Plant-Based Cooking 101: How to Cook Vegetables

Food & Entertainment

How to cook vegetables
Image by Sonja & Alex Overhiser, A Couple Cooks

The key to plant-based eating? Making vegetables taste so good, you can’t get enough of them. Now’s the time to expand your knowledge of how to make vegetables taste 100% delicious (#stayhome). As a food blogger, cookbook author, and toddler mom, I’ve learned the very best way to get anyone to eat their veggies is using one of these no-fail methods to cook them. Here’s a basic tutorial that works for any veggies you’ve got…like my favorite way to make broccoli taste as irresistible as french fries. (Really!)

Related: Head to my first article in this series, Plant-Based Eating: How to Actually Do It.

First Up: Knife Skills 101

To master vegetables, first you’ve got to master knife skills! This is where many home cooks are tripped up. Make sure you’ve got a large, sharp chef’s knife. It’s key to cutting vegetables quickly and correctly. (Here’s a chef’s knife we recommend.)

How to cut each vegetable? Well, that’s a whole cooking class in itself! Here’s a list of tutorial videos to guide you through the cutting process for 20+ of the most popular vegetables. Go to Knife Skills 101: Video Tutorials.

Plant based cooking 101
Image by Sonja & Alex Overhiser, A Couple Cooks

Favorite Method: Roasting Vegetables

Ok, let’s get to the cooking! Roasting vegetables is my number one favorite way to cook them. It brings out a sweet, earthy flavor, and they come out tender on the inside and crispy and blackened at the edges. Every time I make them, I end up sneaking most of them off the roasting pan because they are just that good. Here’s what to do:

  • Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. (Veggies taste best roasted at very high heat: it also gets them nicely browned.)
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut the veggies into bite-size pieces, then toss them with olive oil to coat and sprinkle on kosher salt.
  • Place them in an even layer on the baking sheets (no stacking!) and roast until tender. Most vegetables take between 20 and 35 minutes. Very hard veggies like carrots can take about 45 minutes.

Recipes: Roasted broccoli and roasted cauliflower are transcendental. (As is broccolini if you can find it.) This colorful mix of the best roasted veggies is stunning. Crispy Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes are a must-try.

Roasting vegetables
Roasted broccoli comes out caramelized and as irresistible as fries.
(Image via A Couple Cooks)

Fastest Method: Sauteing Vegetables

Roasting takes a while, so if you’re short on time: consider sauteing! It’s the quickest way to get veggies on the table. You’ll need a skillet and olive oil or butter, and most veggies are usually done in 10 minutes. Saute comes from the French word “to jump,” meaning that you’ll be constantly moving the food in the pan. Here’s what to do:

  • Chop the veggies into bite-size pieces.
  • Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Usually 1 to 2 tablespoons will do.
  • Add the vegetables, kosher salt, and any seasonings, and cook until tender, between 3 and 10 minutes. Stir often and keep those veggies moving! Greens are done in 3 minutes, and veggies like cauliflower take 10 minutes. Taste and adjust the salt to taste.

Recipes: You must try these best ever sauteed mushrooms. Sauteed spinach and sauteed kale are surprisingly good.

Sauteed vegetables
These sauteed mushrooms are life-changing.
(Image via A Couple Cooks)

No-Frills Method: Cooking Frozen Vegetables

Let’s say you need food on the table fast and you need to cook from your freezer. Can frozen vegetables taste good? Yes! But here’s what you need to know: frozen vegetables are actually already cooked. They’re blanched (boiled for a few minutes) before packaging, then flash frozen. To avoid mushy veg, you only need to cook them a few minutes. I like adding garlic and lemon to add freshness. Here’s what to do:

  • Rinse the frozen veg under warm water to quickly defrost it. Shake off the excess liquid.
  • Add a few tablespoons butter or olive oil to a skillet. Add the frozen veg (and a few whole peeled garlic cloves) and saute for about 2 to 3 minutes, until the veggies are just tender but still have texture and color.
  • Season with kosher salt and lemon zest, if you have it. Discard the garlic cloves and serve.

Recipes: These peas with lemon taste so fresh, you’ll never believe they were frozen. Newsflash! You can also roast frozen broccoli…and it’s darn good.

Cooking vegetables from frozen
Peas with lemon take just 2 minutes in a hot pan, and taste beautifully fresh.
(Image via A Couple Cooks)

With these three basic methods, you can cook all veggies to perfection. Grilling is one of our favorite techniques, and steaming is quick and healthy! For more info, head to How to Cook Vegetables.

BY Sonja Overhiser - April 13, 2020

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April 13, 2020 2:21 pm

Oh, this post is helpful for me as I often cook with vegetables!
xx from Bavaria/Germany, Rena

April 14, 2020 7:05 am

Great tips, especially about how to cook frozen veggies, I have avoided using mine in the freezer because the one time I tried to cook them they were terribly bland, hoping your method will save them!

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