Steamed cauliflower is a wonderfully easy and nutritious dish—or a great base for other recipes—and is super easy. Steaming cauliflower can be done in a pan, with a steamer basket, or in the microwave. And once it is cooked, all you need to do is top with a bit of salt and/or pepper, a bit of fruity olive oil, or a pat of butter to meld with its earthy flavor. Adding a sprinkle of soy sauce or tamari is simple yet delicious, and a drizzle of toasted sesame oil brings out cauliflower's nuttiness.
Steaming in a Pan
This is by far a favorite way to steam cauliflower. It involves one dish, real steam, and results in great tasting cauliflower.
- Bring about 1/4 inch of water to a boil in a large frying pan.
- Add about 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt and trimmed and cleaned cauliflower florets.
- Cover and steam until as tender as you like (about 3 minutes for crisp-tender and up to 8 minutes for completely cooked, soft florets).
- Drain any water from cauliflower before using.
Steaming in a Steamer Basket
This is a classic method of steaming vegetables. The cauliflower is placed in a steamer basket or an insert over boiling water.
- Bring about an inch of water to a boil in the bottom of a pot into which your steamer basket or insert fits.
- Put trimmed and cleaned cauliflower florets in the steamer basket.
- Set the basket over the boiling water, cover, and steam until tender to the bite, again about 3 minutes for crisp-tender and up to to 8 minutes for fully tender florets.
Steaming in a Microwave
Steaming cauliflower in a microwave is certainly quick and convenient; however, it is definitely more difficult to get vegetables steamed to a precise and even level of doneness. In addition, cauliflower steamed in a microwave may require a bit of draining or drying depending on how much liquid is used and how powerful the microwave is.
- Put freshly washed cauliflower florets with water still clinging to them in a large bowl—a small pool of water should form in the bottom of the bowl quite quickly. If you don't see water in the bottom of the bowl, add a tablespoon of water.
- Cover the bowl with a microwave-safe lid or plate (avoid plastic wrap in microwaves) and cook on high power for 1 minute.
- Test for tenderness and repeat at 15-second intervals until the cauliflower is steamed to your liking.
Recipes Using Steamed Cauliflower
Steamed cauliflower can be eaten as is with just a little sea salt and maybe a drizzle of olive oil. But cooking this vegetable in this way is also ideal when adding a flavorful sauce or incorporating in recipes calling for cooked cauliflower. Consider adding a store-bought or homemade pesto to steamed cauliflower, or coating the tender white vegetable with a rich cheese sauce. Steaming cauliflower is the first step in recipes such as creamed cauliflower, cauliflower and cheese casserole, and cauliflower mashed "potatoes."