How to Freeze Fresh Broccoli (The Right Way!)

Freezing fresh broccoli is one of my favorite ways to preserve it, but there’s definitely a right way and a wrong way to go about it. You’ve likely heard of people blanching before freezing, but then others never blanch. So, which way is right?

I actually do BOTH ways, depending on how I plan to use the frozen broccoli to maintain as much nutrition as possible. As a dietitian, maintaining the nutritional quality of my harvest when preserving is incredibly important to me. I’m sure it’s important to you, too!

So, in this blog post, I’ll teach you HOW to properly freeze fresh broccoli so you can get the most out of it and identify whether blanching is appropriate for you or not.

A tray of blanched broccoli cooling to be frozen. Fresh broccoli laying behind it.

*Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links to products (including Amazon). I’ll earn a small commission if you make a purchase through my link, at no additional cost to you! Regardless, I only link to products that I personally use on our homestead or believe in.

To Blanch or Not to Blanch?

This is the golden question and the most debated topic in the world of food preservation. Blanching is the process of heating produce for a short amount of time (usually in boiling water) and then cooling it rapidly afterward to stop the cooking process.

Produce contains natural enzymes (largely lipoxygenase) that will break down the product over time resulting in loss of flavor, color, texture, and nutrients. Blanching inactivates these enzymes and thus, prolongs its “shelf life,” however, it doesn’t come without a cost.

Blanching itself does destroy some vitamins (and some are lost in the water as well), especially vitamin C. Below is a research study showing the rapid loss of vitamin C during blanching. It happens fast! Within 2 minutes, close to 2/3 of the vitamin C content is lost. Shoot!

A graph showing the impact of blanching on loss of vitamin C in broccoli

What about steam blanching?

Steam blanching is a similar (and just as effective) process except the veggies are steamed instead of fully submerged in boiling water. This method still causes some nutrient loss, but it is less than hot water blanching, which is music to my ears! I find steam blanching to be easier, too! A win-win for me, so that’s what method I use most of the time.

How to decide

Based on what we chatted about above, it feels like you lose no matter what, right? While this is partially true, using this knowledge as a tool can help you maximize the nutritional value of your frozen broccoli as much as possible based on how you plan to use it.

  • If you plan to use the frozen broccoli within 3-6 months, skip blanching. Not much nutrient loss will occur within the first few months (especially if stored in a chest freezer), so you’re better off not blanching.
  • If you plan to use the frozen broccoli within 6-12 months, proceed with blanching. At this point, the broccoli will start degrading and you’ll lose more nutrients overall from the enzymes than you will from blanching. Pick steam blanching over hot water blanching!

*What do I do? I freeze a mix of both and make sure that I label which bags are blanched and which ones are not. Then, I eat through the unblanched ones first in the early winter, and progress to the blanched ones through the spring until I have fresh broccoli again!

Chopped fresh broccoli on a wooden cutting board along with a head of broccoli in the background.

While this holds true for many foods like broccoli, green beans, and corn, some foods should absolutely be blanched first like dehydrated carrots (otherwise, they’ll turn white in a few months!).

How to Freeze Fresh Broccoli

Woo hoo! We’ve made it to the fun part. With a few easy steps (and NO canning involved!), we’ll have those fresh-picked broccoli heads packed away in the freezer to enjoy all winter long.

Tools

  • Cutting board
  • Knife
  • Large pot 
  • Steamer basket
  • Tongs
  • Colander
  • Large bowl or sink basin (for ice bath)
  • Baking sheet 
  • Tea towel
  • Vacuum sealer with bags or freezer ziplock bags

The Homesteading RD's Product Picks:

I LOVE this stainless steel steamer basket! The "wings" fold out to allow the steamer to fit various pot sizes. It also folds compactly to save storage space, unlike other bulky steamers.

Ingredients

  • Fresh broccoli
  • Water
  • Ice cubes

Step-By-Step Instructions

Step 1: Chop the broccoli

Add 1-2″ of water to a large pot, insert the steamer basket, and heat to boiling (if you plan to blanch), then slice the broccoli head(s) into small florets. You can cut them into any size you want, but I prefer 1” size pieces. Aim to make them similar in size so that they blanch evenly.

A large wooden bowl is full of chopped broccoli pieces.

Did you know that broccoli stems are also completely edible and delicious? Don’t toss them out! I like to chop these up into 1” pieces. To make the stems extra tender, you can consider peeling them first (but I rarely take this extra step – they are fine just the way they are IMO).

Step 2: Blanch the broccoli

*PAUSE* If you haven’t read the above section “To Blanch or Not to Blanch?”, I highly recommend doing so! You may not NEED to blanch, which will save you a lot of time and effort! If you’ve determined that you don’t need to blanch, skip straight to step 3.

Add a portion of the chopped broccoli to the steamer basket and set a timer to 4 minutes. Make sure not to overcrowd the steamer. The broccoli should all be in a single layer. (If you don’t have a steamer basket you can toss them in a pot of boiling water for 2 minutes).

Chopped broccoli inside a steam blancher

Prepare an ice bath. This could be a large bowl or a sink basin filled with cold water and a few handfuls of ice cubes. After 2 minutes, give the broccoli a stir with tongs and once the 4 minutes are up, transfer them to the ice bath.

*I only have 3 ice cube trays, so I’m limited on ice. Thus, I have to get creative (and maybe you’re short on ice, too!). Here’s what I do. I scoop the broccoli right into a colander and leave it under a stream of cold running water in my sink (using the spray nozzle setting), stirring frequently until they are fully cooled. It works pretty well!

After the broccoli has cooled completely, let drain for a few minutes in a colander. Once drained, move to a sheet pan lined with a tea towel to air dry slightly. They don’t have to be bone dry, but dry-ish is good enough.

A sheet pan lined with a towel with chopped, blanched broccoli laid out on it to air dryFrom here, you have two options. You can package and freeze this batch and then proceed to do another round of blanching, packaging, and freezing. Or, if you have multiple sheet pans, you can do all of the blanching first, and then move on to do all of the packaging and freezing in one swoop. It’s up to you! 

Step 3: Freeze the broccoli

There’s no right or wrong way to do this part – it all comes down to how YOU like to eat broccoli and the tools that you have available to you.

First, you need to decide if you want to freeze the broccoli in bulk or in individual portions.

  • Freeze in bulk: Freeze the broccoli in a single layer on a sheet pan before you package them up. That way they won’t stick together and you can pop out however much you want for that meal. Add the frozen broccoli to a gallon ziplock bag so that it’s easy to reseal after you pull out what you need.
  • Individual portions: Portion out how much broccoli you’ll want for your future meals (I usually do 4 cups if unblanched and 3 cups if blanched) and dump that amount into a vacuum seal bag or a freezer ziplock bag. There’s no need to individually freeze the florets first like in the bulk option above because you’ll be using it all at once. This is what I do! 
2 packages of unblanched and 2 packages of blanched broccoli that has been vacuum sealed and is ready for freezing.
Unblanched broccoli on the left and blanched broccoli on the right

Once all of the broccoli is bagged up, you’ll want to remove as much air as possible to prevent freezer burn. If you have a vacuum sealer, that is the best option as it’s very effective at removing ALL of the air.

If you’re using freezer ziplock bags, just do your best to get the air out. You can do the basic press method (my favorite – I’m a simple gal!), suck the air out with a straw, or press the bag into a large pot of water (seal side up) and then seal. 

Try to get the bags to lay as flat as possible when removing the air so that they store efficiently. Then, move to the freezer. A chest freezer is best because it’s colder than a fridge-freezer and maintains a more consistent temperature. 

Don’t forget to label your bags! I like to include whether it’s blanched or unblanched, how many cups are inside, and the date it was frozen. 

FAQ About Freezing Fresh Broccoli

What’s the best way to use frozen broccoli?

Even if broccoli is frozen fresh and unblanched, it will still become a little soft and soggy when thawed. So, you probably don’t want to use it in fresh applications like a salad. Anything else is wonderful, though! I love to use frozen broccoli in a few different ways:

Also, keep in mind that if the broccoli was blanched before freezeing, it’s already partially cooked and won’t need to be cooked as long.

How long will frozen broccoli last?

It depends on whether the broccoli has been blanched or not.

  • Unblanched broccoli will last 3-6 months in the freezer
  • Blanched broccoli will last 6-12 months in the freezer

Why is my broccoli soggy after freezing?

The texture of produce always changes after freezing, no matter what kind – tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, you name it. Why does that happen? Produce contains a decent amount of water and ice crystals are formed when it freezes. The ice crystals expand as they are formed and rupture the cell walls. So, once the produce is thawed again, it loses some of its structure, and liquid from the ruptured cells is released.

A large broccoli head growing on a broccoli plant in the garden

How can I prevent freezer burn?

The best way to prevent freezer burn is by removing as much air as possible from the freezer bag. That’s why I LOVE my vacuum sealer so much! It does a great job getting every small bit of air out of those bags. While I like freezing in mason jars, that just isn’t a great method here due to the potential for freezer burn.

Lastly, a chest freezer set at <0F and limiting lengthy visits to the freezer can help as well.

The Homesteading RD's Product Picks

This is the one we use and LOVE! Features an extra-wide, 5mm heat bar fits a variety of bags up to 15" (38 cm) across. The digital LED control panel monitors and displays the stages of the sealing process

If you're looking for a more budget-friendly option, this one is quite popular! 


Do I need a chest freezer?

Technically, no. Your fridge-freezer will work just fine, but a chest freezer provides superior results. A chest freezer is able to maintain a much more stable and cooler temperature, which will extend the shelf life of your produce. It’s an investment, but a valuable one!

Other Food Preservation Articles You’ll Love:

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A tray of blanched broccoli cooling to be frozen. Fresh broccoli laying behind it.

How to Freeze Fresh Broccoli (The Right Way!)

Here's the BEST way to go about freezing all of that fresh broccoli from your garden so that you can enjoy it all winter long!
Prep Time 10 minutes
if blanching 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Course Appetizer
Cuisine American

Equipment

Ingredients
  

  • Broccoli
  • Water if blanching
  • Ice cubes if blanching

Instructions
 

  • Boil 1-2" of water in a large pot (if blanching) and insert the steamer basket.
  • Chop broccoli and stems into 1" pieces
  • *PAUSE* If you haven't read the above section "To Blanch or Not to Blanch?", I highly recommend doing so! You may not NEED to blanch, which will save you a lot of time and effort! If you've determined that you don't need to blanch, skip straight to the freezing step.

Blanching

  • Add a portion of the chopped broccoli to the steamer basket and set a timer to 4 minutes. Make sure not to overcrowd the steamer. The broccoli should all be in a single layer. (If you don't have a steamer basket you can toss them in a pot of boiling water for 2 minutes).
  • Prepare an ice bath. This could be a large bowl or a sink basin filled with cold water and a few handfuls of ice cubes. After 2 minutes, give the broccoli a stir and once the 4 minutes are up, transfer them to the ice bath.
  • After the broccoli has cooled completely, let drain for a few minutes in a colander.
  • Once drained, move to a sheet pan lined with a tea towel to air dry slightly. They don't have to be bone dry, but dry-ish is good enough.

Freezing

  • Package the broccoli into vacuum seal bags or freezer ziplock bags, being careful to remove as much air as possible.
  • Label the bags with whether it's blanched or not, how many cups are inside, and the date it was frozen.

Notes

*Use unblanched broccoli within 6 months
*Use blanched broccoli within 12 months
Keyword broccoli, food preservation, freezing
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

 

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