Most vegetables don’t last long in storage, and cauliflower is one of them. If you end up with more cauliflower than you can use before it spoils, that’s when you start looking for ways to preserve it.
When it comes to food preservation, freezing is the undisputed king. Almost everyone has a freezer, and preparing food for freezing doesn’t require fancy equipment. Can you freeze cauliflower? Of course you can, and the process is pretty simple. In this article, we’ll walk you through the preparation, freezing, and thawing of this vegetable. Sounds interesting? Continue reading.
Choosing and preparing the cauliflower
To get great frozen cauliflower (and any other vegetable) we need to start with good produce. When buying cauliflower, choose the best types of cauliflower available. They should be free of spots or blemishes or have only a few small spots. The florets should be firm and dense.
Once we have our veggies ready, start removing the leaves. Washing is the next step. Rinse it thoroughly under running water. If the cauliflower is a large head, consider cutting it into smaller pieces for easier washing. Make sure the water runs through all crevices and removes all dirt. Similar to broccoli, if you’re worried about bugs, soak the cauliflower in salty water for half an hour. This kills the bugs and most of them end up on the bottom of the bowl. After soaking, wash the vegetables.
Once the cauliflower is washed, it’s time to cut it into florets. Think about how you intend to use the rosettes in the future and choose the rosette size that makes the most sense for that purpose. If unsure, choose smaller florets. Smaller florets take longer to cut, but they’re more versatile and thaw easier. Smaller florets also cook faster. Now that you have cauliflower florets ready, it’s time to choose the freezing method.
Read Also: Can you freeze sauces?
How to freeze blanched cauliflower
Blanching is used to freeze many vegetables. It helps preserve the color, shape, and firmness of the vegetables after thawing. You can skip this step, but the thawed cauliflower will often be discolored and mushy. Here is the step-by-step process for this method of freezing:
- (Recommended) Blanch. To blanch, bring a large pot of water to the boil and cook the cauliflower in the boiling water for 2-3 minutes, depending on the size of the florets. If you are blanching a lot of cauliflower florets, do this in batches. Just make sure to bring the water back to a boil each time. When the florets are done, place them straight into an ice bath (cold water + ice cubes) to stop the cooking process. Let the cauliflower sit in the ice bath for three minutes, then discard the water. Read our article on freezing blanched broccoli to learn more about this method.
- Pat the cauliflower florets dry. Before placing the florets in the freezer, you should remove as much water as possible. I usually let the florets sit in a colander for a few minutes, then set them on a tea towel for half an hour. After that, I use another tea towel or a paper towel to wipe away the remaining water droplets. Don’t be lazy with this part. If you freeze wet florets, they will freeze in clumps with ice, and that’s definitely not what you want.
- Portion the vegetables. Think about how many cauliflower florets you need at one time. This is your portion for freezing. If you’re not sure, it’s better to divide the florets into many smaller portions rather than a few large ones. This way you can thaw as much as you need at once.
- Transfer the cauliflower to freezer bags or containers. When using freezer bags, squeeze as much air out of the bag as possible before sealing it. A neat trick is to remove the remaining air from a nearly sealed bag with a drinking straw.
- Label the bags with names and dates if necessary.
- Throw the bags or containers in the freezer.
When reheating, remember that blanched cauliflower takes less time to cook than fresh cauliflower.
How to Freeze Roasted Cauliflower
Freezing roasted cauliflower is my favorite method and the one I use for my meal prep. You don’t need to bother with blanching and patting the florets dry. Once you’ve cut the cauliflower into florets, do the following:
- Preheat the oven to 430 degrees F (or 220 degrees C).
- Remove excess water. If there are water droplets on the florets, shake them off. Paper towels are not necessary as the remaining water will evaporate in the oven.
- Coat the vegetables with your favorite spices and some olive oil. I usually use a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar mixed with a tablespoon of olive oil. You are free to add some salt, sweet paprika or pepper, whichever spices you like the most. Balsamic vinegar is by no means necessary, but olive oil is. Make sure each floret is coated with olive oil and the spices. The easiest way to coat the florets is to combine the olive oil and spices in a large bowl, then add the florets and stir well with your hands.
- Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil (for easy cleaning) and transfer the florets onto the sheet. Spread out the cauliflower florets evenly so they form a single layer (ie no florets on top of other florets). Sticking the florets together is no problem at all.
- Once the baking sheet has reached the ideal temperature, place the baking sheet in the oven and bake the florets for about 25 minutes. Before removing the sheet from the oven, ensure the florets are well baked by piercing some with a fork. If necessary, leave the vegetables in the oven for another 5 minutes.
- Remove the baking sheet from the oven and let stand at room temperature until the florets cool.
- Transfer the florets to freezer bags, freezer containers, or meal prep containers. If using bags, remove as much air as possible before sealing.
- Label the bags or containers if necessary.
- Throw the veggies in the freezer.
How to thaw frozen cauliflower
You can defrost cauliflower florets in a number of ways:
- Throw it right into the meal you’re cooking. If it’s a cooked meal like a soup or stew, you can just throw in the frozen florets. The frozen cauliflower florets will thaw as the dish cooks. Be sure to add a few minutes to the cooking time to allow for thawing and reheating of the cauliflower.
- Thaw overnight in the fridge. This is the most popular method of thawing frozen foods in general. Simply place the frozen florets in the fridge the night before you need them and voila, the veggies will be thawed in the morning.
- Use a frying pan. I routinely reheat my frozen meals on a skillet. If you’re working with frozen food, start with low heat until it thaws. Once the food is thawed there will be some water on the pan and you can turn up the heat a bit to warm it up. Defrosting and reheating on a skillet is perfect once you’ve baked the florets. If you just blanched them, you need to cook them before eating. This takes a lot longer and may require some oil like olive oil to keep the veggies from burning in the pan.