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Instant Pot

Caramelized Carrot Soup with Fennel Seeds and Cumin

4 Servings

FAST: 1 hour
Slow: 3¾ to 4¼ hours 20 minutes active

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This soup is simple to make but gets amazing depth of flavor thanks to a technique from the encyclopedic cookbook “Modernist Cuisine.” The recipe uses baking soda, an alkali, to accelerate the caramelization process of the carrots’ natural sugars; the soup takes on a sienna hue because of this browning. The fennel seeds and cumin add complexity without taking the spotlight away from the carrots. Garnishes of butter-toasted almonds and cilantro add texture and freshness; if you like, for added creaminess and touch of tartness, you also could top each serving with a spoonful of plain whole-milk yogurt.




Don’t substitute water or broth for the carrot juice. The juice bolsters the carrots’ sweet, earthy flavor as well as their vibrant color. Use shelf-stable bottled carrot juice or fresh-pressed sold in the refrigerator case; both yield good results.

FAST: 1 hour
Slow: 3¾ to 4¼ hours

20 minutes active


  • 4

    tablespoons (½ stick) salted butter, cut into 4 pieces, divided

  • ½

    cup sliced almonds


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Kath T.
February 15, 2023
Use less cumin for best carrot flavor
Katherine K.

First, it is a beautiful soup; no doubt because of using carrot juice instead of broth. I don't have an Instant Pot, but a great slow cooker and pressure cooker. That said I used the slow cooker; my high heat had this done in less than three hours. As I said it is a lovely color and the initial taste was delicious but it ended up with a slightly bitter after taste. Maybe my carrots were a little too old? I'll certainly finish it but don't know if I'll do again. Any thoughts of the bitterness?

Lynn C.

Hi Katherine -

We aren't sure what could have caused the bitterness. It's possible it was the carrots themselves or the particular carrot juice you used. It could also be the slow cooker. We developed these for the Instant Pot slow cooker feature and it's possible that your slow cooker runs hotter than the Instant Pot and slightly overcooked the carrots/juice and made it bitter.

The Milk Street Team

Mark C.

I haven't made this yet but am curious how the carrots caramelize during pressure cooking with all the liquid from the carrot juice present. Is the caramelization happening due to the baking soda alone? I've made tomato soup using a tiny amount of baking soda which helps bring out the sweetness of the tomatoes by neutralizing their acidity. Perhaps that's what happens here?

April D.

Mark - good question. In this recipe, we are not caramelizing the carrots by exposing them directly to a heat source (a step where you would see the color change and would start to smell those savory, caramelly aromas). However, it is possible to caramelize even with liquids present when you raise the temperature above the boiling point of water, which a pressure cooker easily achieves. Above 100°C / 212°F, caramelization of the carrots and the carrot juice will start to take place irrespective of the presence of liquid. The baking soda, meanwhile, helps to catalyze the Maillard Reaction, which is a distinct process that creates new flavor and aroma compounds as a result of exposure to heat above 300°F. Though you may typically associate the Maillard Reaction with direct exposure to high heat - like searing the outside of a steak - the increased pressure inside a pressure cooker reaches and exceeds the temperature needed to unravel the chains of amino acids and simple sugars and recombine them to produce the complex flavors we love about this soup.

The Milk Street Team

Debbie W.

Is there a way to make without an insta pot…recipe looks delicious….we do have a crock pot…I make my soups on stovetop though

Lynn C.

Hi Debbie -

We also have a stovetop version of double carrot soup, which you can find here - This version is virtually identical to the Instant Pot version so should yield similar results.

The Milk Street Team