How to steam cauliflower

How to Steam Cauliflower in the Microwave for a quick and simple side or to use in recipes that call for cooked cauliflower.

How to steam cauliflower

So, you guys know I love a good kitchen hack. And try and tell me that “hacks” are so 2015 and I’ll shove my fingers in my ears whilst (simultaneously) typing a 500-word post about how you should whip your egg whites for the fluffiest pancakes or how to use two simple ingredients to make a killer 30-second Chocolate Sauce.

Or in today’s case, why you should absolutely try steaming your cauliflower in your microwave.

That’s right, I’m here today bringing you a super quick kitchen hack/tips & tricks post on cooking cauliflower in your microwave. You can also use this method to steam broccoli, or check out the post How to Steam Broccoli in the Microwave.

Why steam cauliflower in the microwave?

  • It’s faster than doing it on the stove.
  • You don’t need any special equipment like a steamer basket.
  • Best of all, there’s no pot or pan to wash. You just need a bowl, a plate, and a vegetable.

When you want a super simple vegetable side or are making a recipe that calls for steamed cauliflower, this method is going to save you so much time.

How to Steam Cauliflower in the Microwave

Wash your head of cauliflower well, and use a sharp knife to cut it into bite-sized florets. If you don’t usually cut cauliflower, here’s a great tutorial on how to cut cauliflower.

How to steam cauliflower

Place pieces in a microwave-safe bowl, and add just enough water to cover the bottom of the bowl, 2 to 3 tablespoons. Place a plate over the bowl and microwave for 3 to 4 minutes, depending on how much bite you like in your cauliflower, how large the pieces are, and how powerful your microwave is.

You may have to do a little experimenting to find your perfect cooking time.

How to steam cauliflower

Let the cauliflower sit in the microwave for 1 minute before removing from the microwave. Be careful, the steam trapped under the plate will be hot!

How to steam cauliflower

Your steamed cauliflower is now ready to be enjoyed as a simple side, maybe tossed with a little butter or olive oil and salt, or dipped in ranch or cheese sauce ( How to Steam Cauliflower in the Microwave for a quick and simple side or to use in recipes that call for cooked cauliflower.

This recipe explains how to make steamed cauliflower according to a simple technique that will have even veggie haters proclaiming it to be the best.

How to steam cauliflower

Adapted from Magnus Nilsson | The Nordic Cookbook | Phaidon Press, 2015

That’s right. We’re teaching you how to steam a whole head of cauliflower. It couldn’t be simpler. And it couldn’t be more stunning at the table. As author Magnus Nilsson explains, “it could be a side dish, but also a shared dish in the middle of the table…a lump of salty butter to dip it in and perhaps a wedge of lemon is about as good as it gets for me.” Especially given the price of cauliflower lately—have you noticed how pricey it’s gotten? All the more reason we really want to taste our cauliflower rather than bury it under all manner of goo as if it was mystery meat at our elementary school cafeteria. It’s little wonder we consider Nilsson’s The Nordic Cookbook one of the best cookbooks of the year.–Renee Schettler Rossi

How To Bring Some Bling To Steamed Cauliflower

This whole steamed cauliflower is the best thing ever for vegetable purists. And for those who can’t quite muster enthusiasm over straight up steamed brassica, here’s how to fancy steamed cauliflower up a little:
Dust with paprika.
Drown with melted butter, a generous squeeze of lemon, and freshly cracked black pepper.
Sprinkle with hot sauce.
Dollop with aioli or homemade mayo.
Dunk in pickle juice from a jar of homemade or store-bought pickles.
Dribble with chimichurri.
Slather with brown butter.

How to steam cauliflower

Here’s the easiest way to cook cauliflower! This lemon herb steamed cauliflower cooks in minutes and is so tasty, it’s life changing.

How to steam cauliflower

Did you know steamed cauliflower can taste incredible? Until very recently, we didn’t! Yes, Alex and I have been making cauliflower roasted for years. It comes out lightly charred with a sweet, almost caramelized flavor. The problem is, it takes about 40 minutes to roast: and that doesn’t work for a quick weeknight meal. Enter: steamed cauliflower! This easy side dish cooks in just 10 minutes. Mixed with savory Italian seasoning and bright lemon zest, the flavor was so good we couldn’t stop eating it. At the risk of sounding cheesy: it’s life changing.

Got a pressure cooker? Go to Instant Pot Cauliflower!

How to make the best steamed cauliflower

Making steamed cauliflower is seriously easy: all you need is a steamer basket and a covered pot or deep skillet. It cooks up in about 10 minutes. You’ll want to make sure not to overcook it, or it gets pretty mushy. The goal here is crisp tender: so make sure to taste it to assess whether it’s done! Here are all our secrets on the very best steamed cauliflower that we know you’ll fall in love with.

Gear required: You’ll need a steamer basket or steamer pan to make this recipe. Here’s a steamer basket you can buy online.

Step 1: Chop the cauliflower into florets.

Chop the cauliflower into bite-sized florets. If you’re not sure the best method, Alex and I have a way to easily cut it without ending up with crumbles all over the counter! Go to How to Cut Cauliflower or see the video below.

Step 2: Bring water to a boil.

Rule number one of steaming vegetables: bring the water to a boil first! It might seem intuitive to put everything in the steamer and bring the water to a boil: but this results in irregular cooking. Boil the water first, then add the veggies. If you have a steamer basket without a handle, add it now: the water surface should be just under the basket.

How to steam cauliflower

Step 3: Steam for 10 to 12 minutes.

Once boiling, add the cauliflower (in the steamer basket, if it has a handle). Cover the pot with a lid. Steam with the lid on 10 to 12 minutes until just tender. Taste test a piece with a fork to assess doneness. The cook time will be slightly different every time based on the freshness of the cauliflower and thickness of the pieces.

How to steam cauliflower

Step 4: Drain and season.

Carefully remove the cauliflower to a bowl. Now here’s where the magic begins! Season with olive oil, sat and pepper, Italian seasoning, and lemon zest. (PS Here’s how to zest a lemon.) Then give it a taste! We hope you’ll love this steamed cauliflower as much as we do.

How to steam cauliflower

Ways to season steamed cauliflower

The best way to season steamed cauliflower is the example in this recipe (we think!): olive oil, Italian seasoning, and lemon zest! But if you’re looking for other options, here are a few ideas for add ons:

  • Grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese
  • Drizzle of balsamic reduction
  • Slivered toasted almonds or toasted pine nuts and raisins
  • Goat cheese or feta crumbles
  • Minced garlic
  • Panko and dried herbs
  • Green onion or chopped chives
  • Fresh dill, oregano or thyme

How to steam cauliflower

Our favorite ways to serve it!

Alex and I have made this steamed cauliflower several times already. In particular our son Larson loves to gobble it up. Here are a few ways we’ve served it that we’ve enjoyed:

  1. As a side dish. It’s a great side dish along with to go with salmon, sauteed shrimp or pasta.
  2. As a snack. Leftovers for us have become a snack, right out of the dish! Serve with Homemade Ranch for a dipping sauce.
  3. With gravy. Might sound odd, but it’s a great low carb version of mashed potatoes and gravy. (We had a bit of our easy vegan gravy left over and accidentally found out it was delicious!)
  4. In a bowl meal. This steamed cauliflower would be perfect in a grain bowl! Make a big pot of brown rice, quinoa, or farro, then top with chickpeas or lentils, baby greens, and our Best Tahini Sauce.
  5. As mac and cheese. Top with your favorite mac and cheese sauce for a cheesy version of your favorite pasta. Make a double recipe of cauliflower, and try our Pesto Mac and Cheese or Best Gouda Mac and Cheese.

Another favorite way to cook cauliflower? BBQ Grilled Cauliflower. It’s fantastic on the grill, infused with a charred, smoky flavor.

This steamed cauliflower recipe is…

Vegetarian, gluten-free, vegan, plant-based, and dairy-free.

How to steam cauliflower
After having 2 children who won’t touch broccoli and cauliflower…I have to brag about my 3rd child who would pick this healthy side dish over chocolate! I kid you not. I could totally do the butter churn dance as I write this…that is how excited I am when I hear her squeal with joy when I make this! What mother wouldn’t?!

Nevertheless…steaming veggies doesn’t require an actual steamer, or even much effort at all. Here is a “comfy” way to do this….super easy, yummy, and healthy!

How to steam cauliflower

Cut and rinse your veggies. I chose broccoli and cauliflower because they are finished steaming in approximately the same amount of time.

How to steam cauliflower
Boil water in a large pot and simply put the Norpro KRONA Stainless Steel 5 Quart Deep Colander “>colander right on top.

How to steam cauliflower
Cover with a lid. There is enough room for the steam too cook the veggies yet enough room for the some steam to escape. I keep the lid on for appx 10 mins. .

How to steam cauliflower
See…not hard at all! Freshly steamed veggies in a jiffy. Salt and pepper as you wish.

How to steam cauliflower

Makes weeknight cooking a sinch!

Oh, and the other 2 kidos? They have to take 3 bites or they don’t get a popsicle after dinner…up to them, lol. My youngest ends up stealing their remains off their dish…bless her sweet heart!

How to steam cauliflower

Making this recipe for simple steamed cauliflower with herbs is so easy. All you have to do is chop the cauliflower and steam it. Then drizzle it with a bit of olive oil, herbs and salt and pepper. It’s a naturally low-calorie, low-carb side dish to round out your dinner.

How to steam cauliflower

This cauliflower recipe is so simple, it hardly warrants a long intro. Steam veg, season. Done!

The Best Ways To Cook Cauliflower


This is one of the most popular ways to prepare cauliflower because roasting it makes it browned, sweet and nutty tasting. I like to add curry to my roast cauliflower and squeeze on a bit of lemon. I also make Roasted Cauliflower and Broccoli with Cheese on top.


This recipe here in this post will walk you through how to do that. It is so simple and one that I use for busy nights because it is the fastest way to cook cauliflower!


For something a bit comforting or for a make-ahead side dish, you can also make cauliflower casserole. Here’s my recipe for Cauliflower and Broccoli Casserole. It can be made ahead so I like it particularly for the holidays.


I don’t sauté cauliflower on the stove top very often because it needs a bit of moisture to cook it through. One workaround is to sear it in oil to get some color, then add liquid (like broth) cover it and let it steam for a bit to soften it.


If you’ve ever been on a low carb diet, then you’ll definitely know about the magic of mashed cauliflower. It is a great stand in for mashed potatoes. Here is a great version.

How to steam cauliflower

Now let’s get into this cauliflower recipe.

How to steam cauliflower

How to make Simple Steamed Cauliflower with Herbs

  • Remove the leaves from the outside of the cauliflower head.
  • Cut the head in half and remove the core with a knife. I like to cut it out by making a triangular shaped cut.
  • Cut the cauliflower into large florets. You want them to be roughly the same size so they cook evenly. Cut through the stems, and try to leave the head intact so they do not crumble.
  • Set up your steamer basket by filling the bottom of the large pot with water. You don’t want the water to be any higher than the bottom of the basket, but you need to add enough water so it won’t boil away.
  • Add the cauliflower to the steamer basket, cover and cook it until it is tender. To check if it is tender, try piercing the thickest part of the cauliflower stem with the tip of a pairing knife. It should go in and out without a ton of resistance. Keep in mind you do not want to go overboard and over cook the cauliflower. Overcooking it will make it sulfurous and watery.
  • Once it is tender, take the basket out of the pot and set it aside for a second. Then get rid off the cooking water. Then dump the cauliflower back into the pot. This saves a dish! Yay!
  • Drizzle on olive oil, salt pepper and herbs and toss until the oil and seasonings coat the cauliflower and get into the nooks and crannies.
  • The key is using a higher ratio of tender herbs (those with stems such as dill, tarragon, chervil, cilantro and basil) to woody herbs (those with stick like stems such as thyme and rosemary) as generally woody herbs are stronger in flavor. Sage and oregano When in doubt- cut which ever herb you use 50% with parsley.

How to steam cauliflower

Steps To Make This Recipe For Simple Steamed Cauliflower with Herbs

More Cauliflower Recipes

  • This Cauliflower Rice is a great low carb alternative to a grain based side dish.
  • This delicious Indian Cauliflower Curry is vegan, low calorie and packed full of flavor.
  • These Cauliflower Tots are a fun healthy cheat food!
  • These Cauliflower Wings have my name all over them!
  • Want more ideas for cauliflower? Don’t miss this Ultimate Guide to Cauliflower!

Thanks so much for reading. If you make this recipe for Steamed Cauliflower, please come back and leave a star rating and review.

Tasty ways to prepare cauliflower

We like cauliflower so much we often snack on it plain and raw. Crunch crunch crunch. Most people, we’ve learned, prefer this strongly flavored cruciferous vegetable at least somewhat cooked. Fair enough. We like it prepared plenty of different ways. Find some delicious ways to cook up cauliflower below.

Baking Cauliflower

How to steam cauliflower

Cauliflower takes quite well to baking, which, let’s be honest, bears a striking resemblance to roasting (see below). Baking cauliflower into a Cauliflower Gratin can be as simple as topping the florets with a bit of cheese and/or breadcrumbs, or you can work in herbs or sauces to make more of a veggie main dish.

We’ve also been known to dip cauliflower florets in a spicy chickpea flour batter before baking them, creating a light cauliflower pakora.

Fried Cauliflower

How to steam cauliflower

Breaded and fried cauliflower are, indeed, tasty. We tend to keep things on the healthier side, though, by combining finely chopped steamed cauliflower with egg, flour, and salt to create fritters we can then pan-fry. See how to make fried cauliflower with this cauliflower fritter recipe.

Mashed Cauliflower

How to steam cauliflower

Taking a fork to well-cooked mashed cauliflower turns this sharp cruciferous specimen into the zesty big sister of comparatively ho-hum mashed potatoes.

Roasted Cauliflower

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We have, on more than one occasion, eaten an entire head of roasted cauliflower. Toss the florets with a bit of oil and salt, pop them in a hot oven and bake, tossing them around a few times along the way until they’re tender and browned. Sometimes we add a bit more flavor, as with this garlic parmesan roasted cauliflower or this spicy roasted cauliflower.

Creamy Cauliflower Soup

How to steam cauliflower

Cauliflower adds a rich texture to puréed soups. If you love cauliflower, this soup creamy cauliflower soup is a natural favorite. Want more kick? Try this curried cauliflower soup instead.

Steam Cauliflower

How to steam cauliflower

There is more than one way to steam cauliflower. We can think of three right off the top of our head: in a pan, in a steamer basket, and in a microwave.

Once it’s steamed, you’re probably going to want to dress it up in some fashion. Butter, salt, and pepper are easy; cheese sauce is a classic; or try using pesto or mint for something a bit different.

Stir Cauliflower in

How to steam cauliflower

As in “stir it in.” By dividing cauliflower into quite small florets, this giant head of a vegetable becomes something that cooks up much more quickly and adds texture and flavor to dishes. Stir cauliflower in to make delicious and healthy meals.

Here’s how to make it with and without a food processor.

Related To:

How to steam cauliflower


Raw Cauliflower ground in food processor for making Cauliflower Rice on concrete background

Photo by: Lisovskaya/Getty Images

By Myo Quinn for Food Network Kitchen

Cauliflower rice is a deliciously light, low-carb alternative to regular rice, other grains or couscous. With a neutral flavor and toothsome texture, this versatile veggie is the perfect blank canvas for many flavors – and it’s easy to make.

1. Trim the leaves.

Slice off and remove any leaves that are attached to the stem. Gently shave off any brown spots on the head of the cauliflower.

2. Trim the head into florets.

Place the cauliflower crown down onto your cutting board and trim the cauliflower into florets, cutting away as much stem as possible. You can save the trimmed stems and leaves for roasting – they’re edible and tasty.

3. Transfer the florets to a food processor in batches.

Overcrowding the food processor will result in unevenly-sized cauliflower rice. For a large head of cauliflower, you’ll want to work in three batches. Transfer the batches to a food processor fitted with a blade attachment.

No food processor? No problem. You can use a box grarter instead. Cut the cauliflower into quarters and carefully grate the crowns into a large bowl.

4. Pulse the florets.

Short pulses work best; a steady run will puree the cauliflower instead of turning it into rice. Pulse until the mixture is finely chopped and uniform and resembles couscous.

5. Wring out the excess water.

Transfer the cauliflower rice to a clean dishtowel, wrap up the rice and wring out all the excess moisture. It’s important to wring out as much as possible, because excess moisture makes the cauliflower rice limp and soggy.

6. Enjoy the raw cauliflower rice immediately.

You can enjoy cauliflower rice raw, but it’ll start to smell sulfuric as it sits, so eat it immediately in a crunch salad or salsa!

7. Or cook it.

Heat some olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium. Add the rice and season with salt, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon until it’s golden brown around the edges.

Store cooked cauliflower rice for up to 5 days. It’ll keep in an airtight container in the fridge.