How to Cook Frozen Broccoli
Frozen broccoli saves money and time in the kitchen, and yields a nutritional profile, flavor and texture much like the fresh thing, so long as you cook it correctly. Below, everything you need to know about making, preparing and cooking frozen broccoli.
If you’re trying to avoid waste and still eat healthily, frozen fruits and vegetables are a great place to start. They’re packed with the same nutrients you can expect from their fresh counterparts, not to mention much more cost-efficient.
If you’re dipping your toes into cooking with frozen produce, broccoli is definitely the place to start. This nutritional powerhouse has a hearty flavor and texture that freezes beautifully and if cooked correctly, will come out with that same trademark bite and earthy flavor as fresh broccoli.
Nutritional Benefits of Broccoli
Broccoli is extremely healthy. The delicious vegetable helps boost your immune system, protect against certain types of cancer, strengthen your vision, and much more. It’s rich in protein for energy, fiber for digestion, iron for healthy blood and vitamin c for the defenses. It also has high levels of sulphur substances, which support overall health, and beta-carotenes, a rich source of antioxidants which can help protect against everything from premature aging to carcinogenic free radicals.
Buying Frozen Broccoli
Before you head to the market, make sure you know which type of broccoli you want to buy. Frozen broccoli, like fresh broccoli, is available at most supermarkets either whole, or precut.
Precut broccoli will include the florets, which look like mini trees, as well as a mixture of cut stems.Generally precut broccoli is easier to work with when cooking with frozen broccoli, as they require no additional preparation. If you want to use frozen whole broccoli, you’ll have the additional step of cooking it before adding it to other recipes, as you won’t be able to cut up the broccoli while its still frozen.
You can usually also find pre-seasoned frozen broccoli, with flavorings and sauces already mixed in the bag. We suggest against buying these, as you’ll want to be able to control the flavor and of your broccoli yourself when cooking it. Pre-seasoned frozen broccoli also tends to contain lots of preservatives and high levels of sodium.
How to Freeze Broccoli at Home
The best way to cook with frozen broccoli is to freeze raw broccoli yourself. This way you can control the freshness of the broccoli, cut it exactly as you’d like, and eliminate out the preservatives and additives that are often found in frozen foods. Freezing your own broccoli is also super easy.
1. Wash and trim your broccoli.
I would recommend cutting your broccoli into the size you plan to use it. Aiming for bite-size pieces is always a good plan, yielding a versatile product that can be used in most recipes.
To separate the broccoli into small florets, grab the stem and rip away the florets by hand until there is just the stem left. You can also use a small paring knife to cut way the florets. Next, cut up the stem into the same-size pieces as your florets, or throw it out if you only want florets.
2. Briefly cook your broccoli.
The best way to ensure your frozen broccoli retains its fresh flavor, texture and color is to briefly cook it before freezing it. There are two ways to easily and quickly do this-- either blanching or steaming.
To Blanch Broccoli for Freezing:
- Separate your broccoli florets from your stems.
- Prep a bowl of ice water and place it next to your stove.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil on the stove.
- Add a tablespoon of table salt.
- Add in the broccoli florets and cook until they are more crispy than tender (this means they won’t be soft), around 1-2 minutes.
- Remove the florets with a slotted spoon and add immediately into the ice water.
- Add your stems to the boiling water and cook for 2-2 ½ minutes, until slightly tender.
- Remove the stems with a slotted spoon and add immediately into the ice water.
To Steam Broccoli for Freezing:
- Place florets and stems in a large microwave-safe dish.
- Pour 2-3 tablespoons of water on top.
- Cover with a microwave-safe plate.
- Microwave on high for 3-4 minutes.
- Remove lid and check if the broccoli is tender
- If the broccoli is not at a perfect texture yet, cook at 1-minute bursts until satisfied (covered).
3. Dry it off.
Pat your broccoli dry and then quickly towel-dry each piece. The drier the broccoli, the better it will freeze. Excess water can affect the taste and texture of the broccoli during the freezing process.
Freezing broccoli takes place in two steps. Once you’ve dried off your blanched or steamed broccoli, place the piece on a sheet pan in a single layer, and freeze for 1-2 hours. This will ensure a more even freeze on your broccoli, and thus a more even texture and flavor once you thaw.
Once you’ve prefrozen your broccoli on the sheet pan, transfer it to a bag or reusable container of your choice and place back in the freezer. Frozen broccoli will stay fresh in the freezer for up to 6 months.
How to Thaw Frozen Broccoli
Before cooking with frozen broccoli, you’ll need to thaw it. This helps remove any extra moisture that can affect your cooking, and helps with texture and flavor. There are a few methods for easily thawing frozen broccoli.
How to Thaw Frozen Broccoli in the Refrigerator
- Place your frozen broccoli in a microwave-safe container.
- Add a couple teaspoons of water and cover with the container with a paper or dish towel.
- Heat until the broccoli is just thawed, about 30 seconds to a minute. The broccoli should not be frozen anymore, but should still be cool to the touch.
How to Thaw Frozen Broccoli on the Stove
- Add half an inch of water to a small pot and heat on high until steam is coming from the pot.
- Place the frozen broccoli in a steamer basket over the water
- Cover and let steam for around 2 minutes.
How to Air-Thaw Frozen Broccoli
- Take your bag or container of frozen broccoli and simply place it in the sink or on your counter.
- Let sit for around 4-5 hours, or until the bag feels room temperature.
- Strain the broccoli before cooking.
How to Saute Frozen Broccoli
Some say that this method is the best when it comes to frozen broccoli, as it really brings out the texture and flavor.
- Thaw broccoli.
- Heat a small amount of olive oil in a cast-iron skillet or in a nonstick pan (enough to coat it).
- Add 2 cloves of minced garlic.
- Saute the garlic until it turns light brown and is fragrant.
- Add in your thawed broccoli.
- Cook until it’s bright green and fork-tender, about 5-6 minutes.
- Once done cooking, add lemon juice and salt to taste.
How to Roast Frozen Broccoli
Roasting is also a great option for cooking frozen broccoli as it makes the vegetable crispy again, which can start to go away the longer the broccoli sits in the freezer.
- Thaw broccoli.
- Pat dry each piece of broccoli, as it will need to be especially dry to roast correctly and turn crispy.
- Toss your broccoli in a little olive oil (enough to fully coat each piece), salt, pepper and seasonings of your choice. Some garlic cloves, fresh herbs or onion or garlic powder are all great additions.
- Spread broccoli on a foil-lined baking sheet, making sure none of the broccoli is on top of the other.
- Roast in the oven for 15-25 minutes depending on how crunchy you want it. Some of the crowns might turn brown but that is okay!
- Serve right away.
Frozen broccoli is the ultimate weekday savior, saving time, money and prep time for a quick and nutritious side dish that goes with just about anything.