Sous vide fruits and sous vide vegetables have much more leeway in the timing compared to traditional methods.
Almost all sous vide vegetables are cooked at 183°F (83.9°C) or higher and all entries below assume that temperature, unless otherwise stated. Hotter temperatures will cook the vegetables more quickly, but they will basically have the same texture at the end.
There is also a lot of variability in a specific type of vegetable, with both their ripeness, variety, and size having an impact. So sous vide times can vary across vegetables, even of the same type.
Sous vide helps preserve the nutrients present in fruits and vegetables by not cooking them above the temperature that the cell walls fully break down. This allows them to tenderize without losing all their structure. The bag also helps to catch any nutrients that do come out of the vegetable.
People do not love all vegetables cooked sous vide but some vegetables really can benefit with this cooking method. It's worth experimenting and seeing which ones you prefer.
Time and Temperature Guidelines
While time and temperature do not factor into safety for fruits and vegetables they do have the a unique effect on their structure. There are two components to vegetables that make them crisp, pectin and starch.
Pectin, which is basically a type of glue and is also used in jams and jellies for structure, breaks down at 183ºF at a slower rate than the starch cells do. In many cases this allows for more tender vegetables that have a unique texture to them.
The time component just governs how long the starches and pectin are breaking down for and how tender the vegetable will become.
Why are Vegetables Cooked at Such a High Temperature?
The International Sous Vide Association (ISVA) has been hosting monthly Sous Vide Showcases. These are deep dives presented by multiple home and professional cooks on a variety of sous vide cooking topics. The following article captures Jason's discussion on sous viding vegetables from their ISVA Meatless Showcase.
I wanted to talk about something that not only was briefly mentioned earlier, but is also a question that comes up in a lot of the Facebook groups, "Why are vegetables cooked at such a high temperature?" The basic answer is because they don't really tenderize at lower temperatures.
150°F (65.6°C) for 7 Hours
I threw some sous vide carrots in the bath at 150°F (65.6°C) at 7:00 this morning. I just pulled them out right before the showcase started. So these have been cooking for about 7 hours at 150°F (65.6°C).
The carrot is still very, very crunchy when you bite into it. You can also still hear some of that good crispy crunch. So after 7 hours at 150°F (65.6°C), these carrots were still very crunchy and almost raw tasting.
They don't really tenderize quickly at all. You need those high temperatures in order to break vegetables down and start to allow the different components to tenderize and to become something that we generally consider cooked.
When I went to CREA they talked about the different components of the vegetables and some of them start to breakdown, very, very slowly at these temperatures. This doesn't taste raw, but it's pretty close.
Breakdown Starts Above at Least 170°F (76.6°C)
At like 170°F (76.6°C), 180°F (82.2°C). They start to break down more quickly and you're going to have a more, it's going to taste cooked, but not like a traditional steamed or boiled vegetable.
And then once you get above 183°F (83.9°C) other things start breaking down and above 185°F (85°C), everything starts breaking down.
So, if you cook your vegetables between 183°F (83.9°C) and 185°F (85°C), you kind of get this magic mix where they're tender but still have good bite to them.
They are also still not mushy, not fall apart, or not squishy, which is why I've really been enjoying sous vide carrots lately at 183°F (83.9°C), 184°F (84.4°C). They're amazing to eat at that temperature.
Higher Temperatures Equals Faster Cooking
The higher you set the temperature above 185°F (85°C), the faster it cooks. So a lot of people will do 190°F (87.8°C), 195°F (90.6°C) because you reduce some of the cook time for tenderizing it.
How to Sous Vide Vegetables and Meat at the Same Time
The temperatures needed to cook vegetables is something to keep in mind as you're doing vegetables. That's why you need to do a higher temperature and why you can't do vegetables and meat at the same time because you really don't want meat cooked at 190°F (87.8°C), 195°F (90.6°C) unless you're using a pressure cooker.
I believe Patty Whysman mentioned earlier in the comments that she likes to cook the vegetables ahead of time, cool them off and chill them. And then she reheats them when the steaks are done the next day. It's a great way to do it and something that I've done before.
Your vegetables will store in the sous vide bags in the refrigerator for a week or two, which is great. Then when I pull the steaks out of the sous vide bath, I'll throw the vegetables in the same water. And by the time the steaks are seared, the vegetables have been reheated.
If you're doing more complicated dishes, Stefan Boer from StefanGourmet does this. When he is doing Italian classics, he will make a Ragu sauce and cook all the vegetables in the sauce ahead of time and cool it off.
Stefan then seals the sauce with the meat and sous vides that long-term. At the lower meat temperature, the vegetables can break down a little bit. It doesn't matter because the vegetables have already been cooked and they're already ready to go.
So that's a few approaches to cooking vegetables.
Just remember, you can't really throw the meat and raw vegetables all in at 135°F (57.2°C), because the vegetables will never be tender. You will end up with a kind of warmish, raw tasting vegetables that aren't going to be very good.
General Sous Vide Vegetable Process
Cooking vegetables with sous vide is very simple and fast.
First, preheat your sous vide machine to the temperature desired, normally 183ºF for most vegetables and many fruits.
Skin the vegetable if desired and place it in a sous vide pouch, sealing it with any normal seasoning such as:
- Fresh or dried thyme or rosemary
- Any spice powders such as onion, garlic, paprika, coriander, or cumin
- Chili powders like ancho, chipotle, cayenne
- Butter, olive oil, etc.
If adding a liquid, make sure your vacuum sealer does not suck it out, you can normally seal it before all the air is out to prevent this just fine. After sealing the pouch place it into the water bath for the indicated cooking time. You might have to weight the pouch down with a plate or lid.
Once it's fully cooked remove it from the pouch and pat dry. You can use it as you would normally by eating it plain, adding it to a rice or stir fry or any other use.
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Sous Vide Fruits and Vegetables Temperatures and Times
183ºF for 20 to 40 Minutes (83.9ºC)
- For Puree:
183ºF for 60 Minutes (83.9ºC)
183ºF for 60 to 75 Minutes (83.9ºC)
- How to sous vide cauliflower