Whether you accidentally bought too much broccoli, you’re stocking up to minimize trips to the store or you wanted frozen and it was sold out, don’t despair. While fresh broccoli is fairly hardy and will keep for up to two weeks in the fridge, it will hold up even better in the freezer as long as you prep it correctly. And with a few easy steps—namely, something called blanching—it’s simple. Here’s how to freeze broccoli so you have ready-to-cook crowns whenever you need them.
How to Freeze Broccoli, Because You Went Overboard in the Produce Aisle
But first, what is blanching?
Blanching is the fancy culinary term for the process of very quickly scalding a food in boiling water, then rapidly cooling it down to halt the cooking process before it gets mushy. In the long run, it will help your broccoli retain a bright color and better texture than if you froze it raw, because it halts certain enzymes that cause a loss of flavor, color and texture. (It also slows down the loss of nutrients, woohoo!) Lucky for you, it’s as easy as cooking pasta.
How to freeze broccoli in 4 easy steps:
1. Set up a blanching station and an ice bath.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. How much salt, you ask? Treat it like pasta water, adding a few tablespoons of kosher salt per quart of water. Set up a large bowl of ice water nearby, and have a wire strainer or colander at the ready.
2. Prepare the fresh broccoli.
While the water comes to a boil, get your broccoli ready. Treat it as you would if you were getting ready to cook with it: Wash the broccoli in cool water to get rid of any dirt or hiding insects. As for the stems, you can either trim and discard them, or use a vegetable peeler to remove the tough outer layer and trim away the ends (our preferred method, because peeled broccoli stems are tasty and crisp!). Next, cut the florets into uniform, bite-size pieces so they’ll cook evenly.
3. Blanch the broccoli.
Immerse the broccoli in the boiling water. (Depending on how much broccoli you have, you may need to work in one-pound batches.) Blanch for three minutes, or about two minutes if your broccoli pieces are particularly small. Immediately drain the broccoli using the wire strainer or colander.
4. Chill and freeze the broccoli.
Immediately transfer the strained broccoli to the ice bath and swish it around to cool. When the broccoli is cool, drain it thoroughly. To freeze the blanched broccoli, you can pack it in containers right away (we’re fans of eco-friendly silicone storage bags) and transfer to the freezer, but we like to follow the single-layer method to make sure it doesn’t freeze in unwieldy clumps and for easier portioning. Spread the broccoli in a single layer on a baking sheet, freeze it for about an hour and then transfer to storage containers before freezing again. Ta-da! Frozen broccoli.
How long can you keep broccoli in the freezer?
When properly prepared and stored, broccoli can keep in the freezer for up to—wait for it—12 months. And when you want to cook with it (might we suggest a broccoli and cauliflower gratin?), it will be ready for you to toss in, no thawing required.