The Surprising Pantry Ingredient That Makes Roasted Broccoli 100x Better

published Jun 19, 2024
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Overhead shot of roasted broccoli on white parchment paper, in a sheet pan.
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: James Park

There are few dishes as simple or as satisfying as a tray of well-roasted vegetables. In fall and winter, I’m pulling roasted potatoes, butternut squash, and spiced carrots out of the oven on a near-constant basis. In warmer months, it’s zucchini with Parmesan, cherry tomatoes, and tender asparagus, to name but a few. Throw some sausages or chicken on that tray, and you’ve got a whole meal. What’s not to love?

One of the all-time GOATs, though, that spans all seasons, is broccoli. Broccoli is incredibly versatile. It’s just as delicious stirred into a pasta dish as it is blended into soup. And it’s a chameleon in the oven. You can coat it in the flavors of a classic Caesar salad or toss it with sesame seeds and ginger. The possibilities are endless. 

No matter what the flavor profile, good roasted broccoli has gotten some color in the oven, with just as much browned crispiness as tender green. It can be tricky, though, to get really good browning without overcooking the broccoli and ruining its texture. Luckily, there’s a very simple trick to address this problem: Add a little sugar when roasting your broccoli.

Hear me out. You only need to add a very small amount of sugar — for a medium-size head of broccoli, I typically add no more than a 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon. I add the sugar in with the typical, salt, pepper, and olive oil. I toss the broccoli in before roasting.

It’s not enough sugar to make the broccoli taste sweet, but it is enough to encourage quick browning. The sugar on the broccoli caramelizes where it’s in contact with the hot sheet tray, which leads to quicker browning in the oven, so you get good color on your broccoli without overcooking it. Try it out the next time you’re roasting some broccoli and let us know in the comments how it went!