heights, Queens yesterday and bought myself a package of black mustard seeds at Patel Brothers expressly so that I could make this dish! I am eating the results right this minute, and I can report that the carrots are heavenly. Thank you for the inspiration, Shayma!

  22. It seems, you have a new fan. Very inspiring blog, gave me many thoughts and ideas not only about food…Kheyli mamnoon, thank you.
    And surely I’m going to try some recipes as soon as possible!

  23. Thank you everyone for the lovely comments and for the visit.

    @Gluttonforlife I am sure this would be lovely with mustard seed oil- it is used in the Bengali kitchen a lot- have you tried their potato ‘bharta’? It’s really fragrant.

    @Nadji Thank you for the visit.

    @Susan Thanks so much, lovely. I really love (and appreciate) hearing feedback. x shayma

  24. I love your site, which I just found today! On the carrots thing, I had an ESL student/friend from Pakistan who told me the carrots there are the milder white/yellow type you find in farmer’s markets here. Maybe her experience was limited but it was interesting to me to think about how many factors determine local adaptations to a dish and differing tastes of the same dish.

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