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Steaming Vegetables

The idea with steaming vegetables is that you cook the vegetables over boiling water instead of cooking them in the boiling water. That way, most of the nutrients remain in the vegetables instead of dissolving away in the water.

Steaming is also the safest way to cook food.

Steamed food never reaches a temperature higher than 212 degrees Fahrenheit, the boiling temperature of water.

When we cook foods at high temperatures, we can create a cancer-causing substance called acrylamide.

French fries and potato chips are examples of foods that contain high levels of acrylamide.

The equipment

All you need for steaming vegetables is a pot with a lid and some sort of "platform" that fits in the pot. The platform holds the vegetables above the water. It must contain holes to allow the steam to reach the vegetables. We have three different steamers and we use all of them frequently.
steamer pot large

We like our large steamer pot the best, because it can hold a big bunch of kale plus a few other vegetables. We can steam an entire dinner in one pot. The only drawback to this pot is it takes up a lot of space!

steamer small

If you have a small kitchen, you can get by with a collapsible steamer basket that will fit inside most of your pots. We used a steamer basket for years before we bought our big steamer pot.

steamer microwave

Once, on a whim, we bought a microwave steamer at a kitchen show. We have used it more than we expected. The combination of the steam and the microwave cooks vegetables fast, and they taste great.

Some people buy electric steamers but we don't see the point of them. To us, an electric steamer would just be one more appliance to take up space on the counter.  And they don't hold as much food as our big steamer pot does.

The technique

Steaming vegetables is easy.  Just follow these steps:
  • Chop or slice all of your vegetables into bite-sized pieces before you start to cook. Frozen vegetables may be steamed too.

  • Divide your vegetables into groupsveggies to steam depending on how long they need to cook.

    Potatoes, carrots, and brussels sprouts are examples of long-cooking vegetables. Cauliflower, broccoli, and kale need medium cooking time. Bell peppers and spinach cook a short time.

  • Put one inch of water in the bottom of your pot and insert the steamer basket. Add long cooking vegetables. Cover and bring to a boil.

  • Reduce heat slightly and cook for 4 or 5 minutes.
  • Add medium cooking vegetables and cook for 4 or 5 minutes more.

  • Add quick cooking vegetables and cook for 2 or 3 more minutes.

  • Test vegetables with a fork to make sure they are tender.

  • Remove from heat, remove lid, and drain off water.


The time you cook each vegetable depends on the type of vegetable and on how you slice it. Thin slices steam more quickly than thick ones.

You can steam large pieces of vegetables or even whole potatoes or whole beets. This will take much longer, and your inch of water will evaporate as you cook. Add more water every 10 - 15 minutes so you don't burn your pan or start a fire! 

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