Have you ever bought frozen broccoli florets? If not, I’m sure you’ve seen them in the nearest grocery store. So you already know you can freeze broccoli and it freezes well. Now that you have too much broccoli on hand, you’re searching for ways to store it.
Freezing is the first thing that comes to mind because it gives you an easy way out. The veggies won’t spoil and you don’t need to decide how or where to use them. Just freeze the vegetables and it’s out of your mind until it’s needed. I know I have done that quite a few times and I’m sure you did too. So, if freezing broccoli is what you decided to do, let’s dive into the specifics.
How to Freeze Broccoli?
There are at least a few ways you can freeze broccoli and in this article, we will go through the most popular ones. Each way has its own benefits. It’s up to you to choose the one that will work best for your needs.
Preparing the Broccoli
Broccoli prep is the same no matter which freezing method you will choose. If there are tiny worms in the florets, we need to get rid of them first. Fill a large bowl with water and add a teaspoon of salt. Next, chuck the broccoli into the water and leave it there for about half an hour. That should help kill the bugs. After 30 minutes, rinse the veggie under running water. The vegetables should be worm-free now.
The rest of the preparation process is the same no matter if it’s storebought or fresh broccoli harvested from the garden. Place the veggie onto a cutting board and cut it into florets (bite-sized broccoli trees). If you want to use the stalks too (they’re perfectly fine to eat!), cut them into smaller fries-like pieces.
After cutting, wash the pieces under running water to remove leftover dirt. Some people prefer washing before cutting, but I find it much easier (and faster!) to wash after cutting.
Now that the broccoli is prepped, it’s time to choose how to freeze it. If you have no idea how the veggie will be used in the future, just go with the first option – freezing blanched broccoli.
This method is straightforward and the results are the same if you buy frozen broccoli. Freezing cooked or roasted broccoli is a great option if you want to prep the vegetables quickly for eating. Since the vegetables are already cooked, you won’t need to wait until they soften. Just make sure the brocs are warm enough to your liking and that’s it.
Freezing Blanched Broccoli
We start off by blanching broccoli. This process helps with retaining the taste and texture of the veggie after freezing. It’s by no means necessary but helps you get better results. After blanching and drying, we flash freeze the florets and stalk pieces. This is optional. This way, they won’t freeze together. The last part of the process is transferring the frozen veggies into a freezer bag. Put the veggies back into the freezer. This freezing method is perfect if you want to store broccoli for the long term.
Here’s the step by step process for blanching broccoli:
- Boil a pot of water. Once the water boils, throw in the broccoli for 2 to 3 minutes (depending on the size of the florets).
- Prepare a bowl of iced water for the ice bath.
- After those 2 to 3 minutes, strain the water and immediately transfer the veggie into the ice bath.
- Leave broccoli in the cold water for 5 to 10 minutes then strain the water.
Now it’s time to freeze the broccoli:
- Make sure broccoli is dried thoroughly. A dishcloth and a few paper towels should do the trick. If you’re not in a hurry, leave the veggie for about 30 minutes on a dishcloth after drying. This helps the water evaporate. Take a paper towel and pat each floret dry to make sure there are no wet spots. Again, drying is really important.
- (Optional) Take a cookie sheet and line it with parchment paper. Then lay the broccoli pieces flat onto the cookie sheet. Make sure the pieces don’t touch one another if possible. Place the cookie sheet into the freezer for an hour. Take the broccoli from the freezer.
- Transfer the veggie into a freezer bag or container. Label it with a name and a date and chuck it into the freezer.
Freezing Cooked, Steamed, or Roasted Broccoli
Freezing broccoli this way is perfect if you want to have frozen broccoli ready to eat in no time. Since the brocs are already pre-cooked, they just need to be warmed up. no need to wait until the vegetable softens. A few minutes on a frying pan or in a microwave and the brocs are ready. This method is perfect if you plan to eat the frozen broccoli within a month. It’s not recommended if you are planning to store the brocs for the long term.
Here’s the step by step process of freezing pre-cooked broccoli (choose one of the options):
- [Option A] Cooking the broccoli. Boil a pot of water with a pinch of salt and chuck the broccoli. Keep the pot on simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes until the veggie softens slightly. The brocs do not need to soften all the way because you will be reheating it. Aim to undercook the brocs. Once broccoli softens, strain the water.
- [Option B] Steam the broccoli. Bring a pot of water to a boil and steam the broccoli for 20 to 25 minutes until it softens. Just like you would do if you were cooking it, aim to “under-steam” it.
- [Option C] Roast the broccoli. This is my favorite method! It works beautifully if you’re preparing broccoli as part of your meal prep routine. Preheat the oven to 420 degrees F (or 220 degrees C). Take a cookie sheet, line it with aluminum foil and lay the broccoli florets onto it. Now it’s time to coat them. The easiest option is to spray the broccoli with olive oil. I mix olive oil with balsamic vinegar 1:1 and spray the broccoli with that. A tablespoon of a coating of your choice is more than enough for a large cookie sheet of broccoli. Once the oven is preheated, transfer the cookie sheet into it. Roast the veggie for 30 to 35 minutes. After about 30 minutes check if the veggie is soft enough. Try piercing the brocs with a fork. If they’re not ready, leave it in the oven for another 3-5 minutes.
- Cool and dry the broccoli thoroughly. No matter which option of pre-cooking you have chosen, give the vegetable time to cool completely. Remove any excess water the veggie. For starters, lay the broccoli flat and let it sit in room temperature for at least an hour to let it cool off. Once it’s cool, check if all the moisture has evaporated. If you can spot some wet spots, use paper towels or a dish cloth to get rid of those. Cold and dry broccoli is ready for freezing.
- Transfer the broccoli into freezing bags or containers. Label them with name and a date and chuck them into the freezer. To make defrosting more convenient, divide the veggies into several servings. Put each serving into its own container. This way when you need the frozen broccoli, you just take the bag from the freezer without measuring anything.
How to Defrost Frozen Broccoli
The way to defrost broccoli depends on how you plan to use it. If the veggie will go into a soup, stew, or something similar, the easiest way to go is to throw it in frozen. If you want to fry the brocs as part of a stir-fry or a casserole, defrost the vegetables in the fridge. If you forgot to put it into the refrigerator the night before, leave the vegetables to thaw at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours. Please note that defrosted vegetables (and pretty much any other product out there) shouldn’t be re-frozen.
Tips and Tricks for Freezing Broccoli
Cutting broccoli florets into smaller ones is messy. Instead of cutting them all the way with a knife, cut them halfway from the bottom (stem). Then, tear apart with your hands. This way there’s little to no mess involved.