By Debra Daniels-Zeller

Many people know roasted vegetables taste better, but what does roasting mean? It has a long history, according to Barbara Kafka in Roasting: A Simple Art. Roasting started as an "open-air activity with a hand-turned spit revolving over a fire," and later, when roasting moved indoors with ovens, the techniques changed.

According to most chefs, roasting is mostly high-heat cooking (400 degrees or more) with no water added. A light coating of oil before cooking will help caramelize vegetables and helps prevent them from sticking to the pan. Every vegetable roasts a little differently. Peppers can take broiler heat, but extra-thin slices of vegetables, tomatoes, and leafy greens require lower heat. Kale can burn easily and is best when roasted at 200 degrees. For many vegetables, when the heat is turned down, they cook but don't develop the crisp browned exterior. When water is added or a cover is placed over the vegetables, they steam and lose the sweet tones.

Some chefs suggest parboiling dense vegetables like russet potatoes before roasting to ensure the vegetable is cooked inside when the outside becomes crisp. Parboiling is like blanching and means the vegetables are plunged briefly in a large pot of boiling water (not more than 3 minutes). This technique softens food so when the outside browns the inside is soft. Parboiled vegetables are slightly sweeter, and if you cut vegetables thin, consider parboiling as an option to try, rather than a rule to follow.

When roasting fruit, remember any fruit that can be grilled can be roasted. For best results, choose firm varieties like apples, pears, mangos, and pineapples. Unlike with vegetables, oil isn't necessary to bring out sweetness, and adding liquids to fruit before roasting is encouraged. Garnish or drizzle with chocolate sauce or maple syrup. Try chocolate chips and crushed nuts as a topping.

Roasting basics:

  • Preheat the oven according to the recipe. Lightly oil a cookie sheet or 9 x 13-inch cake pan.
  • Cut all vegetables to the same size.
  • Blend herbs like rosemary, thyme, sage, or garlic into the oil before coating the vegetables, if desired. One Tablespoon of oil is plenty for a 9 x 13-inch pan of vegetables.
  • Spread vegetables in one layer. Whole vegetables take longer than diced vegetables. Add quick-cooking veg- etables like zucchini or tomatoes last.
  • Turn vegetables when they are lightly browned, about every 10 minutes.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste before or after cooking.

Vegetables are done when they are fork tender.

Serve the vegetables with salt and pepper or add a sauce or vinaigrette for a gourmet touch. You can also make roasted vegetables the star attractions in main dishes, sandwiches, salads, or soups.

Roasted Kale Chips

(Serves 4)

Kale chips can burn quickly when roasted at high temperatures. The low temperature in this recipe means the kale won't burn and chips are perfect every time.

  • One bunch kale, middle stems removed
  • 1-1 ½ Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Lay parchment paper on a baking sheet. Tear kale into bite-size pieces and toss with oil, making sure a little oil coats each leaf. Spread on parchment paper. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Roast for 30 minutes, turning every 10 minutes to ensure even roasting. If chips are not crisp, continue baking until they become crisp, checking every 5 minutes.

Total calories per serving: 87 Fat: 4 grams
Carbohydrates: 11 grams Protein: 4 grams
Sodium: 49 milligrams Fiber: 2 grams

Roasted Roma Tomatoes

(Serves 4)

Slow roasting intensifies flavors. Use these tasty tomatoes for a pizza, pasta dish, casserole, or vegetable soup.

  • 1 pound Roma tomatoes, sliced in half lengthwise
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1-1 ½ Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking dish with parchment paper. Lay tomatoes cut side down on the parchment paper. Blend crushed garlic into the olive oil and drizzle over the tomatoes. Roast tomatoes for 2 hours or until softened and wrinkled. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper before serving.

Total calories per serving: 51 Fat: 4 grams
Carbohydrates: 5 grams Protein: 1 gram
Sodium: 6 milligrams Fiber: 1 gram

Simple Roasted Root Vegetables

(Serves 4)

These make a great side dish. Or try them with salsa and black or red beans on crispy corn tortillas.

  • 1 rutabaga, small dice
  • 1 turnip, small dice
  • 1 large carrot, cut into matchsticks
  • 1 small sweet potato, small dice
  • 1 small potato, small dice
  • 1 ½ Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6-7 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, toss rutabaga, turnip, carrot, sweet potato, potato, olive oil, and garlic. Spread vegetables in a single layer in one or two baking pans. Roast for 30 minutes. Stir or turn vegetables every 10 minutes. Vegetables and garlic are done when they are lightly browned and soft inside. Add salt and pepper to taste before serving.

Total calories per serving: 163 Fat: 5 grams
Carbohydrates: 27 grams Protein: 3 grams
Sodium: 73 milligrams Fiber: 5 grams

Whole Roasted Cauliflower

(Serves 4)

This recipe is so easy. All you need to do is trim the outer leaves and stem, rinse, and place the cauliflower on a baking sheet. Use a vegan light Italian salad dressing: a little oil helps brown the cauliflower and makes it sweeter tasting.

1 small whole cauliflower, washed, stem and leaves trimmed
¼ cup light vegan Italian salad dressing

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly brush marinade over the outside of the cauliflower. Roast for 40 minutes, basting the cauliflower every 10 minutes, cooking until the top of the cauliflower is caramelized and golden to brown on top. Cut in slices or sections to serve.

Total calories per serving: 32 Fat: 1 gram
Carbohydrates: 5 grams Protein: 1 gram
Sodium: 154 milligrams Fiber: 2 grams

Roasted Maple-Cinnamon Apples

(Serves 4)

This easy dessert tastes like apple pie without the crust. For variety, swap allspice with nutmeg and try this recipe with pears instead of apples. Children will enjoy this dessert served with their favorite frozen treat.

  • 1 Tablespoon vegan margarine, melted
  • ¼ cup organic brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice
  • 4 apples, peeled, cored, and sliced into ¼-inch slices
  • 2 Tablespoons toasted pumpkin or sunflower seeds (optional)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Combine margarine, brown sugar, cinnamon, and allspice. Place apples in a single layer in a baking dish. Toss with cinnamon sugar mixture. Bake for 25 minutes, turning every 10 minutes. Garnish with pumpkin or sunflower seeds. Serve with vanilla frozen dessert.

Total calories per serving: 121 Fat: 3 grams
Carbohydrates: 25 grams Protein: <1 gram
Sodium: 34 milligrams Fiber: 2 grams

Quinoa Salad with Roasted Asparagus

(Serves 4)

Serve this dish as a side or main dish. For a main dish, add 4-8 ounces of sautéed seitan or tofu, cooled and mixed in with the roasted asparagus. How quickly the asparagus cooks in this recipe depends on the thickness of the stalks. Check and turn stalks every 10 minutes so the asparagus doesn't overcook. Photo of dish on front cover.

  • 1 ½ pounds asparagus, rinsed, tough stems removed, and cut into 2-inch segments
  • 1 Tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 ¾ cups water
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 carrot, small dice
  • ¼ cup sliced green onions
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss asparagus with canola oil, lay in a baking dish, and roast for 20 minutes, or until stalks soften. While the asparagus cooks, bring water to a boil in a small pan. Add quinoa. When water boils again, reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until water is absorbed and grains are done. Let grains sit for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork.

In a small bowl, blend olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Whisk until well blended and stir into the quinoa-mixture; add carrots, and onions. Add salt and pepper to taste. Top with asparagus spears.

Total calories per serving: 338 Fat: 16 grams
Carbohydrates: 41 grams Protein: 10 grams
Sodium: 28 milligrams Fiber: 7 grams

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Lemon-Dijon Sauce

(Serves 4)

This lemon-mustard sauce turns everyday Brussels sprouts into a gourmet delight. Serve with a vegetable and rice casserole or baked beans and cornbread. Agave nectar can be found in the natural foods section of stores.

  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts, washed and stems trimmed
  • 1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive or canola oil
  • 2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon agave nectar
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • Salt to taste (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place Brussels sprouts in a baking dish. Drizzle with oil, toss, and roast for 30 minutes, stirring and turning every 10 minutes. The sprouts should be browned on the outside and tender on the inside. While the sprouts cook, combine mustard, lemon juice and zest, agave nectar, and pepper. Pour sauce over cooked sprouts and sprinkle with salt to taste, if desired.

Total calories per serving: 93 Fat: 4 grams
Carbohydrates: 12 grams Protein: 4 grams
Sodium: 210 milligrams Fiber: 4 grams

Balsamic Roasted Portobello Mushrooms

(Serves 4)

Use the marinade for roasting portobellos in the winter and for grilling them in the summer. You can also use this marinade on cremini or button mushrooms that take about the same amount of time to roast.

  • 1 ½ teaspoons canola oil
  • 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 4 portobello mushrooms, stems and gills removed

In a small bowl, blend oil, vinegar, orange juice, garlic, salt, and pepper. Add mushrooms to mixture and baste. Use a plastic bag for this if you like. Allow mushrooms to marinate for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place portobellos in a baking dish, stem side down. Pour marinade over portobellos. Roast for 6 minutes. Turn, baste with marinade, and roast the reverse side for 6 minutes. Serve portobellos on buns with your favorite burger toppings and condiments.

Total calories per serving: 49 Fat: 2 grams
Carbohydrates: 7 grams Protein: 2 grams
Sodium: 7 milligrams Fiber: 1 gram

Orange Roasted Pineapple with Chocolate and Coconut Sorbet

(Serves 4)

Chocolate and pineapple pair up in this easy-to-make, decadent-tasting recipe. Wholesome Sweeteners dark brown sugar is a vegan product, so look for it in the natural foods section at your local grocery store. A small scoop of coconut sorbet really makes this recipe shine. This recipe also works well with lemon sorbet.

  • 1 small pineapple, cut into wedges, ends, peel, and tough core removed
  • ¼ cup dark brown organic sugar
  • ½ cup fresh orange juice
  • ¼ cup roughly chopped toasted almonds (optional)
  • 2 cups coconut sorbet
  • ¼ cup dairy-free chocolate topping

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place pineapple wedges in a baking dish. Combine brown sugar and orange juice in a small bowl and spoon half over pineapple, reserving half to baste the pineapple as it roasts.

Roast for 10 minutes, turn, brush with marinade, and roast another 10 minutes. Repeat until pineapple is tender on the inside and browned on the outside. Serve with a scoop of coconut sorbet. Garnish with almonds and drizzle with chocolate topping.

Total calories per serving: 294 Fat: 4 grams
Carbohydrates: 64 grams Protein: 1 gram
Sodium: 28 milligrams Fiber: 2 grams


Vegetable Time Temperature (Fahrenheit)
Asparagus 20 minutes 425°
Artichokes (baby, cut in half) 15 minutes 450°
Beets, small dice 30 minutes 400°
Brussels sprouts (small, whole) 35 minutes 400°
Cauliflower (whole) 45 minutes 425°
Carrots (matchsticks) 30 minutes 425°
Fennel (wedges) 20 minutes 425°
Eggplant (½-inch slices) 30 minutes 425°
Garlic (cut off top/roast whole) 35 minutes 425°
Jerusalem artichokes (½-inch slices) 15 minutes 500°
Kale 30 minutes 200°
Leeks, sliced in half lengthwise 40 minutes 400°
Mushrooms, button, cremini, turn halfway through 12 minutes 450°
Mushrooms, portobello, turn halfway through 12 minutes 450°
Onions, whole, stem end removed 60 minutes 400°
Onions, cut in half 30 minutes 425°
Parsnips, sliced or cut in half lengthwise 30 minutes 425°
Peppers, whole 45 minutes 400°
Potatoes (diced or fries) 20 minutes 450°
Squash, summer, cut in half lengthwise 20 minutes 425°
Squash, winter, cubed 45 minutes 425°
Sweet potatoes/yams, sliced or cubed 35 minutes 425°
Tomatoes, Roma, cut in half 90 minutes 325°
Tomatoes, Cherry, whole 90 minutes 325°
Turnips, cut in quarters 30 minutes 475°

Debra Daniels-Zeller is a frequent contributor to Vegetarian Journal and author of the Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook.