How to Season Sauteed Vegetables

If your sauteed veggies taste bland, adding seasonings can enhance or even completely change the flavor. But since there are so many options and flavor combos out there, it can be tough to know what to pair with what. Check out this list if you need some inspiration! We’ll walk you through different types of seasonings and explain the proper sequence for adding them so you end up with the best flavor possible. We’ll also touch on some winning veggie-seasoning combos you can try out.
1. Saute veggies in oil.
The oil you use for sauteing influences the flavor of the dish. Olive oil is a classic for sauteed veggies and adds a subtle nutty flavor.[1] For a stronger nutty flavor, try toasted sesame seed oil instead. For a light, fresh flavor, try sauteing in avocado oil.
Try sesame oil (not to be confused with toasted sesame seed oil if you prefer oils with a neutral flavor.
If you love olive oil but want a little more oomph, check out infused olive oils like lemon olive oil at your local grocery store.
For a bold bacon flavor, sauté chopped bacon in the pan and use the rendered bacon fat to saute the veggies.
2. Add aromatics like onion, garlic, and ginger.
Aromatics add depth of flavor to your dishes.[5] Heating the aromatics in olive oil first brings out their complex flavors and gives them time to soften up before you add the veggies to the saucepan. This is important since sauteing is a really fast cooking technique! Aromatics only take a couple of minutes to soften up, so you won’t have to wait long.
Heating aromatics first gives them time to release their beautiful fragrance, too—if you weren’t hungry when you started cooking, you probably will be once you get a whiff!
Use fresh aromatics for the best flavor.
Onion and garlic tend to complement all veggies. Celery, leeks, shallots, scallions, and chili peppers are other delicious aromatics you can try out. Each one has a unique flavor, so don’t be afraid to experiment.[8]
Garlic and rosemary taste delicious with sauteed mushrooms.
3. Toss in some dried herbs.
Dried herbs add another element to your veggies. Heat brings out the flavor and fragrance of dried herbs, so it’s best to add them as you’re cooking so they can infuse the veggies. Taste the dish as you go, adding more, as needed, until you’re happy with the overall flavor.[10]
In general, add dried herbs to the saucepan 15 minutes before the veggies are done so the herbal flavors have time to develop.
Delicate herbs like basil and mint pair wonderfully with zucchini and tomatoes.
Hearty herbs like thyme, rosemary and sage go well with root veggies like potatoes, rutabagas, or carrots.
If you love Italian food, use a mix basil, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, sage, savory, and thyme on your veggies.
4. Add fresh herbs like mint and sage.
Fresh herbs add brightness to your dishes. Unlike their dried counterparts, fresh herbs taste flavorful and vibrant right away, so don’t add them to the saucepan until the veggies are almost done. Take the saucepan or skillet off the heat as soon as the fresh herbs start to soften; don’t let them fully wilt or they’ll lose their flavor.
Be sure to rinse fresh herbs well before using them.
Strong herbs like oregano, rosemary, and sage tend to control the overall flavor the dish. Use them sparingly so they don’t overwhelm the veggies! Accent herbs like basil, dill, marjoram, mint, tarragon, and thyme blend nicely and create dimension.
Enhance the flavor of tomatoes with herbs like basil, oregano, and dill.
Broccoli pairs nicely with tarragon, thyme, and oregano.
Keep in mind that dried herbs are stronger and more concentrated than fresh ones. In recipes, you can’t substitute the same amount of a fresh herb for a dried herb. In general, substitute 1 tablespoon (14 g) of fresh herbs for 1 teaspoon (4.2 g) of dried herbs.
5. Go for sweet spices like cloves and nutmeg.
Sweet spices complement veggies that are naturally sweet, like squash and carrots. Adding a hint of sweetness doesn’t work for all veggies, but it can be wonderful for veggies that are already naturally sweet like squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, and pumpkin. Experiment with spices like cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom, and allspice.
For example, try ginger, nutmeg, and cardamom with sauteed squash.
Enhance the natural sweetness of carrots with ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
Add cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, and allspice to hearty root veggies like rhubarb and sweet potatoes.
Allspice and cloves pair nicely with tomatoes.
6. Use pepper, cayenne, or paprika.
Experiment with different levels of spiciness to find your fave. Spicy seasonings like red pepper, black pepper, cayenne pepper, paprika, chili powder, and red pepper flakes are great for adding flavor and heat to veggie sautés, but each one tastes unique and some are hotter than others! Try a few different ones until you discover what you like best. Remember to add spicy seasonings sparingly and taste the dish as you cook before adding more heat.
Black pepper is pretty mild compared to other spices and it pairs well with most veggies. To amp the flavor up a bit, try using freshly ground black pepper.
Add mild heat and a hint of savory flavor with chili powder. It pairs well with tomatoes, onions, and bell peppers.
Cayenne pepper and red pepper flakes are pretty darn spicy, so use them sparingly. They work well in Mexican, Cajun, and Asian veggie dishes.
Paprika has a subtle smoky flavor and a hint of sweetness. Try it with root veggies and sweet potatoes.
7. Add a dash of curry or cumin.
Indian spices add tons of depth and complexity to veggies. If you’re trying to cut down on sodium, your sauteed veggies are probably tasting a bit bland. Vibrant and complex Indian spices are a great way to add flavor to your veggies and you won’t even miss the salt! Experiment with spices like:
Curry powder
8. Squeeze some lemon or lime juice over your veggies.
Acidic citrus juices lift and balance the flavor of veggies. Squeeze half of a fresh lemon, lime, or orange over your dish at the end of the cooking process to add a zesty, bright flavor to almost any veggie. 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of lemon juice pairs wonderfully with pretty much any veggie and most herbs and aromatics, too. Experiment with different combos until you find your favorite.
For example, lemon juice is delicious on asparagus and broccoli.
Lemon and garlic are a match made in heaven! Same for cilantro and lime.
If you don’t have fresh citrus on hand, a splash of vinegar can add some sparkle and acidity to your veggies.
9. Drizzle veggies with walnut or roasted pumpkin seed oil.
Add another dimension of flavor right before serving the veggies. Finishing oils are a beautiful way to add more complexity to the dish. Taste the dish first to make sure the veggies need more flavor. If they do, drizzle a little finishing oil on top of them right before you put the food on the table.
Most of these oils have a low smoke point, so they aren’t ideal for cooking. They’re awesome as a finishing touch, though!
Walnut oil pairs nicely with most veggies and adds a rich, nutty flavor.
Roasted pumpkin seed oil is delicious on hearty veggies like asparagus.
Virgin avocado oil adds a smooth, light avocado flavor and a lovely emerald-green color to veggie dishes. Avocado is great for sautéing, as well, since it has a high smoke point.
Hemp seed oil has a very nutty, rich flavor and dark green color, so it’s flavorful and attractive as a finishing oil.
10. Sprinkle salt sparingly before serving the dish.
Taste the veggies before adding salt so you don’t overdo it. Salt may seem basic, but it’s an important seasoning that enhances flavors in a major way! Oversalting is easy to do, though, and people tend to have strong opinions about how much salt is the “right” amount. Sauté your veggies first and then taste them; if the veggies taste a bit bland, sprinkle a small amount of salt on them right before serving the dish.
Keep in mind that it’s always better to under-season and add more salt later on! If you want to take the guesswork out of it, keep salt on the table so your guests can salt their veggies to taste.
In some cases, your dish may not need salt at all. If you’re unsure, it’s better to let each person salt their food individually.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top