How to cook broccoli
From steaming to microwaving, boiling and roasting, here are our top tips on preparing and cooking this vibrant and versatile healthy green vegetable
There are many ways to cook broccoli, depending on how much time you have and what texture you’re after. If you’re in a rush, microwaving or stir-frying are the best options. Steaming and boiling produce reliably tender florets, whereas roasting and griddling take more time but add layers of caramelisation and charring, which is ideal for warm winter salads or as a side for summer barbecues.
From the brassica family, broccoli is good both for heart and gut health, and is high in fibre too. It contains a phytochemical known as sulforaphane, which may also help protect against certain cancers. Read more about broccoli’s top health benefits in our guide by registered nutritionist Nicola Shubrook.
Long-stem varieties of broccoli, such as purple sprouting, need slightly different preparation and cooking methods. For more information, take a look at our guide for cooking long-stem broccoli.
How to tell if broccoli is fresh
Look for broccoli heads that are deep vibrant green. As the broccoli ages, yellow and brown flecks will start to appear on the florets. Broccoli also tends to become floppy when it's past its best, so look for one with firm florets and stalks.
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How to prepare broccoli
- Wash the broccoli in cold running water, making sure the water gets between all the florets.
- Leave to drain in a colander or pat dry with a clean kitchen towel.
- Remove any tough leaves and cut off and discard the end of the stem if it's dry and hard.
- Cut the top of the broccoli into florets. Slice or peel the stem into thin strips.
How long to boil broccoli
Boiling time depends on the size of your florets and the texture you are looking for. For tender broccoli with a little bit of bite, boiling time varies from 2-4 mins for small florets, 4-5 mins for medium and 6-8 mins for large.
- Bring a large pan of lightly salted water to the boil. Carefully lower the prepared broccoli into the water and boil following the timings above.
- Test a piece of the broccoli to make sure it's cooked to your liking before draining well in a colander.
- If you like, return the broccoli to the hot pan over a low heat to steam dry for 1 min, then season and add a little butter so it melts and coats the vegetables.
How long to steam broccoli
- Fill the pan of the steamer with 5cm water. Put a lidded steamer on top so it’s suspended over the water and bring to the boil.
- Add the prepared broccoli to the steamer, re-cover and cook for 5-6 mins for medium florets. Check the tenderness of a floret with a small sharp knife. If happy with the texture, remove the broccoli from the steamer and serve immediately.
See our recipe for perfect steamed broccoli.
Roasted broccoli recipe
- When roasting broccoli, you can get creative by adding additional flavours to the roasting tin, whether that’s olive oil, garlic and chilli flakes, lemon zest and thyme, or sesame, honey and soy.
- Heat the oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7 and line a baking tray with baking parchment.
- Wash and cut a broccoli head into florets and slice the stem into strips. Toss the broccoli with 2 tbsp oil, seasoning and your choice of herbs and spices, if you like.
- Spread out in a single layer on the tray. Roast for 25-30 mins, flipping the florets over halfway through cooking.
How to cook broccoli in the microwave
- Wash and cut the broccoli into bite-sized florets and the stem into thin strips.
- Tip the florets into a microwavable bowl. Add 4 tbsp water, cover and cook for 3-4 mins on high. If the broccoli is still firm, cook in 30-second bursts until tender.
- Drain well in a colander then serve.
How to air-fry broccoli
Opt for bite-sized florets and cook for 8-10 mins in an air-fryer preheated to 190C, turning the florets halfway through.
How to stir-fry broccoli
To stir-fry, heat 2 tbsp oil in a large frying pan or wok and cook for 3-4 mins, stirring continuously.
How to griddle broccoli
To griddle, heat a griddle pan over a medium-high heat. Cut the broccoli into thin steaks or florets, toss in a little oil and cook for 3-4 mins on each side.
How to deep-fry broccoli
Dip broccoli in a tempura batter and deep-fry in batches at 190C for about 2 mins, before draining on kitchen paper.
See our recipe for vegetable tempura to try this technique for other veg as well.
What is the healthiest way to cook broccoli?
Microwaving or steaming broccoli preserves the most nutrients. If you are looking for optimal nutrients, be careful not to overcook and aim for al dente florets.
Water soluble compounds in the vegetable can be lost to the cooking water when boiling, though this isn’t such an issue for soup recipes, where the liquid becomes part of the dish.
Broccoli can also be eaten raw as crudites, shaved into a salad or added to smoothies.
How do you know when broccoli is done?
A knife should pierce the stem easily. It should have a little bit of bite but not too much – undercooked broccoli can be very hard to eat. Young children or older adults might need the broccoli cooked for 1-2 mins longer so that it is softer. Softer cooked broccoli can also work better for soup recipes so it blends smoothly.
Tips for cooking broccoli
- Avoid overcooking. In addition to reducing nutrients, the florets will become soggy and start to disintegrate. It can also develop a bitter, sulfurous flavour when cooked for too long.
- Broccoli can be boiled either with the lid on or lid off. Some advice says this will turn the broccoli brown, but so long as the water is kept at a rapid simmer or boil, the broccoli should stay nice and green. You might need to boil with a loose lid so the pot doesn’t bubble over.
Top 5 broccoli recipes
If you need a bowl of comfort, this thick and creamy soup is the perfect go-to. Add crumbled stilton or another blue cheese of your choice to the smooth vegetable mix for a rich and tangy flavour boost.
Broccoli is a great addition to this simple pasta dish as it soaks up the creamy sauce and ups the veg content. Have it on the table in just 30 minutes for a speedy family midweek meal.
Broccoli is equally delicious served raw. This colourful and crunchy vegan salad showcases a range of textures and flavours. Broccoli is combined with a sweet and punchy pickle, zingy maple dressing, crunchy cashews and cranberries.
Elevate your roast dinner with a simple but sophisticated serving of buttery pan-fried broccoli, finished with a sprinkling of parmesan.
Serve up a hearty veggie meal with crispy paprika-roasted broccoli, puy lentils and a lemony tahini yogurt.