With the holiday season here, I’m so excited to share this unique holiday side dish: Roasted Carrots and Dates with Pistachio Pesto. It’s gourmet but made with every day, affordable ingredients, all of which you can find at your local grocery store.
As much as I love holiday meals, I usually get tired of the same traditional dishes each year. To avoid that, I intersperse some new, unique dishes alongside a few favorite classics (like these Mashed Potatoes). I also insist on having a couple brighter dishes, especially those that pack an acidic punch. This is because holiday dishes are usually so rich and creamy and lacking in fresh, sharp flavors, so the entire meal often feels very unbalanced.
Table of contents:
1. Why you’ll love this recipe
2. Step-by-step instructions
3. Tips for making this recipe
4. Frequently Asked Questions
5. More vegetable side dishes for the holidays
6. Recipe card with notes
And these roasted carrots and dates with pistachio pesto bring that fresh pizzazz that your holiday dinner needs. All of the flavors and textures work so harmoniously together that it’s guaranteed to be a hit.
When roasted at high heat, carrots and onions get caramelized and perfectly tender, and briefly roasting the dates enhances their sweet chewiness. Layering a few slightly sweet ingredients like this produces a complex flavor dimension, which gets further enhanced by the salty, tangy flavors in the pistachio pesto and the subtle heat in the seed sprinkle.
Why you’ll love this recipe
Gourmet flavors for the holiday table. If you’re like me, you want your holiday dishes to really impress your guests. And in this dish, every bite is an elegant and beautiful balance of sweet, salty, savory, and tangy. Your guests will definitely be asking for this recipe!
But simple, quick, and affordable! While the carrots and onions roast, you can make the pistachio pesto and seed sprinkle. The pesto just requires you to blend a handful of ingredients and the seed sprinkle takes all but 5 minutes.
And using a few produce staples and pantry staples like nuts, seeds, and dried fruit make this gourmet dish surprisingly affordable, which is always a bonus during the otherwise pricey holiday season.
Wholesome but indulgent. The sweetness of the carrots and dates, the creaminess of the pesto, the crunch of the seed sprinkle work together to make this feel like an almost indulgent dish. But it’s made of nourishing whole foods, like carrots, onions, dates, nuts, and seeds.
Versatile leftovers: you’ll likely end up with some leftover pistachio pesto and seed sprinkle, which is awesome because these tasty condiments can jazz up nearly any meal. Check out the “Tips” section below for some ideas!
Peel the carrots. For medium carrots, bisect lengthwise (for fat carrots, quarter lengthwise). Cut into 2-inch pieces (on a diagonal).
Peel the onion but don’t slice off the root end. Slice in half and cut into 1-inch wedges, keeping the core intact as much as possible.
Gently toss the onions and carrots with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Transfer to two rimmed baking sheets and spread out.
Roast at 425ºF for 20-25 minutes, tossing halfway through. Scatter the chopped dates across the pans and bake for another 5-8 minutes, until carrots and onions are nicely browned and tender.
Meanwhile, make the pistachio pesto. Add the pistachios, parsley, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and pepper to a food processor. I typically buy unshelled pistachios (I love cracking them open!), but you can also buy shelled pistachios to shave off a couple minutes!
Blend until a paste forms. Gradually stream the olive oil in with the motor running, scraping down as you go. If needed, add a tablespoon or two of water to get a creamy, spoonable consistency.
Meanwhile, also make the seed sprinkle. Heat a frying pan over medium heat until warm. Add the olive oil, pepitas, paprika, cumin, red pepper flakes, cayenne, and a pinch of salt. Stir almost continuously for 2 minutes, or until golden brown and toasty.
Assemble the dish. Transfer the roasted carrots, onions, and dates to a large plate or serving platter.
Drizzle some of the pistachio pesto on top.
Scatter some seed sprinkle on top and enjoy!
Tips for making this recipe
Size of carrots. If your carrots are fat, cut them lengthwise in quarters before cutting into 2-inch pieces. If they’re on the average size, cut them lengthwise in half. Very skinny? You can actually leave them whole. If your carrots are a lot fatter on top than the bottom, cut these sections according to the above descriptions.
Depending on the size of your carrots, roast the carrots and onions for 20 or 25 minutes before adding the dates.
Dates. If you’re using whole dates, be sure to pit and chop them into small pieces. Don’t leave the dates in the oven for more than 8 minutes to prevent them from burning.
Seed sprinkle. When making the seed sprinkle, be sure to stir continuously to prevent the spices from burning.
Don’t waste the leftovers! Leftover pistachio pesto will stay good in the fridge for up to 1 week, and it’s a great way to round out a grain bowl or salad, or to drizzle on other veggies or tofu. You can also use it as a sandwich spread! I particularly love it paired with a fennel and citrus salad (the flavors are SO good together). It would also be lovely with roasted beets, as in this Roasted Beet Salad.
The seed sprinkle will stay good in the pantry for a few weeks (store in an airtight jar). It adds such a fun, salty and slightly spicy crunch to salads, soups, and all kinds of bowl meals. I particularly love it in a burrito bowl using my Black Beans with Sofrito (you can find that recipe in my earlier YouTube video “I ate like a king on just $5 a day!”).
Frequently Asked Questions
This is a pretty satisfying side dish, thanks to the pesto and seed sprinkle, but you can always turn it into a main meal. Just add some cooked chickpeas or lentils to the carrots/onions/dates, then drizzle on the pesto. You could also bulk it up by serving the dish on top of a bed of brown rice or quinoa.
If you’re looking for a main dish that will complement these flavors, I suggest my Vegan Shepherd’s Pie or my Creamy Lentil Stuffed Butternut Squash.
Sure. You won’t get the same flavor and creaminess from pistachios, but you could easily sub pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds) for the pesto.
Warm, or at room temperature! Either is great.
Yes. You can roast the carrots and dates a couple days in advance and then reheat them in the oven at 350ºF until warmed through.
You can make the pesto 3-4 days ahead of time and store in a jar in the fridge (it should last for 1 week). You can make the seed sprinkle ahead of time too; it will stay good in your pantry (in an airtight container or reusable bag) for 2 to 3 weeks.
Just before serving, assemble the dish: spoon the pesto on the carrots and dates and top with the seed sprinkle.
If you’re not planning to eat all the carrots/onions/dates on the day of making it, store them separately from the pesto and seed sprinkle in the fridge for up to 5 days.
More vegetable side dishes for the holidays
- Maple Roasted Carrots
- Creamy Vegan Mushroom Soup
- Roasted Butternut Squash & Kale Salad
- Baked Japanese Sweet Potatoes
If you love this fresh, flavor-packed dish, please be sure to leave a rating and review below! It’s always much appreciated :) And tag me on Instagram – I love hearing your feedback.
Carrots and Dates
- 2 pounds (900g) carrots, peeled
- 1 medium red onion, sliced into 1-inch wedges
- 3 tablespoons Simply Nature Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Kosher Salt
- Freshly cracked black pepper
- 3/4 cup (112g) Southern Grove Chopped Dates or Southern Grove Pitted Dates*
- 1 small handful of flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped (optional garnish)
- 1/3 cup (40-45g) Southern Grove Pistachios (unsalted or salted)**
- 2 cups (25-30g) parsley leaves and tender stems
- 3 small garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 medium lemon, zested and then juiced
- A pinch of salt
- Freshly cracked black pepper
- 1/4 cup (60 mL) Simply Nature Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1-2 tablespoons water, plus more as needed
- 1 tablespoon Simply Nature Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1/2 cup (68g) Southern Grove Pepitas***
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
- Preheat the oven to 425°F. Once preheated, add two rimmed sheet pans to the oven to heat up for 5 minutes.
- Prep the carrots. If the carrots are medium-width, bisect lengthwise; if they're fat, cut lengthwise into quarters; if skinny, leave whole. Cut all the carrots into 2-inch pieces on a sharp diagonal. Toss the carrots and onion wedges in 3 tablespoons of olive oil, and season well with salt and pepper.
- Transfer the carrots and onions to the heated sheet pans and spread out. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes (20 minutes if carrots are skinny), tossing halfway through.
- Add the chopped dates to the pan(s) and roast for 5 to 8 minutes, or until the carrots are tender and slightly caramelized and onions are soft and browned.
- Make the pistachio pesto. Add the pistachios to a food processor and blitz until they're in small pieces. Add the parsley, garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, and black pepper to taste. Blend until a paste forms, scraping down the sides as you go along. With the motor running, stream in the extra virgin olive oil to start to form a sauce. Scrape down the sides again, and stream in more oil as needed until you have a smooth yet thick texture. If the pesto is still not smooth enough but you don't want to add more oil, add a spoon of water at a time until the sauce comes together into a creamy, spoonable consistency. Taste for seasonings, adding more salt, lemon, or garlic as needed.
- Make the seed sprinkle. Heat a small or medium frying pan over medium heat. After a minute or two, add the olive oil and pepitas, red pepper flakes, cumin, paprika, cayenne, and a pinch of salt. Stir almost continuously until golden and seeds are popping, 2 to 2 1/2 minutes. Transfer to a plate and spread out with a spoon, ensuring that the spices evenly coat the pepitas. Allow to cool.
- Assemble the dish. Spoon some of the pesto on a platter. Add the roasted carrots, onions, and dates on top. Scatter some seed sprinkle on top and garnish with chopped parsley.