How to Cook Vegetables

The Best Ways To Cook Vegetables So You’ll Actually Want to Eat them

If you like vegetables, then you’re already ahead in the game of healthy eating.

If you don’t like vegetables, then there is a good chance you’re just not cooking them right.

Growing up on veggies that either came in a can or microwavable bag didn’t help make them satisfying or desirable. But, once you learn how to cook veggies that are crispy or tender, it will be easy to eat more of them.

The best part? If you learn just a few simple cooking methods, you’ll know how to cook vegetables to perfection.

So let’s learn how to make vegetables.

How to Cook Vegetables: The Methods

Method 1: Roasting Vegetables

Do you like your vegetables browned, crispy, and tender? Then roasting is the first method that you should learn for cooking vegetables.

Roasting is cooking food in the oven at high temperature. Exposing vegetables to high heat concentrates their natural sugars and releases compounds that produce a sweet, nutty flavor and brown color. This happens through a process called caramelization.

Roasting vegetables is simple and hands-off. Meaning, you can go do other things while the vegetables cook in the oven. Plus, there is a lot of room for error. For most vegetables, roasting for 5 minutes longer or shorter than the defined time won’t make or break your dish.

If you want to learn how to roast every vegetable to crispy, browned perfection and transform them into a delicious dish, then check out my guide Roasted Veggie Mania that will show you how to do just that.

How to Roast Vegetables

  1. Preheat oven to a 425-450F
  2. Toss vegetables with olive oil and salt – 2 tbsp olive oil and 1 tsp kosher salt is a good amount for most vegetables. Place vegetables on a baking sheet or multiple sheets if they are too close together.
  3. Place in oven and cook for 20-40 minutes depending on the type of veggie, tossing halfway through.

The Best Veggies to Roast

  • Potatoes and sweet potatoes: 35-45 minutes
  • Broccoli: 30-40 minutes
  • Carrots: 30-35 minutes
  • Asparagus: 18-20 minutes

Roasted Vegetables Recipes

Roasted broccoli salad
Roasted Broccoli Salad with Tahini Sauce

Method 2: Cooking Vegetables in Pan (Sauteing)

Sauteing is a method to quickly cook cut up veggies in a pan over high heat with a small amount of oil or other fat. Not to be confused with frying (cooking food submerged in oil), sauteed veggies are very healthy.

The benefit of sauteing versus other methods is cooking time. Sauteing typically takes less than 10 minutes for most vegetables. And you’ll get a nice caramelized exterior with a tender inside as long as you follow the steps below.

How to Saute Vegetables

  1. Heat a pan large enough for all of your vegetables to lay flat over medium heat. Add a glug of olive oil – just enough to coat the bottom of your pan.
  2. Cut up vegetables into 1″ or smaller pieces – it’s important that the pieces are close to the same size and small enough to cook all the way through.
  3. When the oil is shimmering and a sprinkle of water in the pan immediately evaporates, add your veggies.
  4. Cook until vegetables are browned and tender per the approximate cooking times below, tossing occasionally.

A note on seasoning: Salt pulls moisture from food. When you add salt to sauteed veggies, they will release water, soften, and not get as browned. This may be desirable (example: peppers and onions to put on tacos) so you can add a few pinches of salt to the pan with your veggies. But, if you want browned veggies then hold off adding any salt until the last few minutes of cooking.

The Best Veggies to Saute

  • Mushrooms: 8 minutes
  • Onions: 8-10 minutes
  • Asparagus: 5 minutes
  • Peppers: 8-10 minutes
  • Kale: 3 minutes for leaves, 7 minutes for stems
  • Spinach and other greens: 3 minutes

Sauteed Vegetables Recipes

Sauteed Kale With Garlic
Quick Sauteed Kale With Garlic and Sesame

Method 3: Grilling Vegetables

Looking for some char marks on your veggies? Well, grilling is one of the best ways to get super darkened and smokey tasting vegetables.

Grilling is a great choice in the spring and summer when you’re already cooking food on your grill. It’s easy to just cut up some veggies and toss them on the grill with the rest of your meal. Plus, you’ll have an easy cleanup in the kitchen.

You can either grill vegetables directly on the grates or in a grill basket. If you’re grilling directly on the grates, you’ll want whole veggies or large pieces. A few minutes and a flip or two later, you’ll have browned, tender, delicious grilled veggies perfect for your healthy meal.

One of the keys for thicker veggies like potatoes and whole carrots is finishing the grilling process over low heat if they are getting too darkened. This will allow the veggies to cook all the way through until tender.

How to Grill Vegetables

  1. Prepare a grill for medium-low to medium heat.
  2. Cut vegetables into large pieces or leave whole if grilling directly on grates. Cut into smaller pieces if using a grill basket.
  3. Toss with olive oil and kosher salt, using a bit less oil than you would for roasting.
  4. Place vegetables directly on the grates or in a grill basket if pieces are small. Grill, flipping occasionally until charred on all sides and tender on the inside.
    • If veggies are getting too dark on the outside, but aren’t done on the inside, turn the heat to low to cook through at the lower temperature without burning.

The Best Veggies to Grill

  • Peppers: 8-10 minutes
  • Sweet potatoes and potatoes: 12-15 minutes
  • Cabbage: 8-10 minutes
  • Scallions: 4-5 minutes
  • Eggplant: 8-10 minutes
  • Broccoli and Cauliflower: 10-12 minutes
  • Leeks: 12-15 minutes
  • Asparagus: 4-5 minutes

Grilled Vegetables Recipes

Grilled Beets Salad
Grilled Beets Salad with Lemon and Herb

Method 4: Blanching Vegetables

Blanching is immersing food in boiling water for a short period of time (typically just a minute or two). In many cases, the blanched food is then cooked further using another technique.

In addition, the blanched food is typically immediately submerged into an ice bath after blanching to stop the cooking process. I don’t always do this though considering I’m not cooking in a Michelin star restaurant. I’ll just decrease the cooking time by a minute or two.

For example, you may want to blanch broccoli for a minute or two in boiling water before cooking in a pan. Or actually use thick kale stems. This will help soften the thick stalks which would otherwise be difficult to fully cook in the pan or eat raw.

How to Blanch Vegetables

  1. Fill a pot with water and add enough salt so that it tastes like the sea (about 1 tbsp kosher salt per gallon). Bring to a boil over high heat
  2. Cut up large vegetables like broccoli. Or leave vegetables like kale stems, broccoli rabe, and asparagus whole, so you can easily place and grab out of the water.
  3. Add veggies to the boiling water and cook.
  4. Remove veggies from the water.
  5. Immediately place veggies in a bowl filled with ice water until cool if you want to stop the cooking process (I typically don’t do this because I’m lazy).
  6. Place on a towel and squeeze out excess moisture.
  7. Eat as is or further cook in a pan or on the grill to add some color and caramelization to the outside.

The Best Veggies to Blanch

  • Asparagus: 3-4 minutes
  • Broccoli rabe: 2-3 minutes
  • Broccoli and Cauliflower: 3-4 minutes
  • Kale and other hardy greens: 3-4 minutes for stems, 1-2 minutes for leaves
  • Green beans: 2 minutes
  • Snap peas: 1 1/2 minutes

Blanched Vegetables Recipes

How to Blanch Kale
How to Blanch Kale Leaves and Stems

What Is the Best Method for Cooking Vegetables?

The best method for cooking vegetables depends on how you like your veggies and how you’ll be using them.

Browned and crispy? Then roasting is your best choice.

Smokey and charred? Go for grilling.

Soft and tender? Blanching.

Short on time? Chop ’em up and saute in a pan.

But, if you ask me – you are asking me, right? – roasted veggies take the prize for the best way to cook vegetables. The amount of effort required to make crispy and delicious veggies is minimal. It’s almost cheating that you can just toss a pan of veggies in your hot oven and get browned, tender veggies while you go do other stuff.

I think learning how to roast vegetables is so important for a busy person like you who wants to eat more vegetables, that I made a whole guide on it called Roasted Veggie Mania. It will teach you how to buy, store, roast, and transform every vegetable you’ll find at your grocery store. No more soft and mushy veggies.

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