How to Cook Broccoli (5 Easy Methods)

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Learn how to cook broccoli 5 different ways by microwaving, steaming, sauteing, roasting, and boiling! This cruciferous vegetable cooks up in minutes. Give each method a try so you can see how the taste transforms!

How to cook broccoli.

Fresh broccoli florets are either adored or despised, depending on who you ask. But really, it comes down to how it’s prepared. The goal is to lock in the health benefits while making it still taste good. Mushy, overcooked, and drab green color can be easily avoided for a more delicious experience.

The microwave and stovetop are simple ways to prepare broccoli. Each method cooks the fibrous and tough florets, but have you tried roasting with high heat? It adds a delicious brown and crispy texture.

How to cook broccoli

Make sure to select broccoli that is deep green in color, with firm florets and stems. The large crown can be swiftly broken down into smaller, more palatable-sized pieces that resemble tiny trees.

All of these methods I’ve standardized for 1 large head cut into about 2-inch size florets, yielding 6 cups of broccoli. If you want the stem extra tender, peel the stalks with a paring knife or peeler for each floret.

Microwaved broccoli

Microwaved broccoli in a glass measuring cup.

Microwave technology utilizes electromagnetic waves to cook the broccoli from the inside very efficiently. The heat gets directed to molecules within the plant, so it heats up fast. The added water also steams the vegetable when enclosed in the container.

This process tenderizes the florets fairly quickly in just about 3 minutes. I use a 1-quart glass Pyrex measuring cup, but a bowl works too. Be careful removing the plastic wrap or plate. The steam is extremely hot and can burn!

Steamed broccoli

Steamed broccoli in a pot with red steamer basket.

Using superheated steam quickly cooks and changes the color to bright green. I find that it keeps the structure of the vegetable intact. The steamer basket keeps the broccoli elevated so the nutrients don’t leach into the water. This also helps with even cooking.

Make sure to keep an eye on the cooking time, as each minute in the heat environment can rapidly change the texture from crisp-tender to mushy. Three to five minutes is perfect.

Boiled broccoli (blanching)

Boiled broccoli being lifted out of a pot of water with a strainer.

Adding the florets to rapidly boiling salted water for just a few minutes instantly changes the color and texture. The blanch and shock method works wonders when you need to take out that raw chew. I use it to cook green beans as well.

The method also makes the color a vibrant green and ensures that the cooking process halts. This works great for broccoli salad, meal planning, or prepping a side dish in advance.

Sauteed broccoli

Sauteed broccoli with browned surface cooking in a skillet.

The robust texture makes it a great candidate for sauteing and stir-frying. This is where I like to break out either my cast iron pan, stainless steel saute pan or wok. The challenge is that dry-heat cooking in oil tends to cook the outside, but sometimes the interior remains tough.

The trick is to saute for the first few minutes to encourage browning, and then just add a few tablespoons of water, cover, and steam the veggies until fork tender. You could also add a stir-fry sauce instead of the water to help tenderize and enhance the flavor.

Roasted broccoli

Roasted broccoli laid out on a sheet pan.

Just like roasted brussels sprouts, roasting this cruciferous vegetable completely changes the taste. The sulfurous notes are removed, and a slight sweetness emerges. Preheating the baking pan and then adding the broccoli encourages Maillard browning to occur much quicker.

Toss the broccoli in olive oil, sugar, a pinch of salt, and black pepper. To switch things up, try sprinkling on red pepper flakes or grated parmesan cheese. This method yields flavorful, crispy crowns and stalks. They taste amazing with a squeeze of lemon juice!

The stalks are edible!

After you cut the broccoli, don’t throw away the large woody stalks. They are packed with fiber and nutrients. Beneath the thick skin is a tender flesh. Simply use a paring knife or peeler to remove the tough outer portions.

The trimmed stalk can then be shredded and eaten raw for broccoli slaw, cut into large batons for roasting, sliced for sauteing, or cut into ribbons for a fancy salad. If you are feeling adventurous, give broccoli rice a try for a low-carb side dish.

Compilation photos showing how to cut the stalk off a broccoli.

Recipe Science

What’s the healthiest way to cook broccoli?

Steaming, sauteing, stir-frying, microwaving, and roasting retain the most nutrients because the cooking time is brief and exposure to water is at a minimum. Boiling tends to reduce 5 to 10% of minerals like calcium and iron, and 5 to 25% of the vitamins like C and B’s because they are water-soluble.

How to Cook Broccoli (5 ways!)

Learn how to cook broccoli 5 different ways by microwaving, steaming, sauteing, roasting, and boiling! This cruciferous vegetable cooks up in minutes.
4.94 from 93 votes
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time10 minutes
Total Time20 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Course Side
Cuisine American

Ingredients 
 

Microwaved Broccoli

  • 6 cups broccoli florets 12 ounces, trimmed to about 2-inch long and wide pieces
  • ¼ cup water

Steamed Broccoli

  • 6 cups broccoli florets 12 ounces, trimmed to about 2-inch long and wide pieces

Boiled/Blanched Broccoli

  • 6 cups broccoli florets , trimmed to about 2-inch long and wide pieces
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 4 cups ice
  • 4 cups water

Sauteed/ Stir-fried Broccoli

  • 6 cups broccoli florets , trimmed to about 2-inch long and wide pieces
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil , divided
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons water

Roasted Broccoli

  • 6 cups broccoli florets , trimmed to about 2-inch long and wide pieces
  • 3 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon sugar, optional
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper

Instructions 

Microwaved Broccoli

  • Place broccoli florets in a microwave-safe bowl or container. Add water and tightly cover with plastic wrap. Microwave for 3 minutes. Very carefully lift the lid to check if the broccoli is bright green and crisp-tender. Cook an additional 1 to 2 minutes if needed.

Steamed Broccoli

  • Fill a medium pot with enough water on the bottom to not touch the steamer basket. Add the steamer insert and then the broccoli on top. Cover and bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat. Once the steam builds in the pot (this will take a few minutes), cook the broccoli until bright green and crisp-tender, about 3 to 5 minutes.

Boiled/Blanched Broccoli

  • In a large pot add water and salt, and then bring water to a boil over high heat. Add the broccoli florets and cook until bright green in color, about 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Transfer to a bowl filled with 4 cups water and 4 cups ice to stop the cooking process, about 5 minutes. If eating right away this step can be skipped.

Sauteed/Stir-fried Broccoli

  • In a medium bowl, combine broccoli florets with 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt, and pepper.
  • Heat a large 12-inch saute pan or wok over medium-high heat, then add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the broccoli to the pan in a single layer. Allow to cook for 2 minutes without stirring. The pieces should begin to brown.
  • Add the water and cover. Cook until broccoli turns bright green and crisp, 2 minutes. Carefully take off the cover and saute until the water has evaporated and the broccoli has a crisp-tender texture, about 2 minutes. Taste and season as desired. Serve warm.

Roasted Broccoli

  • Set the oven rack to the center position. Preheat to 500ºF (260ºC). Place a sheet pan in the oven to preheat before adding the broccoli.
  • Cut the florets into about 2-inch wide and long florets. Remove some of the tough outer peel from the stalks. In a medium bowl toss broccoli with olive oil, sugar (if using), salt, and pepper.
  • Remove the hot pan from the oven. Carefully and quickly transfer the florets to the sheet pan. Roast until the stalks and crowns are tender and browned, 9 to 11 minutes.

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 4 servings
Calories 47kcal (2%)Carbohydrates 9g (3%)Protein 4g (8%)Fat 1g (2%)Saturated Fat 1g (5%)Sodium 190mg (8%)Potassium 431mg (12%)Fiber 4g (16%)Sugar 2g (2%)Vitamin A 850IU (17%)Vitamin C 121.8mg (148%)Calcium 64mg (6%)Iron 1mg (6%)

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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21 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Brad Bradley says

    This was an awesome article on one of my top 3 fave veggies, Jessica! I am one hundred percent with you on the stalks. I prefer to skin them lightly with a potato peeler, then slice ‘em into 1/4” thick twenty-five cent pieces, something our kids loved growing up.

    Thank you for always putting up such excellent cookery, backed by practicality, science and great taste!! All the best, Jessica, havvva great summer 🥰🙋🏻‍♂️

    • Jessica Gavin says

      I love the broccoli “coins” you make for your kids, I have to try that too! I’m always here to help!

  2. Robert H. says

    Hello Jessica,

    I’ve used all your suggested broccoli cooking methods, with good success. My favorite is steaming, as it reportedly helps to preserve the nutrients. Regardless of how cooked, I frequently followup with a quick coating of sesame-butter oil for an added flavor — finding the same flavor to pair well with Asparagus, Broccoli Rabe and Green Beans.

    Once the broccoli is cooked and drained, I add (1) tablespoon each, of sesame oil (regular or toasted) and butter to a saucepan. Heat the mixture over LOW heat, just until sizzling. Add the broccoli to the pan and season with salt & pepper. Cover the pan and toss GENTLY a few times to coat the broccoli. Transfer to a serving bowl, sprinkle the top with a cheese-of-choice. Then, cover the dish with foil to melt the cheese. I also include a side of sesame seeds for an added topping, but that’s an option. For saute, steaming, or boiling, you can use the same pot/pan to make the coating and avoid cleaning a separate utensil.

    If you’re intolerant to dairy products, you can skip the butter/cheese and use (1) tablespoon each, of sesame oil and extra-virgin olive oil. Adding more sesame oil tends to overwhelm the flavor, especially if choosing to substitute the cheese topping with sesame seeds.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      I love steaming broccoli too! Thank you for your tips on ways to add tasty seasonings to the vegetable. I will have to give the sesame butter and cheese a try!

  3. Judy says

    Hi Jessica, This is so timely as I just bought some fresh broccoli and I was trying to decide how to cook it. Once cooked I plan to drizzle some fresh lemon on and pepper. You are the best. I always come to your site first for recipes. Love that bright green color of broccoli. I now need to go look up your recipe for corn beef as I have one to cook today. Judy & Timothy

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Glad I could help, Judy! We have a baked, instant pot, stovetop, and slow cooker corned beef recipes for you to try. Let me know which one you end up picking.

  4. Pamela H. says

    Hi Jessica:
    I used your Sauteed/Stir-fried Broccoli recipe and it was fabulous. I often oven roast it but my oven was busy tonight, so I quickly went to your app and looked up a broccoli recipe and made it in no time at all. Yay for me!!

    Thanks for a fabulous recipe.

  5. Deb Hall says

    Oh, and be sure to peel the broccoli stalk and then cut in 1/2” long pieces. Add to the steamer basket first, so it will cook a bit more than the florets.
    YUM!

  6. Deb Hall says

    These ideas sound great. I love broccoli, but only when it’s cooked right. I have a little tip that I always use when steaming broccoli…add a small bit of baking soda to the water before you put the steamer basket in the pot. Add 1/4 tsp for 1/2 head of broccoli and stir. It keeps the broccoli very green

  7. Mr. Ron from So Mississippi says

    How do you wash the sand out of broccoli? I run the head of broccoli under a water spray, but apparently the spray doesn’t reach the interior of the head. Should I be cutting the heads into smaller pieces to wash them?

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi Ron! You can cut the head into smaller pieces and submerge in cool water for a few minutes to get out any sand. Then rinse and drain well.

  8. Sunny McCleave says

    Hello Jessica, I would like to try roasted broccoli but reading your instruction it seems to my thinking you want me to get the sheet pan super hot, 500 degrees take outof oven place broccoli on pan and cook it out of oven??? Really? that works over 11 minutes? or am I just stupid. I am just learning new good ways to cook. Shouldn’t I put sheet pan and broccoli back in oven?? Tonight I will microwave, done that-can do with shredded cheese it is great.
    thank you, Sunny

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi Sunny! Yes, you’re correct. Preheat the pan while you prep the broccoli, then roast the vegetable on the hot pan. That will brown the surface for a nice contrast of texture and better flavor.

      • Sunny McCleave says

        THANK YOU JESSICA FOR RAPID REPLY AND CLEARING UP MY STUPID BRAIN
        TONIGHT ROASTED BROCCOLI WITH SWISS AND GREYUER CHEESE MELTED ALL OVER IT CAN’T WAIT.

        SUNNY

  9. Judy says

    Hi Jessica. Broccoli is so beautiful. I have never tried it blanched so I’m going to do that. I love roasted broccoli. I actually ruined two steamer basket making broccoli because they went dry. That’s on me. They were kind of bulky baskets and I couldn’t see beneath and I thought they had enough water. So I need to look at your timing on that closely and give it another shot. Thank you again and again for all the wonderful recipes and the love and care you put into everything you do.