How to Cook Vegetables By Color

By Lisa Shanken | Blog

Color denotes how best to cook your veggies.

Though recipes are the gourmand’s ’safe bet’ in an uncertain world, wouldn’t it be nice if we could simply cook a vegetable based on its color, knowing how to craft culinary morsels with only a swift and assured glance? Trouble yourself no more. By the end of this guide, you will be armed to the teeth with enough knowledge to please any discerning palate.

All vegetables have pigments. Pigments are an indicator of how the vegetable should be cooked or eaten. The golden rule is to preserve a vegetable’s natural color to ensure that its nutritional content stays intact.

Vegetables may be grouped into four color categories (with examples):

White: potatoes, turnips, celery, cauliflower, onions, mushrooms, cucumbers
Yellow or Orange: carrots, yams, squashes/pumpkins, sweet potatoes
Red: beets, red cabbage, red beans
Green: beans, broccoli, peas, spinach, parsley, asparagus, artichokes, okra

Terminology Explained

It would be futile to try to list every single alkalinic and acidic food here, but it is useful information to get a firm grasp of the chemical composition of food. I found a list here:

Say What?

A quick way to guess what type of food you’re handling is to remember that most vegetables are alkalizing and most starchy, protein rich and dairy foods are acidifying. For example, yogurt is alkalizing, while cheese is acidic. Mushrooms are alkalizing whereas potatoes are acidifying. Fruit is also alkalizing whereas meat is acidifying. Got the hang of it? Let’s continue.

How to Cook

Each color’s main pigment is related to the chemical composition of the vegetable

Add color to your dishes by adding vegetables.

Green Vegetables – Chlorophyll, which is fat soluble, allows these vegetables to stay green in an alkaline medium.
White Vegetables – Flavones. Remains white in acid, but will turn yellow in an alkaline medium.
Yellow/Orange Vegetables – Carotene. Does well in both acidic and alkalinic mediums, and will only lose its color during overcooking.
Red Vegetables – Anthocyanins. Turns red in acid, but will change to blue or purple in an alkalinic medium. These pigments are water soluble, so cooking these vegetables in water will draw the color out. Cook these veggies in a covered to prevent the evaporation of essential nutrients.

Too Much Info?

Was it a bit much to swallow? Think of this example. Spinach, a green leafy vegetable, has chlorophyll, which is fat soluble. I balance it with a little bit of (alkalinic) garlic, and I cook it in a fat such as olive oil or a little butter. Voila! Delicious science.

Color Your World

Add more vegetables to your diet and you’ll be well on your way to traversing a rainbow of health. Would you like to add something to this article? Any comments or suggestions? Have your say in the comment box below.