How to Blanch Vegetables to Add to All Kinds of Recipes
Knowing how to blanch vegetables will not only help you keep them vibrant in color, but also the perfect texture for freezing and including in all your favorite dishes.
You may have heard cooking shows (or Mom for that matter) mention the cooking term "blanching," but if someone asked you to blanch green beans, would you know how? You will now. Blanching is a heat-and-cool process that plunges a fruit or vegetable into boiling water for a short amount of time before transferring it to an ice bath, which quickly stops the cooking. Also known as parboiling, this quick and simple (yet super useful) technique is most beneficial in getting vegetables ready for canning or freezing because it improves the texture and keeps their colors bright.
Why Should I Blanch Vegetables?
A lot of veggies, such as carrots, peas, and asparagus, benefit from blanching before freezing so they'll maintain their color and texture, but there are more reasons to make sure you add this method to your food prep.
- Blanching loosens the skin of tomatoes and peaches in order to peel them with ease.
- When freezing vegetables, blanching slows the natural enzymes in the vegetables that can cause loss of flavor, texture, and color.
- Blanching cleans the surfaces of fruits and vegetables to remove dirt and organisms and can also reduce bitterness.
- It brightens the color of certain vegetables, especially broccoli and other green veggies, and helps to slow the loss of nutrients. Vibrant blanched veggies are especially attractive on a party tray with dip (plus generally eaten much more quickly than raw veggies).
- Longer-cooking vegetables can be blanched before grilling, especially when used on kabobs along with quicker-cooking produce and meat.
How to Blanch Vegetables
In general for blanching all vegetables, start by filling a large pot with water, using 1 gallon of water per pound of prepped vegetables.
- Heat water to boiling. Add washed and trimmed veggies to the boiling water (or place them in a wire basket ($10, Bed Bath & Beyond) and lower it into the water); cover. (Note: You can also quick blanch veggies by bringing a full kettle of water to boiling and pouring the boiling water over the vegetables in a heat-safe bowl ($13, Target). Using this technique you'll let veggies stand in hot water for the time specified below instead of boiling on the stovetop.)
- Cook the vegetables in boiling water 1 to 5 minutes (see below for example times). When you notice the color of whatever veggie you’re cooking becomes bright and vibrant, that’s a good cue it’s done.
- Fill a large clean bowl with ice water. When blanching time is complete, use a slotted spoon ($16, Sur la Table) to remove the veggies from boiling water.
- Immediately plunge veggies into the ice water. Chill for the same amount of time it was boiled; drain in a colander ($25, Target).
Blanching Times for Vegetables
Not all vegetables require blanching, but here are the most common veggies that benefit from the technique.
- Asparagus: Blanch small asparagus spears 2 minutes, medium spears 3 minutes, and large spears 4 minutes.
- Broccoli: Blanch small broccoli florets 3 minutes. The broccoli should turn bright green and barely tender.
- Carrots: Blanch tiny whole carrots 5 minutes and cut-up carrots 2 minutes.
- Beans (green, Italian, snap, and wax): Working in batches, boil small beans for 2 minutes, medium beans for 3 minutes, and large beans for 4 minutes.
- Peas (English or green): Blanch 1½ minutes.
How to Blanch Tomatoes or Peaches
Blanching makes tomatoes easy to peel and protects their quality when freezing or getting them prepped for canning. Use peeled tomatoes for sauces and salsas, too. This same technique works well for peeling peaches. After you've prepped your pot with water, follow these steps:
- Cut a shallow X on the bottom of each tomato with a sharp paring knife. This encourages the skin to split during blanching so you will be able to easily slip it off once the tomato is cool.
- In batches of four to six tomatoes, immerse tomatoes in boiling water 30 to 60 seconds until the tomato skins split open. Use a slotted spoon to move the tomatoes around so all sides get submerged.
- Once the skins are split, use the slotted spoon to carefully transfer the tomatoes to the bowl of ice water. Once the tomatoes are cool, remove them from the ice bath and drain on paper towels.
- Now it's time to peel the tomatoes. Using your fingers or the tip of a knife, you should be able to easily pull the skin away from the flesh in two to four pieces.
How to Blanch Corn
Place corn, a few cobs at a time, in boiling water for 4 minutes. After corn has cooled in ice bath, remove and cut kernels from the cob. Use immediately or store in freezer-safe bags.
After you're finished blanching your vegetables and they're all nice and tender, you can enjoy them in your favorite recipes or you can freeze the vegetables to have fresh veggies at the ready. Remember to label and date them before they go in the freezer.