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

How to steam vegetables: steamed broccoli in steamer
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Want to steam vegetables? We’re here to help! Steaming one of the quickest vegetable cooking methods there is. It also has a bad rap, since if not done properly it can result in overcooked, bland, and soggy veggies.

But guess what? If you cook them until crisp tender and season them correctly, the veggies come out delicious every time! Here’s our master method for how to steam vegetables: the right way.

Vegetable steaming methods

First, you have a specific vegetable in mind, we’ve got several specific recipes for you. Pick from one of the methods below:

Gear required for steaming

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 skillet with a custom steamer basket. It’s an option too, but not required for steaming!

How to steam vegetables: a tutorial

The most important thing to remember when steaming vegetables: don’t be tempted to overcook them. Steam the vegetables until they’re crisp tender. You’ll need to be ready to taste test, fork in hand! Cooking vegetables even a few minutes past the right timing makes them go from bright and crisp to faded and mushy. Here’s how to steam vegetables using a steamer basket:

Step 1: Chopping vegetables.

Step 1: Chop the vegetables into uniform bite-sized pieces, which helps them to cook evenly. The thicker the vegetable, the longer it will take to cook. (This is important for hard vegetables like carrots: the smaller the pieces, the shorter the cook time.)

Step 2: Steaming vegetables in steamer basket.

Step 2: Add 1 inch water to the bottom of the saucepan or pot, then place the steamer basket in the pot. The surface of the water should be just under the basket. Bring it to a boil. Once boiling, add the vegetables to the basket and cover with a lid.

Step 3: Taste testing steamed vegetables.

Step 3: Cook covered, until just tender when pricked with a fork. As a rule of thumb, broccoli takes 3 to 5 minutes, green beans and carrots 4 to 5 minutes, and cauliflower 10 to 12 minutes. (See the Vegetable Timing Chart below.) Taste test to be sure; the exact cook time varies based on the thickness and maturity of the vegetable.

Step 4: Carefully remove the veggies to a bowl, then toss with a bit of olive oil or butter and kosher salt. If you’d like, add flavor by using fresh lemon juice, fresh herbs, feta cheese crumbles, or other spices.

Vegetable timing chart

Each vegetable takes a different amount of time to steam. Here is a chart with the approximate timing for common vegetables:

  • Asparagus: 2 to 5 minutes
  • Broccoli: 3 to 5 minutes
  • Green Beans: 4 to 5 minutes
  • Carrots: 4 to 5 minutes, depending on how thick you cut them
  • Brussels sprouts: 6 to 7 minutes
  • Cabbage: 7 to 10 minutes
  • Cauliflower: 10 to 12 minutes
  • Baby potatoes: 10 to 15 minutes
  • Sweet potatoes: 25 to 35 minutes (halved, shorter for diced)
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:

Frequently asked questions

What’s the difference between steaming and boiling vegetables?

Steaming uses steam to cook vegetables, preserving more nutrients and their vibrant colors compared to boiling. Boiling vegetables can leach out vitamins and minerals into the water.

Do I need a fancy steamer?

No! You can easily steam vegetables at home with basic kitchen equipment. A pot with a lid and a steamer basket or colander that fits snugly inside will do the trick.

What’s the best way to cut vegetables for steaming?

Cut vegetables into uniform, bite-sized pieces for even cooking. This ensures all pieces cook through at the same time.

How much water do I need for steaming?

You only need a small amount of water – about 1-2 inches – in the bottom of the pot. The vegetables steam from the rising steam, not by being submerged in water.

How long does it take to steam vegetables?

Cooking time depends on the type and thickness of the vegetables. Tender vegetables like asparagus or green beans will cook in just a few minutes, while denser vegetables like carrots or potatoes will take longer. See the Vegetable Timing Chart above!

How can I tell if my vegetables are done?

The vegetables should be tender-crisp, with a slight bite when pierced with a fork.

Can I steam frozen vegetables?

You can, but keep in mind the vegetables will come out with a soft texture. Shorten the cook time by a few minutes and taste test to assess doneness.

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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: 0 hours
  • Yield: Varies

Description

Here’s how to steam vegetables to get them on the table fast! Use this method to avoid soggy and bland veggies: here they turn out 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 asparagus and broccoli, 4 to 5 minutes for carrots and green beans, 6 to 7 minutes for Brussels sprouts, 7 to 10 minutes for shredded cabbage, 10 to 12 minutes for cauliflower, 10 to 15 minutes for baby potatoes, and 25 to 35 minutes for halved sweet potatoes. 
  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

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes for memorable kitchen moments! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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6 Comments

  1. Jack says:

    Would you mind posting the the specific cookware in this post?

  2. J. in CO says:

    Q & D…just like I like it. Thanx!






  3. David Phillips says:

    I have followed your instructions and I think I give the cooked vegetables time to lose any steam left in them. However, I always end up at the end of a main course with a plate plus water, which I assume has continued to drain out of the vegetables. P.s. I like my vegetables hot and with a degree of crunch.
    Thanks in anticipation for your help.
    David.

    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      Hi! Have you tried letting them sit in a colander for a minute before seasoning? This could help with residual moisture.

  4. Angee says:

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