I’m a little embarrassed to admit that when I first started cooking from a Paleo perspective back in 2012, I wasn’t exactly confident in my veggie roasting skills. Because basic roasted vegetables are such an important element to a fast and nutritious meal, I wanted to share an easy guide for roasting any veggie so that you can cook with confidence!
Consider the Veggie
When it comes to roasting, there are two main categories to consider: those with a protective (not-really-edible) skin and those without. Differentiating between the two determines how to proceed roasting with or without added fat.
Those with a protective skin are mainly squashes with the skin on, where roasting allows for scooping the cooked flesh away and discarding the skin. These vegetables do not require added fat because the thick exterior acts as a natural barrier to the edible part of the veggie.
Those without a protective skin are…pretty much everything else. These veggies need some protection from the dry heat of roasting, which is where a Paleo-friendly fat comes in handy.
Why Fats Matter
Fats and oils will create a barrier to protect the delicate vegetables that don’t have a thick skin, but not all fats are suited for the higher temperatures associated with oven roasting.
The smoke point of a fat is the temperature at which the fat becomes unstable. Here’s an easy explanation from SeriousEats.com:
“Heated past its smoke point, that fat starts to break down, releasing free radicals and a substance called acrolein, the chemical that gives burnt foods their acrid flavor and aroma. Think watering eyes, a stinky kitchen, and bitter, scorched food.”
So not only does it have a negative effect on the food, there’s a negative effect on health too.
The solution is simple: select unrefined fats and oils that have a high smoke point.
My favorites for roasting vegetables are:
- lard from pasture-raised pigs in an organic environment
- tallow from pasture-raised cows in an organic environment
- avocado oil
- ghee (butter with the dairy solids removed)
When it comes to how much fat or oil to add, ensure it’s just enough to lightly coat the vegetables so they glisten, but so much that they’re swimming in oil. I found that much less oil is needed than I originally thought to use.
How High and How Long?
Roasting is typically considered a super hot endeavor, though is not definitively so. However, for the purpose of roasting vegetables, the oven should be set to 400°F and above.
Veggies That Roast for About 40 to 50 Minutes
- spaghetti squash (split lengthwise, seeded, cut-side down)
- butternut squash (peeled, seeded and cubed)
- acorn squash (split, seeded, cut-side down)
- potatoes (whole, skin-on, pierced)
- potatoes (peeled, cubed)
- turnips (peeled, cubed)
- yucca (peeled, cubed)
Veggies That Roast for About 20 to 35 Minutes
- beets (peeled and quartered)
- bell peppers (cubed)
- broccoli (cut into florets)
- Brussels sprouts (trimmed, halved if large)
- carrots (peeled and cut into 1″ sections)
- cauliflower (florets)
- eggplant (cubed)
- mushrooms (whole or halved)
- parsnips (peeled and cubed)
- tomatoes (whole, such as cherry) *try roasting at 250°F for two hours to get sweet dried tomatoes!
- zucchini/summer squash (cubed)
Veggies That Roast for Under 20 Minutes
- green beans
Seasoning Roasted Veggies
Obviously we want to impart flavor to enhance vegetables, and especially beautiful roasted ones. But when’s the best time to season them?
As a rule of thumb, fresh delicate herbs won’t tolerate the long stint at high temps in the oven, so it’s best to “finish” the dish once the vegetables have been removed from the oven and are being served with a sprinkle of the freshly chopped parsley, cilantro, basil, mint, etc.
However, heartier herbs, such as rosemary, might very well tolerate shorter roasting times and could be added when the vegetable is tossed in the Paleo-friendly fat.
In general though, a good rule of thumb is to season with salt, spices, and dried herbs prior to roasting and to use fresh herbs as a final seasoning once the vegetables have cooked.
While we’re on the topic of seasoning, let’s bring up salt. Salt draws moisture from foods, and has therefore been at the center of a little controversy: should vegetables be salted before or after roasting? By and large, the popular opinion is that though the theory of salt drawing out moisture and creating a steaming effect when added prior to roasting sounds reasonable, most feel that in practice the outcome doesn’t justify the concern. In fact, that process has been known to develop deeper flavor and is now the preferred method.
So go ahead and add a pinch of salt to the herbs, spices, and fats used to dress the vegetables before roasting.
In conclusion, remember:
- poke holes in any veggie roasted whole or there’s a risk that it will explode from steam build up
- roasting is defined as dry heat in the oven with no added liquid
- oven temperature doesn’t necessary have to be high to roast, though, in general oven temperature is set to 400°F and above
- toss vegetables in seasonings, including salt, with the fat/oil prior to cooking