How To Steam Vegetables

Home Hacks

While it doesn't take much effort, steaming vegetables may seem intimidating, especially if you've been scarred by overcooked carrots or bland broccoli. These simple instructions will help you steam perfectly textured and flavorful (and healthy!) vegetables every time…

What You Need


Cutting board and knife
Saucepan with lid
Steamer basket (stainless steel or bamboo) or heat-resistant colander


1. Clean and slice vegetables into uniform sizes to ensure even cooking.

2. Fill a saucepan with an inch or two of water. It should come close to, but not touch, the bottom of the steamer basket or colander.

3. Place the steamer basket or colander in the saucepan, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat.

4. Add the vegetables, cover, and reduce heat to medium. If steaming more than one vegetable at a time, place heavier vegetables, such as root vegetables and winter squash, at the bottom, and lighter vegetables, such as leafy greens, at the top. (You can also steam tofu or fish on top of the vegetables for a simple, complete meal.)

5. Make sure the water doesn't boil away. If necessary, add more water during steaming.

6. Cook the vegetables until vibrant in color and just tender when pierced with the tip of a knife. Most vegetables taste better when they're still a bit crisp. Depending on the vegetables, it may take anywhere from 1-40 minutes. Keep an eye on things so the vegetables don't overcook and turn mushy.

7. Immediately remove the vegetables from heat, season if desired, and serve.

Additional Notes:
• Open the pot lid away from you to prevent your face from being blasted with hot steam.
• For approximate cooking times of different vegetables, see Bon Appétit's list. However, always rely on your own senses because times may vary.
• You can add herbs, olive oil, or other seasonings during or after steaming. For some ideas, see our Eight Ways to Perk Up Steamed Vegetables.

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(Images: Emily Ho)

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Emily Ho is a Los Angeles-based writer, recipe developer, and educator on topics such as food preservation, wild food, and herbalism. She is a Master Food Preserver and founder of Food Swap Network. Learn more at Roots & Marvel and Miss Chiffonade