One of my favorite ways to cook root vegetables is to pan roast them. If you haven’t tried this yet, what are you waiting for?! Pan roasting vegetables is absolutely the best way to bring out their intense flavor and sweeten them up. When you roast vegetables, the starches naturally break down into sugar, which not only makes them easier to digest, but also makes them taste better. The taste is even sweeter if you let the roasted vegetables cool in the fridge or at least 30 minutes before eating them. Roasting root vegetables isn’t hard either, so don’t be intimidated if you’ve never done it before or if you don’t like to cook. In fact, roasting veggies is my secret, lazy way to make simple, inexpensive vegetables taste like something from a restaurant! Check out these simple little tips to get you started:
1. Pick a Delicious Blend
Before you start to pan roast vegetables, be sure you select a delicious variety of veggies to roast. I love using a mix of sweet potatoes, red potatoes, butternut squash, carrots, beets, and some onions and garlic for flavor. I also suggest taking advantage of specialty squashes like whole pumpkins and kabocha squash when they’re in season in the fall. You can truly roast any root vegetable you want or other vegetables with your root vegetables, so get creative! Just remember that a mix will give you a better flavor profile than roasting one or two root vegetables. Try these Roasted Root Vegetables on Quinoa with Yogurt Sauce.
2. Wash and Chop
Next, it’s time to wash your veggies. Since root vegetables have a tougher shell, you’ll want to wash them really well. For items like butternut squash, pumpkin, or hard squashes, you’ll be removing the shell, so you can just give these a quick rinse. Wash onions and garlic after you peel the outer layers if using those.
Now, you’ll want to chop your vegetables however you like. You’ll need a large chef’s knife preferably, which will give you a firmer and more even cut. I typically leave my peels on potatoes (buy organic if you do this) and I also leave the peels on carrots and beets, but feel free to remove them if you like. If using hard squashes, slice off the shells as carefully as possible before chopping them into smaller pieces.
It’s important to chop all of your vegetables in an even manner. You definitely don’t want uneven pieces or they’ll cook at different times, which may leave some burnt and some slightly under-cooked. I find it easiest to cut all my vegetables in half lengthwise, then in half width-wise and continue that process until I have one-inch cubes of everything. You want them to be bite-size but be large enough to roast well.
3. Preheat and Prepare
After you have everything chopped, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. It’s essential to use a high cooking temperature to ensure they roast quickly and still retain a moist flavor.
Now, line a large baking pan or glass dish with foil, or use nonstick spray. Be sure you have enough pans to cover how many vegetables you’re using. For larger batches you may need two or three pans. Line all your chopped vegetables onto the pans and be sure to leave a little space in between and ensure some aren’t lying on top of one another. This ensures even cooking.
5. Choose Your Flavors
Now this is the fun part! I love creating new flavor blends to roast my vegetables with each time I make them. I suggest using simple herbs and spices to start with. Choose from items such as oregano, parsley, basil, thyme, turmeric, cilantro, and some Himalayan sea salt and pepper. If you just want a simple roasted veggie recipe, then feel free to leave them plain and let their flavor do all the talking. Or, just use a bit of salt and pepper. I highly suggest trying some spices if you can though – you’ll love it! Combine a couple teaspoons of spices and mix them together in a bowl. Sprinkle them over your vegetables once combined.
6. Add Some Zing
My next little tip is to add some flair to your vegetables by giving them some zing! I like to squeeze the juice of a whole lemon on top of one pan of root veggies before roasting them. You could use olive oil but I find it makes them heavy and too oily for my liking. Some people also like coconut oil. I like the lemon because it helps them cook up better and I find it enhances their sweet taste without making them taste like lemons. You could also use tamari, apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, or another acidic ingredient.
7. Cook Them Up
Now comes the easy part! Put your veggies in the oven and roast for right around 45 minutes to one hour. It will depend on what types of veggies you’ve used as to how long it takes them to cook. I find that onions and garlic cook much quicker than items like butternut squash or carrots. So for this, you may want to give them a stir with a spatula once in between cooking and toss them a bit around on the pan to ensure nothing gets overcooked. You’ll know they’re done when they’re just slightly golden brown on the outside and your kitchen starts to smell like a dream!
After your veggies are done, you have several options. You can either serve them with a meal, snack on them (one of my favorites) or put them in the fridge for later use. As they sit in the fridge, the magic really starts to happen. They develop a marvelously sweet taste and I find they go great on top of salads or just eaten alone as a side dish. In the winter months they can also be stirred into broth for a quick soup and reheated on the stove or eaten as a savory breakfast option with some oatmeal or brown rice. The options are limitless when it comes to pan-roasted vegetables. Did I mention they’re one of the best frugal foods to eat too? You can’t beat having a frugal, delicious, and vegan meal with a few humble ingredients and an oven, right?
Lead image source: Heather McClees