Cooking Tips: Easy Flavorful No-oil Sauces for Steamed Vegetables

Steamed Vegetables are an easy way to prepare veggies and assure you fill your plate with gorgeous vitamins and minerals. They are so tasty when prepared correctly. Should you decide to adopt a no-oil lifestyle, there are some tricks to creating the flavor you crave and ensure you don’t miss the added fat. Below are some ideas for steaming and saucing those vegetables.

Steaming Vegetables
Steaming vegetables is easy if you find a good quality steamer pan. I found an inexpensive large, non-stick skillet with a stainless-steel steaming basket. It is my most versatile pan. Every couple of days, I steam a large pan of a variety of vegetables, add a sauce, and keep it in the refrigerator for several meals.

Keep in mind when you are steaming your vegetables that they all have different cooking times. Prepare the vegetables that you want to steam by cutting them in medium-sized chunks or slices. I use a variety, but my favorite combo is mushrooms, onions, carrots, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and green beans. I will sometimes use zucchini or yellow squash and omit the sprouts or the green beans. You can also use celery, parsnips, turnips, rutabaga, sweet potatoes, kohlrabi, or any other vegetable that you enjoy. A combination of fresh and frozen vegetables can be used. Frozen can take a few more minutes to cook if the pieces are large.

To steam, add about two inches of water to the pan and insert the steamer basket. Add the densest vegetables first, like Brussels sprouts, onions, celery, rutabaga, and sweet potatoes. Set your temperature to medium-high. As soon as the water starts to steam, start your timer for 4 minutes. Next add the medium density vegetables like carrots, mushrooms, turnips, and parsnips. Steam for 2 minutes. Last, add your least dense vegetables like broccoli, zucchini, and green beans. Steam for 2-4 minutes. Check for tenderness after 3 minutes, being sure not to overcook. Once tender, remove the pan from the heat. Drain the pan. The remaining water is full of nutrients and very flavorful. We suggest you save the water and use in soups or to sauté veggies.

Try our recipe below. Sauce tips to follow!

Flavorful Steamed Veggies

I have a basic sauce that I make that can be flavored with different herbs and spices. By doing this, you could eat the same vegetables every day but not tire of them because the flavor is always different. The sauce only takes a few minutes to make.

1) After steaming your vegetables, set your warm pan (without the steamer basket) back on the burner.
2) Add about 3 tablespoons of tamari or soy sauce.
3) Then add 2 or more cups of the water from steaming the veggies or some unsalted vegetable broth.
4) Then provide 1-2 tablespoons of sweetener (like molasses, maple syrup, sweet chili sauce, ketchup, or barbecue sauce).
5) Increase or decrease the liquid amounts based on the quantity of veggies you have steamed. Plan on about ½ cup of sauce per 2 cups of veggies.
6) Next comes the creative part. Decide how you want to flavor the veggies.

  • Do you want Italian? To the liquids in the pan, add ¼ cup tomato or pasta sauce, 1-3 cloves minced garlic, 1-3 teaspoons Italian seasoning, and 1 teaspoon dried basil. Add a sprinkle of pepper flakes to perk up the dish, if desired.
  • Do you want Indian? Start with a clean pan. Dry toast 1 teaspoon garam masala or curry powder, 1 teaspoon ground coriander, and ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric for about a minute. Add the liquid sauce ingredients and thicken with the cornstarch water. Add a pinch (or more) cayenne pepper for some heat, if desired.
  • For Tex-Mex, add 1-2 cloves minced garlic, 1 teaspoon chili powder, 2 tablespoons tomato sauce or salsa, and a pinch each of cumin and cayenne pepper. Consider adding some corn kernels to your vegetable mix, cooking them with your least dense vegetables.
  • For Chinese dishes without heat, add 1-2 cloves minced garlic, 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger, and ¼ teaspoon (or to taste) Chinese 5 Spice powder. If you want it spicy, add 1 teaspoon chili-garlic paste.
  • For a savory, sweet, and spicy Korean sauce, add 2 teaspoons Gochujang hot pepper paste (found in Asian grocery stores or online), 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger, and 1-2 cloves minced garlic.
  • For Thai, reduce the steaming water to 1/2 cup. Add 1 1/2 cups plant-based milk. Consider using oat or coconut for a more neutral taste. Add 1 teaspoon pure coconut extract, 1-2 cloves minced garlic, 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger, 1-2 teaspoons peanut butter, 1 tablespoon sweet chili sauce (omit other sweetener), 1 tablespoon Thai curry paste, 1 teaspoon ground coriander, and 2 teaspoons dried basil. For heat, add chili garlic paste to taste (start with 1 teaspoon).
  • Another way to change up the sauce is to add either a tablespoon of Citrus juice (freshly squeezed orange, lemon, or lime) and a bit of zest from the fruit. These could be added either to the base sauce without the addition of the spices and herbs, or to one of the flavored sauces. Lemon tastes particularly good with Italian. Lime is great for the Mexican. Orange is nice in a Chinese flavored sauce.
  • Vinegars are also flavorful additions. A few teaspoons of plain or flavored balsamic vinegars are delicious and give a sweet-tart flavor to the sauce that is different than the addition of a citrus juice. Other vinegars to use include apple cider and rice.

7) When all of the sauce ingredients are in the pan, heat on medium-high until simmering.
8) Mix 1 heaping teaspoon of cornstarch or arrowroot powder with about 2 tablespoons water.
9) Add to the simmering sauce and stir until it thickens. Add the steamed vegetables and toss gently to coat.

This is a very basic overview on how to easily create a flavorful, no-oil sauce. Don’t be afraid to vary the herbs and spices, the sweetener, and the tart additives you use. Just start with a small amount, taste, and add more to taste. The idea is to have fun and enjoy what you have created. You are doing wonderful things for your health by deciding to cook without oil. By using a variety of flavors, you will love your vegetables and won’t feel deprived of anything!

~M for the Veggie Fest Team

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