Even broccoli skeptics will change their minds after trying this Sautéed Broccoli recipe. No one can resist these garlicky, lightly seared florets—especially with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and lemon zest!
Why You’ll Love This Easy Broccoli Recipe
- Quick and Easy. This is a recipe that requires minimal (and simple!) ingredients, minimal time, and minimal effort. All that adds up to the kind of side you can throw on the stovetop while you focus on your main. (Stuffed Chicken Breast perhaps?)
- Healthy. Broccoli is loaded with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. It’s a fabulous source of fiber too, which makes it a great way to round out a meal—it’ll leave you feeling full and satisfied!
- Delicious. I love my Roasted Broccoli, Grilled Broccoli, and Air Fryer Broccoli, but I have to admit, this easy sautéed broccoli recipe has made its way into my weekly rotation because it’s fast and so dang irresistible.
- Perfect Texture. Not too firm and not too soggy—the pan-frying adds a hint of char, without overdoing it.
- Versatile. I love adding lemon zest and Parmesan for some Italian-inspired flair, but you can take this dish in many different directions. (It’s also a great way to use the neglected seasoning blends, fancy infused oils, and vinegars in your pantry.)
About This Sautéed Broccoli Recipe
The challenge of sautéing broccoli is to get it to become crisp-tender without burning. Because of its odd shape, it’s virtually impossible to pan-fry broccoli on the stovetop unless you’ve minced it into bits.
The secret to frying broccoli: add a little bit of water to the skillet.
- Adding water creates steam that surrounds the broccoli, cooking it from every uneven angle.
- The result is broccoli that never disappoints—it’s got the flavor from frying, the fork-tender texture from steaming, and it pairs beautifully with just about any main dish.
How to Make Sautéed Broccoli
- Extra-Virgin Olive Oil. For that nice sear and some healthy fats.
- Broccoli. Cut it into medium-size florets.
- Kosher Salt. The best salt for cooking!
- Ground Black Pepper. Add extra for a more peppery side.
- Garlic. Cut this into slices so you get big, bold garlic flavor and the garlic doesn’t burn.
- Water. Just a little, because we want the broccoli to steam, not boil.
- Lemon. Optional, but highly recommended.
- Grated Parmesan Cheese. Use freshly grated if you can; it melts into the broccoli, unlike the “shaky cheese” in the can you buy from the pasta aisle.
- Red Pepper Flakes. If you want to give your broccoli a kick!
- Pan-Fry. Get those florets a little crispy.
- Add Garlic. The slices will start to smell yummy.
- Steam. This softens the broccoli just enough without making it mushy.
- Season. Add the lemon zest and Parmesan to the sautéed broccoli, season to taste, and ENJOY!
- Sautéed Broccoli With Crispy Breadcrumbs. Before cooking the broccoli, heat a teaspoon of oil in the skillet and add 1/4 cup of Panko breadcrumbs. Cook for a minute or two, until the Panko is toasty, then transfer to a small bowl and season with salt and pepper. Wipe out the pan and proceed with the recipe; sprinkle the Panko on the broccoli after plating.
- Extra-Lemony Sautéed Broccoli. Serve the broccoli with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
- Asian-Inspired Sautéed Broccoli. Pan-fry the broccoli in sesame oil; omit the lemon zest and Parmesan and instead add low-sodium soy sauce to taste and sesame seeds before serving.
- Nutty Sautéed Broccoli. Toast pine nuts or almond slivers in the pan before cooking the broccoli; sprinkle the toasted nuts over the broccoli before serving.
- To Store. Refrigerate sautéed broccoli in an airtight storage container for up to 5 days.
- To Reheat. Heat leftovers in a skillet set over medium heat or in the microwave.
- To Freeze. Freeze the broccoli in an airtight container or freezer bag for up to 3 months, then thaw in the refrigerator before heating. Note that the flavor and texture will change upon freezing and thawing, so it’s not ideal, but it is doable.
What to Serve with Sautéed Broccoli
- Seafood. Broccoli and seafood is always a great pairing, and the flavors in this sautéed broccoli work particularly well with fish. Pair it with Grilled Salmon or Garlic Butter Shrimp.
- Chicken and Meat. Serve your sautéed broccoli with Oven-Baked Chicken Thighs, Breaded Pork Chops, or another favorite main dish.
- Whole Grains. Make a meatless meal by pairing your broccoli with Lemon Rice, quinoa, or farro.
- Pasta. Toss sautéed broccoli with simple pasta dishes like Garlic Shrimp Pasta or Chicken Pesto Pasta.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Sharp Chef’s Knife. Always essential for cutting a veggie like broccoli.
- Extra Large Cutting Board. This board gives you some additional room to work with!
- Nonstick Skillet. Using a nonstick skillet makes cleanup a whole lot easier.
Recipe Tips and Tricks
- Cut the Broccoli into Uniform Pieces. This will ensure that all of the broccoli florets cook evenly, so you’re not left with some that are hard and raw tasting and others that are mushy.
- Don’t Overcrowd the Skillet. When you’re pan-frying the broccoli, it needs space so it gets nicely browned. You don’t want it to steam until the second part of the recipe, when you add the water.
- Be Careful When Adding the Water. It could spatter a bit, so instead of pouring it in a tablespoon at a time, I put all 3 tablespoons in a small measuring cup so I can quickly pour in the water with one hand and cover the skillet with the other.
- Cook until Crisp-Tender. Sautéed broccoli really doesn’t need a whole lot of time in the skillet. Keep a close eye on it and take it off the heat as soon as it’s a vibrant green and tender but not soft.
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 pound broccoli cut into florets (about 6 cups florets)
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 garlic cloves thinly sliced
- 3 tablespoons water
- Zest of 1/2 small lemon optional
- 1 to 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese optional
- 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes optional
- In a large skillet with a tight-fitting lid, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot and shimmering, add the florets, salt, and black pepper. Shake the skillet so that the florets are in an even layer. Let cook undisturbed for 3 minutes. The broccoli should crisp in places on the first side.
- Stir in the garlic and red pepper flakes. Cooking, stirring constantly, until the garlic is very fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Reduce the heat to medium, add the water, and cover the pan. Continue cooking, covered, until the broccoli is fork tender and a vibrant green color, about 2 to 4 minutes, stirring every minute or so, and ensuring that the broccoli does not burn.
- Stir in the lemon zest and sprinkle with Parmesan. Season with more salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste. Enjoy warm.
- TO STORE: Refrigerate sautéed broccoli in an airtight storage container for up to 5 days.
- TO REHEAT: Heat leftovers in a skillet set over medium heat or in the microwave.
- TO FREEZE: Freeze the broccoli in an airtight container or freezer bag for up to 3 months, then thaw in the refrigerator before heating.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Steaming is the healthiest way to cook broccoli because it preserves more of its nutrients, but sautéing is also on the healthier end of the spectrum because the cooking process is quick. Flavor-wise, there’s no question that sautéed broccoli wins out!
Broccoli is one of those fabulous vegetables that gets along with just about any flavor you throw at it; a wide range of spices, herbs, and sauces complement broccoli’s mild flavor. I think garlic, lemon, soy, and cheeses are particularly delicious with broccoli.
No, you should not boil broccoli before frying—it won’t brown in the pan if it’s boiled first, and both the flavor and texture will suffer.