carrots and tomatoes

Beta carotene is an orange-pigmented compound found in fruits and vegetables.

Beta Carotene

What is Beta Carotene?

Beta carotene is a vibrant, orange-pigmented, naturally occurring compound found in fruits and vegetables. Beta-carotene can be used as a food coloring to add a desirable orange color to cereals, chips, dry cheese blends, crackers, and even to add vibrancy to frostings, candies, and fillings.


Beta carotene is derived naturally in orange foods such as mangos, cantaloupe, carrots, sweet potatoes, and pumpkins as well as in leafy greens like kale and spinach. In kale and spinach, the vibrant orange pigment is masked by chlorophyll. The organic compound can be extracted via column chromatography. In the industry, beta carotene can be synthesized by the BASF method: C20 + C20 or by the Roche method: C19 + C2 + C19. The name ‘carotene’ was first coined in the early 19th century via a scientist named Wachenroder after he successfully crystallized the compound from the root of a carrot. Consequently, three varieties of carotene were discovered including Alpha, Gamma, and Beta. Each variety is considered a provitamin and expresses extremely bright pigmentation including red, yellow, as well as orange as displayed in the Beta form.


Beta carotene is a lipophilic precursor to vitamin A. Therefore, due to the lipophilic tendencies, if a food high in beta carotene is consumed with fats, the body will be able to more readily absorb the wholesome nutrient. For instance, by tossing vegetables into an oil before cooking, the wholesome benefits are absorbed with greater ease in the digestive system.


Natural beta carotene is composed of cis- and trans-isomers, primarily the trans form.


Beta carotene can be used in pumpkin bread, sweet potato bread, zucchini bread, and any bread integrating high quantities of fruit or vegetable. In desserts, the pigment can most notably be found in carrot cookies and pumpkin pie.


As a precursor or provitamin to vitamin A, beta carotene can be converted into vitamin A by the body. Vitamin A is essential for healthy growth and development as well as healthy vision and proper immune function. Furthermore, individuals who consumed sources of beta carotene or carotenoids had reduced changes of lung and prostate cancer as well as reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.

FDA Legal Requirement

GRAS (21CFR73.95)

FDA Legal Requirement Note

Beta carotene is considered a safe additive for coloring foods.