Food & Nutrition

Simple Steamed Cauliflower with Herbs

Overhead of serving bowl of cauliflower with text
Overhead of white bowl with steamed cauliflower with purple text overlay

Making this recipe for simple steamed cauliflower with herbs is so easy. All you have to do is chop the cauliflower and steam it. Then drizzle it with a bit of olive oil, herbs and salt and pepper. It’s a naturally low-calorie, low-carb side dish to round out your dinner.

white bowl with herbed cauliflower with sprigs of parsley and a spoon resting in the bowl

This post contains affiliate links. I originally shared this recipe on March 16th, 2018. I have updated some of the content to share it again with you today.

Table of contents

Why Make This Recipe

You’re going to want to save this steamed cauliflower recipe because you’ll return to it over and over again.

Steaming cauliflower is so simple and healthy and is a fast way to get perfectly tender cauliflower, without overcooking it, and without needing to heat up the oven. It takes mere minutes!

Plus we’ve seasoned it with a tried and true combination of extra-virgin olive oil, fresh herbs, salt and pepper! Trust us, this combination of tender cauliflower and fresh herbs is a great side dish for a wide variety of dinners.

You can also prepare this for meal prep or you can use this as a jumping-off point to come up with different seasoning combinations!

This recipe is fabulous and elevates cauliflower to another level. The basil and oregano seasoning blend made a believer of my husband. Miracle!


Equipment Notes

Steamer Basket

Steamer baskets are convenient because they are small enough to store easily and keep the veggies from touching the water. This is my preferred way to steam vegetables.

These collapsable metal baskets are available at most grocery stores and kitchen stores. I steam veggies a lot so I prefer a heavy-duty one like this Oxo one, because the blades on the really thin ones tend to fall apart after a year or two.

You can also use a two-step pot that has a steamer top like this one. I find them to be too large for storage but they are certainly more sturdy than a folding steamer basket.


If you are new to steaming and do not have a steamer basket yet, you can improvise one by using a colander set inside a large stock pot or soup pot. Set the legs into the water, but make sure the bottom of the colander bowl doesn’t dip down into the boiling water.


You can also use a large microwave-safe bowl and steam your cauliflower in the microwave! I use parchment and plastic wrap to cover it, or you can cover it with a plate to trap the steam in the bowl. Read instructions for steaming cauliflower in a microwave here.

Key Ingredients

cauliflower, oil, herbs, salt and pepper


You’ll need one medium head of cauliflower for this recipe. When purchasing, try to avoid heads of cauliflower that have signs of browning, mold or black spots. Cut off any dark spots.

Olive Oil

We opted for extra-virgin olive oil to season the steamed cauliflower. This helps the herbs and spices stick the steamed cauliflower. You can substitute melted butter instead or try a seasoned oil such as roasted garlic oil or basil-infused oil for something more decadent!

Herbs and Seasonings

Use a blend of herbs to your liking. Try 2 teaspoons chopped parsley, 1 teaspoon each dill and tarragon. Or 1 tablespoon chopped basil and 1 teaspoon chopped oregano.

You’ll also need salt and pepper for seasoning the cauliflower. If you are on a reduced-sodium diet, skip the added salt, and only add to taste at the table. The fresh herbs add so much flavor, you may not need any!

I have several other suggestions for how to season steamed cauliflower here.

How To Make Steamed Cauliflower

cut, steam cauliflower and check to see if it is done

Step 1: Cut The Cauliflower

Remove the leaves from the outside of the cauliflower head. Cut the head in half and remove the core with a knife. Cut the cauliflower into large florets (PHOTO 1). You want them to be roughly the same size so they cook evenly. Cut through the stems, and try to leave the head of the florets intact so they do not crumble.

Step 2: Steam

Set up your steamer basket by filling the bottom of the large pot with water. You don’t want the water to be any higher than the bottom of the basket, but you need to add enough water so it won’t boil away.

Add the cauliflower to the steamer basket (PHOTO 2), cover and cook it until it is fork-tender.

Cauliflower Steam Time

Steaming cauliflower takes about 5 to 6 minutes but will depend on how crowded your steamer basket is and the size of the florets. If you prefer softer steamed cauliflower, cook up to 7 minutes.

To check if it is tender, try piercing the thickest part of the cauliflower stem with a fork or the tip of a pairing knife. (PHOTO 3) It should go in and out without a ton of resistance.

Keep in mind you do not want to go overboard and overcook the cauliflower. Overcooking it will make it sulfurous and watery.

How To Steam in a Microwave

steps to steam cauliflower in microwave

To steam the cauliflower in the microwave place the cauliflower florets in a large microwave-safe bowl and add 1/2 cup tap water (PHOTO 1.) Cover with a layer of parchment and then plastic wrap to seal in the steam (PHOTO 2.) Alternatively, cover the bowl with a large microwave-safe plate or silicone cover.

Microwave on high power for 5 minutes. Let sit 1 minute, then carefully remove the plastic wrap. Caution, the steam is hot and can burn as you remove the plastic!

Check to make sure your cauliflower is fork-tender (PHOTO 3.) Depending on the size of your florets and the wattage of your microwave times may vary.

How To Season Steamed Cauliflower

Once it is tender, take the steamer basket out of the pot and set it aside for a second. Then get rid of the cooking water. Then dump the cauliflower back into the pot. This saves a dish! Yay! For microwave method, drain the cauliflower in a colander then add back to the bowl.

Drizzle olive oil, salt pepper and herbs over the cauliflower and toss until the oil and seasonings coat the cauliflower and get into the nooks and crannies.

Variations To Try

  • Instead of herbs, you can season this with a teaspoon of fresh lemon zest and a little lemon juice.
  • You can season the steamed cauliflower by tossing it with Basil Pesto.
  • Use half broccoli and half cauliflower for a two-veggie duo.
  • You can use butter instead of olive oil and add 2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese.
  • Drizzle with Balsamic vinegar and top with toasted almonds.

FAQs and Expert Tips for Steaming Cauliflower

Can I steam frozen cauliflower?

Yes you can steam cauliflower. Simply add the frozen cauliflower to the steamer basket, cover and steam for 5 to 6 minutes, or until the cauliflower is piping hot and fork-tender. adding frozen cauliflower to the steamer basket

What is the best combination of herbs for adding to steamed cauliflower?

The key is using a higher ratio of tender herbs (those with stems such as dill, tarragon, chervil, cilantro and basil) to woody herbs (those with stick-like stems such as thyme and rosemary) as generally woody herbs are stronger in flavor. Sage and oregano When in doubt- cut whichever herb you use 50% with parsley.

Why does cooked cauliflower smell bad?

Cauliflower comes from the mustard family of vegetables which have varying levels of sulfurous smell. When overcooked cauliflower can let off a stronger sulfur odor. To avoid that, do not cook the cauliflower too long, and remove it from the heat when it is fork tender.

How long to steam cauliflower?

The timing depends on the size of your florets, but generally, it takes 5 to 6 minutes for just crisp-tender steamed cauliflower and 7 to 8 minutes for soft cauliflower.

white bowl of steamed cauliflower with tarragon sprig on top

More Cauliflower Recipes

Thanks so much for reading. If you are new here, you may want to sign up for my free weekly email newsletter where I share weeknight meal plans delivered right to your inbox. Or follow me on Instagram. If you make this recipe, please come back and leave a star rating and review! It is very appreciated. Happy Cooking! ~Katie


clock clock iconcutlery cutlery iconflag flag iconfolder folder iconinstagram instagram iconpinterest pinterest iconfacebook facebook iconprint print iconsquares squares iconheart heart iconheart solid heart solid icon


Making this recipe for simple steamed cauliflower with herbs is so easy. All you have to do is chop the cauliflower and steam it. Then drizzle it with a bit of olive oil, herbs and salt and pepper. It’s a naturally low-calorie, low-carb side dish to round out your dinner.

  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¾ teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 4 teaspoons chopped fresh herbs, see note*

  1. Bring one to two inches of water to a boil in a large saucepan fitted with a steamer basket over high heat. Add cauliflower to the steamer basket, cover the saucepan, and steam until the cauliflower is fork-tender, 4 to 5 minutes for crisp tender. Steam 1 to 3 minutes longer for softer cauliflower.
  2. Remove the steamer basket from the saucepan, and pour out the water. Empty the cauliflower out of the steamer basket back into the pot. Drizzle on oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Add herbs and toss to coat. Serve immediately.


Note* Use a blend of herbs to your liking. Try 2 teaspoons chopped parsley, 1 teaspoon each dill and tarragon. Or 1 tablespoon chopped basil and 1 teaspoon chopped oregano.

  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 5 minutes
  • Category: side dish
  • Method: Stove Top
  • Cuisine: American


  • Serving Size: 1 cup
  • Calories: 45
  • Carbohydrates: 4
  • Fiber: 2
  • Protein: 2

Keywords: Steamed Cauliflower,simple cauliflower recipe,easy cauliflower recipe,cauliflower with herbs

About the Author

Katie Webster

Katie Webster studied art and photography at Skidmore College and is a graduate of the New England Culinary Institute. She has been a professional recipe developer since 2001 when she first started working in the test kitchen at EatingWell magazine. Her recipes have been featured in numerous magazines including Shape, Fitness, Parents and several Edible Communities publications among others. Her cookbook, Maple {Quirk Books} was published in 2015. She launched Healthy Seasonal Recipes in 2009. She lives in Vermont with her husband, two teenage daughters and two yellow labs. In her free time, you can find her at the gym, cooking, stacking firewood, making maple syrup, and tending to her overgrown perennial garden.