Steaming Veggies 101

To be honest, I’ve only been cooking consistently for the last year or so, since I finished grad school.  Before that, we lived on frozen and/or food, Hamburger Helper, and hamburgers…but now I’m learning.  And my health issues have really made me look at my diet- so we’ve been eating lots more fruits & veggies, no gluten, and now slowly cutting back on carbs.  To use up all the veggies we get from Bountiful Baskets, I bought a veggie steamer basket… and now I actually like vegetables 🙂 Fruits are sweet, so they’re easy to eat… but vegetables are another story.

Steaming is a pretty healthy way to eat vegetables- it preserves the nutrients, while maintaining color and texture.  It seemed like an easy way to increase my vegetable intake, but I couldn’t find an internet resource with everything I wanted to know (times, toppings, ideas for variety)… so here it is:

Step By Step:

  • Wash your vegetables, and cut into chunks small enough to fit in the basket.
  • Put enough water in a saucepan to cover the bottom, but not so much that it touches the bottom of the steamer basket (about an inch of water.)
  • Bring the water to a boil, then add the steamer basket with your veggies.  Make sure veggies aren’t packed too tightly- they should be arranged in a loose layer.
  • Cover & steam until tender (see table below).
  • Make sure the pan doesn’t boil dry- add more water as needed.
  • I usually stab with a fork every once in awhile to test the tenderness 🙂
  • If steaming different vegetables to the same basket, add them by order of cooking time: longer-cooking vegetables go in first, faster-cooking vegetables go in later.

Steaming Times for Common Vegetables:


Steaming Time

Artichoke, medium

40 minutes

Asparagus, thin spears
thick spears

3 to 4 minutes
5 to 6 minutes


30 to 35 minutes

Broccoli, florets

4 to 5 minutes
5 to 6 minutes

Brussels sprouts

7 to 11 minutes

Cabbage, cut in wedges

6 minutes

Carrots, cut 1/4-inch thick

6 to 8 minutes

Cauliflower, head

12 to 15 minutes
4 to 6 minutes

Corn on the cob

5 minutes

Green beans

4 to 5 minutes


4 to 5 minutes

Parsnips, 1-1/2-inch pieces

8 to 10 minutes


2 minutes

Potatoes, new
2-inch pieces

12 minutes
15 minutes


4 to 5 minutes

Sweet potatos, whole
1-inch pieces

40 to 50 minutes
12 to 15 minutes

Winter squash, peeled, 2-inch pieces

15 to 20 minutes

Zucchini, 1/4-inch slices

5 to 7 minutes

Simple Topping Ideas:

  • Olive oil: toss veggies in a bit of olive oil, salt & pepper
  • Cheese: sprinkle a couple tablespoons of shredded cheddar or grated parmesan over warm veggies (so the cheese melts!)
  • Soy sauce: add a couple tablespoons of soy sauce to the water before steaming
  • Vinegar: splash some balsamic, red wine or other vinegar onto veggies
  • Garlic: sprinkle minced garlic over veggies, or sprinkle some garlic powder & parmesan on
  • Fresh herbs: add chopped herbs (thyme, parsley, dill) to the veggies before steaming
  • Lemon: add lemon juice to the water, or add a few slices of lemon to veggies while steaming
  • Spice it up: just sprinkle a bit of chili powder, cumin, or cayenne pepper powder over the veggies (make sure you taste as you go, so it doesn’t get too hot)
  • Mix & match any of the above ingredients- just experiment!

Sources: O Chef, The Kitchn, Cooking Light magazine, October 2011 edition.


3 thoughts on “Steaming Veggies 101

  1. Pingback: 4 Simple Ways to Make Food Taste Better – The DA Eats

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