How to Steam Vegetables

Here’s how to steam vegetables to get them on the table fast! Use this method to avoid soggy & bland veggies: they’re crisp tender and delicious every time.

How to steam vegetables

Want to steam veggies? We’re here to help. Steaming one of the quickest vegetable cooking methods there is. It also has a bad rap. Often this method results in overcooked, bland, and soggy veggies. But guess what? Turns out that if you cook until crisp tender and season correctly: the veggies are delicious every time! Here’s our master method for how to steam vegetables: the right way. If you have a specific veggie in mind, go to one of these recipes:

How to steam vegetables
Here we used a fancy pan with steamer basket, but you can use a simple steamer basket with any of your pots or pans.

How to steam vegetables: a tutorial!

The main adage to steaming: don’t be temped to overcook! You’ll want to cook your veggies just until they’re crisp tender. This also means you’ll need to be ready to taste test, fork in hand! Cooking even a few minutes past the right timing makes veggies go from bright and crisp to faded and mushy. Here are our tips on how to cook veggies using a steamer basket.

Gear required

You’ll need a steamer basket or steamer pan to make this recipe. Here’s a steamer basket you can buy online that works for any pan you have. In these photos, you’ll see we used a fancy pan with steamer basket that has a handle. It’s an option too, but not required for steaming!

Step 1: Chop the veggies into uniform pieces.

To get the vegetables to cook evenly, the best advice: chop in the most uniform pieces you can! The thicker the veggie, the longer it will take to cook. (This is most important for veggies like carrots: the smaller your pieces, the shorter the cook time.)

Step 2: Fill the pot with water under the steamer basket. Bring it to a boil.

Rule number one of steaming vegetables is this: bring the water to a boil first! Don’t be tempted to just throw everything in the steamer and bring the water to a boil. Add about 1 inch water to the bottom of the saucepan or pot, then place in the steamer basket. The surface of the water should be just under the basket (so pour out water if you need to). Then bring it to a boil!

How to steam vegetables

Step 3: Add the veggies, cover, and steam until crisp tender (timing below).

Once boiling, add the veggies to the steamer basket and cover the pot with a lid. (If your steamer doesn’t have a handle, place it in the pan before boiling the water, then add the brocolli once boiling.) Cook with the lid on just tender. Here are the approximate timings:

Here’s the most important part: taste! Test a piece with a fork and taste to assess whether it’s done. The cook time will be different every time based on the thickness of how you’ve chopped them, and the maturity of the vegetable.

How to steam cauliflower

Step 4: Drain and season.

Carefully remove the veggies to a bowl. Then toss with olive oil or butter and kosher salt. If you’d like, amp the flavor by using lemon juice, fresh herbs, feta cheese crumbles, or other spices. See the specific recipes for examples of how to season them:

That’s it: how to steam vegetables!

Let us know in the comments below how you serve them.

Steamed broccoli

More side dish ideas

Steaming vegetables is a fantastic way to make them into a quick and easy side dish! Here are a few more of our favorite side dish resources:

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Steamed broccoli

How to Steam Vegetables


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  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 5 to 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 44 minute
  • Yield: About 4, depending on your quantity

Description

Here’s how to steam vegetables to get them on the table fast! Use this method to avoid soggy & bland veggies: they’re crisp tender and delicious every time.


Ingredients

  • Vegetable of your choice (broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, carrots)
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Chop: Chop the vegetables into uniform pieces.
  2. Boil water: Place about 1 inch of water in a pot or saucepan. If using a steamer basket without a handle, add it to the pot now: the water surface should be right under the basket. Bring the water to a boil.
  3. Steam: Once boiling, add the vegetables (in the steamer basket, if it has a handle). Steam with the lid on until crisp tender, taste testing with a fork to assess doneness. Make sure not to overcook! Set a timer and taste at the low end of the timing. Use a guide of: 3 to 5 minutes for broccoli, 4 to 5 minutes for carrots and green beans, and 10 to 12 minutes for cauliflower.
  4. Season: Carefully remove the vegetables to a bowl. Toss with olive oil, kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper to taste. If you’d like, add other flavors like dried or fresh herbs, spices, fresh lemon juice, or chopped herbs. 

  • Category: Side Dish
  • Method: Steamed
  • Cuisine: Vegetables

Keywords: How to Steam Vegetables

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About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.

Alex Overhiser

Cookbook Author and photographer

Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.

1 Comment

  • Reply
    Angee
    July 15, 2020 at 5:02 pm

    This was super helpful. I had never steamed vegetables before but I followed your instructions and my broccoli came out perfect. Thank you!

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