How to Blanch and Freeze Broccoli

blanching broccoli

If you grow broccoli in your backyard garden or you want to buy it up while it's in season, you need a good way to keep it so it retains its freshness. Freezing is the best way to preserve broccoli. It doesn't dehydrate well, and it loses nutrients and gets mushy if you pressure can it.

Giving the broccoli florets and stems a quick blanching in boiling water before freezing them ensures that they will retain a good texture when you get around to cooking with them.

The single layer initial freeze prevents the broccoli pieces from clumping together. The fact that they stay loose is a big advantage when, for example, you have a quart container of frozen broccoli but only need to take out a cup of it for a recipe.

Clean and Cut Into Florets

Soak the whole broccoli in cold water for a few minutes to get rid of any dirt or garden bugs. Drain. Cut off the thick stem and set it aside. Use a paring knife to separate the florets into pieces no more than 1 1/2-inches thick.

Prepare the Broccoli Stems

Broccoli stems are arguably even more delicious than the florets and often are discarded. However, if you leave the thick skins on the stems they take longer to cook than the florets. The solution is to peel them with a vegetable peeler.

Cut off the tough bottom half-inch or so of the stems and compost or discard them, peel the rest and chop into 1/2-inch thick pieces.

While you are preparing the broccoli, have a pot of water coming to a boil on the stove. Get a big bowl of ice water ready.

Blanch the Broccoli

Once you have separated the broccoli into florets and peeled/chopped the stems, drop the broccoli pieces into the pot of rapidly boiling water. Let them cook for two minutes.

Alternatively, steam the broccoli for two minutes in a vegetable steamer rather than boiling it. Drain the broccoli in a colander. 

Chill the Broccoli

Immediately transfer the blanched broccoli to the bowl of ice water. This stops the residual heat in the vegetables from continuing to cook. Leave the broccoli in the ice water for three minutes. Transfer the broccoli to a colander and leave it to drain well for a few minutes.

Single-Layer Freeze

Spread the blanched and chilled broccoli in a single layer on a baking sheet. Freeze for one to two hours.

Transfer the frozen broccoli pieces to freezer bags or containers and label with the date. Frozen broccoli will keep for one year. It is still safe to eat after that, but its quality will decline.

It is not necessary to thaw frozen broccoli before cooking it. Subtract the two minutes the broccoli was blanched from the cooking time when you cook your frozen broccoli.