Preserving Summer: Freezing Broccoli 101

As selective eaters as my sons are, there is one mighty green giant that they gobble up without hesitation and then ask for more.

Broccoli.

I know, it’s usually the one vegetable that is scorned, shunned, or pureed into sauces to bypass careful inspection of little diners, but my kids both love it. And so, I don’t question their fondness, I just serve it, and then serve it again.

Now that broccoli is in season, and those tight, firm heads are $0.99 each at the market, I’m buying them by the basketful and freezing them for winter. Simple steamed broccoli served with a pat of butter is the boys’ preferred way to enjoy broccoli (no roasting for them, please) and the frozen florets reconstitute quite nicely in boiling water.

It’s impossible to pass up this opportunity to stock up on one of our favorite mid-summer vegetables. Here’s how I do it.

How to Freeze Broccoli

Of course freezing a crisp green vegetable like broccoli is going to have some effect on its texture; however I am happy with this method for keeping it around all year long. The frozen florets can be tossed directly into stir-fries, added to pastas or soups, or just steamed on their own. While the texture of the reconstituted version is missing the firm, toothsome quality of fresh steamed broccoli, it still retains its flavor and is by no means mushy.

Select the Best Heads

Choosing firm heads with small, tight florets will contribute immensely to the success of your final product. If the produce is at its prime when harvested and preserved, in this case, frozen, on the same day it is purchased, you are ensuring the best possible result for your efforts.

Don’t let broccoli sit in the refrigerator to wilt and soften while you try to find time to squeeze a preserving session into your already packed week. Set aside a specific time to work, then purchase the vegetable within hours of when you plan to cook and freeze them.

Separate into Florets

Bring a large pot of water to a boil while you prepare the broccoli; you will need it later for blanching.

Remove to bottom stalk of broccoli and reserve for soup or stir fry. Using a sharp knife, divide the broccoli heads into 1 – 1 1/2  inch florets – or desired size. One-and-a-half inches works well for me and I can fit more into a bag than I can with 3-inch florets.

Wash Broccoli

Fill a basin or sink with cold water and tumble florets into the water to wash. Keep it quick! Avoid soaking broccoli in water for any length of time as this will result in loss of nutrients.

Remove from water and place on a tray.

Note: Some recommend soaking broccoli in salt water ( 1/4 cup salt/gallon of water) for 30 minutes to remove bugs. I don’t do this, but nor am I worried about ingesting a bug or two. I’ve also never seen a bug in broccoli, but if they are a nuisance where you live, salt water soaking may be a step you want to include.

Blanch and Cool

Check to see if water is boiling and prepare an ice bath. A basin or large bowl of cold water with a tray of ice cubes works well.

Working with small batches at a time (about 2 cups), lower broccoli into boiling, salted water and blanch for two minutes. Remove with a Chinese spider -if available- or slotted spoon and immediately plunge into the ice bath. This stops the cooking process and helps retain color.

Drain and Dry

Don’t let the blanched broccoli sit long in the ice bath. Once it feels significantly cooler (2-3 minutes), remove and drain in a colander. After most of the excess water has drained off of the greens, transfer them to a dish towel that has been spread out over the counter to dry even more. The less water on the broccoli when it freezes the better!

Repeat blanching, cooling and draining steps with all the remaining broccoli.

Package, Label and Freeze Broccoli

When broccoli is completely cooled and relatively dry, package into meal-sized portions in resealable bags. Portions will vary with families. I freeze roughly 2 cups per bag.
Shuffle and gently manipulate broccoli so it lies in more or less one layer in the bag.

As best you can without squishing the greens, squeeze the air out of the bag and seal. Using a Sharpie, label with the date, and freeze as quickly as possible. If you have the option, freeze in a deep freeze over a refrigerator-top freezer. The faster the broccoli freezes, the smaller the ice crystals will be and the more appealing the broccoli’s texture will be when reconstituted.

To Serve:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. A large pot is key, as you will be adding a large frozen mass to the water, and you don’t want to lower the water temperature too much or you’ll end up with mushy broccoli.

Salt the water if you like and when it is at a fast boil, add the broccoli all at once. Keep the heat on high but do not cover pot as the broccoli can turn brown.

Cook for one minute (or to taste), then remove with a slotted spoon. Drain and serve.

You can also steam the broccoli, if you like.

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On a cold February day, a bowl of broccoli with a squeeze of lemon can really hit the spot and nothing brightens up a simple shrimp stir-fry like a handful of the healthy green vegetable. It’s worth putting in the time to preserve it on these busy summer days, so make plans to freeze some broccoli this month!

How do you like to serve this green giant of vegetables?

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée'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. We love broccoli at our house. It’s the one veggie that everyone likes, even my very pickiest eater. It gets served up as a side dish, added to casseroles and pastas, made into soup. But my favorite way is roasted in the oven with olive oil, Kosher salt and pepper.
    Tiffany’s last post: Menu- Grocery List- Recipes – Week 51

  2. I like to eat it raw with a dip or in a stir fry.

  3. Hi!
    I think this is my first time commenting on your blog, but I have been reading faithfully for a few months. Yours is one of the first I read every time I open my reader. Thank you for providing such useful information.
    We live in the desert of Paraguay and our fruits and vegetables spend 5 hours in a non refrigerated truck to get to us and are often quite sad by the time they reach us, especially in summer months. Needless to say, finding quality vegetables has become a real THRILL for me. :)
    When we first moved here, I didn’t realize broccoli was only available 3-4 months out of the year, as it was in season. I missed it so much and actually teared up the first time I saw it again, not even blinking at the $5 a pound price. I honestly didn’t know I liked broccoli so much until I didn’t have it! :) It tasted so delicious. I have been wondering about freezing enough to get me through, so this is a wonderful, timely post for me! Thank you so much!
    All the best,
    Shilo

    • Shilo, your comment really made my day. I know what it is like to live in a remote area where fresh produce is scarce and expensive. I grew up in Northern Canada and the broccoli was way overpriced!
      I’m so glad you can now set some aside for winter and am just thrilled to be of assistance!

  4. can you freeze it without cooking it?

    • It is recommended to blanch all vegetables before freezing – it ensures a longer ‘shelf life’, and really preserved flavor, color and texture (some of it anyway!)

      I imagine it would not be pretty when thawed if you froze it raw. I haven’t tried it, but I am guessing it would be brown and mushy.

      • I froze mine fresh from the garden without blanching and it was terrible. They were a bit shriveled, olive green, and tasted bitter. I think that was the problem because I cut a head from another bush the same day, steamed it for dinner and it was perfect. Hence the reason I came looking for instructions. I won’t do that again. Hope this helps.

    • jeannie says:

      did u find out if it was any good

  5. Right now we’re really enjoying a broccoli slaw….with dried cranberries, red onion and sunflower seeds. I love this idea of freezing for winter…

  6. My daughter loves broccoli. She used to refuse all veggies- even though we never stopped putting them on her plate but, I’m convinced that’s why she now loves them. She gets so excited when we have broccoli with dinner. Our grocery store has been selling broccoli crowns at .99 per pound so I’ve been stocking up. This is a great tip. I’ll definitely do this! Thanks for sharing.

  7. Broccoli and cauliflower are my two favorite veggies. Your tips and techniques for storage are awesome. Thanks for sharing these essentials with us. I could probably do the same with cauliflower?? I love my broccoli with salsa. My kids like it with olive oil and good shaved romano cheese.

  8. Ella @ Frugal Ella says:

    This is so helpful. I’ve always wondered about a good technique that will keep the broccolli retaining it’s texture…can’t wait to try!
    Ella @ Frugal Ella’s last post: Never be seduced by a cheap printer

  9. Mrs Ergül says:

    I was looking out for new broccoli recipes when I came across this on foodGawker. What a wealth of information here! Thanks for sharing!
    Mrs Ergül’s last post: Yellow Split Peas Curry

  10. jeannie says:

    I didnt blanch my broccoli I just froze it what can I do now

  11. Thank you for this! Our grocery store currently has big broccoli crowns at .99 each, and I bought more than I could fit into our crisper. This post came up when I searched “freezing broccolli;” and it was a big help. :) We now have plenty of broccoli in the freezer for later. Thanks!
    Cassandra from TX’s last post: Two Months Ago Today

  12. I bought broccoli yesterday and bought more today and thought I’d do it tomorrow. Your statement about not putting off freezing it, encouraged me to do it today. Now I have plenty of broccoli to get me through the winter! Thanks!
    Ruth’s last post: Preserving Summer: A Round-Up of Inspiration

  13. Any pros or cons to freezing it flat on trays first then bagging it? Not a big green mass for the pot later? Am freezing a large amount… Our church has been gleaning local farms and harvested over 10,000 lbs. of produce this season alone. So, storage is a big issue. I’m concerned about the quality of the product I’m receiving before freezing… have my doubts about what it will look like when it is defrosted and cooked for community suppers!!

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