The Ultimate Guide to Roasting Vegetables

The Ultimate Guide to Roasting Vegetables

Take your oven-roasted veggies from "meh" to "mmm" with our tips and tricks for perfect results, plus 17 easy roasted vegetable recipes

Photo by Brittany Conerly
Jamie Vespa is a registered dietitian, nutrition and food journalist, and digital influencer who operates the health-centric food blog and social media accounts, Dishing Out Health. She champions the idea that food and the power of cooking can heal, inspire, and help us thrive.

Roasting vegetables is a basic technique every home cook should master. Not only does roasting catapult a vegetable’s flavor, concentrating the natural sweetness and adding a touch of char for interest, it creates the kind of crispy exterior and just-tender interior that make vegetables the star of a meal. Keep a batch of roasted veggies on hand, and your weeknight meal options open right up: Toss them in a frittata, transform a bowl of pasta, or create a speedy Buddha bowl.

While roasting is easy, it’s certainly not foolproof. For crisp-caramelized veggies with concentrated flavor, you want to consider timing and temperature, which vary depending on the vegetable. Other key elements include choosing the right pan and the right oil, layering in seasonings, and cutting up your veggies for optimal results. So we're going to explore all this and more.

Ready to transform your everyday roasted vegetables into ones you’ll actually be excited to eat? Fire up your oven! 

Jump ahead to:

4 tips for roasted vegetable success >>

How to roast the 7 most popular kinds of vegetables >>

Roasted vegetable comfort food recipes >>

 

4 tips for roasted vegetable success

A picture of raw chunks of parsnips, yellow and purple beets, and carrots with herbs on a sheet pan
Photo by Brittany Conerly

Learning how to make the best roasted vegetables starts before they go into the oven with some basic kitchen prep.

1. Slice evenly

To ensure even cooking, aim to slice, chop or dice your vegetables to roughly the same size. Otherwise, you may end up with smaller bits that are burnt and bitter, and others just shy of tender. Shape, however, isn’t as important as consistency of size. 

2. Use the right oil (and enough of it)

Oil is a great conductor of heat and helps kick-start the caramelization process; however, not all oils are created equal. Some are better suited for roasting, while others perform better as finishing oils.  

For roasting vegetables you want an oil with a neutral taste and high smoke point, since roasting happens at higher heat. (The smoke point is the temperature at which an oil literally begins to smoke. When you cook to or past this point, you run the risk of your food tasting scorched and rancid.)

To avoid this, use oil with a smoke point above 400º, such as avocado, canola, or olive oil. Avocado oil has the highest smoke point at 520º, followed by canola at 468º, and pure (refined) olive oil at 450° to 470°. (Note: The smoke point of extra-virgin olive oil, aka unrefined, is lower, at 350°-380° — though some studies show it can be as high as 425° — so be sure to take this into account when you choose an oil for roasting.)

Rule of thumb: Use 2 tablespoons of oil per sheet pan of veggies. Drizzle, then toss; the vegetables should be shiny and evenly coated, but not greasy. (You can use a large bowl or toss the veggies right on the sheet pan.) Bonus: The oil helps you absorb fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K in vegetables.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

In this velvety soup, avocado oil is used to roast and soften the squash before it’s blended. The mild flavor of the oil allows the sweetness of the squash to shine. 

3. Season sufficiently 

Once your veggies are chopped and oiled, it’s time to start layering on the flavor. At a minimum, you want salt. Not only does salt enhance vegetables' natural flavors, it helps draw out moisture. And less moisture during roasting equals crisp, caramelized texture.

Outside of salt, some standbys that work wonders on all vegetables include black pepper, garlic powder, and smoked paprika. Other front-runners include curry powder, fresh or dried herbs (especially rosemary and thyme), chili powder, sumac, and ground cumin. 

Pro tip: To achieve the most even seasoning, mix the spices together in a small bowl; then sprinkle over vegetables and toss to coat. 

Spicy Roasted Cauliflower

Chili powder and smoked paprika give a blank-canvas vegetable loads of flavor. Keep this spicy seasoning duo in mind to offset the sweetness of certain tubers like sweet potatoes and yams, too.  

4. Don’t crowd the pan, and use the right one

Crowding the pan will encourage steaming versus browning, which robs the roast vegetables of peak caramelization. (Caramelization happens when water in the vegetables evaporates and the vegetables’ natural sugar breaks down.) To avoid mushy vegetables, arrange them in a single layer, making sure each piece is in contact with the pan and pieces aren’t butting up against one another.

Get the right pan: A sheet pan (a large, rimmed baking sheet that’s 13 by 18 inches) does the best job roasting vegetables. Some people line the baking pan with parchment paper, which makes for easy clean-up, but you'll get better caramelization without it. Avoid using a casserole dish, if possible, as the higher curved sides will trap some steam.  

Roasted Vegetables

Give these pointers a practice run by using your sheet pan for this simple roasted vegetable recipe. The assortment of colors, textures, and flavors ensures each bite is as enticing as the next.  

A picture of a sheet pan with roasted parsnips, yellow and purple beets, and carrots with herbs
Photo by Brittany Conerly

Temperature, cooking time, and a few seasoning ideas: Once you understand these concepts, you won’t even need a recipe to roast the seven most popular kinds of vegetables — though we give you a recipe for each category just for good measure.

1. Root vegetables

Beets, carrots, daikon, parsnips, and turnips are the stars here. The beauty of roasting root veggies is that you can mix and match them to your liking. Since their textures are all quite similar (tough and slightly fibrous), roasting times are much the same. As long as you cut them all roughly the same size (1- to 2-inch chunks are best), you’re in for a colorful, tender tray of nature’s finest.

Temperature: 425º

Cook time: 35 to 45 minutes

Best seasonings: Salt, pepper, garlic powder, fresh or dried rosemary, ground cumin, sumac, garam masala

Pro tips: Stir the vegetables at least twice during roasting to ensure even cooking. If you’re roasting two pans at once, swap pan positions halfway through.  

Honey Garlic Butter Roasted Carrots

These honey-roasted carrots will entice even the pickiest vegetable eaters. The honey garlic glaze enhances the inherent sweetness of carrots, creating a rich, wonderfully aromatic side dish. 

2. Starchy vegetables 

Potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, and Jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes) make up this class of starchy veggies, or tubers, which form at the root of a plant. Because of their high starch content, tubers are especially well suited for dry-heat cooking (i.e. roasting), which converts their starch into sugar and amplifies their sweetness. 

The skins of tubers are paper thin and edible; however, you can peel them if you prefer. Otherwise, just give them a good scrub to remove any dirt.

Temperature: 425º

Cook time: 25 to 35 minutes (Jerusalem artichokes closer to 25, and potatoes closer to 35)

Best seasonings: Salt, pepper, garlic powder, smoked paprika, chili powder, dried oregano, garam masala 

Pro tips: Slice into uniform 1-inch cubes or wedges, and stir at least once during roasting to ensure even cooking. If baking small potatoes whole, poke a few holes in them and bake for 45 to 60 minutes, or until fork-tender.

Crispy Herb-Roasted Potatoes

With the perfect alchemy of toastiness and herbs, these roasted red potatoes can elevate any dinner or a breakfast hash. 

3. Crucifers (cauliflower and friends)

The cruciferous crew of vegetables includes broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and cabbage. These cool weather crops are some of the most delicious and versatile veggies to roast, which may explain their surge in popularity the last few years. Raw crucifers can be inherently bitter; roasting renders them tender and sweet.

Temperature: 425º

Cook time: 25 to 35 minutes (Brussels about 25 minutes, cauliflower about 35, and broccoli right in between)

Best seasonings: Salt, pepper, garlic powder, chili flakes, lemon zest  

Pro tips: Fluffy broccoli and cauliflower florets get all the attention, but the stems also hold delicious potential. Just slice off any tough portions and cut the remaining stems into small coins. Toss them on a sheet pan with the florets, and they’ll turn sweet and creamy after roasting.

For Brussels sprouts, trim and halve them to encourage more flat surface area for browning.

Roast cabbage in wedges. Start by slicing the cabbage head in half, leaving the core intact, and then cut each half into 4 wedges. Brush each cut side with oil, and aim to work the seasoning into all the layers. 

Chili Honey Lime Roasted Brussels Sprouts

You can’t beat the bold Southwest flavor of these Brussels sprouts. Drizzling a honey-lime dressing on after roasting ensures the sprouts reach their crispiest potential in the oven without scorching from the honey.

4. Summer squash

Summer squash have tender, edible skin with light to more dense flesh. The basic summer squashes are yellow squash (crookneck or straightneck), zucchini (green or yellow), and pattypan (aka scallop).

Temperature: 450º

Cook time: 10 to 15 minutes

Best seasonings: Salt, pepper, garlic powder, za’atar, paprika, herbes de Provence

Pro tips: Summer squash (zucchini, especially) has a high water content, which can impede caramelization during roasting. For best results, slice and salt the squash ahead of time and place it in a colander to draw out some of the moisture. After about 15 minutes, pat it dry with paper towels before tossing in oil and roasting. 

Easy Roasted Zucchini

Think of this simple recipe as your back-pocket summer side dish. Use any combination of spices you like, and serve alongside your protein of choice. Or toss into a veggie pasta. 

5. Winter squash

Winter squash have a hard rind that helps them keep well during the cold winter months. The most common winter squashes are butternut, honeynut, kabocha, spaghetti squash, delicata and acorn (the last two are the exception, with a more tender skin).

Temperature: 425º

Cook time: 30 to 40 minutes

Best seasonings: Salt, pepper, garlic powder, ground cumin, sumac, curry powder, chili powder, smoked paprika, garam masala

Pro tips: Delicata and acorn squash have softer skins that don’t require peeling; however, all other varieties are best peeled. For best results, slice delicata into 1/2-inch-thick rounds or half-moons, kabocha into 1-inch-thick wedges, acorn into ½-inch-thick wedges, butternut into 1½-inch pieces, and honeynut into quarters. Turn the squash pieces at least once during cooking. 

Spicy Roasted Delicata Squash

Master the balance of sweetness and spice in a versatile, goes-with-anything side. Enjoy the squash on its own, or arrange it over a fall salad for an instant flavor upgrade.

6. Vegetable bulbs: onions, fennel, and more

Bulb-shaped vegetables usually consist of layers, or clustered segments, and include all varieties of onions, shallots, kohlrabi, fennel, and leeks. Although pungent when eaten raw, roasting turns them sweet and meltingly tender. 

Temperature: 400º

Cook time: 30 to 40 minutes

Best seasonings: Salt, pepper, and fresh or dried rosemary or thyme 

Pro tips: Except for shallots, which are small, most bulb-shaped vegetables are best roasted in wedges. For onions, slice them in half lengthwise and then cut the halves lengthwise at a slight angle into even wedges. 

Rosemary Roasted Onions

It’s easy to forget about onions, but treated right, they’re the ultimate accompaniment to burgers, roasts, or hardy winter salads. Roasting gives them buttery soft texture and luscious, rich flavor, and if you include some red onions, look at that color!

7. Asparagus

Gorgeous whole roasted asparagus spears add a pop of color on any plate, and they couldn’t be easier to prepare. Serve them on their own as a side dish, top them with poached or fried eggs for brunch or supper, or slice and add to salads and pasta.

Temperature: 400º

Cook time: 10-12 minutes (less if they’re very skinny; more if they’re fat)

Best seasonings: Salt, black pepper, fresh or dried thyme, lemon zest, red pepper flakes

Pro tips: No chopping required! Gently bend each asparagus stalk starting at the base to find the spot where it naturally breaks, and then discard the woody end.

Easy Roasted Asparagus

Meet your favorite new weeknight side. Though seasoned only with olive oil, salt, and pepper, these spears turn out anything but plain once they roast until tender-crisp and sweet. Prep time 5 minutes, total time under 20 minutes, and they're done.


Roasted vegetable comfort food recipes

Now that you’re expanding your roasting repertoire, let’s put your knowledge (and possible stockpile of crisp-caramelized roast veggies) to delicious use beyond side dishes in some classic, extra-nutritious versions of comfort foods.

Roasted Vegetable Pizza

Cauliflower confirms its endless versatility in this fall-inspired pizza. Traditional Italian? Maybe not, but with melty mozzarella, tangy goat cheese, fried sage, and pesto, this pizza is miles ahead of anything being slung at your local takeout joint.

Ina Garten's Roasted Vegetable Lasagna

Eggplant and zucchini star in this vegetable lasagna, but you could sub in whatever roasted veggies you have on hand or are in the mood for. What better way to sneak in nutrients than between layers of saucy, cheesy noodles? 

Roasted Vegetable Macaroni and Cheese

Who knew a pan of assorted roasted vegetables could elevate a pot of macaroni and cheese? This version of the comfort food classic will help you hit your daily veggie quota thanks to a cheesy, creamy stovetop sauce made with sharp white cheddar and Parmesan.

Oven Roasted Sweet Potato Hash

Start your day a healthy way with roasted sweet potatoes in a hearty breakfast hash. If you use leftover cooked vegetables, this savory skillet meal comes together in about 10 minutes. 

Easy Healthy Roasted Vegetable Soup

Here’s a concept to put on repeat all fall: Roast a sheet pan of veggies, then puree them with chicken stock and coconut milk for rich, creamy roasted vegetable soup. It’s perfect with some crusty whole-grain bread, a dollop of yogurt, and fresh herbs. 

Roasted Vegetable Pita Sandwich

Break out some warm pita, feta cheese, and tzatziki sauce to go with a few simply roasted vegetables and you’ve got yourself a delicious and speedy lunch. The recipe calls for red bell peppers, zucchini, and mushrooms, but you could also use whatever you’re in the mood for. 

Roasted Cauliflower Burrito Bowls

Cauliflower gets the ultimate (but easy!) spice treatment with taco seasoning in these vegan bowls. If you’ve roasted the cauliflower in advance, the meal prep-friendly bowls come together in a snap (just microwave the cauliflower to reheat). Roasted butternut squash or sweet potatoes would be delicious subs.

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