How To Steam Veggies In The Microwave:
Steaming vegetables in the microwave is about as easy as cooking gets. If you haven’t done this before – or if you wish your kids would eat more veggies – then microwave-steamed vegetables is a technique worth trying.
Originally published May 10, 2016; last updated July 2020.
Microwave-steamed vegetables is the easiest way I know to make a quick, healthy side dish for dinner in just minutes. The options are endless; the technique is so simple, even your kids can do it safely; and steaming vegetables preserves their flavor, nutrients, and color better than many other techniques.
With so many people planting pandemic gardens this year, you may find yourself inundated with more fresh veggies than you know what to do with. And if you’re already vegetarian, you probably eat lots of vegetables, but may be used to more elaborate (read: time-consuming!) ways to prep these staples, esp. those with high protein content.
Steaming vegetables in the microwave is a quick and easy way to cook them that won’t heat up your house, won’t suck out nutrients like boiling them on the stove will, and won’t add calories like pan-frying. Once you learn this quick and easy technique, you’ll be surprised how simple it is to add a quick burst of fresh nutrition to your meals!
Microwave-Steamed Vegetables: The Basic Technique
What you need:
Besides your veggies and microwave (of course!), all you need to steam veggies in the microwave is a microwave-safe bowl, a tablespoon or two of water, and a cover. If your bowl doesn’t have a cover, you’ll need to find one:
- You can use a plate or some microwave-safe wrap.
- However, my preferred cover for steaming veggies in the microwave is a silicone shield. It’s reusable, and it seals to the top of the bowl in the microwave – maximizing the steaming effect in minimal time.
Besides making it super-simple to microwave vegetables, you can also use silicone shields to cover pans when you’re cooking on the stove. They’re great for keeping your sausage, bacon, or pasta sauce from splattering all over the place.
I recently bought a few more because I was sick of having to get ours out of the dishwasher at dinnertime because my husband had gotten it all greasy when cooking breakfast!
How to steam carrots in the microwave (or broccoli, cauliflower, peas, green beans, etc.)
Using a microwave to steam vegetables is SO simple, even your kids can do it!
- If you’ve never steamed fresh veggies in the microwave before, start by washing and cutting the vegetables into smaller pieces.
- Next put the veggies in your microwave-safe bowl and add water. I add about a tablespoon of water for up to a cup of firmer veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, sweet potatoes, etc.), and 2T if I’m cooking closer to 2 cups of vegetables.
- Cover and microwave approximately 2 minutes per cup of vegetables.
Carefully remove the hot container, pour its contents into a strainer over the sink, and rinse the veggies with cold water.
Quick tip: If you like to make soups, save the cooking liquid in freezer-safe containers, and use it in place of water the next time you make homemade soup.
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How to cook zucchini in the microwave
Wondering about how to microwave zucchini squash? While the basic idea is the same, there are a few things to be aware of:
Because zucchini and other types of summer squash are so full of water, you’ll want to watch these carefully, cook them for less time, and use less water. It’s easy to overcook them and end up with a mushy mess; when you make steamed zucchini in the microwave, it’s better to cook until they’re tender but still firm.
- If you’re cooking softer vegetables (e.g., summer squash or zucchini), use 1T water per two cups vegetables, and 1 min. cooking time per 2 c. to start.
- These vegetables tend to cook faster and release more liquid in the cooking process. Also, you don’t need to rinse them after.
By the way, steaming zucchini or summer squash in the microwave makes a very filling side dish that’s super-low in calories, both on account of all the water in them. I love to have microwave-steamed zucchini or summer squash with just a sprinkling of lemon pepper, garlic salt and a dab of butter, or a light sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.
A special note on microwaving winter (hard) squashes:
Did you know that you can also microwave whole winter squashes, in a fraction of the time it takes you to bake them in the oven? I wrote a whole post on how to cook winter squash in the microwave, which you can find here.
RELATED POST: Winter Squash Made Easy: How To Cook Winter Squash In Less Time
How to cook potatoes in the microwave
You can even bake potatoes in the microwave! If you want to have classic baked potatoes without using your oven, start with medium baking potatoes (Russet – medium potatoes are around 5 inches long), scrub them clean, and pat them dry.
Then – VERY IMPORTANT! – using a fork, poke several sets of holes in the potato’s skin, all around.
DON’T skip this step, or else the steam escaping the potato will cause it to explode all over the inside of your microwave. Not fun to clean up – trust me.
Place your potato(es – up to 4 at a time) on a microwave-safe plate, cook on HIGH for 5 minutes, turn them over, and cook another 5 minutes. Then test with a fork; if the potatoes are done, your fork will poke into a nice soft potato.
You can also cook sweet potatoes in the microwave in the same way. For large, long sweet potatoes, they’ll cook faster if you cut them into segments 3-5 inches long.
Super-easy Microwave Mashed Potatoes
- Wash approximately 1½ lbs. of potatoes and cut into 1-inch cubes (no need to peel!).
- Put into a microwave-safe container and add the contents of one 14.5-oz. can of low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth.
- Cover and microwave 10 min. or until potatoes are cooked, stirring halfway through.
- DO NOT DRAIN. When potato cubes are cooked through, mash by hand with a potato masher. In a pinch (i.e., if you’re behind schedule), you can use an immersion blender, but this will break down the starches in the potatoes and make your mash more glue-like, so you’ll want to add more broth.
Other family-favorite ideas to try when steaming vegetables in the microwave:
- Want to steam carrots in the microwave? Steamed baby carrots are great plain, but also good sprinkled with a little brown sugar or ginger. Or sprinkle 4 c. carrots with up to a tablespoon of brown sugar before cooking, and use 2-3 T. orange juice instead of water for cooking.
- One of my girls’ lunchtime favorites is freshly-steamed broccoli and cauliflower, sprinkled with a little shredded cheese or grated Parmesan.
- An easy supper side dish is slicing fresh zucchini and/or summer squash ¼ to ½ inch thick, steaming for a few minutes, and serving with lemon pepper. Lemon pepper is also tasty sprinkled over freshly-steamed microwave green beans.
- If you have an herb garden, try throwing in a few tablespoons of fresh herbs before steaming. Dill is great on carrots, and mint goes well with peas; or try chives with potatoes.
- If you don’t have access to fresh local vegetables, frozen ones are a great alternative. Skip the ones that come already sauced. Steam-in-bag options are great for convenience, but pricier than basic 1- or 2-lb. bags, which come with microwave-steaming directions right on the package.
Are microwave-steamed vegetables a staple in your family meal prep? Let us know your tips and fave recipes in the comments!
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