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How to Roast Every Kind of Vegetable

How to Roast Every Kind of Vegetable

Words Heather Ramsdell

No matter what kind of veggies you’ve got, roasting them in the oven will make them taste better. Just follow this basic formula and easy tips and you’ll have a delicious side in no time.

Roasting vegetables is a good idea. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a beet or a green bean, a butternut or a floret of broccoli, the dry heat of the oven concentrates its flavor, softens it up, and coaxes out its sweetness. These universally tasty qualities make roasted vegetables a side dish that goes well with most meats and fish, and adds depth and comforting texture to soups, grains and green salads.

The same steps apply when roasting any veg. Once you understand the basics, you can work without a recipe, which is my favorite kind of cooking. Cut the vegetable into same size pieces. Coat them with oil or butter. Season them evenly with salt because salt tastes good but it also draws out some moisture. Add extra flavors if you want. Spread the pieces out on a baking sheet, and cook them in a hot oven until they are brown on the edges, and soft in the center. 

Time is the main variable in vegetable cooking: some cook more quickly than others.

How to Roast Vegetables

How Long to Roast Veggies: Fast, Medium and Slow

Fast: Juicy vegetables soften faster and need higher heat to caramelize. So, I cook things like asparagus, snap peas, okra, peppers, mushrooms, and zucchini pretty quickly at the high temperature of 450 F.

Medium: Vegetables like broccoli, eggplant, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts, and zucchini need a little more time in the oven, and in order to keep them from browning too much, I set the temperature lower to 425 F. 

Slow: The most dense vegetables, like winter squash, sweet potatoes, yuca, potatoes or beets need to stay in a 425 F oven before they’re done. Flip over the pieces part way through cooking. Whatever is touching the pan cooks faster than what’s in the air. Flipping once is fine. Flip twice if you are fidgety.

cutting vegetables

Go for Same-Sizeness

Cut the vegetables roughly the same size so that each piece finishes cooking at the same time. Small pieces cook faster than big ones, so if you need to speed things up, make your florets tiny or your butternut cubes the size of playing dice. Basically, the heat will take longer to penetrate to the center of the piece, while the liquid evaporates and the sugars caramelize. For example, if you have some big and some small Brussels sprouts, halve the big ones so they are not still raw when the little ones are ready. Try to cut potatoes so that the chunks are basically the same distance from the edge to the middle.

roasting vegetables

Give Them Room

It’s important to spread out the pieces in a single layer on a sheet pan so that some of the liquid can evaporate without steaming the neighbors. Piled-up vegetables eventually brown on the bottom but they also steam and get too soft. Space promotes better and more even browning. 

oil dispenser

Salt and Pepper

When seasoning, you can really just let the creativity flow. The oil you choose adds its own flavor so consider that when choosing butter, or olive oil, or coconut oil. The oil is there to help conduct heat and add richness.

Add More Flavor

As for added flavors, try one or two spices at a time so you know what you are getting into. I season everything with salt for all of the normal reasons but then I also like to add an accent flavor with spices like garlic, cinnamon, sumac, chili powder or fennel, or cumin, herbs like rosemary, thyme or oregano. I sometimes add hot sauce, lemon, soy sauce, vinegar, or honey, salad dressing (that’s right). Just try to remember that liquids take some time to burn off and sweet flavorings burn, so watch your vegetables carefully and flip them more often.

roasted vegetables

How to Know When Roasted Vegetables Are Done

Use time as a guide, especially if you are not sure if it is a fast or slow cooking vegetable. You’ll know when it is done when there are toasty, golden-brown corners as far as the eye can see, and when you can slide the tip of a knife easily into the very center of any piece.

Fast Roasted Vegetables

Recipe by Heather Ramsdell: Serves 4

Ingredients

8 ounces (about 3 cups) broccoli florets, cut into bite-size pieces (about ½ bunch)

8 ounces green beans (about 3 cups), trimmed

2 bell peppers (preferably red and orange), stemmed, seeded, and cut into bite-size pieces (about 8 ounces, 3 cups)

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon

4 cloves garlic, sliced

1 tablespoon za’atar

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
  2. Pat all vegetables dry. Put the broccoli on one third of large (11 x 17-inch) baking sheet leaving space, the green beans on another third of baking sheet, and the bell peppers on last third of baking sheet.
  3. Drizzle oil evenly over vegetables and sprinkle them evenly with salt and pepper. For extra interest, sprinkle the broccoli with lemon juice and zest. Sprinkle green beans with garlic. Sprinkle bell peppers with za’atar.
  4. Toss each vegetable, keeping them separate, until evenly coated, and then spread them out in a single layer.
  5. Roast, stirring vegetables once about halfway through cooking, until they are tender and browned and a little crispy, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve hot or room temperature.

Medium Roasted Brussels, Asparagus, and Zucchini

Recipe by Heather Ramsdell: Serves 4

Ingredients

10 ounces (about 3 cups) Brussels sprouts, halved

1 (1-pound) bunch thick asparagus, woody stems trimmed off

10 ounces (about 2 small) zucchini halved lengthwise and then sliced into 1-inch-long chunks

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Pat all of the vegetables dry.
  2. Put the Brussels sprouts on one third of large (11 x 17-inch) baking sheet, the asparagus on another third of baking sheet, and the zucchini or yellow squash on last third of baking sheet, leaving space between the pieces.
  3. Drizzle oil evenly over vegetables and sprinkle with salt and pepper. For extra interest, sprinkle the Brussels sprouts with balsamic, the asparagus with sesame seeds, and the zucchini with pepper flakes.
  4. Toss each vegetable, keeping them separate, until evenly coated, and then spread them out in a single layer.
  5. Roast, stirring vegetables once about halfway through cooking, until they are tender and browned and Brussels are a little crispy, 15 to 20 minutes. Taste and sprinkle with more salt if desired. Serve hot or room temperature.

Slow Roasted Root Vegetables

Recipe by Heather Ramsdell: Serves 4

Ingredients

3 medium beets (about 1 pound), peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

2 small sweet potatoes (about 12 ounces), cut into thin wedges

1 pound red skin potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons fresh ginger grated on a Microplane or minced

1 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Pat all of the vegetables dry.
  3. Put beets on one third of large (11 x 17-inch) baking sheet, leaving space between them. Place sweet potatoes on another third of baking sheet, and the red skin potatoes on the last third of baking sheet.
  4. Drizzle oil evenly over vegetables and sprinkle with salt and pepper. For extra flavor, sprinkle the beets with minced ginger, the sweet potatoes with smoked paprika, and the red skin potatoes with rosemary.
  5. Toss the vegetables, keeping them separate, and spread them out in a single layer.
  6. Roast, stirring vegetables once about halfway through cooking, until they are tender and potatoes are browned and a little crispy, 35 to 40 minutes. Serve hot or room temperature. Taste and sprinkle with more salt if desired.

Variations

  • 12 ounces parsnips (peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks; thick ends halved) + 1 teaspoon coriander = 425 degrees, 40 min
  • 1 pound butternut (peeled, seeded, 1-inch cubes) + 12 sage leaves, halved = 425 degrees, 40 min 
  • 8 ounces cauliflower (cut into bite size florets) + 3/4 teaspoon curry powder = 450 degrees, 30 min
  • Bok choy (10 ounces, 3 baby bok choy split, well rinsed, and patted dry) + 3/4 teaspoons sriracha dotted on = 450 degrees, 15 minutes

Want to keep roasting? Learn how to perfectly roast a spatchock chicken, ideas for roasted pumpkin seeds, and how to peel, cut, and roast butternut squash.

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