How to Steam Vegetables in Microwave?

Steaming vegetables in the microwave is a quick and convenient method to preserve the taste and nutrients of your greens. 

It also eliminates the need for bulky steamers or waiting for water to boil.

Microwave steaming is ideal for busy lifestyles, allowing you to prepare healthy sides or ingredients for your meals in minutes.

With a bit of practice, you’ll find steaming vegetables in your microwave to be efficient and a catalyst for healthier dining at home.

How to Steam Vegetables in Microwave?

Before utilizing the convenience of your microwave to steam vegetables, there are preliminary steps to ensure they come out perfectly tender.

Let me share all the steps in detail.

Step 1- Prepare the Vegetables

Thaw any frozen vegetables, such as peas, before starting. 

Fresh vegetables like broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, and asparagus should be properly washed to remove dirt and bacteria.

For even cooking, cut the vegetables into bite-size pieces. This is important, as it allows for a uniform texture. 

For instance, divide broccoli and cauliflower into 1-inch florets and slice any stems thinly to match the cooking times of the florets. 

Brussels sprouts can be halved, while zucchini should be sliced into 1/4- to 1/2-inch disks.

Peel off any tough or fibrous skins, particularly from asparagus stalks, leaving the heads whole. 

Trim the ends of green beans, and cut large vegetables such as carrots into slices or matchsticks. 

For vegetables like spinach, removing tough stems is necessary before a quick wash and dry. 

If you plan to steam corn, you can either leave it in the husk or remove the kernels.

Once your veggies are cut and cleaned, it’s time to season them to your taste. 

A dash of salt, pepper, or any other preferred seasoning can be added before steaming to enhance their natural flavors.

VegetablePreparation
BroccoliCut into 1-inch florets; peel and slice stems thinly
CarrotsWash, peel, and slice into matchsticks or rounds
CauliflowerSeparate into 1-inch florets
AsparagusPeel off fibrous skin, if tough; leave heads whole
CornRemove husk and silk, cut off kernels if preferred
Green BeansTrim the ends
SpinachTrim tough stems, wash and dry
PeasThaw if frozen
Brussels SproutsHalve or peel leaves
ZucchiniCut into 1/4- to 1/2-inch disks

Once your vegetables are prepped, you’re ready to move on to the next step in the steaming process.

Step 2- Load the Vegetables

Once your vegetables are prepped, you’re ready to move on to the next step in the steaming process.

You can load the vegetables either in a microwave-safe steamer, glass bowl, or steam bag.

Loading in Microwave Steamer

  • Place the prepped vegetables into the steamer basket.
  • Add the required amount of water to the base of the microwave steamer (usually around two tablespoons).
  • Secure the lid on the steamer, ensuring the vent is open if available.

Watch the visual demonstration here 

Loading in the Microwave-Safe Glass Bowl

  • Transfer the cut vegetables into a microwave-safe bowl.
  • Pour a small amount of water over the vegetables, roughly two tablespoons for every cup of vegetables.
  • Cover the bowl with a microwave-safe lid or a vented plastic wrap to allow steam to escape.

Watch the visual demo here: 

Loading in Microwave-Safe Steam Bags

  • Spoon the vegetables into a microwave-safe steam bag, like Ziploc.
  • Do not overfill the bag; leave enough space for the bag to expand when steaming.
  • Add any seasonings or a pat of butter atop the vegetables before sealing the bag.
  • Make sure the seal is secure, and lay the bag flat in the microwave, with the instructions face up for accurate cooking times.

Watch how to steam zucchini using Ziploc steaming bags here

Step 3- Set the Timer

Once your vegetables are prepped and in a microwave-safe container, setting the right time on your microwave is important. 

Take into account both the wattage of your microwave and the type of vegetable you’re cooking. A higher-wattage microwave cooks food faster, so adjust cooking times accordingly.

For Lower Wattage Microwaves (600-800 watts):

  • Dense vegetables like carrots or potatoes: 5-7 minutes
  • Softer vegetables like broccoli or zucchini: 3-5 minutes

For Higher Wattage Microwaves (1000-1200 watts):

  • Dense vegetables: 3-4 minutes
  • Softer vegetables: 1.5-3 minutes

Here’s a quick reference guideline:

Vegetable TypeLower Wattage (600-800W)Higher Wattage (1000-1200W)
Dense Vegetables5-7 minutes3-4 minutes
Soft Vegetables3-5 minutes1.5-3 minutes

Begin with the lower end of the time range, checking the vegetables’ doneness before adding more time. 

If they’re not quite done after the initial timer, continue to microwave in 30-second increments until they reach your preferred tenderness. 

Some microwaves like Whirlpool come with a steaming option. Utilize this feature, if available, for optimal steaming results.

Step 4- Check for Doneness

When steaming vegetables in the microwave, verifying their doneness is crucial to ensure they are perfectly cooked. 

Once the microwave timer indicates the end of the cooking time, don’t rush to serve them immediately. 

Instead, let it rest for a minute or two inside the microwave; this allows the vegetables to continue steaming evenly within their heat.

Now, carefully remove the dish from the microwave, using oven mitts to protect your hands from the heat. To check for tender vegetables, simply use a fork and pierce them. 

If the fork enters with little resistance and the interior feels soft, your vegetables have achieved the desired texture and are ready.

Here’s a quick checklist to gauge doneness:

  • Firm vegetables (like carrots and potatoes): Should give in to a slight pressure but still offer resistance.
  • Leafy greens (like spinach): Look for a wilted, yet vibrant appearance.
  • Cruciferous veggies (broccoli, cauliflower): Pierce with a fork; stalks should be tender yet retain some firmness.

If the veggies aren’t fully done, return them to the microwave for additional short intervals of 30 seconds to a minute—repeat if needed until done. 

This careful monitoring prevents overcooking, ensuring you don’t end up with a mushy texture.

For extra flavor, feel free to season your vegetables after checking for doneness, as their residual heat will help to diffuse the seasoning evenly. 

And when you’re satisfied with the doneness, your steamed vegetables are ready to serve and enjoy.

Also read: Can Steam Damage a Microwave?

Precautions to Take While Steaming Vegetables in the Microwave

Paying attention to how you prepare the vegetables, the type of dish you use, and the handling of hot items can prevent accidents and enhance the flavor and texture of your steamed vegetables.

Here are some precautions to follow: 

  • To ensure even cooking, cut your vegetables into small, uniform pieces. This helps distribute the heat more evenly and reduces cooking time.
  • Always use a microwave-safe dish to steam vegetables. This will prevent the dish from melting or releasing harmful chemicals during heating.
  • If using microwave-safe plastic wrap as a cover, leave a small gap or poke holes in the wrap. This allows steam to escape and avoids pressure build-up.
  • Ensure the turntable can turn freely with the bowl on it to provide even heating and avoid spills.
  • Begin with the lower end of the time range, checking the vegetables’ doneness before adding more time. 
  • To keep the steam enclosed and cook evenly, don’t open the microwave too often.
  • Keep the lid on the bowl while in the microwave to maintain the necessary steam for cooking and to prevent hot liquid from splattering.
  • When the vegetables are done, remove the dish with oven mitts to protect your hands from any hot surfaces.
  • After heating, let the dish rest for a minute before carefully opening the lid or plastic wrap to avoid steam burns.
  • Remember, vegetables will continue to cook slightly from residual heat after you take them out of the microwave, so it’s better to err on the side of undercooking.

Benefits of Steaming Vegetables in the Microwave

Microwaves cook food using energy waves, efficiently generating steam within a covered container. Here are some benefits of steaming vegetables in the microwave: 

Time-Saving

Microwave steaming is significantly faster than traditional methods. Whether you’re in a hurry or simply value efficiency in the kitchen, you can have steamed vegetables ready in a matter of minutes.

Nutrient Retention

The rapid cooking process helps to preserve vitamins and minerals that might be lost during longer cooking methods. 

By steaming vegetables, you minimize nutrient depletion, ensuring that your meals are as nutritious as possible.

Enhanced Flavor

Vegetables steamed in the microwave retain much of their natural taste. The quick exposure to high heat helps to lock in their inherent flavors, negating the need for excess seasoning or oils.

Vibrant Color

One visual benefit of microwave steaming is the retention of natural colors in your vegetables. 

Your dishes will look more appealing with vibrant colors of greens, bright reds, and deep yellows that indicate a well-cooked but not overdone vegetable.

Convenience

If your kitchen skills are still developing or if time is of the essence, microwave steaming is a simple and nearly fail-proof method. 

With minimal equipment needed, you can easily create a healthy side dish.

When steaming vegetables using a microwave, always ensure that you use a microwave-safe bowl with a lid or vented cover. 

Add a small amount of water to create steam, cover the dish, and microwave for a few minutes, depending on the vegetable type. Your veggies should come out perfectly tender and ready to eat.

Cons of Steaming Vegetables in the Microwave

Below are some disadvantages of microwave steaming:

Nutrient Retention

The microwave can sometimes cause a reduction in certain heat-sensitive nutrients. 

However, according to research, there are only slight differences between microwave and conventional cooking on vitamin retention in foods.

Cooking Quality

Achieving the perfect texture can be challenging; vegetables might turn out soggy or unevenly cooked if not monitored closely.

Overcooked Veggies

There’s a fine line between perfectly steamed and overcooked vegetables, and microwaves can cross this line quickly. 

Overcooking not only affects the texture but can also diminish flavor.

Equipment Requirements

You need to have microwave-safe equipment specialized for steaming, such as a microwave steamer bowl. 

Using inappropriate containers could lead to melted materials or contain dangerous chemicals like BPA.

Alternative Methods of Steaming Vegetables

While microwaving is a quick way to steam your vegetables, several equally effective methods can fit various preferences and kitchen setups. 

Each alternative requires specific equipment, but the result is flavorful and nutritious steamed vegetables.

Stovetop

To steam vegetables on the stovetop, you’ll need a pot and a steamer basket. Fill the pot with a couple of inches of water, making sure it’s below the bottom of the basket. 

Place the vegetables in the basket, cover the pot, and bring the water to a boil. Vegetables typically take about 10 minutes on the stovetop to steam to the perfect tenderness. 

Instant Pot

Using an Instant Pot for steaming is a great hands-off approach. Insert the steamer basket within the pot and add water just until it reaches the bottom of the basket. 

The ‘Steam’ setting ensures that your vegetables cook quickly and retain their nutrients. 

Electric Food Steamer

When using an electric food steamer, simply fill the reservoir with water, load the vegetables into the steaming tray, and set the timer. 

BELLA Two Tier Food Steamer with Dishwasher Safe Lids and Stackable Baskets & Removable Base for Fast Simultaneous Cooking - Auto Shutoff & Boil Dry Protection, 7.4 QT, Black

It’s a standalone appliance dedicated to steaming, meaning it often features multiple tiers for steaming different items simultaneously. 

Rice Cooker

A rice cooker isn’t just for rice; it can be a convenient way to steam vegetables too. Most rice cookers come with a steamer tray or basket. 

BLACK+DECKER 6-Cup Rice Cooker, RC506, 3-cup Uncooked Rice, Steaming Basket, Removable Non-Stick Bowl, One Touch

Add water to the main pot, place the tray with vegetables above the water, and turn on the cook or steam setting. 

Remember, regardless of the method, make sure to check the vegetables intermittently for doneness to ensure they are perfectly steamed to your preference.

How to Reheat Steamed Vegetables in the Microwave

When reheating steamed vegetables in the microwave, your goal is to restore the warmth without compromising their texture and taste. 

Start by selecting a microwave-safe dish to ensure the safety and effectiveness of your reheating process.

If you’re working with frozen vegetables, it’s best to let them thaw before microwaving to achieve even heating. 

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you reheat your steamed vegetables successfully:

  1. Spread your steamed vegetables in an even layer in the dish. This promotes uniform reheating.
  2. Sprinkle a bit of water over the vegetables or add a damp paper towel on top to prevent them from drying out.
  3. Use a microwave-safe lid or plastic wrap with some holes to cover the dish. This traps steam and maintains moisture.
  4. Set your microwave on low to medium power. Heat in short intervals of 30 seconds, stirring in between to ensure even heating. Remember, microwaves vary in power, so you might need to adjust the timing slightly based on your appliance’s specifications.
  5. For the last few seconds, remove the cover to allow any excess moisture to escape, preventing your vegetables from becoming soggy.

Frequently Asked Questions

In the process of harnessing your microwave’s convenience for steaming vegetables, certain questions might arise. 

This section aims to clarify those common queries with precise and helpful answers.

Are Microwave Vegetables Healthy?

Microwaved vegetables retain most of their vitamins and minerals due to the short cooking time and minimal use of water. 

The key is not to overcook them, as prolonged exposure to heat can break down these nutrients.

How to Season Steamed Vegetables?

Season your steamed vegetables with herbs, spices, or a drizzle of olive oil for added flavor. 

Salt, pepper, garlic powder, or lemon juice are simple, yet effective seasonings that enhance the natural taste of your vegetables.

What Vegetables Are Not Preferable to Steam in the Microwave?

Vegetables with a high water content like lettuce or cucumbers are not ideal for microwaving as they can become soggy.

Thick, dense vegetables like whole potatoes might not cook evenly as well.

Is It Necessary to Add Water When Steaming Vegetables in the Microwave?

Adding a small amount of water creates the steam needed to cook the vegetables.

Usually, 2-3 tablespoons are enough. The water heats up and turns into steam, which then cooks the vegetables gently.

Do You Need to Cover the Dish When Steaming Vegetables in the Microwave?

Yes, covering the dish is essential as it traps the steam, ensuring the vegetables cook evenly. You can use a microwave-safe lid or microwave-safe plastic wrap.

Can Frozen Vegetables Be Used for Steaming in the Microwave?

Absolutely. Frozen vegetables are a convenient option for steaming. There’s no need to thaw them first; simply increase the cooking time slightly compared to fresh vegetables.

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I’m Jueria and I am a regular contributor on cookeryspace.com. In my articles, I share time-saving techniques, appliance wizardry, and health-friendly recipes to bring taste and wellness to your table. So raise a glass (or a spatula) with me, to good health and good food, made easy!