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While it might seem like a food processor and a blender are interchangeable, they both have their strengths (and weaknesses) in the kitchen. If you only have the space for one of these appliances or you want to prioritize which one to add to your kitchen arsenal first, it pays to think about what you’ll be using it for most often.
Let’s start with blenders. If the foods you prepare have more of a liquid consistency—soups, smoothies, milkshakes, frozen drinks, and so on—a blender will be your best bet. Thanks to their tall, narrow jars and lids with a watertight seal, they can handle all those wet ingredients. And some even come with smaller cups or containers to allow you to make single servings of your breakfast smoothie.
Food processors, on the other hand, are better at handling drier ingredients or chopping veggies before you put them into your soup. The wide flat blade and larger, shallower container make the food processor ideal for mixing pie dough, kneading bread dough, and shredding veggies or cheese.
There are a few areas of overlap, however. Food processors and most blenders (though high-powered ones really shine in this arena) can grind nuts into nut butter, make mayonnaise, whip cream, and some can even grind grains into flour. Once you’ve decided which type of appliance is right for you, here are some of the best on the market right now to choose from.
This food processor looks much like the original version that made food processors so popular in home kitchens, but now it’s updated with a new chopping blade and a brushed stainless steel finish.
The operation is simple, with a single lever to turn the machine on, and a second lever for off/pulse functions. The bowl holds 14-cups, so it’s large enough for family meals and it has dual feed tubes, so you can feed whole large vegetables in the large tube or stand thin foods like carrots and celery in the inner small tube, so they won’t fall over during slicing.
This includes a slicing disc and a shredding disc, so this can do everything you need, without including a lot of extra accessories that you’ll have to find room to store.
This food processor has all the functions you’ll need, and the power to work with the ingredients you use most. It includes five multi-function discs and three blades that make short work of everything from dough to cheese to salsa. The large 16-cup bowl will handle large batches for the whole family, while the 2 1/2 cup mini bowl is ideal for making hummus for one or blending just a little chimichurri for a garnish.
The super-wide feed tube lets you process most vegetables without needing to cut them into small bits, and the LCD screen displays a count-up and count-down auto timer, so you can monitor the processing time. The small feed tube makes it easy to handle small ingredients, while the small pusher doubles as a measuring cup. A silicone seal reduces leakage while the processor is running.
The variable slicing blade can be adjusted to 24 different slicing thicknesses, from paper thin to 8mm. The other discs are for julienne cuts, French fries, and whisking, as well as a reversible shredding disc. Blades include a universal chopping blade, a dough blade, and a blade that fits the mini bowl.
This includes an accessory storage box to hold the discs and blades to keep them safely tucked away when not in use.
Cuisinart has been a popular brand of food processors for generations, for good reason—they’re study kitchen workhorses. This is a basic model without the extras found on more expensive models, but it gets the job done with ease. It has four simple buttons for high, low, off, and pulse for perfect manual control for everything from chunky salsas to smooth purees. The bowl is 8 cups, and the work bowl has measurement markings, so it’s easy to see if there’s enough shredded cabbage for the slaw.
The included shredding and slicing discs are reversible, saving storage space while offering more cutting options. For easy cleaning, all the removable parts are dishwasher safe. While there are less expensive food processors on the market, this one offers processing power and size for family use.
Ninja blenders have been innovative since their first offering, and they continue to produce updated models with new features. The CT810 Chef has 10 Auto IQ programs that create perfect results without the cook needing to adjust speeds and times. Those include flour/mill, frozen drink, extract, smoothie, soup, ice cream, puree, dips/salsa, dressing, and nut butter. It also has pulse and manual speed control as well as a timer for complete control of the process.
Unlike some of the previous Ninja blenders that had multiple blades on a tall shaft, this model has a blade that is permanently affixed to the bottom of the blender jar, so cleaning is safer. This blender includes a large 72-ounce jar for making large quantities, a 24-ounce to-go tumbler so the morning smoothie can go on the road or the evening Margarita can be sipped on the deck, and a tamper that can be used while the blender is running.
Are you tired of replacing blenders every year or so, when the motors burn out? Add this one to your kitchen arsenal, and it will be the last blender you ever buy. It’s built to last and it can do everything you need, and more, from turning ice into fluffy snow to grinding grains into flour.
The blending speed is easy to adjust with a simple dial, and you can change that speed as you blend, so you can always control the speed to get the texture you’re looking for, while the pulse feature lets you do a rough chop for the perfect salsa.
The blades spin so fast that you can heat cold ingredients to steaming hot in about six minutes, for smooth hot sauces, salsas or soups. While the food gets hot, the motor is designed to run cool, so it won’t overheat with extended blending time.
For frozen treats, the rapid blending means that your ingredients won’t have time to heat up, so you can make soft-serve frozen treats when you start from frozen ingredients.
This blender can also knead thick bread doughs, blend smooth batters for everything from pancakes to cookies, and grind nuts into smooth nut butters. Cleaning is just as simple. Just add a drop of dish soap and warm water, and the machine cleans itself in about a minute.
The Instant Pot name might be most familiar from its very popular pressure cookers, but it has since branched out into making a variety of kitchen appliances, like this blender. While this isn’t the absolutely least expensive blender on the market, it’s quite affordable when compared to the popular high-end machines. Despite the affordability, it includes one high-end feature that users look for: the ability to heat foods as well as blend them.
While faster blenders heat foods through friction, this one has a heating element so it can heat soups and salsas while still leaving them chunky. It can even cook soup with noodles while stirring gently and keeping the noodles intact. It’s also great for standard blending tasks, like making pancake batter, smoothies, and margaritas, and it can even knead bread dough. The button and screen configuration is similar to the layout on some Instant Pots, so it will feel familiar to home cooks who love their pressure cookers. The 54-ounce blender jar means it can blend and cook for a crowd. Programs include smoothie, puree, crushed ice, frozen desserts, soy milk, rice milk nut/oat milk, and soup. It also features manual control, pulse, and a self-cleaning function.
Great for small kitchens that don’t have space for extra appliances, this has a single base that operates either the blender jar or the food processor bowl. This has seven speeds, three programmed settings for salsa, milkshakes, and smoothies, and a pulse function for perfect control for any recipe. The blades move in both directions for faster, smoother blending. The glass jar is 8 cups and the food processor bowl is 5 cups, so it’s large enough for most recipes, but not overly large, so it’s convenient for storage on the counter or in the pantry.
The Cuisinart 14-Cup Food Processor (view at Amazon) is our top pick for a powerful food processor that can handle any kitchen task. A classic kitchen staple, this all-in-one food processor features dual feed tubes and includes two types of slicing discs, all without needing extra accessories. But if you're searching for a higher-end option, check out the Breville Sous Chef Food Processor (view at Williams Sonoma). This feature-rich option has all you need and more, like an LCD screen with a countdown timer, and can be adjusted to 24 different types of slicing thickness for the perfect chop every time.
Capacity It’s important to match the jar or bowl to the amount of food you’ll be stuffing into it. If there’s not enough food in the bowl, it won’t blend well. Too much food and you might experience spills or leaks. If you’ll be working with both large and small amounts on a regular basis, a blender or processor with multiple-sized containers might be the best buy.
Controls Do you prefer knobs, buttons, toggles, dials, or touch screens? Today’s appliances offer a wide variety of control methods. Simple units might only have an on/off toggle, while others might have variable speed control or a variety of buttons. They’ll all get the job done, so it’s all about personal preference.
Cleaning Both food processors and blenders have sharp blades, which can make cleaning just a little bit hazardous. Do you prefer hand washing or do you feel safer placing the parts in the dishwasher? Do you prefer a removable blade or a fixed one? If you don’t like cleaning the appliance, chances are you’ll avoid using it regularly.