Vegetable-packed trays are a staple in our house. We seem to be pulling them out constantly for afternoon snacks and as an easy supplement to dinner (for the sometimes-picky family members who aren’t sold on dinner, but will always crunch on some raw veggies).
But a reader recently sent in an all-too-real question about vegetable plate boredom, asking “How can we make veggie plates more exciting? We’re all bored.” And it got me thinking: I’m afraid that too many people think of those vacuum-sealed deli trays when they hear “vegetable plate,” and I’m now making it my personal mission to change all that.
It’s high time veggie plates got the respect they deserve. Here’s what you need to know to build a truly spectacular veggie plate at home, whether you’re making them as an occasional side or an everyday snack.
What’s a Veggie Plate, Anyway?
The cool, casual cousin of crudités, vegetable plates are a collection of mostly raw vegetables meant to act as an appetizer or side dish to a main meal — although a robust vegetable plate can absolutely count as dinner. They can include a bit of cheese, but they aren’t the cheese-centered charcuterie and cheese plates that require crackers and spreads. Vegetable platters are also different from relish trays (a popular entertaining staple of the mid-’60s), as they have way more fresh vegetables and fewer olives and pickles. The perfect vegetable plate is enticing to the eye and full of crisp, crunchy, and flavorful vegetables that keep you coming back for more. It can include a few dips or a dressing, and it should always have a couple of surprising elements too.
If you’re bored or burned out on the carrots, celery, and ranch, these 10 tips will help you build a more delicious vegetable plate with less effort.
10 Ways to Give Your Veggie Plate the Glow-Up It Deserves
1. Pick 3 vegetables you really love (and skip the fillers).
Those rainbow-colored trays of vegetables are so pretty, I know, but they are also laborious and expensive to build. Focusing on three to five vegetables will let you really make them taste their best and cut down on your prep work. Increase the volume of those vegetables when you need to feed more people, not the number of vegetables.
2. Add one exciting new vegetable.
Keep yourself out of the carrots and celery rut by grabbing just one new vegetable for your veg plate. Slice jicama into thin, but dippable triangles. Thinly slice tomatillos into wafer-thin rounds, add baby turnips or kale leaves. One new vegetable defeats boredom and fights veggie plate fatigue.
3. Find every vegetable in a single color scheme.
This is a really smart way to make your vegetable platter look gorgeous without having an art degree. Go all in on green vegetables with cucumbers, green beans, lettuce, and snap peas. Or lean into summer’s reds and pinks with tomatoes, radishes, peppers, and radicchio.
4. Only cut vegetables if it makes them more dippable.
You can spend a ton of time slicing and dicing vegetables, if you want, but most vegetables can be cut into thin batons, wedges, or coins. These shapes make them easier to eat in just a few bites and give you more surface area for seasoning or dipping.
5. Leave the leaves on for vegetables like radishes and carrots.
This doesn’t just make them look prettier — leaves make for easier dipping and help fill out the platter, too. Plus, radish greens are delicious in their own right.
6. Use lettuces: Romaine, radicchio, or endive are all crunchy vegetables that deserve a spot on your vegetable plate.
Lettuce isn’t just for salads! Romaine hearts, little gems, endive, and more are ideal for vegetable plates because they help fill space, add a playful opportunity to fill or dip them, and help clear your crisper drawer.
7. Quick-steam vegetables that are really laborious to eat.
Yes, in the most ideal world a vegetable plate would require absolutely zero cooking, but I’m kind of tired of gnawing on raw broccoli and I bet you are too. You can simply skip some vegetables (like broccoli or asparagus or sweet potatoes) or you can blanch them or microwave steam them for serving on your vegetable plate.
8. Season absolutely everything on your tray, not just the dips.
At the bare minimum, drizzle your finished vegetable plate with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle them with crunchy salt. You can get really wild and season different vegetables with different spice blends: za’atar for carrots, sesame seeds for your radishes, and so on. Think of spices as the sprinkles for your vegetable plate; like a cake, it isn’t complete without them.
9. Drizzle your vegetables instead of putting out dip.
Dips are wondrous, I love them so much, but they also totally distract from a true vegetable plate. Most people see the dip and that becomes their target, and then the vegetables get lost in a sea of hummus or caramelized onion. Try this instead: Toss your vegetables with a vinaigrette, or drizzle them with pesto or chimichurri and skip the dip. My one exception? Serving herby or browned butter for dipping; it enhances the vegetables’ natural sweetness.
10. Make single-serve vegetable plates or jars.
Having a small bowl or plate of vegetables served to you is pure joy: You don’t have to share any dips, or miss the last swipe of olive oil on the plate. Plus, when you prepare just the vegetables that you know will be eaten in a single serving, you avoid wasting both your precious effort but also the beautiful produce.