How to Cook Frozen Vegetables for Best Colour, Texture and Flavour

Use and cook frozen vegetables to ensure you’re getting half your plate of veggies every day, no matter what time of year or how much time you have.

frozen veggies in freezer
Frozen vegetables are nutritious, easy to use, affordable and tasty all year long.

Also Read: Sautéed Frozen Green Beans, Oven Roasted Frozen Cauliflower, Oven Roasted Frozen Broccoli, How to Cook Frozen Peas

Why Use Frozen Vegetables?

I love using frozen vegetables because they’re an easy and affordable way to add nutrients, colour and flavour to any meal any time of year. I also love that I can try out different types of vegetables. For example when I use a frozen vegetable stir fry mix I get those little baby corns, bean sprouts and water chestnuts which I wouldn’t bother getting if I were using fresh. And, I would never have tried okra in this Sausage and Okra Gumbo if it weren’t for frozen vegetables.

why cook frozen veggies

 

Top Tips for Cooking Frozen Vegetables

In order to make the most of your frozen vegetables and prevent them from being soft and mushy, here are some do’s and don’ts to consider when preparing frozen vegetables.

Favourite Ways to Cook Frozen Vegetables

Here are the four ways I prefer to cook frozen vegetables when I want them as a side dish. Notice boiling is not on the list because it adds too much liquid to the vegetables and can quickly lead to mushy or soggy vegetables.

  1. Sautéing

Sauté frozen vegetables on the stove for the most control and best flavour, colour and texture.

  1. Pour frozen vegetables (do not thaw) into a wide pan over medium-high heat.
  2. Cook, uncovered, for 5-7 minutes, until heated through, stirring occasionally. Over stirring can cause them to break apart – be gentle.
  3. The veggies will release water, when that has evaporated, add one tablespoon of oil or butter to the pan and stir gently (avoid mushing) to get a little browning.
  4. Season with your favourite herbs and spices such as Italian herb seasoning, Cajun seasoning, Finishing salt, Parmesan cheese, nutritional yeast, fresh pepper and squeeze of lemon juice, a splash of soy sauce or balsamic vinegar etc. You can also add a little crushed garlic or ginger to the sauté pan for extra flavour.
frozen beans in pan
Sautéed green beans are fantastic with lemon pepper seasoning.

Check out: Sauteed frozen green beans, Sauteed frozen peas

  1. Roasting

Roast on high heat with oil and a sprinkling of your favourite seasoning to get nicely roasted, not soggy, vegetables that will make a great side dish. Remember, do not thaw the vegetables and follow the advice carefully for heating your pan, using high heat and adding fat.

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 200-225°C/400-450°F.
  2. Coat your roasting pan with a little oil and put in the oven to preheat as well.
  3. Coat your frozen vegetables (do not thaw) in a bit of oil and add them in a single layer, spread apart slightly to your hot roasting pan.
  4. Roast for 14 to 25 minutes depending on vegetable, flipping halfway through.

14-17 minutes: asparagus, peas, corn, green beans

17-20 minutes: broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, beets

20-25 minutes: carrots, winter squash, sweet potatoes

  1. Toss your roasted veggies with salt and pepper or your favourite combination of herbs and spices like rosemary, cumin, paprika, curry powder, garlic powder, onion powder, Tajin, Parmesan cheese, nutritional yeast or fresh parsley, basil or cilantro just before serving.
finished roasted cauliflower on pan
Oven roasted frozen cauliflower with Parmesan cheese.

Check out: Oven roasted frozen cauliflower, Oven roasted frozen broccoli 

  1. Steaming

Steam frozen veggies on top of the stove. Steaming instead of boiling adds less water to the veggies and helps prevent them from turning mushy.

  1. Place steam basket in a pot and add water to bottom of basket so vegetables are not sitting in water.
  2. Cover and bring water to boil.
  3. Add frozen vegetables (do not thaw).
  4. Cover pot with lid and cook to desired tenderness. Check frequently, they’ll cook faster than you expect and will continue to cook a little once off the heat. The following are suggested times but will vary depending on thickness of vegetables and personal preference.

2-5 minutes: peas, corn

5-7 minutes: asparagus, broccoli, green beans, cauliflower

8-12 minutes: beets, carrots

  1. Add a bit of oil or butter, salt, pepper and fresh or dried herbs to season your vegetables.
mixed frozen veggies in steam basket
Cook frozen mixed vegetables in a steam basket.
  1. Microwaving

Microwaving frozen vegetables is quick and easy. Use no or minimal water and check frequently to prevent over-cooking.

  1. Place frozen vegetables (do not thaw) in a microwaveable dish.
  2. Cover, but don’t seal tight, some steam should be able to escape. A piece of paper towel will work well.
  3. Do not add any water for small, tender vegetables like peas, corn, green beans, etc. For hardy vegetables like Brussel sprouts, winter squash, sweet potatoes or carrots add two or three tablespoons of water.
  4. Microwave on high for 2-6 minutes (shorter time for smaller veggies) stirring every 60 seconds after the first two minutes of cooking. Repeat until you reach your preferred texture.
  5. Add a bit of oil or butter, salt, pepper and fresh or dried herbs to season your vegetables.
frozen peas in micro with paper towel cover
Frozen peas in the microwave, no water needed. Use paper towel to cover.

Use As Is – No Cook Recipes

Of course, you don’t always have to cook frozen vegetables. If using in smoothies you can add frozen vegetables like kale, spinach, peas or even cauliflower directly to the blender. For other recipes like the salads below, just thaw frozen veggies and toss into the salad bowl.

Southwestern Black Bean & Quinoa Salad

Classic Three Bean Salad

Corn & Tomato Salad

Quinoa black bean salad with frozen corn.

Add to Other Recipes

Probably one of the best ways to use frozen vegetables is to add them to other recipes. Even if a recipe doesn’t call for them, adding a cup of frozen vegetables provides extra colour, texture and nutrients. Most soups, stews, curries or casseroles can easily accommodate more vegetables. For a little more guidance, try some of these recipes:

Tofu Shepherd’s Pie

Ham and Peas Mac and Cheese

Cauliflower Chickpea Curry (Gluten Free & Vegan)

Pork and Green Bean Chili

Zesty Lime & Corn and Quinoa Side Dish (Warm)

Spinach Manicotti

Chicken Corn Chowder

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

chicken noodle soup
Frozen veggies are perfect for adding to homemade soup.

How Long Do Frozen Vegetables Last

Do not hoard your frozen food! Sure, frozen food stays safe as long as it stays frozen at a consistent -18°C/0°F. But having safe, frozen food is a lot different than having tasty frozen food. Just think, frozen food with freezer burn and ice crystals is safe to eat. But it tastes horrible!

For best flavour, rotate through your frozen vegetables regularly and use within 3-6 months (preferably 3 months). Use them, don’t hoard them!

ice crystals on frozen peas
Frozen vegetables with ice crystals and freezer burn are safe to eat, but they don’t taste great. For best flavour and quality use frozen vegetables within 3-6 months.

If you freeze your own garden produce and want them to last from one season to the next (10-12 months) follow all recommended freezing procedures to ensure best quality for the longest time.

There you have my favourite ways to cook frozen vegetables. Now you tell me, which method do you prefer? And, please tell me your favourite seasoning combinations – I’m always looking for new seasonings to try.

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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