How to steam vegetables

Learn how to steam vegetables with our top tips and techniques. Try our different cooking methods, then test them out with our favourite fresh veg recipes

Steamed vegetables are healthy and steaming locks in flavour, nutrients and a perfectly tender texture. There are several ways to steam veg; follow this guide for tips and recipe ideas.

Read our picks of the best kitchen accessories and essential cooking equipment to stock your kitchen with the very best kit. 

Which vegetables can I steam? 

Purple sprouting broccoli in colander
Technically, it’s possible to steam all vegetables. But some work much better for steaming than others. All veg steams at different rates, so always keep any eye on the recipe you’re following, or our timing guide below:

Good vegetables to steam – Broccoli, spinach and other leafy greens; cauliflower, asparagus, carrots, green beans, small potatoes and artichokes.

Veg to avoid steaming – Any large chunks of hard veg, such as potatoes, squash or celeriac. 

How do I prep vegetables for steaming?

Any large veg needs to be cut into smaller chunks or bite-sized pieces. Root veg such as carrots should be sliced, unless you're using baby ones. Some veg can be kept whole, such as artichokes (just make sure you trim it well). Green leafy veg such as spinach and chard can also be steamed in whole pieces. Cauliflower and broccoli should be broken into florets. 

Do I need any special kitchen equipment?

Selection of steamers
It's good to have some kit to hand for steaming veg, although it can be done without special equipment by simply using a pan (see below). However, this method is not as effective as using specialty kit.
 

Steaming options:

Steamer pan insert – Some saucepans come with a steamer insert. It’s a second level of the pan which fits snugly over the top and has small holes in the bottom to allow you to steam veg. You can also buy these as a separate attachment. 

Collapsible steamer basket – A collapsible steamer basket fits directly into a saucepan, sitting just above the bottom of the pan. It folds up, is cheap to buy and effective at steaming veg. A great option for smaller quantities of veg. 

Electric steamer – An electric steamer can hold a large quantity of vegetables, takes up less power and accurately times your veg cooking. They’re great for cooking large batches of veg. 

How do you steam vegetables in a pan?

Vegetables in colander in pan

  1. Fill a medium pan with around 2 inches of water and bring to the boil.
  2. Cover and cook until tender. Top up with a splash more water if the pan boils dry.  

Alternatively, put a strainer over the pan, so that it doesn’t touch the bottom. Fill the strainer with the veg and cook. 

How long do I steam vegetables for?

  • Sliced carrots – 6-8 mins 
  • Cauliflower florets – 5-6 mins 
  • Asparagus (thick spears) – 5-6 mins 
  • Broccoli florets – 5 mins 
  • Brussels sprouts – 8-10 mins 
  • Green beans – 4-5 mins 
  • Spinach and leafy greens – 5 mins 
  • Peas – 3 mins 
  • Whole artichoke – 25-35 mins 
  • Small potatoes – 15-20 mins 
  • Larger chopped potato – 25-30 mins 

How do you steam vegetables in a microwave?  

To steam veg in your microwave:

  1. Put your veg in a microwave-safe bowl, then tip in 2-3 tbsp water and cover with a plate or heatproof lid.
  2. Microwave on high according to the steaming times above. 

Try our recipe...

Steamed leeks and peas

Leeks and peas on plate with spoon
Need a speedy, healthy side dish with plenty of seasonal flavours? Make a batch of our steamed leeks & peas with herby vinaigrette. It's so simple to make, and the honey and mustard dressing adds sweetness and a little warmth to the fresh greens. Add a pop of colour to your Sunday lunch or a summery spread.
 

Need more expert cookery advice? Read our other guides...

How to cook chicken breast
How to cook salmon
How to cook cabbage
How to cook pasta

What's your favourite way to enjoy steamed veg? Leave a comment below...

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