A steamer basket is a great way to cook a single vegetable or several of them at once by cooking them over boiling water. But to do this correctly, you need to have a good idea of vegetable steaming times.
One of the joys of summer is cooking fresh vegetables from my vegetable garden. The flavor is amazing and there are so many ways to cook fresh veggies.
If you are looking for a nutritious and quick option for a side dish for any meal, you can’t go past steamed veggies. When you steam a vegetable, you retain its color, flavor, texture and, best of all, its nutritional content.
4 Ways to steam veggies
There are several ways to steam vegetables and you don’t need mush in the way of special equipment for the task, although a steamer basket is my favorite way of doing them.
There are several ways to steam a vegetables. Most of the time vegetables are steamed using a steamer on the top of the stove or in dishes in the microwave. However, vegetables can also be steamed in the oven without much extra work or in a normal pot on the stove.
- Steaming on the stove without a steamer: Just place your vegetables in the a deep pot and add a couple of inches of water. Put the lid on the pot so the steam will build up and soften the vegetables. For this method a deep pan or wok works best.
- Steaming vegetable with a steamer: Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a pot. Add a steamer basket, silicone steamer, or heat safe colander, and place the vegetables in the basket. Close the lid and allow the steam to cook the vegetables.
- Steaming vegetables in the microwave: Place the vegetables in a microwave safe bowl. Add a small amount of water (just 2-3 tablespoons per pound of veggies.) Cover and cook on high for about 2 1/2 minutes then check for doneness.
- Steaming vegetables in the oven: Normally, the oven is used for roasting vegetables, but you can steam them in it, too. Just make a foil parcel, add the veggies and cook them for 15 minutes at 400 degrees.
Steaming vegetables in the oven saves you from having to use a pan or pans to cook sides or extras for entrees. Just add the meat next to the foil package!
Boiled vegetables vs steamed vegetables
Why not just place the vegetable in a pot and cover them with water and boil them? Boiling can destroy up to half of the vegetables’ nutrients.
Steaming veggies is a much gentler heat source and your vegetables won’t lose water.
Unlike boiling, which destroys up to 50% of vegetables’ nutrients, steaming doesn’t involve any water loss.
The goal of steamed vegetables is to cook the vegetables with a gentle heat until they are no longer raw, but still bright in color with a crisp texture. You don’t get this with boiled vegetables.
Think of the limp vegetables in a buffet style all you can eat fast food place, and those perfectly cooked in a fine restaurant that are full of their original color and texture. They are miles apart in taste!
And you get that difference in taste by perfectly steamed vegetables, cooked for just the right amount of time.
Steaming different types of vegetables in one pot
One of the beauties of steaming vegetables is their easy clean up later. In order to just have one pot to clean up when you are done, combine different vegetables in the same pot or steamer basket.
To do this, start with the vegetables that have the longest time and gradually add those with lesser vegetable steaming times as the cooking progresses.
An overview of Vegetable steaming times
There is no one hard and fast rule for steamed vegetable cooking times, since the size of the pieces matters a great deal.
Some vegetables can be steamed whole and others are better steamed cut into pieces. Use this chart and the additional information below as a gauge for times to steam the vegetables shown above and many more.
These times refer to steaming in a steamer basket over water after it has boiled (my favorite way to steam vegetables.)
Shorter Vegetable Steaming Times
Get dinner on the table quickly with these vegetables. They have shorter steaming times.
Whole artichokes take longer. Steam them for 25 to 35 minutes depending on their size. To serve, season with some lemon zest and drizzle with some olive oil.
This delicate vegetable can vary in size from very thin spears to those thicker than your middle finger. Steam them for 5-10 minutes depending on their size.
Serve with drizzled olive oil, salt and pepper and a sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese.
Both yellow beans and green beans are very nice steamed. Top and tail them and steam them for 5-8 minutes. Nice served with butter and tossed with pine nuts or garlic.
Beets can be quite messy. Wear plastic gloves when working with them. Pinch the peels off after steaming them whole for 15-20 minutes.
Serve whole beets seasoned with fresh herbs as a side dish, or slice them and use them in salads.
You can steam both stalks of broccoli, entire crowns, or just the florets. The fastest ways to steam them is the smaller pieces. Steam these for 4-7 minutes or longer for the larger pieces.
Broccoli is great with a cheese sauce, drizzled with olive oil or butter or tossed with lemon juice or balsamic vinegar.
Steam whole Brussels sprouts for 8-15 minutes or cut them in half and they’ll be done in 6-8 minutes. They have a mild cabbage flavor and are wonderful drizzled in butter.
Slicing carrots into pieces and steaming them allows them to cook quickly. Steam this size piece, or baby carrots, for about 6 minutes, or steam whole carrots for 10-12 minutes.
Carrots are lovely served with a drizzle of brown sugar and butter mixture.
It’s easier and faster to steam cabbage when you slice it into wedges. This allows you to steam the pieces in about 6-10 minutes depending on how large you cut them.
Serve cabbage with lime or lemon zest and butter.
Florets cook the fastest but you can even steam a whole head of cauliflower in a basket steamer. Stem florets for 6 minutes or a small head for 8-10 minutes.
Cauliflower is great served with a cheese sauce over the top. (You can make one while the vegetable is steaming.)
Cut celery stalks in half or pieces and steam them for 4-9 minutes, depending on the size. Season with salt and pepper and some sesame or pumpkin seeds for a nice crunchy texture.
Corn on the Cob
Nothing says summer quite like fresh corn on the cob, fresh from the steamer. It gives sweet kernels every time with no mess and is a great way to cook corn that is already shucked when you purchase it.
Check out this post for cooking corn on the cob in the microwave in the husks. Cooking this way makes the corn easy to shuck and removes the silk, as well.
Whichever way you steam it, it’s great served with a drizzle of butter.
Chopped Kale is not just for salads. You can steam it in a basket steamer in about 4-7 minutes. Serve it drizzled with olive oil and crushed garlic.
With the subtle flavor or onions and a more herbaceous taste, there is a lot to like about leeks. Steam leeks which have been cut in half for about 5-8 minutes.
Leeks can form the base of soups or sauces and also make a great stand along vegetable with any protein.
Longer Vegetable Steaming Times
These vegetables have longer steaming times, but you can cut them down, in some cases, by cutting them into smaller pieces.
When the onion pieces or whole onions are steamed to perfection, they are soft, clear and so tasty without any crunch. They will be mild in flavor and great to use on their own or to add to other dishes, such as burgers or tacos.
Steam sliced onions for 15-20 minutes or whole onions for 40-50 minutes.
Shelled green peas are one of my favorite things about summer. Mine rarely make the pot, (I love to eat them raw!) but when they do, steaming is my favorite way of cooking them.
Cook shelled peas for 10-15 minutes and serve with herbs or butter.
Sweet peppers can be steamed after cutting them into piece or as a whole vegetable. Cook chunks of peppers 2-3 minutes or the whole vegetables for 6-8 minutes.
Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes
You can cook both of these root vegetables in a steamer basket. White potatoes can be cooked in chunks or whole. Sweet potatoes are best if cut first, since they are so dense.
Cook whole white potatoes for 20-30 minutes depending on size, and sweet potato chunks for 7-10 minutes.
The leaves of spinach steam quickly – just 3-5 minutes and you are done.
Add steamed spinach to pasta dishes, serve it on its own with butter and garlic or mix with cheese for delicious stuffings.
Sugar Snap and Snow Peas
The pods of sugar snap and snow peas are edible and the peas inside are smaller so they take less time to cook than green peas.
Steam these types of pods for just 3-5 minutes depending on size. I often serve my sugar snap peas with halved grape tomatoes and garlic.
Squash and Pumpkin
Cut these root vegetables into large chunks and stream them for 7-10 minutes to make them faster to cook. Serve with honey, lemon juice and fresh herbs.
The colorful leaves of Swiss chard make a really appealing looking side dish. Steam chopped Swiss chard in 3-5 minutes and serve with some butter, garlic and salt and pepper.
Swiss chard is a super easy-to-grow vegetable, too. Find out more about growing Swiss chard here.
The versatility of fresh sweet tomatoes makes them a hit with all cooks. To steam them cut an X on the top of the tomato and steam for about 3 minutes. Put in an ice bath and the skin will come right off.
Use steamed tomatoes in all sorts of dishes, from pasta sauces to chili.
Steam zucchini slices quickly in a basket steamer. They take just 5-6 minutes!
Pin these vegetable steaming times for later
Would you like a reminder of these tips for ways to steam veggies? Just pin this image to one of your cooking boards on Pinterest.
- Fresh vegetables
- 1. Microwave bowl and Saran Wrap or paper towel.
- Microwave dish with cover.
- 2. Cooking Pot with lid
- Steamer Basket
- 3. Deep pot or Wok with Cover
- How to steam vegetables without steamer: You'll need a deep pot with a cover or a wok and cover. Just place your vegetables into the cooking vessel and add a couple of inches of water. Put the lid on the pot so the steam will build up and soften the vegetables.
- Steaming vegetable with a food steamer: You'll need a steamer basket and deep pot. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a pot. Add the steamer basket or a heat safe colander, and place the vegetables in the basket. Close the lid and allow the steam to cook the vegetables.
- How to steam vegetables in microwave: You'll need a microwave safe dish with a cover. You can also use a bowl and either saran wrap or paper towels to cover the vegetables. Place the vegetables in container. Add a small amount of water (just 2-3 tablespoons per pound of veggies.) Cover and cook on high for about 2 1/2 minutes then check for doneness.
- How to steam vegetables in oven: Place a sheet of foil in a roasting pan. Place another sheet over the first one and fold in or twist the ends to form a seal. Leave an opening for the vegetables. Place the vegetables into the parcel, seal the final end and bake for 10-15 minutes at 400 degrees.
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