I was always freaked out by lox as a kid. I didn’t like the look of it or its squishy texture, and I certainly didn’t want it anywhere near my bagel. These days, I can’t get enough of the stuff (seriously, we should all eat lox on sandwiches outside of the bagel realm, because it’s incredible). But with the sustainability of salmon on a downward swing, I try not to buy it too often. That’s when carrot lox comes into play. I’ll say it again for the cheap seats in the back: you can make vegan lox with carrots. 

Although it has appeared in the food-blogging corners of the internet a few times, I feel it doesn’t get as many props as it should. Come on, people, vegetables that taste like tender smokey fish? This is pure sorcery. Technically, it’s liquid smoke and a great seasoning blend, but I think I prefer to think of it as culinary witchcraft.

To create some vegetable magic of your own, rinse and peel 5 carrots, then thinly slice them using a mandoline or a vegetable peeler. Drop the carrot slices in a large bowl and toss them with 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke, 2 teaspoons soy sauce, 1½ teaspoons rice vinegar, 1 teaspoon maple syrup, and a few good twists of black pepper. 

Preheat the oven to 375ºF and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Pull the carrots out of the bowl (don’t dump them out onto the pan—you don’t want excess liquid here) and neatly arrange them in strips on the pan, overlapping when you need to.

Drizzle the whole tray very lightly with a bit of avocado or grapeseed oil, and use a pastry brush to evenly distribute the oil.

Cover the pan lightly with foil and bake for 20-30 minutes, or until the carrots are soft but not mushy.

Let the carrot lox cool, then cut into slices with a spatula. Serve as you would any other lox—with a massive spread of bagels, cream cheese, sliced red onion, and capers.