The idea of microwaving fresh vegetables may be new to some home chefs. But it’s hard to deny that the technique, with or without a dedicated microwave vegetable steamer, will get the job done in a pinch. What’s more, contrary to what some may think, research says that cooking vegetables in water on a stovetop is not necessarily always a healthier option. In fact, the microwave may spare your produce from losing vital minerals and nutrients because it reduces cooking times and can require less liquid compared to the countertop alternative.
The principles are simple: Just toss your veggie of choice in a microwave-safe container (we recommend glass dish or non-plastic plate), add a little bit of water and cover with a vented lid, such as this one. You can even use microwave-safe plastic wrap (just be sure to leave a few centimetres uncovered). You may also need a few trial runs to determine what time works best with each vegetable, and your microwave’s specific strength. The times suggested for each vegetable are a general guideline.
But as to which veggies you should use? Turns out the 10 options below are great for cooking in the microwave.
Related: Microwave Ropa Vieja
Yes, you can steam your carrots in the microwave! Just wash, peel and chop the crunchy, sweet root into bite-sized pieces, place on a plate or in a microwave-safe container and cover as described above. Set the microwave to 3-4 minutes (you may need to decrease or increase the time, depending on how many carrots you’re using and how much bite you like to this veggie). Carefully take out the dish from the microwave (avoiding the steam), drain the liquid, season and serve. As for inspiration, check out Molly Yeh’s Moroccan Carrot Salad.
Brussels sprouts are a great side to a meal or even the main event. Microwaving them helps make this healthy and delicious cabbage bud easier to incorporate into quick, healthy weeknight dinners. Rinse and cut the sprouts in half and place in a microwave-safe dish with ¼ cup of water, leaving part of the dish uncovered. Cook for 5 minutes, making sure the sprouts are tender enough. If not, continue microwaving in 30 second intervals. Season and serve.
Divide cauliflower into florets and rinse. Place in a microwave-safe dish with ¼ of water, partially cover and microwave for approximately 3 minutes. Season and enjoy.
Green beans require only 3-4 minutes in the microwave. Simply rinse and place in a microwave-safe dish with ¼ cup of water, leaving some of the dish uncovered. Microwave, and drain the liquid then season and serve. That’s it!
Rinse and snap off the stem ends, then place the asparagus in a microwave-safe dish covered with ¼ cup of water. Cook in the microwave for 3 minutes, drain the liquid then season these nutritious shoots to serve. For some ideas, take a look at this Roasted Green Vegetable Medley.
Another dinner quickie, versatile spaghetti squash is a great option for those looking for carb alternatives without sacrificing flavour. Cooking this squash in the microwave does take a couple more steps compared to some of the other veggies on this list, but we promise it’s worth it. There are two important things to note with a spaghetti squash: you shouldn’t try to cook the squash in one go as it may cause it to burst. Also, keep in mind that adding too much water will overcook your spaghetti strands, making them less spaghetti-like in texture and more mushy.
To prep, just pierce the squash throughout with a fork about eight to 10 times, and place it on a paper towel in your microwave. Set the timer to 2-3 minutes.
Remove the squash from the microwave and trim off the top and bottom. Then cut it lengthwise in half, watching out for the steam, and with a spoon, remove the pulp and seeds (you can cook and season these as you might regular pumpkin seeds).
Place halved side down on a microwave-safe container with a ¼ cup of water and return to the microwave to cook for an additional six to 10 minutes.
When done, you should be able to pierce through the skin with a fork easily. Run the fork lengthwise to create “spaghetti strands,” scoop the strands out and top as you might your favourite noodle or pasta dish.
If peeling, cutting and dicing butternut squash is getting in your way of enjoying this fall season favourite, fret no more. Your microwave will make these pesky steps a whole lot easier. Just be sure to puncture the squash with a fork about eight to 10 times throughout to allow steam to escape, and place in the microwave on a paper towel and cook for approximately 3-4 minutes, depending on its size.
Remove it, and when safe to handle, cut it lengthwise to scoop out the pulp and seeds. Place facedown in a dish in ¼ cup of water and continue microwaving for approximately 6 more minutes. Once done, test the softness with a knife and repeat the process if necessary in 1 minute intervals. When cool to the touch, peel, slice and dice as you normally would, season and serve.
To cook bok choy in the microwave, rinse well and place in a microwave-safe dish with a ¼ cup of water, leaving a few centimetres uncovered. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until tender, season and serve.
Peel and cube your potatoes, and place in a microwave-safe dish with ¼ cup of water and cover as described above. Microwave on high for approximately 5 minutes, drain the liquid and season. For mashed potatoes, simply mash them as you would potatoes cooked on the stove. For a crispier take on your favourite starchy spud, don’t miss this delicious take on Crispy Air Fryer Patatas Bravas.
Microwaving a sweet potato, like its non-sweet counterpart, is a great option when you don’t feel like waiting around for the water to boil or the oven to heat up. Simply pierce the skin of your sweet potato (or cut or cube it as you would a regular potato), place it in a dish with ¼ cup of water, partially cover and set to 5 minutes. If the potato is still too firm under your fork, continue microwaving in 20 second increments, then remove, season and serve.
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