A Guide to Roasting Vegetables

Winter is the season for roots and other hearty vegetables, and there’s no better way to prepare them than roasting. It’s easy, delicious, and nutritious.

Why Roast?

Dry cooking methods like roasting allows the vegetables to retain more nutrients than steaming or boiling, where the water can leach away important vitamins and minerals. Tossed in a bit of olive oil prior to roasting, heart-healthy fats help make those veggies tastier and more fulfilling.

But perhaps the best reason of all is that roasting is delicious. That beautiful golden brown color that develops is the caramelization of natural sugars within, so it enhances the natural sweetness and adds a distinctive texture. Roasting also browns the proteins within, bringing forth a more complex flavor than wet methods can create.

Think you don’t like Brussels sprouts? Kids gag at cauliflower? Roast them, and they will be completely transformed from what you think you know.

What to Roast

Winter is the season for hearty roots and other tough vegetables, and these are perfect suited to the high temperatures of roasting. Any vegetable can be roasted, but the veggies available in winter are especially good. Try roasting familiar ones, like carrots and potatoes. Transform cauliflower, broccoli and Brussels sprouts. Rethink winter squashes and beets. Try something totally new like fennel or parsnips.

How to Roast

Roasting is about as simple as it gets:

  • Get your oven to a very hot 450 degrees—this will get the sugars caramelizing on the outside.
  • Get a nice flat baking sheet so the pieces can spread out. If they’re too close together or in a deep baking pan the hot air can’t get to each piece properly and they’ll steam instead. Line the pan with parchment to make clean up easier, but stay away from foil! It will interfere with browning and the foods will stick to it like crazy.
  • Cut the vegetables into even-sized pieces so they cook evenly.
  • Toss them in a bowl with a bit of good olive oil, and season liberally with salt.
  • Spread them out on the baking sheet, being sure to leave plenty of open space. Use a second sheet if you’re making a lot—your efforts will be rewarded.
  • Roast until browned on the outside and just cooked through, flipping or tossing at least once during the cooking time.

You can roast different vegetables at the same time, but it’s important to note that they may have different cooking times. Butternut squash is going to take a lot longer than broccoli, for instance. Refer to this handy roasting reference guide for prep tips and cooking times.

From simple to extravagant, roasting elevates plain ole vegetables into something special. Try your favorite vegetables in a new way. Or, be brave and give something you don’t particularly like another shot, and you may be surprised. Try sweet potato or butternut squash “fries” to up your kids’ veggie intakes. Get fancy with some brown butter and herbs—you can find plenty of elegant roasting recipes online. Crank that oven, brown up those veggies, and enjoy!


Nourishing Thoughts is written by Julie Miller, an expert on nutrition and fitness instructor at the C.W. Avery Family YMCA.

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