Carotenoids are isoprenoid pigments synthesized exclusively by plants and microorganisms and play critical roles in light harvesting, photoprotection, attracting pollinators and phytohormone production. In recent years, carotenoids have been used for their health benefits due to their high antioxidant activity and are extensively utilized in food, pharmaceutical, and nutraceutical industries. Regulation of carotenoid biosynthesis occurs throughout the life cycle of plants, with vibrant changes in composition based on developmental needs and responses to external environmental stimuli. With advancements in metabolic engineering techniques, there has been tremendous progress in the production of industrially valuable secondary metabolites such as carotenoids. Application of metabolic engineering and synthetic biology has become essential for the successful and improved production of carotenoids. Synthetic biology is an emerging discipline; metabolic engineering approaches may provide insights into novel ideas for biosynthetic pathways. In this review, we discuss the current knowledge on carotenoid biosynthetic pathways and genetic engineering of carotenoids to improve their nutritional value. In addition, we investigated synthetic biological approaches for the production of carotenoids. Theoretical biology approaches that may aid in understanding the biological sciences are discussed in this review. A combination of theoretical knowledge and experimental strategies may improve the production of industrially relevant secondary metabolites. © 2017 Elsevier B.V.