Microwave Your Vegetables to Preserve Flavor and Nutrients

Use your microwave more often

The microwave is underused for cooking from scratch. Anything that can be steamed, blanched or boiled, can be prepared faster and probably better in a microwave. It’s an easy, quick and tasty way to cook vegetables. I’ll be showing how to cook fresh vegetables. For frozen ones just follow the directions on the package. An added bonus is you’ll lose fewer vitamins and other nutrients when microwaving.

Once microwaved, drain the water if any and the vegetables can be used directly, or as part of another recipe. For example, microwave potatoes to slightly underdone, for curried potato recipes. For direct use, you can add a bit of extra virgin olive oil or butter. Or sprinkle various fresh herbs like parsley, tarragon, sage, rosemary or thyme. I use only glass containers – either round bottomed, or flat bottomed. (REMOVE any cover before microwaving)

One big difference with microwave cooking

is that size matters – so you need to experiment and adjust times and cooking levels. Wattage of ovens varies and makes a big difference. On my current microwave (1100W) I do almost all cooking at high and most vegetables cook in less than 5′. Times are for portions for 3-4 people.

Microwaving also preserves more vitamins and minerals than harsher methods like boiling and steaming. 1/4 cup of water is sufficient. We like our veggies slightly crunchy, so add time if you prefer softer. (And times vary for different ovens). Cover the dish with plastic wrap and poke a few holes in the top. Most vegetables can be blanched by adding 1 cup of water and blasting for  1′ in the microwave. (And you can save the water for making stock.) 

How to microwave fresh vegetables

  • Asparagus Allow 2-3′ for skinny ones, 5-8′ for thicker ones. You may need to trim the ends to fit in the dish. For thicker stalks, you can peel the lower third and get more consistent results.
  • Squash For large squashes, like acorn or winter, either use 1 or 2 large pieces, or cut into 3″ squares and place in a flat dish with ¼ cup of water. 8-10′ is normal here. For smaller squashes, especially when you can harvest smaller ones fresh, just cut into 1″ slices and microwave for about 3′
  • Corn Place the entire unhusked corn cob in the microwave and cook for about 8′ for 3 ears.
  • Garlic Not as tasty as roasted garlic, the microwave is also handy for peeling garlic – just put individual cloves on a small, microwavable plate and microwave for 1′. The skin should then come off easily.
  • Carrots Cut the carrots into 2″ pieces and cook about 5′ A quick stir fry with garlic and lemon juice is one way to complete this dish.
  • Broccoli: In the microwave, it takes about 3 to 5 minutes for broccoli florets to change color and become tender.
  • Cauliflower: For microwave steaming, cook cauliflower for 3 to 4 minutes. Ensure to divide into bite size florets when microwaving for even doneness.
  • Tomatoes To quickly peel and seed tomatoes for cooking, pop them in the microwave for 1-2″ and the skins will come off easier. BUT be sure to prick them with a fork first, or you might end up with an abstract painting on your oven interior walls.
  • Parsnips These cook a bit faster than carrots
  • Potatoes Large potatoes take about 8-10′; smaller ones, or medium ones cut into quarters take 5-8′
  • Beets Chop off the tail and stems of beets, but not too close to the main root body, and you’ll get less bleeding. Medium beets can be cooked whole. Try 8-10′ for 4-6 medium beets with 1/4 cup of water. After cooking, place them on a plastic cutting board [easier to wash] and let cool. Then you can peel them – often the skins will slip off. To serve just cut them into the size you want, add a pat of butter and microwave for 30″-1′
  • Peas Shuck peas from pods, or use snap peas directly. Cook for 2-3′
  • Green beans Cut off tips and string if needed, then cook 4-6′ depending on how crisp you like them.
  • Spinach: Place spinach and water in a microwaveable bowl, and cover tightly to microwave for 30 seconds to 2 minutes.

Frugal cooks collect the water used when cooking and keep it in a bowl in the freezer, then add it when they make stock.

Here’s another example of combining microwave and traditional methods:

Asian Brussels Sprouts

  • 1 lb Brussels sprouts, cut in half.
  • 1 cup celery diced
  • 1/2 cup bean sprouts


  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 3 T rice vinegar (can substitute white vinegar)
  • dash of sesame oil
  • 1 t peanut oil

Microwave Brussel sprouts for 5-8 minutes, with a 1/4 cup water. Drain sprouts, add celery and bean sprouts and toss with seasonings. Serve warm or cold

By Cascoly

I've been exploring and leading trips for over 40 years. climbing & trekkng in the Alps, Andes, North American mountain ranges and the Himalaya. I'm retired from mountaineering now but world travels in Europe, Africa & Asia continue to expand my portfolio. Besides private travel, I now focus on escorting trips to India & Turkey. Other interests include wide reading in history and vegetable gardening / cooking. You can download digital images here, or find images at https://steve-estvanik.pixels.com. We have many thousands of images we haven't displayed yet; so, if you have a special need or request please contact us