Roasted broccoli is something special. In general, roasting meats or vegetables brings out all sorts of deep, complex flavors, and the dry heat helps caramelize and sweeten. But for broccoli, it seems like roasting just hits a whole other level.
Roasting completely transforms broccoli. It caramelizes and sweetens, and the nice, crisp, roasted flavors go amazingly well with the flavor of the broccoli itself.
It tastes different enough that someone who really doesn't like raw, steamed or boiled broccoli might actually really love some lightly seasoned, tasty roasted broccoli. And if you're like me and you actually like broccoli, don't worry — the broccoli goodness is still there. It's just, well, better!
And the best thing is, roasted broccoli is so easy to make. And in this article, I'll show you how. First, we'll talk about the preparation steps, washing and cutting. Next, we'll go over how to season the broccoli to make it even more awesome. And finally, we'll talk about how to roast it.
Here we go!
First things first. When you're making roasted broccoli, it really is best to use fresh, not frozen, broccoli. Roasting relies on a dry heat to caramelize the broccoli.
Frozen broccoli tends to have a much higher water content, and that water evaporates and creates steam — and you end up with steamed broccoli. Not that there's anything wrong with steamed broccoli! But it won't have the same depth of flavor that roasting gives.
So the first step is to get some fresh broccoli. Then you get it ready for seasoning.
It's always a good idea to wash vegetables before you eat them. It can help get rid of dirt, bacteria and even some chemicals that might be on the surface. But when you're roasting, you want to keep things dry — too much water and you'll end up steaming the broccoli. So it's important to give your broccoli a chance to dry after you wash it.
To wash the broccoli, just let some lukewarm water run over it. You can scrub the stem to get any dirt out, but scrubbing the florets isn't such a great idea. After it's washed, shake it dry. That'll take care of most of the water. If you can, give it a half hour or so to air dry. If not, well, it's not a huge deal — you might not get as much caramelization, but you should still get some.
Broccoli takes a little more care than some other vegetables when you're cutting it up to be roasted, because the stems and florets don't cook at the same pace. The florets are a lot more delicate and roast faster. That means that you need to cut up the stems in smaller pieces, so that everything is done and perfectly roasted at the same time.
Here's what you do. Cut the florets off right where they meet the stem — you should be able to split them into bite-sized piece, or whatever size pieces you like. Then cut the stem up into flat pieces — either cross-wise into flat discs, or length-wise into sticks. Just remember that the bigger the pieces, the longer they'll take to roast.
You can also peel the stem if it looks particularly tough. Roasting doesn't soften broccoli quite as much as boiling or steaming does, and the outer skin on the stem can get kind of tough sometimes.
Once your broccoli is cut, you're ready for the next step of making roasted broccoli: seasoning.
Seasoning is one of the best parts about roasted broccoli. There are hundreds of different ways to season it, hundreds of recipes for you to create! Just a few different spices, and you have a whole new dish. So how exactly do you season your broccoli before roasting it?
Oil is really the only ingredient you have to use. A thin coating of oil helps the broccoli brown evenly, and keeps it from burning or drying out. You can use any type of oil you like — olive oil is great, but various vegetable oils work well too. Just use whichever one you prefer.
You don't need to use a ton of oil. A teaspoon or two per head of broccoli is often enough. To get the most out of it, place the cut broccoli in a bowl (or right in the baking dish), drizzle the oil over it, then toss the broccoli for a bit until it's completely coated. That's all!
Oil is the only ingredient you need. But extra seasonings will tranform the dish and make it exceptional. Here are some ideas.
If you want to add the herbs or spices before cooking, just add them with the oil — the broccoli will get evenly coated with oil and spices when you toss it. If you're adding them after, just add them once you take the broccoli out of the oven. Either sprinkle them over the roasted broccoli, or toss the broccoli with the herbs to make sure everything's evenly spread out.
Try different seasonings, and different quantities, and figure out what you like best.
There are a lot of other ingredients you can add to make your roasted broccoli unique. Here are some ideas.
Flavorful liquids like citrus juices, vinegar or soy sauce taste wonderful with broccoli. You can add them right from the start, but the broccoli absorbs liquids better when it's hot. Adding them at the end can add even more flavor. Or, if you want the liquid to cook a bit, add it half-way through the cooking time.
Cheese and broccoli make a great mix. A bit of grated Parmesan, or a nice sharp Cheddar can really add a lot to your roasted broccoli.
Toasted nuts like pine nuts add flavor and texture, and go great with broccoli. You can toast them in a separate baking dish for a few minutes while the broccoli is roasting, then sprinkle them on top of the broccoli. This way, they get nice and toasty but don't burn. You can also use sesame seeds instead of nuts.
Citrus zest adds a lot of flavor. Just toss it with the broccoli and oil.
Bread crumbs, tossed in with the oil, add a bit of crunch to the broccoli. It's great because it's a little touch that completely transforms the roasted broccoli.
Sugar can help the broccoli caramelize and makes it a bit sweeter. The roasting itself does that, too, but a little bit of sugar can make it even better.
You don't want to add very much. Half a teaspoon for a pound of broccoli might be enough. You don't want to make it overly sweet, and you don't want to make it less healthy!
Usually you don't need to add sugar. Roasting makes the broccoli a lot sweeter. But depending on where the broccoli was grown, it'll have a different sugar content. Some broccoli just isn't as sweet, and adding a teensy bit of sugar won't hurt.
Just pick and choose different flavors, and add what you like. As for how much to add, that's something you have to figure out through experimentation! When you create a new recipe, make some notes. If you added lemon juice and found it too lemony, just add a little bit less next time.
It's the best way to make roasted broccoli that's perfect for you!
Once it's cut, oiled and seasoned, roasting the broccoli is super easy. Perfect for when the rest of the meal takes more time and attention!
Here's how to make roasted broccoli.
Preheat the oven to 400F.
400F works well, but you can go up to 425F or even 450F. The broccoli will brown faster, but it'll also stay crisper, since the inside won't really get a chance to cook as much.
If you like, you can preheat your roasting pan, too. It'll help the broccoli caramelize faster.
Place the broccoli in the roasing dish. Ideally, all the broccoli will be in a single layer, with a bit of breathing room. It'll help air flow around each piece, which will help it brown more evenly.
If the broccoli is packed in tight or piled up, it can keep the roasted broccoli from getting nicely browned. The broccoli will release steam as it cooks. If it's packed in too tightly, the steam can't escape — and you end up with steamed broccoli!
Roast the broccoli in the preheated oven until it's done to your liking. You can shake it around halfway through the cooking time to make sure it's not sticking, but it's not usually a problem with broccoli.
Keep an eye on it to make sure the florets don't burn. When you're roasting, there's not much of a chance that your broccoli will end up overcooked and mushy — but it might end up overcooked and burnt if you leave it in too long.
Depending on how crisp or tender you like your roasted broccoli, and how small your pieces are, it can take anywhere from 10 to 25 minutes to cook. I tend to prefer 20-25 minutes, myself.
You can test the broccoli with a fork to see if it's cooked to your liking. Or, even more deliciously, you can try a piece! Just be sure not to burn yourself.
Add any extra seasonings you were saving for the end, and serve. Yum!
And that's how to make roasted broccoli. It really is a treat, and so easy to make. Even if you don't like broccoli, it's worth trying out, because it's such a different taste. Not everyone will like it - after all, if not everyone likes chocolate, broccoli can't hope to be universally loved, right? But I think there's a good chance that you'll find it a really delicious change of pace!