Freezing Broccoli or Cauliflower

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Posted: October 7, 2012

When nice heads of broccoli and cauliflower are abundantly available at produce stands, it makes sense to buy a little extra to freeze for out-of-season use. In fact, some heads are too large for use at one time, and freezing the extra simply prevents the food from going to waste.

It is only occasionally that you will find insects in commercially grown broccoli and cauliflower any more. However, if you do find some, wash the heads, trim off leaves and remove woody portions. After cutting into pieces, soak for 30 minutes in a solution made of salt and water. Use 4 teaspoons salt per gallon of water. Immerse and hold the broccoli or cauliflower under water the whole time. Insects will float to the top. Drain, rinse and proceed as below.


Select firm, young tender stalks with compact heads. Remove leaves and woody portions. Separate heads in convenient-size sections. Treat for insects if necessary. Split lengthwise so flowerets are no more than 1½ inches across. Broccoli can be water blanched or steam blanched. Water blanch for 3 minutes; start counting water blanching time after the water returns to a boil. Broccoli can be blanched in steam with good results. To steam blanch, use a pot with a tight lid and a basket that holds the food at least three inches above the bottom of the pot. Put an inch or two of water in the pot and bring the water to a boil. Put the broccoli in the basket in a single layer so that steam reaches all parts quickly. Cover the pot and keep the heat high. Start counting the steaming time as soon as the lid is on.  Chill blanched broccoli quickly in cold water. Change water as it absorbs heat from the broccoli. It will take as long to chill the broccoli as it did to blanch it. Drain thoroughly before packaging.  It can be put into plastic containers or freezer plastic bags. Package only the amount that you will use at one time in the same bag as the moisture from the broccoli will cause it to freeze together as a mass. You can avoid this problem by freezing the individual spears or flowerets on a tray and packaging the broccoli after it is frozen. Headspace is not needed.  Remove as much air as possible from the package, seal, and freeze. 


The name cauliflower means “cabbage flower,” –a clue that it is a member of the cabbage family. The most common type of cauliflower is white. In recent years green cauliflower has been developed by crossing cauliflower with broccoli. It is shaped like white cauliflower but contains chlorophyll like broccoli.

Choose cauliflower that has creamy white, compact curds with bright green, fresh, and firmly attached leaves. Some small leaves extending through the curds do not affect quality.

To freeze cauliflower, cut into pieces about 1 inch across and water blanch for 3 minutes in water containing 4 teaspoons salt per gallon of water. Cool promptly and drain well. Excess water that clings to the cauliflower will cause the tender cell walls to break down. Pack into freezer bags or plastic containers. No headspace is needed. Before packaging, drained cauliflower can be placed in a single layer on trays and frozen. Cauliflower will not freeze into a single mass if pieces are frozen before being inserted into a bag.

Canning Options

There are no scientifically approved methods for canning broccoli or cauliflower as a plain vegetable. Because both are low acid foods, they would need to be pressure canned. The higher temperature of pressure canning would cause the product to soften to the extent that is would not be palatable. Freeze broccoli and cauliflower; do not can them except as pickled cauliflower.

Adding vinegar to cauliflower as in Pickled Cauliflower increases the acidity of the product making it safe to can in a boiling water bath. The vinegar also firms the cauliflower. A recipe for Pickled Cauliflower can be found at 

You can control the heat of this recipe by adjusting the amount of red pepper flakes added. This recipe can also be used to make Pickled Brussels Sprouts.