How To Steam Cauliflower Using Three Different Methods 

 Last Update March 6, 2024

By Jenny Zhang

Cauliflower has certainly become a popular vegetable! Cauliflower is the perfect base for all types of seasoning combinations and works well in both main dish and side dish cuisine. It is loaded with fiber and antioxidants and boasts a mild, nutty flavor. Cooking cauliflower by boiling can cause lots of those nutrients to be lost to the water, however. Instead, you should steam cauliflower! Steam cauliflower is the best method to preserve easily damaged nutrients because it does not contact cooking water.

Now, if you never steam cauliflower before nor know how to steam cauliflower, don't worry. Here are three cooking methods below to how to steam cauliflower.

What's The Big Deal About Cauliflower, Anyways?

Cauliflower has stepped into the limelight primarily because it is a great option for anyone reducing or avoiding carbohydrates or gluten. Cauliflower has a nutty, slightly earthy flavor of its own, but it's very mild. Cooked cauliflower is used in many popular recipes in the place of potatoes or rice because it can mimic their textures. Oftentimes, the recipe calls for steaming cauliflower.

How To Steam Cauliflower In A Pan

No special equipment is required here! Steamed cauliflower using this method will have a nice firm texture. Adding salt and pepper to the water amps up the flavor.

  • Bring about 1/4 inch of water to a boil in a large, shallow pan, such as a frying pan.
  • While the water is heating up, use a sharp knife to trim and clean your head of cauliflower into cauliflower florets.
  • Add 1/2 teaspoon of fine sea salt to the boiling water and stir to dissolve.
  • Add your cauliflower florets to the pan, and then cover with a lid.
  • Steam until you reach the desired tenderness! It will take 3 minutes for crispy, tender florets and up to 8 minutes for fully cooked, soft florets.
  • Drain the cauliflower florets fully before seasoning or using them in a dish.

Steaming Cauliflower In A Steamer Basket

When most people think of steaming vegetables, they picture a steamer basket. These can be purchased in any grocery store. Some are metal with an expanding basin, while others are made from silicone. For a non-toxic option, go with a metal material basin instead. 

  • Fill a large pot or large saucepan with about an inch of water and bring it to a boil. Make sure your steamer basket fits in the pot!
  • Prepare the cauliflower by washing it and trimming it down into florets while you wait for the water to come to a boil.
  • Fill your steamer basket with the cauliflower florets and set the basket over the boiling water.
  • Cover the steamer basket and the pot with a lid.
  • Steam! Crispy-tender cauliflower florets will take about 3 minutes, while fully cooked florets will take closer to 8.
  • Remove the steamer basket and season your steamed cauliflower!

How To Steam Cauliflower With Microwave 

Microwaves are definitely handy and quick, but it is difficult to control how they cook food. If you need steamed cauliflower more quickly than the other methods allow, or you're without a stovetop, it is certainly possible to steam cauliflower using a microwave. Be aware that cauliflower steamed in a microwave may easily become soggy and could require a bit of draining or drying off before eating or adding to a dish.

  • Trim up your head of cauliflower into florets and give them a good rinse in water. Put the freshly washed florets into a large, microwave-safe bowl with the water still clinging to them. A small amount of water should accumulate at the bottom of the bowl. If you don't see this, then add an additional tablespoon of water.
  • Cover your microwave-safe bowl with a microwave-safe lid! You can also use a plate.
  • Cook in the microwave on high power for 1 minute.
  • Use a fork to test the cauliflower florets for tenderness.
  • Continue microwaving in 15-second intervals until you reach the tenderness level you'd like. It could take up to 10 minutes.
  • If your cauliflower is moist and soggy once you've finished cooking it, place it between layers of paper towels to dry up a bit.


Can I Steam Frozen Cauliflower Florets?

If you have frozen cauliflower in the freezer, you can still steam them. Certainly, with a little mindfulness! Frozen cauliflower florets will melt off quite a bit of water as they cook. If using the steamer basket method, you won't need to change your approach at all. If steaming using a pan, make sure that you are only using a 1/4 inch of water. If you're already using more water than that, and then when additional water melts off the frozen florets, you'll likely wind up with cauliflower that is more boiled than steamed. Because microwaved cauliflower a tendency to already become moisture-heavy after steaming, it's not advised to steam frozen cauliflower in a microwave. If you must, do not wash them or add any more water to the bowl. Frozen cauliflower steamed in a microwave may require draining depending on how much moisture it contains. Once it's done, transfer to a serving dish.

Flavoring And Cooking With Steamed Cauliflower

Now that you know how to steam cauliflower and you have a large bowl of perfect, tender florets, what do you do with them? You can always eat your steamed cauliflower right after steaming using just the seasonings you keep right by the stove. A drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of sea salt and pepper is really all you need. You could also use a spoonful of grass-fed butter in place of the olive oil for a different flavor. Sprinkle on some parsley for a bit of color and flair.

Steamed cauliflower is a great base for sauces. Delicious cheese sauces are often top of the list for cauliflower, but a nice pesto sauce also works well. If you want a lighter topping, consider tossing it with toasted sesame seed oil. It will complement the nuttiness of cauliflower very well! A bit of soy sauce or tamari is also a simple, delicious option.

Jenny passionately advocates a holistic and natural approach to health and well-being. She has a Bachelor of Science degree and years of working in food sciences, specializing in organic & natural products. She is committed to helping others embrace a balanced, natural lifestyle that fosters well-being. Jenny believes that a harmonious balance between nutrition, fitness, and mindfulness is the key to unlocking the full potential of one’s well-being.