3 Easy Ways to Steam Cauliflower

Choose your method for quickly cooked florets

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Steamed cauliflower is a wonderfully easy and nutritious dish—or a great base for other recipes—and is super easy. Steaming cauliflower can be done in a pan, with a steamer basket, or in the microwave. And once it is cooked, all you need to do is top with a bit of salt and/or pepper, a bit of fruity olive oil, or a pat of butter to meld with its earthy flavor. Adding a sprinkle of soy sauce or tamari is simple yet delicious, and a drizzle of toasted sesame oil brings out cauliflower's nuttiness.


Steaming in a Pan

This is by far a favorite way to steam cauliflower. It involves one dish, real steam, and results in great tasting cauliflower.

  1. Bring about 1/4 inch of water to a boil in a large frying pan.
  2. Add about 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt and trimmed and cleaned cauliflower florets.
  3. Cover and steam until as tender as you like (about 3 minutes for crisp-tender and up to 8 minutes for completely cooked, soft florets).
  4. Drain any water from cauliflower before using.

Steaming in a Steamer Basket

This is a classic method of steaming vegetables. The cauliflower is placed in a steamer basket or an insert over boiling water.

  1. Bring about an inch of water to a boil in the bottom of a pot into which your steamer basket or insert fits.
  2. Put trimmed and cleaned cauliflower florets in the steamer basket.
  3. Set the basket over the boiling water, cover, and steam until tender to the bite, again about 3 minutes for crisp-tender and up to to 8 minutes for fully tender florets.

    Steaming in a Microwave

    Steaming cauliflower in a microwave is certainly quick and convenient; however, it is definitely more difficult to get vegetables steamed to a precise and even level of doneness. In addition, cauliflower steamed in a microwave may require a bit of draining or drying depending on how much liquid is used and how powerful the microwave is.

    1. Put freshly washed cauliflower florets with water still clinging to them in a large bowl—a small pool of water should form in the bottom of the bowl quite quickly. If you don't see water in the bottom of the bowl, add a tablespoon of water.
    2. Cover the bowl with a microwave-safe lid or plate (avoid plastic wrap in microwaves) and cook on high power for 1 minute.
    3. Test for tenderness and repeat at 15-second intervals until the cauliflower is steamed to your liking. 

    Recipes Using Steamed Cauliflower

    Steamed cauliflower can be eaten as is with just a little sea salt and maybe a drizzle of olive oil. But cooking this vegetable in this way is also ideal when adding a flavorful sauce or incorporating in recipes calling for cooked cauliflower. Consider adding a store-bought or homemade pesto to steamed cauliflower, or coating the tender white vegetable with a rich cheese sauce. Steaming cauliflower is the first step in recipes such as creamed cauliflowercauliflower and cheese casserole, and cauliflower mashed "potatoes."