How to Steam Vegetables

To make the healthiest vegetables at home, trust a simple, foolproof method that uses just heat and water. The Taste of Home Test Kitchen shares simple steps for steaming any kind of vegetable, from broccoli to Brussels sprouts.

Steamed broccoli and cauliflower make a healthy and delicious side dish.

Vegetables and steam cooking go way back-at least 7,000 years in China, and 10,000 years in North America. Eastern methods used bamboo containers for steaming, while Native Americans of the southwest used clay. Bring the time-tested method to your kitchen for fresh, healthy sides like steamed squash that are easy, too.

Expert Tips from the Taste of Home Test Kitchen

  • Shop! Steamers are available in stovetop and electric versions.
  • Keep those nutrients: Steaming vegetables preserves more vital nutrients than boiling does. Plus, no fat or oil is necessary.
  • Clean ’em up: Always wash vegetables before steaming.
  • Cut vegetables into equally sized pieces so they cook evenly.
  • Don’t overcrowd the steamer basket; steam in batches if necessary.
  • If you’re steaming a large number of vegetables, place the steamer basket in a Dutch oven instead of a large saucepan to cook more vegetables at once.
  • Add enough water to last the entire time needed for steaming; adding more water later will drop the temperature. Check to make sure the pan isn’t boiling dry, but avoid removing the lid too frequently—this will also drop the temp.
  • Inject flavor: Add some herbs, onions or other aromatic ingredients to the water.
  • Reduce heat to maintain a low boil or simmer to avoid overcooking the vegetables.
  • Careful! Steam’s really hot and can cause burns. Always open the steamer lid away from your face and hands.

How to Steam Vegetables

What you’ll need:


  • Your choice of vegetables


  • Steamer basket
  • Large saucepan or Dutch oven with lid

1. Chop your vegetables so that they are the same size.

Chopping broccoli on a cutting board.

2. Place your vegetables in the steamer basket. Place basket in a saucepan over 1 in. of water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to maintain a low boil. Cover and steam for recommended time or until crisp-tender.

Place broccoli in a steamer basket.

3. Always open your steamer lid away from you to avoid burns.

Open pot lid away from you to avoid steam burns.

4. Vegetables are done when they are vibrant in color and you can easily pierce the thickest part of the vegetable with a paring knife. Drain, then place vegetables in a serving bowl. Cover with dressing, butter, or your choice of topping.

Steamed broccoli is done when you can easily pierce the thickest part with a knife.

How Long to Steam Common Vegetables

Vegetables: Minutes:
Beans, green or wax
Broccoli florets
Broccoli spears
Brussels sprouts
Carrots, slices
Carrots, whole baby
Cauliflower florets
Squash, summer
Squash, winter
Sweet potatoes, cubes