Frozen broccoli is an incredible timesaver. After all, it’s already cleaned, cut, blanched and ready to use, making it easy to get some extra green into your diet. On top of that, it’s got just as much nutrition as fresh broccoli, lasts six to eight months in the freezer and is more economical.
Whether frozen broccoli is delicious or dismal depends on how you cook it. Avoid boiling it, which just makes the broccoli watery and unappetizing. Microwaving it is also not the ideal way to cook America’s favorite vegetable.
Frozen broccoli lives its best life when you use it in dishes that benefit from its softer texture: Think soup, coconut curry, casserole, quiche or lasagna. While yes, you can certainly roast frozen broccoli (more on that later), it’s tougher to achieve the same level of crispiness and caramelization that you get when you roast fresh broccoli.
How to thaw frozen broccoli
Don’t let frozen broccoli sit in the fridge or on the countertop to thaw — it will get soggy, leaving you with a mushy mess. This is probably the single biggest reason frozen broccoli gets a bad rap. You can skip this step and move right on to your preferred method of cooking broccoli.
If you are using frozen broccoli in a dish with other ingredients that aren’t frozen, quickly steam the frozen broccoli or place the florets in a bowl and cover with hot water, let sit for a couple of minutes and then drain. Use paper towels to remove excess water from the broccoli. This will bring up the temperature of the broccoli so the whole dish cooks evenly.
How to roast frozen broccoli
The key to getting any crispness to frozen broccoli is to roast it on high heat. Set the oven to 450 F. Put your baking sheet in the oven while it’s preheating so that the baking sheet gets nice and hot.
Toss the frozen broccoli with oil and your choice of seasoning. A generous sprinkling of salt, crushed red pepper and garlic powder is a nice place to start. Once your oven is preheated, remove the baking sheet and line with parchment paper (you saved all that time using frozen broccoli — why waste it cleaning your baking sheet afterwards?). Scatter the broccoli on the baking sheet in a single layer; don’t overcrowd or else the broccoli will steam rather than roast. Cook for 15 to 18 minutes, tossing halfway through. Voila! You should have tender, browned broccoli with bits of crispness. Give it a squeeze of lemon to help brighten up the flavor.
How to air-fry frozen broccoli
The air that circulates in the air fryer helps dry out frozen broccoli, helping you achieve the crispy florets you crave. Set your air fryer to 400 F and preheat it for about 5 minutes. Add the frozen broccoli in a single layer. Halfway through cooking, dump the broccoli in a bowl and toss with oil and seasonings. If you want some extra crunch, add some panko breadcrumbs. Return the broccoli to the air fryer and finish cooking. The total cook time will be about 7 to 8 minutes.
How to sauté frozen broccoli
You can sauté frozen broccoli just as you would fresh broccoli. Add oil to a skillet on medium-high heat. Add your frozen broccoli and season as desired. Let the broccoli sit in the pan for a couple minutes as the water from the broccoli cooks off; resist the urge to toss it too much, so that it actually has the chance to brown. Surprisingly, frozen broccoli actually cooks faster than fresh broccoli, so be careful not to overcook it — 6 to 8 minutes should do it.
Note that if you’re doing a stir-fry, you’ll want to stick to either all frozen vegetables or all fresh vegetables. Mixing them together may leave your vegetables soggy thanks to the water released from the broccoli.
How to steam frozen broccoli
Steaming won’t give you the optimal texture, but it’s a good option if you’re trying to avoid adding fat. Put a couple inches of water in a pot over medium heat. Once the water is boiling, add your steamer basket; if you don’t have a steamer basket, you can use a metal colander or sieve that fits in the pot. Add your broccoli, cover with a lid and let steam for 5 to 8 minutes. Season and add a squeeze of lemon.
How to microwave frozen broccoli
This isn’t our favorite method for cooking broccoli, as it doesn’t really do any justice to the vegetable’s flavor or texture. But sometimes, it’s the only option. Add a bag of frozen broccoli to a microwave-safe dish. Add 1/4 cup of water and salt to taste. Microwave on high for about 5 minutes, covering with a lid or plate.
You can also find frozen broccoli that can be microwaved right in the bag with no other effort on your part — just make sure it says so on the bag. Once done, add it to your favorite pasta dish or eat it stand-alone, topped with traditional cheese sauce or this healthier vegan version.
Frozen broccoli recipes
Now that you know how to thaw, roast, air-fry, sauté, steam and microwave frozen broccoli, put it to use in any of these recipes.
Nathan Congleton / TODAY
Nathan Congleton / TODAY