How to Microwave Vegetables

The best thing about using a microwave to cook your vegetables is you can be assured of great results every time. If you boil or roast them you might leave them in there too long and end up overdoing them and, let’s face it, what’s worst than soggy overcooked veggies? Learn how to microwave vegetables and you have a new speedy way of cooking them.

A microwave cooks vegetables by producing electromagnetic waves which force polarized water molecules to oscillate.

This makes the temperature increase. Plant foods, namely fruit and veggies, have more water in them than, for example, meat, making them ideal candidates for the microwave because they cook fast.

You can microwave just about any vegetable in a few minutes, depending on the wattage of your microwave and the amount of food you are cooking, along with how big or small it is cut. A one-inch cube of raw vegetable cooks in about 40 seconds on average, in a 1000-watt microwave.

How to Cook Vegetables in the Microwave

Gather a couple ounces (about 50g) of vegetables, perhaps broccoli, zucchini, carrots, and mushrooms. Chop them into uniform-sized pieces (an inch or 2½ cm is good) so they cook evenly.

Pop them in a dish or on a plate and wrap plastic wrap over them. Pierce the plastic wrap a few times then microwave for 30 to 45 seconds. Dense foods like potatoes and carrots might take longer.

Is It Safe to Microwave Vegetables?

Before learning how to microwave vegetables you might be wondering about the safety. Some people avoid using their microwaves (unless they are craving popcorn or want to reheat a forgotten cup of coffee) because of the fear microwaving vegetables kills the nutrients. Actually there is an interesting story behind this myth. A popular high school project about 30 years ago used to be microwaving a cup of earth, then planting seeds in that cup of earth plus another cup of earth that hadn’t been microwaved.

Only the seeds in the non-microwaved earth grew, so people assumed the microwave had killed the nutrients in the earth. It was later learned that the microwave killed the nitrogen in the earth, something growing plants need but humans do not! Thanks to the popularity of this myth, many people shun what is actually an excellent vegetable cooking method!

Do I Need a Microwave Vegetable Steamer?

microwave-vegetable-steamerAlthough you can use the plastic wrap over a bowl method or even put your food in Ziploc bags, there is no doubt investing in the best microwave vegetable steamer makes perfect sense because you can reuse it over and over.

You can get microwave veggie steamers in various shapes, sizes and colors, but I personally like the long ones which are long enough for carrots and asparagus. You can even fit a couple fish filets in there too. The Whirlpool Universal Microwave Steamer is one of the best-rated steamers. You can do fish, veggies and rice in there, and it is dishwasher-safe for easy cleanup.

Pop in a fresh or frozen chicken breast, shrimp or fish, add some veggies and cook. You will have a complete meal in just a few minutes. If your microwave has an auto-steam feature, just add some water to the steamer and hit the ‘auto-steam’ button. Else, consult the manual to work out how many minutes your food needs. This is a very well-made steamer, not flimsy or cheap. This great quality means it will last you for many years and you will be glad you know how to microwave vegetables using it.

Whirlpool Universal Microwave Steamer, on Amazon

What about cooking whole vegetables like potatoes? That’s another part of knowing how to microwave vegetables. Well those take a bit longer to cook but it’s still quicker than baking or roasting them. I don’t like potato skin so I will microwave my sweet potatoes instead of roasting them, since I don’t eat the skin anyway. The following recipe is foolproof and I’ve tested it several times. The resulting potatoes are wonderful if you add some butter, cinnamon, salt and black pepper. Yum!

Perfect Microwaved Sweet Potato
Cooking a sweet potato in the oven takes somewhere between 5 and 10 minutes depending on the size, and the result is always perfect! A hot sweet potato makes a great lunch or side dish.
Recipe type: Side Dish
Serves: 1
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
  • 1 sweet potato
  • Butter, salt, black pepper, and/or cinnamon, to serve (all optional)
  1. Scrub the skin of your sweet potato.
  2. Pierce a few holes in it using a fork or sharp knife.
  3. Pop it in the microwave, on a microwave-safe plate perhaps.
  4. Cook it for 5 minutes at the highest power.
  5. Flip it over and give it another few minutes, cooking it until it's soft.
  6. You will be able to tell when it's done by squeezing it.
  7. Slice and add butter, salt, black pepper, cinnamon, or anything else you want.

Some people wrap the potato in a moist paper towel but I never bother with that. I usually just put the thing straight on the turntable and let it cook. Depending on the size of the sweet potato, it takes 5 – 8 minutes to cook through, but microwave ovens vary, and so do potatoes, so keep cooking it until it feels nice and soft.

Use the same procedure if you’re microwaving a regular (white) potato. Give it 5 minutes, turn and then another few minutes or until soft. For carrots, put a pound (450g) in a dish with a tablespoon of water, then cover the dish loosely and cook for 5 minutes on high or until tender. Asparagus is the same method but only 3 minutes. Knowing how to microwave vegetables means you can zap them speedily and enjoy a healthy side dish with your meal.

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