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How to Steam Vegetables

Created March 13, 2017
Steaming vegetables is fast, easy and deliciously healthy whether you use an old-school steamer basket, microwave, or a simple frying pan.

How to Steam Delicious, Healthy Vegetables

I love the taste and appearance of bright, crisp steamed vegetables. They are full of flavor, and this method of cooking tends to preserve essential nutrients, making it extremely healthy as well. Learn how to steam vegetables, from asparagus to zucchini, with just some common kitchen equipment and a couple of pointers to get the best results.

Kitchen Equipment Needs

The most common way to steam vegetables is by using a pot with a good fitting lid and a metal steamer basket. These baskets are inexpensive and sold in most supermarkets. Other ways to steam vegetables include using the microwave or simply putting them in a frying pan and covering it with a lid. We cover all those bases here so no matter what kind of equipment you have, you can steam any type of vegetable.

Get the Water Going

When using the saucepan and steamer basket method, place the basket into the pot and fill with water until it comes just to the bottom of the basket. You don’t want it to fill above the basket holes and have your vegetables sitting in the water while they steam, since this defeats the purpose of steaming. Some cooks like to add herbs or butter to the water to help flavor the vegetables while they cook.

Cover the pot with a lid and turn the heat on high to get the water boiling.

Preparing the Veggies

Cut up your vegetables before putting them in the pot. The smaller the pieces, the faster they will steam. If you want to steam tough veggies like potatoes, yams, carrots or beets, you may want to cut them in bite-sized pieces so they don’t take too long. On the other side, zucchini, peas and asparagus cook quickly, so you can keep those veggies a little larger if you like.

Steaming Vegetables

Once you see steam beginning to rise from the pot, your water is ready to go. Carefully take off the lid (don’t get burned by rising steam) and place your vegetables in the basket. Close the lid and keep an eye on the time. Carrots will cook in about seven to eight minutes, broccoli at around five minutes and asparagus will cook in about three minutes.

No Steam Basket? No Problem!

For those using a microwave, rinse and place the vegetables in a microwave-safe bowl. You won’t need to add additional water if you don’t drain the vegetables after rinsing. Just run them under the water and place them right in the bowl. Cover the bowl with microwave-safe plastic wrap, flip back a corner for venting, and cook for about the same amount of time it would take on the stovetop.

When using a frying pan, place just a small amount of water in the bottom of the pan -- just enough to cover the surface -- turn up the heat, set the vegetables in the pan, cover and cook.

When you’re getting close to the right time, open the lid and stick a paring knife into a sample vegetable. If the knife slides easily in, with no resistance, they’re done.


Remove vegetables with tongs or a long-handled spoon, but use an oven mitt to prevent getting a steam burn while you do this. You can place the steamed vegetables on individual dishes or season them first with a little olive oil or melted butter, salt, and pepper before serving.

Once you know the basics of how to steam vegetables, you can mix and match to get an endless number of combinations to make your meal different every time.