How and Why to Blanch Vegetables

How and Why to Blanche vegetables

Have you ever taken a bite out of a perfectly snappy green bean? An incredibly vibrant spear of asparagus? Or a crisp but toothsome broccoli floret? 

Have you wondered how to achieve the perfect cook on your own vegetables? The answer is actually a quick and easy kitchen technique that only requires water, salt, and a bit of timing. 

The technique is called blanching and shocking, but it only sounds complicated. In fact, it’s as simple as boiling water. 

Why You Should Blanch Your Vegetables

Not only is blanching the key to snappy and biteable vegetables, it also ensures that your veggies are as bright and colorful as possible. 

With just a few minutes in rapidly boiling water, everything from beans to carrots to cauliflower gets an infusion of color. A plate of crisp-tender crudites and dip gets some serious “wow” factor from blanching. What’s more, consider what it’s like to bite into a tree of squeaky, cardboard-like raw broccoli. Compare that to soft, bendy, bright green, and fresh-tasting blanched broccoli. It’s like a different vegetable! 

Which Vegetables are Best for Blanching?

Broccoli isn’t the only veggie that benefits from a blanch. 

The best vegetables for blanching include:

  • Asparagus
  • Carrots
  • Green beans
  • Radishes
  • Leafy greens, like kale, collards, and chard
  • Peas in their pods
  • Corn 
  • Edamame
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Purple onions
  • Cabbage
  • Tomatoes 

When to Blanch Vegetables

There are many good reasons to blanch your veggies and even fruits. From everyday recipes to preserving seasonal produce, here are some of the best use cases for blanching and shocking at home:

To freeze fruits and vegetables, blanch and shock them first. Then, spread the veggies out on a baking sheet and freeze for about an hour, until fully frozen. Transfer the frozen produce to a sealable bag and store in the freezer for months. You’ll always have fresh flavors on hand to toss into a stir-fry, smoothie or soup. 

To remove the skin from a tomato, cut a small X in the bottom of the fruit with a pairing knife. Submerge the tomato in boiling water for about 30 seconds, remove it, and voilá: the skin will be easy to peel off with your hands.

To pre-cook greens for a casserole, bread pudding, quiche, or another delicious recipe, blanch them for about 1 minute. Then shock the vegetables to stop the cooking process and wring out as much water as possible. You can store the blanched greens for up to 5 days in the fridge, or cook with them straight away. 

To cut some of the bites from purple onions, blanch sliced onions for 30 seconds to 1 minute. They will still be crunchy enough to add texture to guacamole and salads, but won’t overpower other flavors. 

Blanch your favorite veggies to have on hand for healthy snacking.

How to Blanch and Shock Fresh Produce 

By now, you should be full of plans to blanch as many fruits and vegetables as possible. But how do you do it? Blanching and shocking is a simple three-step process:

  1. First, bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a rapid boil. Use more water than you think you need, and probably more salt too. The water should taste like seawater. This is important for seasoning your vegetables from the inside, rather than just on the surface. Prepare a large bowl filled with ice water nearby for shocking. 
  2. When the water comes to a rapid boil, add all of your vegetables at the same time. Cook for 30 seconds to 4 minutes, depending on the size and kind of the vegetable. 
  3. Remove all of the vegetables at the same from the boiling water and submerge fully in the bowl of ice water. This is the “shocking” part of the process and keeps your produce from overcooking. 

How Long to Blanch Vegetables 

The amount of time for blanching varies according to the type, size, and use of your vegetables. 

For example, whole green beans may take up to 3 minutes to turn bright green and crisp-tender. While tender spinach only needs 1 minute to wilt down. 

Also, consider your future use for the blanched product. Will you heat the blanched green beans later for a side dish? If so, they’re likely to cook further, and should therefore be slightly undercooked during blanching. 

Tips and Tricks for Perfect Blanching and Shocking

There are a few important things to keep in mind when you’re blanching and shocking vegetables. 

First, prepare your produce by cutting it to the same size. Similar sizes cook at the same time, so to avoid over- and under-cooked crudités, bring everything down to the same size. 

Second, cook only one type of vegetable at a time. If you have a line-up of peas, asparagus, and cauliflower for blanching, let each veggie have its own time in the hot water bath. Since everything has its own ideal cooking time, you’ll have better control by keeping like things with like. 

Third, use a large mesh strainer to add and remove your vegetables from the blanching water. It allows you to move everything at the same time, which, again, helps avoid uneven cooking. 

Finally, don’t leave your blanched veggies in their ice bath for longer than necessary. They should be fully cooled after no more than 5 minutes, and often much less time. The longer they sit in ice water, the more water-logged they become, which means diluted flavor. You worked hard to season those vegetables from the inside with your salty-like-the-sea blanching water. So don’t wash it all away in a prolonged ice bath. 

Storing Blanched Vegetables

Blanching and shocking is a great tool for meal preppers. Blanched and shocked vegetables keep well in the fridge for several days. 

If you’re planning to store them for later, It’s best to dry the veggies as much as possible after shocking. Then, transfer the vegetables to an airtight container and store in the fridge for up to 5 days. You’ll always have bright and fresh-tasting veggies to reach for. 

Recipes with Blanched Vegetables

Now that you know all the tips and tricks to blanch and shocking vegetables at home, here are some delicious recipes with blanched vegetables to put your skills to the test:

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