5 Ways to Perfectly Cook Vegetables in the Oven

The oven is great for hands-off cooking, whether you’re busy with a fussy stovetop entrée or just want to get other chores done while your food takes care of itself. When roasting vegetables in the oven, you lock in flavor without boiling out nutrients. Here are five oven-based techniques (including our favorite: roasting!) for adding more vegetables to your regular cooking schedule.

1. Bake to Veggie Perfection

Baking is the simplest way to let your oven do the hard work. Bake butternut squash or pumpkin, whole or cut in half, to soften the flesh for use in casseroles or baked goods. Baked potatoes and sweet potatoes are a classic base for butter, cheese, chopped steamed vegetables, or chili. To save time and energy, bake a large batch of potatoes at once, let them cool, then throw them in the fridge or freezer; reheat one or two at a time in the microwave for a fast midweek meal that tastes oven-baked.

2. Roast Vegetables for Crisp Flavor

If a vegetable can’t be roasted, it’s probably meant to be served raw. oasting elevates the sweetness and tempers any bitter overtones of strongly flavored vegetables like asparagus, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and fennel. For a hearty side dish, cut root vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, parsnips, and rutabagas into similarly sized cubes, toss with oil and herbs, and roast until browned and crispy (or add broccoli for extra flavor). And more delicate vegetables like bell peppers, zucchini, tomatoes, and mushrooms can be chopped and roasted with garlic and shallots, then chilled and used to flavor pasta salad and grain dishes.

Oven Roasted Red Potatoes and Asparagus Photo by Rock Lobster

Oven Roasted Red Potatoes and Asparagus | Photo by Rock Lobste

3. Make Healthy “Chips”

There’s a reason kale chips have become so popular: They’re delicious and good for you. The thick, substantial leaves stand up to oven-cooking, yielding a satisfying crunch. Making your own kale chips requires a little effort during prep, but lets you choose your own herbs and seasonings, or keep it simple with a little salt.

Chef John's stuffed peppers: a hearty way to cook vegetables in the oven

Chef John’s Stuffed Peppers

4. Stuff Them: Vegetables Become the Main Course

Bell peppers, halves of acorn squash, mushroom caps, and more can be stuffed with flavorful mixtures of rice or other grains, bread crumbs, cheese, or minced vegetables, then baked to perfection. Stuffed vegetables work wonderfully as either a main dish or a hearty side to complement a simple entrée like pan-seared chicken breasts or poached fish. A few of our favorite recipes:

Moroccan Potato Casserole Photo by Tony

Moroccan Potato Casserole | Photo by Tony Seta

5. Create a Casserole

Combine vegetables with cheese, eggs, noodles, or sauces, and you get tasty medleys of flavors. While the casserole cooks, you’ll be free to clean up the kitchen, set the table, or help the kids with homework before it’s time to sit down to dinner. For a more elegant presentation, portion the casserole into individual ramekins before baking.

Try these casserole recipes for warm and hearty dishes: