Your Step-by-Step Guide to Blanching and Freezing Vegetables

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Blanching your veggies before freezing them helps preserve their nutrients and quality.
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Perhaps you've been scouring the freezer aisles, but can't find that frozen broccoli you've been searching for. Or maybe you're wondering what to do with all that extra spinach you bought at the grocery store.

Freezing vegetables is a great way to keep them fresh and ready to use for your future self — which means meal prep will take less time and effort once you get to it. Plus, freezing can help reduce food waste because you'll end up preserving those extra broccoli florets you bought rather than tossing them in the trash once they spoil.

However, it's not as simple as putting those extra veggies into resealable bags and stacking them in the freezer — you'll need to blanch them first.

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What Is Blanching and Why Do I Need to Do It?

Blanching is a common cooking practice that uses water or steam for a short period of time. This process destroys enzymes that cause vegetables to deteriorate and helps keep frozen vegetables tasting their best.

Blanching also gets rid of any surface microorganisms or dirt, brightens vegetables' colors and helps slow the loss of nutrients, according to the National Center for Home Food Preservation. Blanching also shrinks or softens vegetables, making them easier to store more compactly.

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How to Blanch Vegetables

Although it is an extra step, blanching is relatively simple. There are three ways to blanch vegetables — by boiling them in water, steaming them or microwaving them — detailed below.

Before you blanch, make sure to wash your veggies properly and thoroughly to remove any debris.

Before You Start, Make Sure You Have:

Water-Blanching

Immersing vegetables in boiling water is quick, effective and takes the least amount of time. However, water-blanching can cause the water-soluble nutrients (including B vitamins and vitamin C) in your veggies to leach out into the water. To use this method:

  1. Bring 4 quarts of unsalted water to a boil in a large pot.
  2. Place 8 ounces of leafy greens or one pound of other vegetables in a blanching basket or tie up in cheesecloth. If you have neither of these things, you can just add the vegetables straight into the boiling water.
  3. Cover with a tight-fitting lid, keep the heat on high and set the timer based on the required cooking time per the guide below.
  4. Drain and plunge vegetables into an ice water bath to stop the cooking process. Keep them in the ice water for the same amount of time that they cooked. Then, spread them on paper towels and pat dry.
  5. Pack blanched vegetables into resealable freezer bags or containers and freeze immediately.

Steam-Blanching

Steam-blanching is the recommended method to blanch vegetables. It offers the freshest flavor and retains the water-soluble nutrients. Just note that steam-blanching takes longer than water-blanching. To use this method:

  1. Bring two to three inches of water to a rolling boil in a large saucepan with a tight-fitting lid.
  2. Arrange the vegetables in a single layer in a wire steamer basket and set the basket above the water.
  3. Cover tightly, keeping the heat on high and set the timer based on the required cooking time per the guide below. Periodically through the cooking process, lift the lid and shake the basket to ensure even cooking throughout.
  4. Remove the basket and plunge vegetables into an ice water bath to stop the cooking process. Keep them in the ice water for the same amount of time that they cooked. Then, spread them on paper towels and pat dry.
  5. Pack blanched vegetables into resealable freezer bags or containers and freeze immediately.

Microwave-Blanching

This method is not recommended for blanching because some enzymes may still be present, according to the National Center for Home Food Preservation. This can create off or unpleasant textures, colors, flavors and poor quality.

If you choose to microwave-blanch vegetables, please refer to your microwave oven's instructions.

Guide to Freezing Vegetables

Vegetable

Preparation

Blanch Time: Water

Blanch Time: Steam

Maximum Time Stored

Asparagus

Snap off woody ends; cut in 2-inch pieces or leave whole

Pieces or small stalks: 2 minutes

Medium stalks: 3 minutes

Large stalks: 4 minutes

Add 1 ½ minutes to each

4 months

Bell peppers

Cut in half, remove stems and seeds, leave in halves or cut into julienne/strips

Halves: 3 minutes

Strips: 2 minutes

Add 1 minute to each

6 months

Broccoli

Trim and cut into 1-inch pieces

3 minutes

5 minutes

6 months

Carrots

Peel; leave small carrots whole or cut into ¼-inch dice, slices, or julienne/strips

Small whole: 5 minutes

Diced, sliced, or julienne: 2 minutes

Small whole: 8 minutes

Diced, sliced or julienned: 3 minutes

6 months

Cauliflower

Trim and cut into 1-inch pieces

3 minutes

5 minutes

6 months

Corn

Husk, remove silks, trim ends, and rinse. Sort by: Small ears 1 ¼ inch or less diameter; Medium ears 1 ¼ to 1 ½ inches diameter; Large ears over 1 ½ inches diameter

Small: 7 minutes

Medium: 9 minutes

Large: 11 minutes

Small: 10 minutes

Medium: 13 minutes

Large: 16 minutes

6 months

Leafy greens (chard, collards, kale, spinach)

Remove stems

Collards: 3 minutes

Other greens: 2 minutes

Steaming not recommended; instead, stir-fry over high heat until wilted

4 months

Green beans

Remove ends; cut in 2-inch pieces or leave whole

3 minutes

4 minutes

4 months

Summer squash

Cut into ½ inch slice

3 minutes

4 minutes

6 months

Tomatoes

Leave whole

30 seconds to loosen skin then peel, core, and leave whole or cut into pieces before packaging and freezing

Not recommended

1 month

Source: National Center for Home Food Preservation

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