How to cook vegetables – tips and tricks from a chef’s kitchen

Author: Katy Beskow

Read Time:   |  14th March 2022

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These tips and tricks will show you how to cook vegetables perfectly every time, whether you're frying, roasting, boiling, steaming or more! 


We all know that vegetables are an essential part of a balanced diet, packed with essential nutrients including vitamins, minerals and fibre, but how do you get the best out of them?

Vegan chef Katy Beskow shares her favourite tips and tricks for how to cook vegetables to bring out the ultimate flavour and texture so they become the star of the show!

How to roast vegetables

Roasted vegetables develop a delicious flavour with natural sweetness, as well as a tender texture that melts in the mouth.

It’s also a perfect “prep and go” way of cooking, where you can throw your ingredients into a baking tray, pop into a hot oven, and get on with other things while the oven does all of the hard work.

Place vegetables in a large, deep-sided roasting tray (stainless steel or enamel allow the best distribution of heat) and drizzle with a little sunflower or olive oil.

Leave some space between the vegetables, so they roast evenly, without steaming and becoming mushy.

You can also scatter in some fresh or dried herbs for extra flavour, and always sprinkle over some sea salt before serving to enhance the roasted flavour.

Vegetables to roast: potatoes, celeriac, parsnips, butternut squash, red onions, pumpkin, cauliflower, radishes.

How to stir-fry vegetables

Stir-frying is a speedy way of cooking vegetables, which retains vital nutrients, as well as getting your dinner on the table in a matter of minutes.

A wok is an essential piece of equipment for stir-frying, as the carbon steel material and rounded shape of the pan allows the vegetables to reach a very high temperature.

You’ll only need to use a small amount of oil (sunflower oil works well), and allow it to heat to a high temperature before you throw in the vegetables.

Chop the vegetables into evenly sized pieces, so they cook through at the same time.

Keep the vegetables moving in the wok, either by tossing the pan, or by stirring the vegetables with a wooden utensil or chopsticks.

Delicious when dressed with soy sauce, lime juice (from an unwaxed lime) and fresh coriander.

Vegetables to stir-fry: broccoli, cabbage, sugar snap peas, finely sliced carrots, baby corns, mushrooms, peppers.


How to steam vegetables

Steaming provides gentle, indirect heat to cook vegetables, which prevents the loss of essential vitamins that are sensitive to heat, including vitamin C.

Steamed vegetables are also vibrant in colour and retain some al dente texture, making steamed vegetables a perfect side dish for a vegan Sunday roast dinner.

There are a number of ways to steam vegetables including using an electric steamer, microwave-safe pouches, in a bamboo steamer, or with a simple pan of water and heat-proof colander placed over the top.

Steamer pans are stackable, so you can cook multiple ingredients at once, including vegetables, pasta and Japanese-style dumplings.

Vegetables to steam: asparagus, green beans, spinach, sprouts, peas, red cabbage, broccoli.

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How to grill vegetables

Whether you’re using a griddle pan on the hob, or a barbecue outside, grilling is the perfect way to add layers of flavour to your vegetables, alongside some crispness to the skin.

As the vegetables are cooked for only a short time over very high temperatures, they retain plenty of nutrients.

For a simple way to grill vegetables, thread bite-sized chunks onto metal skewers (or pre-soaked wooden skewers) then use a pastry brush to sweep a little sunflower oil or olive oil over the vegetables.

Pop them onto a hot grill and listen to them sizzle and smoke as they cook, turning at intervals to ensure even cooking.

The charred flavour transforms seasonal vegetables into something new – and very delicious!

Vegetables to grill: corn on the cob, mushrooms, courgettes, aubergines, peppers, tomatoes, lettuce.

How to sauté vegetables

Many vegan dinners begin with sauteed vegetables, particularly bolognese, chilli and casseroles, where you need to soften flavourful vegetables before adding in the additional ingredients.

Firstly, make sure you choose the right sized pan to sauté your chosen vegetables. It should be large enough for the pieces to be in one layer so they don’t steam and become too soft.

Choose sunflower or olive oil, or perhaps some vegan butter to melt and coat the vegetables, and heat the pan to a medium-high temperature.

Use a wooden spoon to move the vegetables around in the pan to ensure even cooking, until they are tender.

Because there’s no water involved in this cooking process, the vegetables retain many of their nutrients.

Vegetables to sauté:  leeks, onions, celery, diced carrots, garlic, mushrooms, sweet potatoes.

How to deep-fry vegetables

Deep frying can often have connotations with unhealthy, greasy foods, but deep-frying vegetables creates crisp, mouth-watering dishes such as tempura, onion bhajis, chips, and beer-battered onion rings.

While I’m not encouraging deep-frying as a daily method of cooking, I do recommend it for special dishes where you want to impress.

What’s more, as cooking times are short due to the very hot fat used, many vitamins are maintained during the process – as well as the perfect crunch.

Start with a simple vegetable tempura using a basic flour and sparkling water batter to coat your vegetables, deep fry for a couple of minutes, and enjoy them crisp and hot with a sweet chilli dipping sauce.

Vegetables to deep-fry: broccoli, carrots, baby corns, mushrooms, chipped potatoes, aubergines, onions.

How to boil vegetables

Boiling is one of the simplest methods of cooking vegetables. This is particularly useful for starchier produce such as potatoes, swede, and turnips.

It’s my go-to method of cooking when the vegetables need to be very soft, particularly prior to mashing or blending into a sauce.

Boiled vegetables can lose some of their water-soluble vitamins during the cooking process, so consider ways to incorporate some of the cooking water into your dinner, including using the water to make gravy.

Always bring a well-salted pan of water to the boil quickly over a high heat, then reduce to a lively simmer when the vegetables are added.

Vegetables to boil: all types of potatoes, turnip, swede, parsnips, sweetcorn, beetroot.

If you ask us, roast potatoes are the best part of a Sunday lunch!

Learn how to cook them perfectly with our guide to cooking roast potatoes. 

Written by

Katy Beskow

Katy Beskow is a cook, food writer and cookery tutor with a passion for good food and has been vegan for 15 years. Katy is the author of seven best-selling vegan cookbooks, including 15 Minute Vegan, Easy Vegan Bible, Vegan Roasting Pan, and Five Ingredient Vegan.

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