How to blanch vegetables (French cooking technique)

Learn how to blanch vegetables, including how to prepare the vegetables, how long to leave them to boil, and more.
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Blanching is the process of boiling fresh vegetable for a short time, which is then rapidly cooled. It preserves the crispness and bright color of vegetables, and it’s particularly useful for preserving the brightness of vegetables like green beans, broccoli, and zucchini.

The word “blanche” in French means to whiten. In this case however, it doesn’t mean to whiten, but to clear and purify. Blanching vegetables is a common French cooking technique which can help to remove strong bitter flavors from foods, while killing bacteria and preventing discoloration.

Blanching is typically done in water that is 215 F° (100C°) or higher. Blanching is also done before freezing or canning vegetables to preserve the flavor and nutrients.

It sounds complicated, but it’s actually a pretty simple method that you can use for a variety of recipes, as well as to eat directly like in a crudité platter. So let’s get to the top tips to blanch those vegetables, shall we? Allons-y!

How to blanch vegetables

Blanching vegetables is not hard, you just need a large pot to heat the vegetables, and a large bowl with ice to cool it down and stop it from cooking too much.

Once you have that set up, follow the following steps for perfectly blanched vegetables:

  1. Prepare a large pot of boiling water, and add a dash of salt.
  2. Fill a 2nd large bowl with ice water and keep it on the side.
  3. Remove the tough bottoms and any extraneous portions of the vegetables as described above.
  4. Put each set of trimmed vegetables into the boiling water, one at a time.
  5. Stir and let cook for a couple of minutes. (See precise timings per vegetable below.)
  6. Remove from the boiling water and immediately plunge in the ice water to stop the cooking process.
  7. Repeat the process for all the vegetables that you want to cook.
  8. Once all vegetables are blanched, store them in covered containers until you are ready to use or freeze.

How to prepare the vegetables

If you are not sure how to prepare the vegetables before blanching, here are a few tips for some common vegetables:

VegetableHow to cut and prep
Broccoli and cauliflowersCut into small branches and blanche
Green Beans and Snap PeasTrim the edges off and blanche
ArtichokesCut off the thorns and tip of each leaf. Chop the artichokes into thin strips and then blanche.
Zucchini (Courgette)Cut off the ends and chop in desired shape (i.e. slices, quarters, length-wise, etc.) and then blanche

How long to blanch the vegetables

While it is not a precise science, there are certain vegetables that should remain longer in the water than others. In addition, wome of this depends on the size of the vegetable.

However in general, you can use the following guidelines to decide how long to blanch each vegetable

VegetableTime to blanch
Asparagus2-4 minutes depending on size of the stalks
Artichokes4-5 minutes
Snap Beans and Green Beans3 minutes
Lima Beans and Pinto Beans2-4 minutes
Broccoli and Cabbage2-3 minutes
Okra3-4 minutes
Zucchini1 minute

Frequently asked questions

Do you salt water when blanching vegetables?

Yes, you can if you wish. It can help certain vegetables hold their nutrients longer.

Why You Should Blanch Vegetables Before Freezing?

Blanching helps lock in color and flavor, as well as preserve the vitamins, nutrients, flavors and textures. It also helps the vegetables keep the flavor.

Can you freeze fresh vegetables without blanching?

It is mostly green vegetables that benefit from blanching before freezing. Other vegetables like carrots, bell peppers, corn, potatoes, butternut squash, etc. do not need to be blanched.

Can you blanch vegetables in the microwave?

Blanching vegetables in a microwave is not as effective as over the stove, as the vegetables wilt and lose their color and texture.

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If you enjoyed that article, you may want to read more about the basics of French cooking.

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