DIY: Stir-fry Vegetable Freezer Packages

With late summer produce so plentiful and affordable at the markets, it makes sense to stock up while the “going” is good. A recent chat with my mother about preserving garden vegetables turned me on to this idea for freezing blanched (lightly cooked) stir-fry vegetables in meal-sized portions.

The concept is simple – prepare and cook vegetables separately, then combine them and package in resealable freezer bags for use all winter long. (We covered this last summer when we preserved broccoli for the freezer.) While the texture of the reconstituted-from-frozen vegetables is missing the firm, toothsome quality of fresh, they still retain their flavor and color, and are by no means mushy.

Blanching Benefits

You may ask: why bother blanch the vegetables at all, as I’m just going to have to cook them later?ย  Here’s why:

  1. Slows down enzymes. And I quote from the NCHFP: “Blanching slows or stops the action of enzymes which cause loss of flavor, color and texture.”
  2. Preserve the color: If you just chop and freeze your vegetables without blanching first, they loose much of their vibrant color – something you want to preserve when you pull them out of your freezer in mid-February.
  3. Wilts: Although they don’t completely lose their “crunch”, the blanching process does make the vegetables a little more “floppy”, which helps them to pack closer and thus take up less space in your freezer.
  4. Time: By blanching your veggies now, you will save that extra time later when you need something quick to throw together.ย  And of course, the benefit of cooking them now is because they’re market fresh, and probably cheapest of the year.ย  It just plain-old makes sense to do it now.

Uses for Homemade Stir-fry Vegetable Packages

Stir-fry packages should not be thawed before using. Instead, add them directly to a hot wok and cook quickly, moving them around until they thaw and finish cooking.

Here are some ideas for your homemade stir-fry freezer packages:

  • Add to sauteed shrimp and serve over rice noodles.
  • Add to marinaded chicken strips and serve over rice.
  • Add to sauteed beef or pork strips and wrap into a tortilla for a quick veggie-lovers fajita.
  • Toss with pasta, top with cheese and bake for a vegetarian casserole.
  • Toss with lemon zest and melted butter and serve as a side dish to supper.
  • Stir-fry with tofu and serve up with rice.

Recommended stir-fry vegetables and blanching times:

  • bell peppers – all colors :: 1 minute
  • fresh green peas, sugar snap peas (plump pods), snow peas (flat pods) :: 1 minute
  • zucchini (yellow/green) :: 1 minute
  • broccoli, Chinese broccoli :: 2 minutes
  • cauliflower, romanesco :: 90 seconds
  • carrots, all colors :: 2 minutes
  • fennel :: 2 minutes
  • green/yellow wax beans :: 90 seconds
  • parsnips :: 2 minutes
  • baby bok choy :: 90 seconds
  • asparagus :: 1 minute
  • celery :: 2 minutes
  • brussels sprouts :: 2 minutes

Freezer Stir-fry Packages: The Method

  • 2 red bell peppers, washed and sliced
  • 1 head broccoli, cut into florets
  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 8 young carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 3 young yellow zucchini, washed and sliced
  • 1 lb snow peas
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the water thoroughly.
  2. With the water rapidly boiling, blanch the vegetables, one variety at a time, for the recommended time suggested above.
  3. Remove vegetables from water with a large spider and spread out on a tray or baking sheet to cool.
  4. Once vegetables are completely cool and well drained, toss together gently with your hands.
  5. Divide into meal-sized portions suitable for your family (I weighed mine into 1 lb portions) and pack into heavy-duty freezer bags. Press as much air out as possible and seal.
  6. Place as flat as possible in the freezer, spreading the bags over lots of surface area so that they freeze as quickly as possible.

Yields: 5 – 1lb bags.

What would you use these stir-fry veggie packages for in January?

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimรฉe's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites.

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Comments

  1. What a fantastic idea. I would add these veggie packs to a hearty bean soup – what a great way to add some colour and flavour.

  2. I second the motion. Took the words right off my page. LOL :)

  3. I was just telling myself yesterday that I needed to do this! Thank you for sharing!
    April @ ecoMomical Me’s last post: How to Freeze Summer Squash

  4. Great idea and instructions. I tried this a few years ago, when I didn’t know about blanching, and ended up tossing many of my frozen packets because they didn’t taste good. I like them for a simple veggie stir fry with soba noodles and maybe some chicken or shrimp. It’s one of my easy, fast, healthy meals. :)

  5. This looks completely doable! I love the feeling of having something ready to go from the freezer.
    Erin’s last post: The best chicken noodle soup ever

  6. What a great idea! I might have to do this next weekend after my trip to the farm market. I have never blanched anything but I have read several blogs that have done this. Some of them put the veggies in ice water after taking them out of the boiling water. Is there a reason you dont do this and just let them cool on a pan? Your way looks much easier. Thanks!
    Andrea Merrigan’s last post: Blog 101

    • Ice water is helpful for cooling the vegetables faster, but I find that they can get waterlogged, so if you have the time to cool them on the counter, that is what I would recommend.

  7. I hate buying frozen vegetables because they get mushy when I cook them. This is a great alternative. Great post!
    Rebecca’s last post: Hoping to get my Veggies on Route 66

  8. I hate to repeat but must say this is a great way to spare time and eat good – precious! Thanks a lot Aimee
    Ravit’s last post: Best colors for small rooms

  9. This is brilliant, and I just love how those neat little bags look. So organized! :)
    Rivki Locker’s last post: Peach Tart

  10. Thank you for your post. Using your chart, I blanched broccoli, yellow beans, red and yellow peppers, zucchini, and carrots. I also cut up green onions for the freezer. After flash freezing I have individual bags and mixed bags. So tonight for supper we had pasta/vegetable primavera with the mixed vegetables from the freezer, I only needed to add fresh garlic and onions fresh parmesan and cream.

  11. What a great idea! I’ve got so many peppers and this is a great way to use them! A trick I’ve been using to get the air out is to insert a clean straw into the bag close the bag around the straw and sucking the air out. Poor mans vacuum seal (as my foodsaver died last month while freezing green beans)

  12. I like that this method allows you to just put in the veggies you want. The stir-fry mix we buy in the store ends up being half “filler” (like water chestnuts) that turn to mush.

    This winter:
    Mix with pasta and frozen cubes of pesto to relive summer
    Make winter minestrone soup
    Rice noodles, veggies, soy, fish sauce = easy dinner!
    Alissa’s last post: Fearless

  13. Aimee you always amaze me with these great time-saving ideas. I need to get my butt in gear and clean my freezer out. It’s a disaster right now. I’d love to stock it with several packages of these and containers of Shaina’s freezer smoothies.
    Katie | GoodLife Eats’s last post: Visiting Todos Santos: Tour the Hotel California

  14. I love this! Thank you so much for sharing. I know just what I am going to do this weekend!

  15. Why on earth have I not thought of doing this before???
    Amy @ A Little Nosh’s last post: Menu Plan Monday 9/5

  16. I always, ALWAYS wind up with frost in anything I freeze, no matter how hard I try to squeeze out air. It’s not as big a problem with wet things (chili, for instance), but items that leave space, like veggies, inevitably wind up hoary. Any suggestions?

  17. I love this idea, especially because I never seem to find a combination of vegetables in one of the grocery store mixes that I love. Now I can make my own!
    Tracy’s last post: Oatmeal Apple Cake Cookies

  18. Great idea! My neighbor just had twins and I have been planning to make freezer meals for them. Thanks!
    Melissa’s last post: When it all seems so small (Bastrop Fires)

  19. beautiful photos and wonderful post with the blanching times for each vege. I’ve been doing mine separate. I recently roasted some veges and frozen them for quick pesto pizza and pasta alfredo. This is a great idea, too!

  20. I love this idea! So simple to do and yet such a big pay off when the snow flies! I am thinking that combos could be put together for stews as well. Although, I do not think that potatoes would freeze well. They would need to be added when the bag was actually used. Gonna head out this afternoon to get going on this! Thanks so much!

    • From my experience, potatoes do not freeze well. There are a few exceptions, like in perogies, but if one is trying to maintain the texture of the potato, freezing is not the way to go!

  21. Love this idea. I never knew why you were supposed to blanch the veggies first.
    Joy’s last post: Mango Double IPA Update

  22. This is such a great idea! I can’t wait to go to the farmer’s market tomorrow

  23. Fantastic idea, but what if you are trying to use a more green approach and want to limit the amount of plastic in your life? Is there anything else that can be used to store the blanched vegetables besides plastic bags?

    • I know, this is a good question. My mother freezes her vegetables on trays first, and then transfers them to plastic bags. This way, when they freeze, they don’t stick to the plastic, so she says. But I find that makes them bulkier and takes up more space.

      I try to store as much as possible in glass jars, stocks, flours, nuts, syrups, etc, but have not found a solution for berries and vegetables yet.

  24. I suppose if you didn’t want to use plastic, I would place them in a glass container and cover them with chicken/veggie broth to prevent freezer burn. But when you use them, because the broth will take longer to thaw, they will probably be best in soups or stews, rather than stir fries. As an alternative, you could flash freeze them and then place them in glass covered containers, but I would imagine they would need to be used within a month or so. Freezer burn is not tasty!

  25. Did these today…easy, gorgeous! NOW I have a question. AS I was tossing the blanching water…hmmm. would it have been ok/good for veggie stock ?? All my veggies had been washed, I blanched them 1 @ a time in my 4th burner pot (LOVE THAT pan) using the same water…and also using my microwave timer for whatever I was blanching. But I don’t usually use a vegetable stock..but would it have been a good thing to save or did I just do well to toss??

    • I think this is a great idea, Elaine. You might just want to taste it first, though. Sometimes brasicas such as cauliflower and broccoli can give off a funny flavor in the water.

  26. I love this! This year I started freezing the harvest from my garden instead of trying to eat it all. This is one more idea to add to the list. Thanks!
    Melissa’s last post: Vineyard Trip 2011

  27. Is there a an important reason to blanch each vegetable separately? If I used vegetables with similar blanching times, couldn’t I just blanch it all together? I guess I’ll find out…I just made stir fry and doubled the amount of veggies I cut up and blanchedit/froze it all together for a quick dinner another day. I looked up your instructions AFTER I finished. I used broccoli, peppers, green beans, and onions. Hopefully it works ok, but if not, I only have one meals worth of vegetables to throw away.

  28. Aimee, this is such a blissful tip for healthy cooking on busy weeknights, I adapted your recipe and blogged about it last week. Thanks for sharing!

  29. Would using a steamer be the same as using a pan with water to Blanche veggies?

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