How to Blanch and Freeze Vegetables – A Handy Guide

A handy guide for how to blanch and freeze vegetables.

Freezing is an easy, convenient, affordable way to preserve vegetables. In fact, when fresh produce is frozen shortly after being harvested it can contain more nutrients than veggies that have been shipped long distances or stored in warehouses or on retail shelves for weeks. If you have access to affordable, fresh veggies grab them and freeze them.

Read below for all the details, or simply download this Blanching Guide and hang it on the inside of your cupboard or tuck it into your recipe folder for quick and easy reference.

How to freeze vegetables

Here are some more details on how to blanch and freeze vegetables to get the best flavor, color and texture for up to 12 months. And yes, despite what you may read elsewhere, blanching really is an important part of the process if quality and flavor are important to you.

How to Blanch & Freeze Veggies – The General Process

1. Wash drain, sort and cut veggies as desired.

2. Bring large pot full of water (1 quart of water per 1 cup veggies or 1 litre per 500 mL veggies) to boil. The high ratio of water to veggies helps bring the pot back to a full boil quickly, without over cooking your veggies.

3. Add veggies and return pot to full boil. A full boil means big bubbles breaking the surface of the water.

4. Boil for time indicated on the Blanching Guide and as recommended by the National Center for Home Food Preservation. The time varies with each vegetable and its size.

5. Shock veggies in an ice water bath or really super cold water to stop cooking process. A good rule of thumb is to leave the vegetables in the cold water for as long as you boiled them.

6. Drain and pat dry to remove as much surface water as possible. Excess water will lead to ice formation and reduce the quality of your frozen vegetables.

7. Freeze based on how you will most likely use your frozen vegetables and decide which method of freezing will be the most convenient. Three ways to consider are tray freezing, ice cube tray freezing or direct container freezing as described below.

Tray Freezing – Spread vegetables in a single layer on a tray, freeze for 2 hours then transfer to freezer container. This method results in free flowing vegetables so you can pour out as many pieces as required.

tray freezing peas

Ice Cube Tray Freezing – Put vegetables in ice cube trays for small amount of veggies, freeze for 4 hours then transfer to freezer container.

freezing spinach ice cube tray

Direct Container Freezing – Place blanched veggies directly in a freezer bag or rigid container. An efficient way of freezing, especially if you pre-measure and freeze in amounts you’re likely to use at one time. Note: Veggies will freeze faster when frozen in smaller batches rather than one big bag – faster freezing leads to less ice crystals and less freezer burn.

green beans freezing

Personally, I use all three methods based on the veggie and how we typically use it. We use the tray method for peas and corn, the ice cube tray method for kale and spinach to add to smoothies and soups and the direct container freezing for carrots, beans and kohlrabi.

If using freezer bags, remove as much air as possible. If using a rigid container, leave 1/2 to 1 inch headspace to allow for expansion.

Label containers and freeze. Include dates on your labels to help you keep track of which food should be eaten first.

Use within one year for best quality. Yes, frozen foods are safe to eat well past a year, but the quality will deteriorate quickly after a year.

Why Blanch Veggies?

Several years ago, I fell for the promise of “no blanching required” made by some websites. Even though I had my doubts, I fell for it. I got lazy and froze my fresh sweet tender garden peas without blanching. They were tucked in the freezer until well past fall – there was just so much fresh garden produce, that we never had a need to eat frozen peas.

Six months later, we were extremely disappointed to find our sweet tender peas had turned starchy and bitter, much like old fat peas left on the vine too long. Yuck! Five bags of frozen peas ruined because I wanted to save time by not blanching my peas. Never again.

Here’s the deal. Vegetables contain enzymes that cause produce to continue to age after it has been picked. That aging process slows down but does not stop in the freezer. So, sweet tender peas will, over time, turn starchy and bitter. Blanching or boiling your veggies for the recommended time stops those enzymes.

The aging process happens to all vegetables. For most vegetables flavor changes become noticeable after about 3 months in the freezer. If you know you will use your frozen vegetables within three months, freezing without blanching would work. I use this rule of thumb when freezing onions – I only freeze as much as I can use within 2-3 months.

NOTE: While fruit also contains the aging enzyme, the effects are barely noticeable and therefore blanching is not required for fruits – yippee!

How Long to Blanch Vegetables?

The amount of time required to blanch vegetables differs depending on the type of vegetable, the size of the vegetable and how it’s cut. As always, I rely on the National Center for Home Food Preservation for providing science based information on home food preservation. My handy dandy Blanching Guide is based on their recommendations. Download the guide and hang it inside your cupboard or tuck it in your recipe folder for easy access.
How to freeze vegetables

What are you’re favorite veggies to freeze?

Here are some of my faves and how I freeze them:

How to Freeze Peas

How to Freeze Carrots

How to Freeze Shredded Carrots

How to Freeze Onions

How to Freeze Beans

How to Freeze Spinach

How to Freeze Kale

How to Freeze Dill

How to Freeze Parsley

How to Freeze Salsa

How to Freeze Pumpkin Puree 

How to Freeze Strawberries

How to Freeze Zucchini

Do you have any questions about freezing veggies? I’d love to help if I can, just leave a comment!

Sign up to get articles by Getty delivered to your inbox. You’ll get recipes, practical tips and great food information like this. Getty is a Professional Home Economist,  speaker and writer putting good food on tables and agendas.  She is the author of Manitoba’s best-selling Prairie Fruit Cookbook, Founder of Fruit Share, a mom and veggie gardener.

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4 Comments

  1. When I left the garlic in the ground too long, I had to use it quickly. I peeled and roasted with olive oil, a complete cookie sheet. Put it into the magic bullet (in batches) with enough olive oil to make paste. Placed tablespoons of the paste on wax paper and froze. Wrapped each ball in cling film, and had bags of roasted garlic for mashed potatoes, garlic bread, stir-fries, etc.

  2. Hello! I’m trying to do some prep for Thanksgiving and was going to dice sweet potatoes blanch and freeze them until ready to cook to get some of the prep done. Your chart(which is awesome btw) says to cook them completely how will this change my making the dishon the day? Thank you!

    1. Hi Evelyn,
      Good for you for getting a good start on things.
      What are you planning to do with the sweet potatoes on Tday? Have you considered pre-making the entire sweet potato dish and freezing that? If you’re planning a mashed dish or casserole of some kind, perhaps you can prep it entirely, seal it well and freeze so it’s ready to pop in the oven. You’d have to thaw it in the fridge overnight. You could even finish baking the dish and then reheat it in the microwave if oven space is going to be hard to come by. Reheating in a crock pot may also be an option.

      Good luck and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

      Getty

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