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How to Steam Vegetables without a Steamer

How to Steam Vegetables without a Steamer

Last Updated on 5th July 2023 by

Are you looking for a health-conscious way to enjoy your vegetables? Many of the cooking methods people use to prepare veggies can rob them of their nutrients, making them less beneficial to you. Frying, grilling and pan searing may all make your vegetables taste good, but they aren’t good at keeping the nutrients locked in and ready to be used.

Raw vegetables contain the most nutrients, of course, but they can be tougher and crunchier than most people want. Steaming vegetables offers a way to keep most of the nutrients locked in the vegetables and it makes tough veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and asparagus tasty and tender.

Most people prefer steamed vegetables to raw ones, but not everyone has a steamer in their kitchen to cook veggies this way. How to steam vegetables without a steamer?

It’s possible, but you must know a few cooking tricks to pull it off.

You don’t need a steamer to get that wonderfully tender, juicy, steamed experience with your veggies, and we will show you how to do it.

How to Steam Vegetables without a Steamer in the Microwave

So, you don’t have a steamer or steamer basket and you want to give your veggies that lovely, steamed look and texture. Or maybe you just want a quicker and simpler method of preparing steamed vegetables without the steamer. We have you covered with this simple method that anyone can do.

The Process

You can steam your veggies without those methods just by using your microwave. They come out of the microwave nicely steamed, looking plump and moist. How to steam vegetables without a steamer basket?

Types of Vegetables

If you have long veggies you want to steam, just wrap them in a wet paper towel and put them on a microwaveable or in a microwave-safe dish. Then, warm up the food in the microwave. For a pound of asparagus or carrots, you need to warm it for about two minutes.

For shorter vegetables, like broccoli and cauliflower, you should place them in a microwave safe dish and put a little water in the dish. For best results, cover the dish with some plastic wrap and leave a small vent in one corner to let out the steam. Then, microwave for about three minutes. Your broccoli and cauliflower will come out plump and soft, just as if you used the steamer.

You may have to make minor adjustments for certain vegetables, but the same basic principles work for them all. Steaming them in the microwave is easy as long as you get a little water involved, but don’t crowd your vegetables too much and be sure to use a dish that’s microwave safe to steam them in.

How to Steam Vegetables without a Steamer or Microwave

We know that some people prefer not to use the microwave. There are some health concerns related to using the microwave, and it’s understandable that some health-conscious people would want to avoid the radiation of microwaves. Using the microwave can sap food of some of their nutrients as well, and it’s not a bad idea to find another way to cook or steam your food besides using that kitchen appliance.

With that in mind, we wanted to share a method for how to steam vegetables without a steamer or microwave.

The Aluminum Foil Method

There is a way to steam your food without a steamer, steam basket, or microwave, and it’s surprisingly simple but may sound ridiculous until you try it. Take a pot and fill it part way with water. Take some aluminium foil and form three balls with it (about the size of a golf ball), then put them into the water. That may sound really odd but bear with us.

Next, put a plate on top of the water in the pot and place your food on the plate. Cover the pot and turn on high heat under it. Once the water is brought to a boil, your food will begin to steam. This technique turns a regular pot into a homemade steamer. We were surprised at how well it worked and how simple it was to pull off. Your food will be perfectly steamed, but you won’t have to buy a steamer or a steamer basket and you won’t have to subject your food to the microwave.

We know that everyone has their cooking preferences, so we wanted to give people some options. No matter what kind of appliances or you have in the kitchen or what kind of cooking methods you prefer, there is a way how to steam vegetables without a steamer basket.

Steam with a Sieve

We have more steaming methods for you to try, and we have checked for the best methods that are being talked about across the internet and used in kitchens around the world. People can be so creative when it comes to cooking methods, and we want to share one of the more creative methods we have come across.

There is another method for steaming vegetables without a steamer that you may want to try. You have to have the right kind of kitchen tools for this to work, though.

What you’ll need for this method is a deep, fine mesh sieve with a lip and a large pot with a cover. Place your vegetables in the sieve and put that in a pot of boiling water. Then, cover the pot and let it cook until the vegetables are tender.

For this steaming method to work, you need to have the pot covered very tightly. That way, the steam will be captured and will cook your vegetables thoroughly. Steaming your vegetables this way is best for tougher veggies, like carrots and broccoli. It may not work as well for softer ones, like potatoes.

Simple Pot Steaming

We want to give you as many options as possible so that you can find a method that works for you and so that you don’t have to buy any additional kitchen equipment. If all you have is a pot with a cover, then that works as well. It doesn’t even have to be a large pot.

The Process

Just place your veggies into the pot with enough water to cover them and cook on a low heat. Cover the pot to trap the steam and cook the veggies on a low heat. This works okay, but it’s probably the least successful method, because it tends to make the vegetables taste watery. If that’s okay with you, then by all means go for it, since this is incredibly simple and a great steaming method for beginners to use.

If you want to know when your veggies are done cooking, just open the pot  carefully (since steam will come out) and poke them with a fork. If they are tender, then the veggies are done cooking. It’s that simple and pretty foolproof, which is why we love it for people who have never tried steaming vegetables before.

How to Steam Frozen Vegetables

Another steaming tip we want to tell you about is how to steam frozen vegetables without a steamer. You have two possible ways to go with this- you can either put those vegetables into your pot or microwave while they are still frozen or you can thaw them out first.

Here are a few simple thawing methods we recommend:

  1. Place frozen vegetables in a bowl of water, covered, on the counter. Let them sit there until the ice has melted and they are completely thawed.
  2. Defrost frozen vegetables in the microwave.
  3. Place frozen vegetables in the fridge to allow them to thaw out.

We prefer the third method, because it keeps a lot of the flavour. Using water can make the veggies taste watery and using the microwave can kill some of the nutrients and flavour. Putting frozen vegetables in the fridge to thaw does take a while, though, so you will need to plan ahead.

You can always steam frozen vegetables directly, however. It may take a little longer, but it works fine. Just use all the same methods we have listed above and expect them to take longer to steam fully if they are frozen as compared to thawed.

If you use the microwave or the covered pot method to cook frozen vegetables, there is a good chance that they will turn out soggy. This is why it is preferable to thaw them out first or cook them in a pan with no water rather than try to steam them while they are frozen.

You don’t have to thaw out for frozen vegetables before cooking them, in most instances. By thawing them you can cause them to lose some of their nutritional value. There are a few exception, though. Corn on the cob and spinach should both be thawed before you try to cook or steam them at all. This will preserve their nutrients and their texture, whereas trying to cook them while frozen will destroy the taste, nutrients, or form of these veggies.

Each vegetable is different, and you will have to experiment or research as to which steaming or cooking method works best with each one. While we have shown you how to steam canned vegetables without a steamer in the microwave, some canned or fresh vegetables benefit more from one method over another. There isn’t a one size fits all solution for how to steam vegetables without a steamer, so please keep that in mind.


What kitchen equipment can I use to steam vegetables if I don’t have a steamer?

There are several alternatives you can use. One of the most common methods is to use a pot with a tight-fitting lid and a metal colander or sieve that fits inside. Simply add a bit of water to the pot (not enough to touch the bottom of the colander), bring it to a boil, add the vegetables to the colander, and cover the pot. You can also use a heat-safe plate on top of an inverted bowl inside a pot with a lid.

Can I steam vegetables in the microwave, and if so, how do I do it?

Yes, you can steam vegetables in the microwave. Place your vegetables in a microwave-safe dish with a tablespoon or two of water. Cover the dish with a microwave-safe lid or microwave-safe plastic wrap, leaving a small vent for steam to escape. Cook on high, checking every minute or so, until the vegetables are cooked to your desired level of tenderness.

What’s the best way to ensure my vegetables are cooked evenly when steaming without a steamer?

To ensure even cooking, try to cut your vegetables into uniform size pieces. Also, be sure to stir or shake the vegetables occasionally if possible. Dense vegetables like carrots and potatoes may take longer to cook than softer vegetables like broccoli or zucchini, so you may need to add them to the pot at different times.

Are there certain types of vegetables that are better suited to being steamed without a steamer?

Most vegetables can be steamed without a steamer, although the method you choose might depend on the size and density of the vegetables. Broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, carrots, zucchini, and peas are all good choices for steaming without a steamer. Larger, denser vegetables like potatoes or whole beets may be more challenging to steam without a steamer, but it can still be done.

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Pauline Loughlin
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I'm Pauline, a mother of four grown children, my passion for cooking stemmed from the joy i get cooking for my family. I love to try new dishes, especially when dining out but creating and sharing my own recipes is my favourite thing to do!