13 Recipes That Make Vegetables Taste Like Candy

Updated: Sep. 17, 2020

A pinch of sugar—or better yet, honey, agave, or stevia—helps the broccoli go down. The following simple recipes transform ho-hum side dishes and even desserts into vegetable delight!

close up of rustic crispy fried brussels sprouts food background

Brussels sprouts with maple syrup

Luring kids to love their vegetables requires subversive tactics like drizzling maple syrup over roasted brussels sprouts. Just a dab will do, according to a recent study of preschoolers. After a while, say researchers, kids will willingly eat their vegetables without sweetness. Hopefully, the kids will leave enough sprouts for the grownups.

Learn about the vegetables you might be avoiding—but really shouldn’t.

Chinese Style Eggplant Stir-Fry with a Rich Brown Garlic Sauce

Eggplant in hoisin sauce

Get your children to enjoy eggplant by adding hoisin sauce! Sometimes called Chinese barbecue sauce, hoisin is thick and dark and provides a sweet lacquered finish to dishes. Its salty-sweet flavor comes from soybeans, vinegar, sugar, and garlic, and it can be used to perk up stir-fries and glazed meats, or as a dipping sauce for veggies. It does wonders for eggplant and broccoli and you can probably sneak in some cubes of firm tofu without anyone noticing. This simple hoisin eggplant recipe was made for picky eaters.

Roasted Carrots with fresh Parsley. Caramelized Carrots. A healthy carrot dish that is rich of vitamin A.

Agave-glazed carrots

As a natural sweetener made from the agave plant, the nectar comes with a healthy profile—it’s widely used to sweeten beverages and a world of organic food products. But that doesn’t mean you should use it with abandon (especially if you’re overweight or have diabetes). Agave is 1.5 times sweeter than sugar so it’s wise to use less in recipes or your cup of tea. Try this easy recipe that uses just 1.5 teaspoons to glaze carrots. Check out the most nutritious vegetables you can eat.

Roasted vegetables, closeup view

Honey-roasted root vegetables

Roasting caramelizes the sugars in vegetables and brings out their natural sweetness. This recipe adds honey, but feel free to adjust the amount to suit your family’s taste buds. Food and Wine’s honey-roasted root vegetable recipe is definitely a keeper! Find out what nutritionists have to say about agave nectar.

An overhead photo of chocolate chips cookies, shot from above on a piece of baking paper, with copy space

Hide veggies in desserts

When life gives you too many zucchinis, make Zucchini Chocolate Chip Cookies! Sneaking healthy vegetables into sweet things is another way to get children to eat more. This cookie recipe come from the awesome book, Animal, Vegetable, Mineral by author Barbara Kingsolver. Here are more simple ways to eat nutritious vegetables every day.

Homemade beef burger, caramelized onion, bacon and beer, food photography
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Bacon cheeseburger with caramelized onions

Cooking onions over low heat and slowly until they are soft and golden will make them deliciously sweet (even more so if you use naturally sweet Vidalia onions). The sugar-seasoned rice wine used in this recipe from epicurious.com up the ante and might entice young eaters to consume that tomato and lettuce on the burger as well.

Homemade Autumn Pumpkin Muffin Ready to Eat
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Maple pumpkin muffins

Pumpkin muffins are nothing new—unless you try this healthier version with less oil and sugar, and using whole wheat flour and maple syrup. More super nutritious beta-carotene-rich pumpkin, less fat and sugar make this recipe from pinchofyum.com a win-win! You may also want to check out these 10 fresh pumpkin recipes you’re guaranteed to love.

Red velvet pancakes breakfast with Christmas decoration

Beets for breakfast

People have been using beets in chocolate cake and brownie recipes for a while; putting the sweet root vegetable in pancakes with maple syrup is pure genius. These rosy-red pancakes would be even cuter in the shape of hearts or ducks. Find out the signs you’re not eating enough veggies.

Melting Ice Cream Chocolate Bar Close-up
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Cauliflower-chocolate iced lollie

This awesome vegan ice pop from UK food blogger and cookbook author (Veggie Desserts + Cakes), Kate Hackworthy, starts with cauliflower rice cooked and pureed with chocolate and a little coffee (no milk or cream). Kate freezes the puree in molds then dips them in chocolate and pistachio crumbs (which may not be necessary for kids but will certainly make adults happy). A little bit of effort but just the thing for a healthy summer treat with nutritional bite. Check out this recipe for how to turn cauliflower into a healthy pizza crust.

Overhead perspective on corner of cracked brown surface of freshly homemade baked chocolate chip chunk brownies in glass pan container on white and blue stripe linen table cloth in soft window light
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Sweet potato brownies

Can a brownie with no butter, no oil, and no sugar actually taste good? Yes, it can when you incorporate the magic of mashed sweet potatoes! Like applesauce and bananas, sweet potatoes can sub for unhealthy fats in your baking recipes. This terrific sweet potato brownie recipe from Gold Medal Flour shows how the natural sugars in sweet potatoes (and a bit of honey) make this rich chewy brownie a winner. Sweet potatoes rank as a superfood so you want to sneak them in your kids’ meals a couple of times a week. Here’s what happens when you don’t eat enough fruits and veggies, by the way. 

Thai food,Stir-fried Chicken with cashew nuts
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Thai stir-fry

Coconut milk, lime, ginger, and a little brown sugar are key ingredients to many Thai dishes. This flavor combination can also persuade choosy palates to eat a variety of healthy veggies by the bowlful. Here’s a painless Thai stir-fry recipe which has the option of adding chicken or shrimp. And be sure to check out these seven authentic Thai recipes anyone can master.

Baked zucchini slices with parmesan and spicy tomato sauce closeup on a table. horizontal view from above
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Panko-crusted zucchini fries with ketchup

Dredged in panko bread crumbs, Parmesan, and spices, these crispy fries will make you forget that you started with squash. This zucchini-fry recipe is a little on the spicy side with ground chipotle and smoked paprika, but you can adjust it for tender tongues. Dip fries in your favorite organic ketchup or marinara sauce (both usually contain sugar), and expect it to be a hit with your youngsters. Check out these seven fun healthy food ideas for kids for more ideas.

Chocolate avocado pudding
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Chocolate-avocado mousse

At first glance, you might think this is one of those vegan-gone-too-far recipes, but using fat-rich avocado to replace heavy cream makes perfect sense. Texture-wise, few tasters will notice this rich chocolate dessert by celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis isn’t the real deal. You can boost the nutrition by serving it as a dipping sauce for strawberries.

Next, don’t miss these superfood veggies that could be the next kale.