Roasted Vegetable How-To

Ahhh, controversy. How I love it! Great responses to the post yesterday, all. Most of us played nice–heck, nicer than nice–and I truly appreciate it. And now, back to food.

I spend a lot of time sharing recipes. As a food blogger, I share them with my readers each and every week. As a nutritionist, I spend plenty of time doling them out via keystrokes. Have a craving? Something you’d like to veganize? Something from childhood you’re desperate to recreate? Chances are, I can cook up at least a few ideas for you. (Pun intended.)

What I don’t often consider is that many of my clients and readers are novices in the kitchen. Perhaps they’re very young, and just learning how to cook for themselves. Perhaps they’ve just recovered from eating disorders, and the idea of cooking food (to say nothing of eating it!) feels overwhelming. Perhaps they were never taught basic cooking techniques at home, or perhaps they simply haven’t had access to fresh food and kitchen space till now.

Whatever the case, not everyone has kitchen intuition, as I like to call it. So every now and then, I find myself explaining kitchen basics to clients or readers who are green in the kitchen (and even some who aren’t: even the best cooks can benefit from a refresher course in culinary procedures). Living a healthy lifestyle really does tend to hinge on a person’s involvement with his or her food, and this means a commitment to learning how to cook. Uncertainly about basic kitchen skills can discourage even enthusiastic chefs-in-training, so it’s my job to make the process as easy and user-friendly as possible.

On that note, let’s talk about a basic—and vital—culinary procedure: roasting vegetables. What follows is my basic technique for making roast veggies–temperature, pan, dice, and timing. I usually use a balsamic vinaigrette, per the below, but I often opt for a simple drizzle of oil, salt and pepper instead. I spice up root veggies with cinnamon or nutmeg frequently, and I’ve heard speak of some crazy people who like to throw in minced garlic on their veggies, too. 😉 You have to adapt the flavors themselves to your own taste, but the how-to will remain the same. Ready?

1) Prep your veggies. I cut all of mine into a dice that’s about 1 inch squared; if you make it smaller, they may shrink too much (this is good if you want them very small, to put in wraps or toss in pasta, but it’s not great if you serve them on their own); if you make it much bigger, they’ll take longer to cook.

If I’m roasting my veggies for a dinner party or guest (as I was the night I took these photos), I’ll often chop the veggies a night beforehand and store them in Tupperware, so that they’re ready to go when the time comes. For this recipe, I used 1 small eggplant, 1 large zucchini, 1 large bell pepper, 1 large carrot, 1 cup broccoli florets, and 1 large Portobello mushroom cap. All told, it was about 8 cups of vegetables.

2) Pre-heat your oven to about 400 degrees. Sorry, raw purist friends: roasting vegetables properly means high oven temperatures. You can modify this if you have a very hot or very drafty oven.

3) Select your cookware. The number one mistake that people make when roasting veggies is to use the wrong kind of pan. They choose something like this:

…and are dissapointed to produce veggies that are mushy and water logged. This is what happens if the sides of your pan are too high; the veggies basically begin to steam themselves. I always use a relatively flat pan – more of a baking sheet than a baking dish – and arrange veggies in a single layer. This means they cook evenly and quickly.

4) Spray or oil the pan well, and arrange your veggies on top. Then, be sure to coat them well with oil that stands up to high temperatures. Many oils lose stability and may become carcinogenic at high temperatures, so choose oils—like safflower, coconut, and olive (though the former two are better choices)–that’s stable at high heat. The Spectrum organic brand actually gives temperature readings for smoking points now, so it’s a handy way to gauge which oils will be safe. I almost always use coconut, but I occasionally use safflower or olive instead.

Also note that this is not the time to skimp on oil. I like my roast veggies on the light side, but when I cook for guests I always remember to use at least 2-3 tbsp of oil per 3-4 cups vegetables.

5) Next, give the veggies a generous sprinkle of kosher or sea salt and cracked black pepper. Season to taste, of course, but the salt is important for bringing out flavor. Also keep in mind that balsamic dressing takes roast veggies to new heights; the sweetness of the vinegar brings out so much flavor! I often use it in lieu of simple oil, salt and pepper. On this particular occasion, I used the following recipe:

Gena’s Basic Balsamic (yields ¾ cup)

1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp finely minced shallot
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

Whisk all ingredients together till smooth and emulsified.

I coated all of the veggies with the vinaigrette (and had some leftover for my salads later that week), sprinkled an additional dash of salt on them, and they were ready to go.

6) Put your veggie trays—whether you have one, two or three—in the oven. Roast until they’re tender and getting brown around the edges—about 30-35 minutes in most ovens. Obviously, you’ll need to be watchful; they can burn and stick easily, so check in once and again to give them a little stir and make sure they’re cooking well.

7) Voila! Perfectly sweet, smoky, and scrumptious roasted veggies.

You can serve these in a hundred and one different ways. I put roast veggies in salads, wraps, grains, and I even snack on them plain. This time around, they were a part of my Middle Eastern feast with my friend Tom, so I served them with fluffy couscous and a tangy tahini dipping sauce/dressing.

All told, it was a perfectly comforting, simple, and satisfying meal.

Hope this little lesson was helpful—rather than pedantic—and that it inspires you to brush up on whatever kitchen skills you’ve been hoping to improve! If there are any other basic techniques—either cooking or un-cooking related—that you’d like me to give a tutorial on, I’d love to hear it!

And now, back to work!


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Categories: Vegan Basics

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  1. Hi Gena,
    I really enjoy reading your blog! I roasted veggies for dinner tonight following your methods and made the tangy tahini dipping sauce. Both were so good! I’m slowly cutting meat out of my diet and I have gotten great idea’s from your blog. Thanks for all your posts!

  2. So helpful, thank you! I’m often missing basic cooking techniques, so I try to dissemble recipes to find the basics (“okay, so if this recipe for roasted veggie lasagna said I needed to roast the squash this long at this temp, but I want to add carrots and parsnips…”). Having the simple facts laid out like this is great.

  3. Ah, roasties, my favorite dish in the world. I don’t even think that’s really an exaggeration. You are right to post a tutorial, because anyone who doesn’t know this technique by heart is missing out! Sophia posted an exciting roast veg recipe recently as well–she tosses hers with toasted nori!

  4. Such a great post – I love roasted veggies – thank you!!

    How about a tutorial on dehydating vegetables and fruit? My zucchini and carrots could use some help haha.

  5. thank you so much for this post!! I am definitely not a newbie in my kitchen and have been helping in the kitchen since I was a child, but one thing I do always have trouble with is roasting veggies! I get so frustrated because I want to find a good recipe and when I browse around, there is seriously a different method and different oven temp and cooking time for each recipe! It is nice to find one that will work every time 🙂

  6. Roasted veggies are one of my favorite meals, espescially as winter approaches. There’s nothing better than a huge plate of roasted sweet potatoes, onions and brussels sprouts- pure comfort! Great tips!

    Good luck on your interview today!!

  7. I always appreciate your “how to” posts. I can find my way around the kitchen but it was just never “my thing.” I just pulled meals together. Now that I am eating vegan I feel so much more vested in the process. I like to make a variety of food in a variety of ways. These type of posts really help.

    Roasted veggies are so basic to make yet so flavorful and versatile. And on an evenings when I come home tired and feel that I don’t have the energy to cook..or anything to cook…I always know there’s a veggie around and I can probably roast it. (with garlic!) 😉

    Wish I could hear the interview! (not a subscriber) Break a leg!

  8. Hi Gena,
    I read your blog a lot!
    I have a question about vegetables and juicing in particular. I’ve been trying to drink green juices in the morning – zucchini, cucumber, carrot, apple and spinach. It’s a lot different to my usual oatmeal but I do find it gives me energy etc. However about 1 1/2 hours later I am hungry again – will I still get the beneficial effects of the juice if I eat oatmeal at say 11, after drinking my juice at 9? I mean, do you have to juice/eat fruit until lunchtime/early afternoon for your digestion to benefit?
    Sorry for the long post!
    Many thanks
    PS can you juice kale?

  9. Yum!! I love roasted veggies any old way other than drenched in oil or meat fat! GROSS! Haha.

    Thanks for sharing Gena and have a great radio show!


  10. “So every now and then, I find myself explaining kitchen basics to clients or readers who are green in the kitchen “–

    It only happens every now and then to you? LOL
    Please, come help me with my inbox 🙂

    I think these type of posts are great! I roast veggies for Scott; honestly, I like mine raw or pretty much raw or barely steamed. He loves them roasted. And you can get a “meat and potatoes guy” to eat sweet potatoes, zucchini, yams, eggplant, etc etc if you roast them. That way they have the mouth-feel of a white potato but the nutrition of real veggies. That’s my little to help old dogs learn new tricks 🙂

  11. I went on a roasting spree this morning, before I even read this – a butternut, 2 small beets, a head of garlic, and a mix of broccoli, brussels, and red onions for dinner. Just finished dinner and it was SO GOOD.

  12. thanks very much for the tutorial! i have seen roasted veggies on many blogs, of course, but was too intimidated to try…and felt funny saying, “how do you roast vegetables?!” this is totally useful!
    love your blog and read daily – thanks for all the time you devote to such well-written posts.

  13. Hey Gina –

    I’d love to see notes on how you save stuff in the future. Especially w/ regards to freezing and defrosting and storing, etc. I feel like I would have a lot less waste if I knew more about how to keep stuff longer!


  14. i am a roasted squash master! i can pretty much eat my weight in the stuff. i especially love when beets, or carrots get all caramelized. i roast em at 450 because i like a little char

  15. Congratulations on your radio interview! I love roasting fall/winter squashes. While they’re roasting I take the time to prep the seeds for their turn in the oven. It’s a treat I look forward to all summer. (wanting now!)

  16. Chris taught me that with the flat pan instead of a roasting pan. I think people get mixed up because it’s use for roasting meat. But veggies need a special touch.

    And yes more basic techiniques are fine! Some of us raw folks have no idea how to “cook” just “uncook”. Like me.

  17. Yay! I’m glad to know I’m roasting veggies the “right” (well, this) way. I just did it by trial and error, and ended up with what works for me.
    I don’t like to use too much oil so I generally put the veggies in a big bowl, drizzle on a little olive oil, and make sure they’re coated well. I find I use less oil that way than if I was to drizzle it over them on the pan. (And then I spray the pan with cooking spray.)

    BTW, thanks for your blog. I don’t comment every day but I generally read along.

  18. For as much as I love veggies, I really don’t roast them that much. Sure, I’ve made a few batch of roasted broc in my lifetime, but I’d like to include more roasted veggies in my diet. Thanks for the tutorial!
    Kudos on the Martha gig:)

  19. Yum! Roasted veggies are a staple in my kitchen too. Thanks for the tips! I have a craving request – do you have a raw, vegan macaroni and cheese? I tried a “lasagna” today at a new raw restaurant in Houston. The “ricotta” was made with sprouted sunflower seeds. Maybe the “noodle” texture was satified with marinated artichokes. I wish I knew for sure. It was divine! It surprised me and left me fully satisfied that I’d had a rich, beautiful, healthful lasagna for lunch. I am always referencing your blog in my kitchen creations. Thanks again!!!

  20. Congratulations on your radio show! How exciting for you Gena!

    I love roasted vegetables but haven’t tried balsamic on them before. Thank you for the great idea!

  21. First of all, great post! I love to roast vegetables as it really brings out the sweetness of almost any vegetable and makes them more palatable for those who may not like the “bitter” taste of vegetables.

    While we’re on the subject, I figured I’d ask a few questions about roasting.

    1) How do you go about coating the vegetables? I usually try to minimize the oil used because I eat quite a few (a ton of) vegetables just by myself and would rather not be ingesting a large amount of oil along with them. I’ve drizzled it over the top and rubbed them with my hands and I’ve put them in a large tupperware container with some oil and then shook it like crazy. Any suggestions to lessen the oil and still keep the flavor?

    2) When preparing squash to roast in halves when you don’t want to cube them, do you roast them cut side down, cut side up or a combination of both? I usually do it all upward but maybe you have a few tips or suggestions for this.

    Thanks for great posts like this, I’m looking forward to more of them that really emphasize simple techniques and using them to their fullest potential. 🙂

    • Hi Daniel!

      1) I agree that minimal oil tastes nice to someone with a healthier palate 🙂 So, when I’m cooking for me, I either a) use Spectrum Organics spray coconut oil, which spreads nicely and does the work for you, or b) put them in a plastic bag with 1 tbsp or so oil (total) and some balsamic, and then give it a shake. It’s more wasteful, however, than mixing in a tray, so keep the environmental cost in mind!

      2) I like to roast them cut side down. Acorn squash should cook fast, but if you’re roasting acorn, kabocha, or butternut, and they start to burn, you can either add about 1 inch of water to the pan, or cover them in foil. I’ll alternate methods frequently.


  22. Oh boy…thanks for that! I hope to see more basics explaines in the future.

    One thing I am wondering is how to get roasted veggies crisp–like chip-like. I see so many pics on these blogs of beautiful chrunchity looking veg but sadly mine do not measure up.

    Good thing they are good no matter what!


  23. Thank you for this, Gena. Roasting veggies was one of those things that I have never really LEARNED to do, and as a result, mine are often … lackluster. I appreciate the tips, definitely helps to know what temp to cook them at and for how long.

  24. This is actually very helpful! I can follow recipes, but I have no cooking intuition. So when I want to do something like roast vegetables, I wouldn’t necessarily know the right way to get good results. The way you spelled out what’s important is super and since Fall is arriving roasted veggies sound even yummier than normal.

  25. Love this! I have a ton of asparagus at home that I usually steam, but I think I am going to roast it up this evening using your balsamic recipe and add it to some collard green wraps with spiralized zucchini it them!

    Thanks for the shallow pan tip – I never would have thought to use that!

    Love roasted veggies and especially love dijon dressings…ooh maybe some avocado too.

    Okay, it’s official. I’m seriously hungry.

    Love your blog!! Thanks for sharing this!!!!!

  26. roasted veggies are some of my favorite things IN THE WORLD! i loved veggies before, but it’s awesome how a little heat brings out the depth of flavor in them. i really want to try roasting with coconut oil next…yum!

  27. Hi! I don’t really comment much, but I love your blog and read it all the time. I’m only 17 and I’m the only vegan/raw lover in my family, so I have to prepare all my food myself. Your blog really helps with ideas and I love that everything is explained simply. I just bought some squash yesterday that I wanted to roast, but I had no clue how, and then I checked your site and it happened to be todays topic! So thanks again.