Cauliflower, how we love thee. If only we could have access to a fresh source of our go-to cruciferous vegetable whenever we pleased. Wait a second: We can, and it’s as easy as blanching fresh cauli and stashing it in our freezer? Yep. Here’s how to freeze cauliflower so you’ll never run out.
What is blanching?
Blanching is the process of very quickly and briefly cooking a food in salted boiling water, then rapidly cooling it down to halt the cooking process before it gets mushy. It helps your veggies maintain their flavor, texture and, most importantly, nutrients. And while it sounds fancy and cheffy, it’s as easy as cooking pasta.
How to freeze cauliflower in 4 easy steps:
1. Set up a blanching station and an ice bath. Bring a large stock pot of water to a boil and season it generously with kosher salt. How much salt, you ask? Treat it like pasta water, adding a few tablespoons per quart of water. Set up a large bowl of ice water nearby and have a wire strainer or colander at the ready.
2. Prepare the fresh cauliflower. While you wait for the water to come to a boil, get your cauliflower ready. Treat it as you would if you were getting ready to cook with it: Wash the cauliflower in cool water to get rid of any dirt or sneaky insects. Trim the florets from the stems, then cut them into bite-size pieces, and either discard the stems entirely, or use a vegetable peeler to remove the tough outer layer and trim away the ends, chopping them into small pieces as well. The most important thing is to make sure everything is even in size, so your cauliflower will cook at the same rate.
3. Blanch the cauliflower. Immerse the cauliflower in the boiling water. (Depending on how much cauliflower you’re working with, you may need to blanch in batches.) Blanch the cauliflower until it’s barely tender, about two minutes. Immediately drain the cauliflower using the wire strainer or colander.
4. Chill and freeze the cauliflower. Immediately transfer the strained cauliflower to the ice bath and swish it around. Once the cauliflower is cool, drain it thoroughly. To freeze the blanched cauliflower, you can pack it in containers right away (we’re fans of eco-friendly silicone storage bags) and transfer to the freezer, but we prefer to follow the single-layer method so it doesn’t freeze in large clumps (and for easier portioning down the road). Spread the cauliflower into a single layer on a baking sheet, freeze it for about an hour and then transfer to storage containers before freezing again.
Can you freeze cauliflower without blanching?
Sure, you can, but we don’t advise it. Blanching locks in a vegetable’s nutritional content and ensures a pleasant texture when you go to cook with it. Freezing fresh cauliflower might result in a mushy texture, but if you must, we recommend ricing the cauliflower first to avoid any weird textural changes.
1. Wash and trim the cauliflower as instructed above, but don’t worry too much about the size of the pieces.
2. Make cauliflower rice. Transfer the cauliflower pieces to the bowl of a food processor, filling it only halfway. Pulse the cauliflower until it resembles rice, about 45 seconds to 1 minute. Repeat with the remaining cauliflower.
3. Transfer the cauliflower rice to a food storage container and straight into the freezer. It’s helpful to portion out the cauliflower rice before freezing—that way, you can grab only as much as you need at a time. (It will keep for up to 3 months, since it’s not blanched.) To cook the cauliflower rice, thaw it in the fridge overnight before sautéing in olive oil and seasoning with salt and pepper.
How long can you keep cauliflower in the freezer?
When properly prepared and stored (that is, blanched before freezing), cauliflower can keep in the freezer for up to 12 months without a change in taste or texture. When you’re ready to cook with it, skip the thawing and toss it right into your recipe.