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Monday, August 1, 2022

Wartime Cooking: Using Carrots to Save on Sugar

One of the tips I came across many times in a variety of different films about foods available during World War 2 was the suggestion to use the natural sweetness in carrots as a replacement for sugar. 

Sugar was one of the first foods to be rationed strictly during the war. Stretching a small amount of sugar for an entire week must have been a challenge, Carrots, however, could be grown practically for free in one's backyard garden, yielding a plentiful supply of this slightly sweet vegetable for most households. Recipes that offset some of the called-for sugar with fresh carrot proliferated during the war. Lacking a good-sized vegetable garden, the British government fixed the price of fresh carrots to ensure citizens could easily afford this vegetable as a regular part of their daily diet.

In the film Mrs. T. and Her Cabbage Patch (mentioned last week highlighting growing cress on the windowsill), the narrator mentioned that bowls of carrots (I believe grated fresh) were placed on the lunch table in school lunchrooms for the kids to help themselves. According to the narrator, the children liked the sweet taste of the carrots, as a substitution for the sweets they might have become accustomed to before the war.

In another series, Wartime Kitchen and Garden, carrots are again called for in a couple of dishes. In episode 3, the cook follows a recipe for a chocolate pudding (steamed cake, not milk-based dessert) and uses 2 tea cups of grated carrots (beginning at the 6 min 40 second mark). The cake recipe reduces the sugar called for to 1 oz as a result of the carrots, along with what looks like 2 tablespoons of golden syrup (treacle).

Not interested in steaming a pudding? How about a dose of grated carrot to sweeten your morning breakfast. In Wartime Kitchen and Garden, this time episode 7, the cook uses grated fresh carrots to sweeten a dish of muesli (beginning at the 2 minute 34 second mark). The oats have been soaked in water overnight, then the next morning freshly grated carrot, chopped apple, and dried fruit (raisins) are stirred in. Although the cookbook (briefly shown with the recipe for the Swiss Breakfast Dish) calls for 2 tablespoons of sugar, the cook in the film omits the sugar and favors the natural sweetening of the carrot, apple and raisins.

There seems to have been no lack of carrot recipes for sweets and desserts. From carrot cookies, to carrot fudge, and carrot flan, adding a little sweetness to the life was made possible even when the sugar jar was running low. Check out the recipes at the bottom of this page from the World Carrot Museum.

I've wondered how I would adapt to some of these food restrictions. Would I find it to be a challenge that part of me enjoyed? Or would I be annoyed that I had to make so many changes to my cooking routines? I suppose I would have my moments at both extremes.


  1. Love wartime recipes. However, carrots don’t grow well in our soil. Quite clay here.

    1. Hi friend,
      that's too bad about your soil. I hope that there are many other types of veggies that can tolerate a clay soil.
      I love the wartime recipes and tips, too. So much good information.
      Have a great evening!

  2. I like carrots and carrot cake, but I add more than a couple of spoonful of sugar when I make it. :) I wonder if we had the same emphasis on carrots in the US?

    1. Hi Live and Learn,
      Yeah, my carrot cake recipe calls for a lot of sugar and a lot of oil. My guess is that a small amount of sweetness was likely appreciated during this time of so many shortages and limitations. Perhaps their taste buds were retrained to some degree to really taste the sweet.
      I'm not sure about how carrots were used/eaten in the US during WW2. I'll have to look that up. I suspect that rationing was more severe in Britain than it was in the states.

  3. I watched the links you provided - and enjoyed them so much. The one on the Carrot Museum was very interesting. I am guilty of overlooking the humble carrot tops - . I am reminded of a recipe I made years ago - after eating it in a restaurant. I looked up the recipe online and it was delicious. It was carrot butter and was served with crostini. I need to find that recipe and make it again - and I will definitely give carrots more respect and a more prominent place in my menus.


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