Heteroaromatic compounds containing carbon–silicon (C–Si) bonds are of great interest in the fields of organic electronics and photonics, drug discovery, nuclear medicine and complex molecule synthesis, because these compounds have very useful physicochemical properties. Many of the methods now used to construct heteroaromatic C–Si bonds involve stoichiometric reactions between heteroaryl organometallic species and silicon electrophiles or direct, transition-metal-catalysed intermolecular carbon–hydrogen (C–H) silylation using rhodium or iridium complexes in the presence of excess hydrogen acceptors. Both approaches are useful, but their limitations include functional group incompatibility, narrow scope of application, high cost and low availability of the catalysts, and unproven scalability. For this reason, a new and general catalytic approach to heteroaromatic C–Si bond construction that avoids such limitations is highly desirable. Here we report an example of cross-dehydrogenative heteroaromatic C–H functionalization catalysed by an Earth-abundant alkali metal species. We found that readily available and inexpensive potassium tert-butoxide catalyses the direct silylation of aromatic heterocycles with hydrosilanes, furnishing heteroarylsilanes in a single step. The silylation proceeds under mild conditions, in the absence of hydrogen acceptors, ligands or additives, and is scalable to greater than 100 grams under optionally solvent-free conditions. Substrate classes that are difficult to activate with precious metal catalysts are silylated in good yield and with excellent regioselectivity. The derived heteroarylsilane products readily engage in versatile transformations enabling new synthetic strategies for heteroaromatic elaboration, and are useful in their own right in pharmaceutical and materials science applications.