How to Cook Broccoli (4 Easy Ways)

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Broccoli is a very healthy vegetable, but it can be tricky to cook. Follow along to learn how to cook broccoli four easy ways!

Four plates of broccoli each of them showing a different cooking method including steamed, roasted, sautéed, and air fried

How to Cook Broccoli

Broccoli, much like Brussels sprouts or spinach, often gets a bad rap. I honestly don’t know why. Because it’s green? Sure, maybe it’s not the most exciting vegetable BUT there’s lots of different ways you can cook it PLUS it’s SO good for you. Broccoli is high in vitamins, antioxidants, fiber and it’s low in carbs! It’s great in salads, served with dips, and just as delicious when it’s cooked! What’s not to love? Once you learn how to cook broccoli the right way, you will love it even more!

How to Pick Good Broccoli

When picking out your broccoli, first look at the color. Make sure it is a uniform green color both on the stalk and on the florets. You don’t want to see any patches of brown or yellow or dry, flaky patches. Next, look for broccoli with tight, firm florets that are close together in a nice, tight bunch. You also want firm stems. Pull back one of the stems. Does it seem like it will snap off easily? That’s a good thing. If the stem is bendy, you probably want to pick another head of broccoli. 

Cut up pieces of broccoli on a cutting board next to a knife, lemons, salt, and olive oil

Prepping the Broccoli to Cook

Rinse the broccoli well before cutting. After rinsing, shake off excess water into the sink and then pat the broccoli dry with paper towels. Allowing the broccoli to dry will make your roasted and air fried broccoli more crispy. Cut the fresh broccoli florets away from the large stem, leaving an inch or two of the floret stems. Use a knife to cut the florets into even pieces. Do this by cutting a notch in the base of the floret stem and then pulling the floret apart from the base to the floret.

How To Cook Broccoli 4 Easy Ways

The 4 most common ways I find myself cooking broccoli is: steaming, roasting, sautéing and air frying. All of these methods are great ways of cooking broccoli and they can all serve different purposes depending on what you are looking for. Here, I will break down each method along with the pros and cons, when to use it, and flavor variations to try (if applicable): 

Steamed Broccoli (Stovetop & Microwave)

The steamed broccoli method is probably the most common way of cooking broccoli. It is fast and easy and the broccoli can be used in a variety of ways.

  • Pros/Cons – Pros: Steamed broccoli cooks FAST. It can even be done in the microwave! It’s an easy side dish and it tastes great with cheese sauce. Cons: Because it cooks so fast, the broccoli can easily get overcooked. It also isn’t the most flavorful on its own.  
  • How to Serve – Steamed broccoli can be served on its own or in casseroles, stirred into soups, or added to all kinds of recipes. 
  • Add Some Flavor – When served on its own, it is usually simply seasoned with salt and pepper. You can also drizzle a little melted butter or lemon over the top. If you want to take it to the next level, you can serve it with cheese sauce. YUM!

How To Steam Broccoli (Stovetop Method)

  1. Place 1-2 cups of water in a heavy saucepan with a steamer. Bring water to a rolling boil. 
  2. Add prepared broccoli to the steamer basket and place over the saucepan, covering with the lid. 
  3. Reduce heat to a simmer (medium-low) and allow to steam for about 5 minutes or until broccoli is just fork tender. Do not over cook! 
  4. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately. 
Steamed broccoli in a white bowl with salt and pepper

How To Steam Broccoli in the Microwave

I will be honest here, steaming broccoli in the microwave isn’t my favorite method because it is inconsistent and doesn’t taste the best to be. HOWEVER, it IS the fastest. Simply place the prepared broccoli in a microwave-safe dish. Add 3-4 tablespoons of water over the top and sprinkle with salt to taste. Cover the bowl loosely with a microwave lid or a plate turned upside down. Microwave on high for 3-4 minutes or until broccoli is crisp-tender. Microwaves vary in cooking intensities so try it a few times to find the exact right time for your microwave.

Roasted Broccoli

Roasted broccoli is probably my overall favorite way of cooking broccoli. It is the least temperamental and it can be seasoned a variety of ways. 

  • Pros/Cons – Pros: Roasted broccoli has the perfect texture (in my opinion). It cooks slowly so you can check on it often and it isn’t as likely to overcook. Cons: It takes a little longer than other methods
  • How to Serve – Roasted broccoli can be seasoned and served as an easy side dish. It can also be added to casseroles or served with pasta (like Fettuccini Alfredo).  
  • Add Some Flavor – I love serving my roasted broccoli with some garlic, infused olive oil, sea salt and fresh, shredded Pecorino Romano cheese (or fresh Parmesan) with a small spritz of fresh lemon. You can also serve it with cheese sauce or dip it in Alfredo sauce.
Broccoli on a large baking sheet roasting in the oven

How To Roast Broccoli

  1. Prepare broccoli by trimming, rinsing and allowing to dry (see instructions above).
  2. Place the broccoli, 2 tablespoons of olive oil (I love using garlic or lemon infused oils), and salt in a plastic zip-top bag. (This can also be done in a large bowl but I prefer less dishes)
  3. Seal and shake until broccoli is coated in oil and seasonings.
  4. Roast for 15-20 minutes at 400-degrees in the oven on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  5. Remove from the oven and serve. Optional: toss with fresh shredded Parmesan cheese (or Pecorino Romano) and a squeeze of lemon juice before serving. 

Sautéed Broccoli

Sautéed broccoli goes great with stir-fry dishes and along with Asian-inspired dishes like Orange Chicken or our Beefy Noodle Skillet.

  • Pros/Cons – Pros: Sautéed broccoli has a nice texture and can be done fairly quickly. Because you are stirring and sautéing constantly, it is easy to gauge doneness. Sautéed broccoli can also be seasoned with fun sauces and seasonings as you cook. Cons: Doesn’t have a “crispy” texture. Can get over-done if you aren’t paying attention. 
  • How to Serve – I mostly use sautéed broccoli in stir frys or with Asian-inspired dishes.
  • Add Some Flavor – I like to sauté it in teriyaki sauce or stir-fry sauce. You can toss it with other vegetables or on it’s own topped with sesame seeds or red pepper flakes.
Broccoli being sautéed in a skillet

How to Sauté Broccoli

  1. Heat oil in a large skillet, frying pan, or wok. 
  2. Add broccoli and sauté over medium-high heat for 4-5 minutes. 
  3. Add sauces and/or seasonings and continue sautéing an additional 1-2 minutes.

Air Fryer Broccoli

Cooking broccoli in the air fryer is SO easy but the broccoli can dry out easily if you aren’t careful. Be sure to add enough oil and give it a good toss every couple minutes. 

  • Pros/Cons – Pros: Can be just as tasty as roasted broccoli in half the time. Cons: You need to be on top of it and add more oil if necessary do it doesn’t dry out. Depending on the size of your air fryer, you may only be able to make a small batch.
  • How to Serve & Flavor Ideas – Same as how you can serve roasted broccoli (see above)
Cooked broccoli in an Air Fryer basket

How to Cook Broccoli in the Air Fryer

  1. Prepare broccoli by trimming, rinsing and allowing to dry (see instructions above)
  2. Place the broccoli, 2 tablespoons of olive oil (I love using garlic or lemon infused oils), and salt in a plastic zip-top bag. (This can also be done in a large bowl but I prefer less dishes)
  3. Seal and shake until broccoli is coated in oil and seasonings.
  4. Add 1-2 tablespoons of water to the bottom of your air fryer basket and then add broccoli. Air fry at 375 for 7 minutes. Check broccoli every couple minutes to make sure it isn’t drying too fast and give it a good toss if needed.

How NOT to Cook Broccoli

As mentioned above, broccoli can be temperamental and is best when cooked using one of the methods above, that being said, there are two ways I do NOT recommend cooking broccoli…

Boiling: The best way to get water-logged, soggy broccoli is to boil it. If you don’t have a steamer basket, it is better to steam the broccoli in an inch of water rather than submerging the broccoli in boiling water. It will lose flavor, overcook, and taste watery. 

In the Instant Pot: I love the Instant Pot for many things, but cooking broccoli is not one of them. All pressure cookers are different and by the time the pot comes to pressure, your broccoli is probably already overcooked. Cooking the broccoli in the Instant Pot won’t save you time, it will just make you made and ruin your broccoli.

More Broccoli Recipes

Looking for more tasty ways to use broccoli? Try some of these delicious recipes:

Four plates of broccoli each of them showing a different cooking method including steamed, roasted, sautéed, and air fried

How To Cook Broccoli (4 Easy Ways)

Broccoli is a very healthy vegetable, but it can be tricky to cook. Follow along to learn how to cook broccoli four easy ways!
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 20 mins
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American, vegetarian
Servings 4

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Prepare broccoli for any of the methods below by rinsing the broccoli well and allowing to dry (you don't need to dry if streaming). Cut the fresh broccoli florets away from the large stem, leaving an inch or two of the floret stems and use a knife to cut the florets into even pieces.
    Cut up pieces of broccoli on a cutting board next to a knife, lemons, salt, and olive oil

To Steam:

  • Place 1-2 cups of water in a heavy saucepan with a steamer. Bring water to a rolling boil. 
    Add prepared broccoli to the steamer basket and place over the saucepan, covering with the lid. Reduce heat to a simmer (medium-low) and allow to steam for about 5 minutes or until broccoli is just fork tender.
    Do not over cook! Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately.
    Steamed broccoli in a white bowl with salt and pepper

To Roast:

  • Preheat oven to 400-degrees.
    Place the broccoli, 2 tablespoons of olive oil (I love using garlic or lemon infused oils), and salt in a plastic zip-top bag. Seal bag and shake until broccoli is coated in oil and seasonings.
    Top view of uncooked broccoli in a zip-top bag
  • Place florets on a parchment-lined baking sheet and roast for 15-20 minutes or until cooked through and crispy. Remove from the oven and serve. 
    Optional: toss with fresh shredded Parmesan cheese (or Pecorino Romano) and a squeeze of lemon juice before serving.
    Broccoli on a large baking sheet roasting in the oven

To Saute:

  • Heat oil in a large skillet, frying pan, or wok. 
    Add broccoli and sauté over medium-high heat for 4-5 minutes. 
    Add sauces and/or seasonings and continue sautéing an additional 1-2 minutes
    Broccoli being sautéed in a skillet

To Air Fry:

  • Place the broccoli, 2 tablespoons of olive oil (I love using garlic or lemon infused oils), and salt in a plastic zip-top bag.
    Seal and shake until broccoli is coated in oil and seasonings.
    Raw broccoli cut into florets in a plastic zip-top bag next to a jar of olive oil
  • Add 1-2 tablespoons of water to the bottom of your air fryer basket and then add broccoli. 
    Air fry at 375 for 7 minutes. Check broccoli every couple minutes to make sure it isn't drying too fast and give it a good toss if needed.
    Cooked broccoli in an Air Fryer basket

Nutrition Information

Calories: 103kcalCarbohydrates: 20gProtein: 9gFat: 1gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 100mgPotassium: 961mgFiber: 8gSugar: 5gVitamin A: 1894IUVitamin C: 271mgCalcium: 143mgIron: 2mg

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About the author

Erica Walker

Erica lives in Boise, Idaho with her husband, Jared, an attorney, and her beautiful three girls. Beyond the world of recipes, she loves adventuring with everything from kayaking, to cruising, to snowboarding and taking the family along for the thrill ride.

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