Ninfas spicy pickled carrots DSC5373 e1508771762460
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Ninfa’s spicy pickled carrots recipe

Spring in New York City can be tough. One day it will be bright and shiny weather, no jacket required. But just when you’re packing away your heavy coat, the next day will bring freezing rain and snow. The farmers’ markets reflect this instability by refusing to offer anything but the same old turnips, potatoes and carrots that have been there for the past few months.

But you know what? That’s okay, as I’ve got a big batch of Ninfa’s spicy pickled carrots to snack on right now.

Ninfa’s pickled carrots are not on the menu, but they’ve been offering them for as long as I can remember. When you go to Ninfa’s, you have to ask for these carrots as they’re served by request only. But when you say, “I’d like the carrots, please,” the server will nod and smile, as if the two of you are privy to a delicious secret.

Ninfa's spicy pickled carrots | Homesick Texan

What makes these carrots so special? Well, they’re tender yet crisp rounds that have been marinated in a tangy, earthy blend of vinegar, oregano, cumin, onions, and chiles de arbol. A few slices of jalapeño are added for extra heat, but unlike other escabeches, carrots play the leading role.

Apparently, Ninfa’s on Navigation now offers a fajita burger (which I’m eager to try), and they serve the carrots on the side. This is a brilliant choice, as I’ve long added a few of the pickled carrots to my tacos al carbon as a way to balance out the richness of the beef. But why they don’t automatically serve the carrots with every meal is still a mystery, as along with Ninfa’s green sauce these spicy carrots help complete the meal.

A few years ago, the Houston Chronicle published the recipe for the carrots, noting that the proper name for the dish is curtido. (Who knew?). I’ve been sitting on that recipe for quite some time, but I finally whipped up a batch and was pleased at what a snap they are to make. In no time, my kitchen began to smell like a Tex-Mex joint and Houston didn’t seem so far away.

Ninfa's spicy pickled carrots | Homesick Texan

Now, this recipe packs quite a lot of heat—heck, even my fireproof palate was slightly singed after eating them—so please proceed with caution if you’re sensitive to that, and perhaps cut back on the chiles. But despite the fire, the flavor is just as I remembered it—peppery, soulful and bright. And while I wait for spring to finally get here, snacking on these spicy pickled carrots will be a fine way to patiently bide my time.

5 from 7 votes

Ninfa’s spicy pickled carrots

Servings 2 pints
Author Adapted by Lisa Fain from the Houston Chronicle


  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups white vinegar
  • 1 ounce chiles de arbol, stems removed
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 pound carrots, cut into thin rounds
  • 1/4 cup slivered onions
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 jalapeño, seeds and stem removed, sliced


  • In a medium-sized pot, add the water, vegetable oil, vinegar and chiles de arbol. Bring to a boil and then turn the heat down to medium. Cook for 5 minutes, uncovered.
  • Add to the pot the cumin, oregano, black pepper and salt. Continue to cook on medium for 5 more minutes. Add the sliced carrots, onions, garlic and jalapeño, and cook for 10 minutes, or until the carrots are your desired texture. Taste and add more salt if you prefer.

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Recipe Rating


  1. Tera Holder says:

    We're making these tonight! How long do you think they will last canned? We're going to use our pressure canner I do believe. Sooooo excited to try these!

  2. Lisa Fain says:

    Tera–I've never used a pressure canner but I reckon they'd last as long as anything else properly processed–a year or so.

  3. Anonymous says:

    After skipping some of the recipes I had planned for last week in favor of, who would have guessed, tex-mex, I had a good two pounds of carrots to use up… and I remembered this!!! I didn't have any cumin on hand so I substituted plain ol' chili powder, and MAN are these things good! Thanks Lisa!

  4. RodeoPunkMusic says:

    I made these yesterday as written and OMG are they delicious – I let them sit in the frig over night to cool – wow. I made taco's for lunch and these carrots were just what they needed to kick them up. Spicy, tangy with great texture and bite – my new taco staple!

  5. laruebridge says:

    Oh how late I am in discovering your blog and this recipe…as I type this I am sitting in Ninfas on Navigation awaiting my Curtido's to go. I stop by weekly to get my "to go @10 bucks" fix ;). A bit of history on this beloved Houston hotspot in the mid 80's (yes I have been frequenting this gem for several decades…best location Navigation 2nd best now defunct Kirby) they used to have them in a little covered jar on every table.