Sautéed Broccoli

5 from 3 votes

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A bit of olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes turn a ho-hum side of broccoli into a dish that will have everyone asking for seconds.

Garlicky Shrimp and Broccoli with Meyer Lemon

Just a little bit of olive oil and garlic can transform plain old broccoli from a dish that feels kind of obligatory (yes, ma, there’s something green on the plate) to one that makes you want seconds. Super kid-friendly, too.

This is a basic broccoli recipe, but once you start making your broccoli this way, you may never make sautéed broccoli any other way again — I think this is the best way to cook broccoli. It’s a great recipe to have in your back pocket (soon, you’ll just have it memorized). And worth noting: if you’re looking for a side that’s vegan, gluten-free (and keto!), this is the perfect recipe!

This easy sautéed broccoli recipe with garlic is the perfect weeknight staple. It is quickly sautéed and then finished in the same pan with a bit of water and broth to steam and become tender. I like to pair it with anything from company-worthy Crispy-Skinned Salmon with Dill Sauce to some kid- and crowd-pleasing Baked Macaroni and Cheese.

Woman sauteeing broccoli on the stove.

Sautéed Garlic Broccoli goes with everything, and it turns a simple side of broccoli into a dish that will have everyone asking for seconds.

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Ingredients

  • Garlic – This recipe is great for garlic lovers because you can scale up the garlic as much as you like.
  • Olive oil – The garlic gets sautéed in olive oil, infusing the oil with delicious garlic flavor, which in turn flavors the broccoli.
  • Broccoli – You can use the florets and the stems in this recipe. The broccoli will be sautéed and then steamed to make sure it’s cooked all the way through.
  • Red pepper flakes – Optional, but oh so delicious! They won’t make this dish too spicy, but they will definitely wake up your taste buds.
Sautéed broccoli being added to a bowl of shrimp.

How to Sauté Broccoli

  1. Sauté the garlic: Use 1 teaspoon for 6 cups of broccoli, which will be nicely garlicky. Two teaspoons is for garlic lovers. You know which one is for you.
  1. Add the broccoli: Add the broccoli and give it a quick sauté. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Steam: Pour in some water, then cover the pan to trap the steam inside. This will help the broccoli become tender and finish cooking all the way through. Red pepper flakes are a nice finishing touch if you like a bit more heat (and a tiny bit of color).
Woman adding water to broccoli in a pan.

How to Cut Broccoli Into Florets

When you buy a head of broccoli, it may be a single head. It may also be a couple of smaller heads held together with a rubber band or other packaging.

First, cut the flowering head from the stem at the top of the stem. Use a sharp knife and a cutting board to cut the broccoli into small pieces, or “florets,” which will look like little trees. I prefer to cut them into 2- or 3-inch long florets rather than short, stubby little florets since the stems are perfectly edible, and I hate waste.

How to Use the Broccoli Stems

And then, the longer trunk of the stem can be used as well. Just use a sharp knife or a vegetable peeler to remove the tough outer layer of the stem, and make sure to cut off the bottom, which will probably be pretty dried out.

Once the stem is peeled, you can cut it into 1-inch thick mini slabs lengthwise or cut it crosswise into ½-inch slices. These will cook in the same amount of time as the florets, have the same flavor, and a lovely crisp-tender texture.

Woman stirring broccoli in a pan.

Storage and Reheating

When I make this pan-fried garlic broccoli, I make a double batch (cook it in two batches unless you have a super large pan) because I love leftovers warmed in the microwave for lunch the next day. Or eaten with fingers out of a container from the fridge.

Once you’re done cooking the broccoli, let it cool to room temperature. Then, store it in an airtight container in the fridge. Sautéed broccoli will keep for up to 3 days. It can be warmed in a pan or in the microwave.

Think of using leftovers in Broccoli Orzo Salad.

FAQs

Is it better to sauté or boil broccoli?

I prefer sautéing because it is cooked in a bit of olive oil, which adds a whole lot of flavor. I also like roasting broccoli.

Boiling enhances the slightly cabbagey flavor of broccoli while sautéing brings out a bit of the natural sweetness as the broccoli cooks with direct heat. Sautéeing also gives you the opportunity to add all kinds of delicious flavorings, like the garlic and red pepper flakes in this recipe, resulting in some super easy garlic broccoli.

Should I boil broccoli before pan-frying?

You absolutely can boil broccoli before pan-frying it, but it is not necessary. Some people like to boil the broccoli first to ensure that it cooks all the way through, but I have a little trick to let you skip that step!

I sauté the broccoli until it is almost done, then add some water to the pan and cover it to steam. This way, you get fully tender broccoli that is sautéed and steamed, all in one pan!

Can you make garlic broccoli with garlic powder?

Yes, you can use garlic powder instead of fresh minced garlic, though the fresh garlic really makes this dish special. Substitute ½ teaspoon garlic powder for the 1 teaspoon of fresh garlic. And instead of sautéing the garlic by itself at the beginning, go ahead and add the broccoli directly to the hot oil, and add the garlic powder after.

How long do you need to sauté broccoli?

Here, the broccoli is sautéed for about 2 minutes, then steamed in the same pan for another 4 minutes. The total cooking time is about 6 minutes.

Pro Cooking Tips and Variations

  • Broccoli will shrink down a bit as it softens and cooks, so plan for 4 cups of raw broccoli to yield 3 cups of sauteed broccoli.
  • One of my favorite variations on this recipe is garlic broccoli with lemon. Simply sprinkle in 1 tablespoon of lemon juice at the end for a touch of brightness and acidity.
  • Another great optional ingredient is Parmesan cheese. When you’re done cooking the broccoli, turn off the heat and sprinkle the Parmesan evenly over the pan. Toss quickly to prevent the Parmesan from melting together and creating one big ball of cheese (trust me, this happens). Serve immediately!
  • If you’re looking to simplify as much as possible, this recipe is totally doable without the garlic or the red pepper. Just skip the step where you sauté the garlic and get right in there with the broccoli.
Woman adding lemon juice to sauteed broccoli in a pan.

What to Serve With Sautéed Broccoli

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5 from 3 votes

Sautéed Broccoli

A bit of olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes turn a ho-hum side of broccoli into a dish that will have everyone asking for seconds.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 4 People
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Ingredients 

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper (to taste)
  • 6 cups broccoli florets and 1-inch pieces of peeled stem (about 1 head broccoli)
  • Red pepper flakes (to finish, optional)

Instructions 

  • In a medium skillet with a lid, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat, then add the garlic (1 teaspoon for a milder garlicky flavor, 2 teaspoons for a full-on garlicky flavor) and swish it around for about 30 seconds until you can smell it. 
  • Add the broccoli, stir, and toss to coat with the oil for about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Add ¼ cup of water, cover the pan, and steam until the water is evaporated and the broccoli is tender, about 4 minutes. Sprinkle with the red pepper flakes if desired. Serve hot.

Notes

  • One of my favorite variations on this recipe is garlic broccoli with lemon. Simply sprinkle in 1 tablespoon of lemon juice at the end for a touch of brightness and acidity.
  • Another great optional ingredient is Parmesan. When you’re done cooking the broccoli, turn off the heat and sprinkle the Parmesan evenly over the pan. Toss quickly to prevent the Parmesan from melting together and creating one big ball of cheese (trust me, this happens). Serve immediately!
  • If you’re looking to simplify as much as possible, this recipe is totally doable without the garlic or the red pepper. Just skip the step where you sauté the garlic and get right in there with the broccoli.

Nutrition

Calories: 78kcal, Carbohydrates: 9g, Protein: 4g, Fat: 4g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Sodium: 45mg, Potassium: 431mg, Fiber: 4g, Sugar: 2g, Vitamin A: 850IU, Vitamin C: 122mg, Calcium: 64mg, Iron: 1mg
Like this recipe? Rate and comment below!

About Katie Workman

Katie Workman is a cook, a writer, a mother of two, an activist in hunger issues, and an enthusiastic advocate for family meals, which is the inspiration behind her two beloved cookbooks, Dinner Solved! and The Mom 100 Cookbook.

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2 Comments

  1. Wayne Campbell says:

    The broccoli cooked perfectly and was delicious! In addition to the initial 1/4 c water, I had to add an additional 1/2 c – 3/4 c to keep it steaming. (It’s very difficult to moderate the heat on my gas stove so I probably had it too high.)

  2. Carol says:

    This is so easy and soooo good. Family just loves the broccoli stir fry. Thanks for sharing…..