Eight Ways to Make Steamed Vegetables Taste Amazing

updated Aug 14, 2022
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(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

One of the simplest ways to prepare fresh or even frozen vegetables is to steam them over simmering water. This method is quick, light, and retains flavor and nutritional value. As long as you take care not to overcook them, steamed in-season vegetables often taste perfectly wonderful as they are.

However, if you find steamed vegetables too plain, don’t want to smother them in butter, or would just like to infuse them with extra zing, there are ways to perk up steam vegetables with fresh herbs, aromatics, oils and sauces. Here are eight things you can add to the steaming pot or basket to perk things up.

(Image credit: Patty Orly)
  • Fresh herbs – Toss whole sprigs of fresh herbs, like parsley, thyme, or dill, over the steaming vegetables, or chop up the leaves and sprinkle them over the vegetables after they’re cooked.
  • Garlic – Add sliced or chopped garlic to any vegetable, but leafy greens like kale really benefit from this extra zing. You can also sauté garlic with olive oil and toss it with vegetables after they’re steamed.
  • Ginger – Place thinly sliced ginger at the bottom of the steaming basket and cover with butternut squash or other winter root vegetables. Like garlic, sauté ginger in olive oil first before tossing with steamed vegetables.
  • Lemon – Add a few slices of lemon or lemon zest to vegetables, like broccoli, green beans, and summer squash. You can also add lemon juice to the steaming water.
  • Olive oil Before steaming, toss vegetables in the classic combination of olive oil, salt, and freshly ground black pepper.
  • Sesame oil – Toss Asian vegetables, such as bok choy or gai lan, with toasted sesame oil, salt, and white pepper before steaming.
  • Fish sauce or soy sauce – Add a couple tablespoons of fish sauce or soy sauce directly to the steaming water.
  • Vinegar – Toss sweet vegetables, like sweet potatoes or carrots, with a splash of balsamic, red wine, or other vinegar before steaming to play off their natural sweetness.

Updated from a post originally published in January 2009.