We all know we need to eat more vegetables. Frozen vegetables can be a quick and easy way to add more vegetables to almost any meal, and these days the frozen vegetable aisle is loaded with options!
Frozen vegetables can be just as healthy, if not more so than fresh vegetables. Vegetables start to lose nutrients once they have been picked. Frozen vegetables are typically frozen the day they are picked or maybe the next day. Fresh vegetables could have been picked 1-2 weeks ago by the time they make it cross country (or halfway around the world) and to your local produce section.
I think frozen veggies get a bad rap for being limp, squishy and flavorless, but they don’t have to be! Here are some tips on cooking and flavoring frozen veggies so that everyone will want some (well, almost everyone 😉).
- Roast them! Yep, you can roast frozen veggies like broccoli, cauliflower and butternut squash just like you would if they were fresh. Toss them with avocado oil, some sea salt and maybe pepper and garlic powder and roast them at 425°F for 15-20 minutes.
- Sauté them! This is the method I tend to use the most. Since frozen vegetables are blanched (partially cooked), they are done quickly. Depending on the veggie, you can sauté them over medium heat with olive oil or medium high heat with avocado oil for about 5 maybe 10 minutes and they are done. You can easily add any seasonings as well. Certain vegetables, like mushrooms, will release some liquid when cooking. I typically keep sautéing until this liquid is evaporated.
- Microwave them! If you are really crunched for time, this is the method for you. Not the best flavor wise, but if you like steamed veggies, this will be very similar. Again, just remember that frozen vegetables are partially cooked, so you are basically just reheating them. I’m actually a big fan of microwaved frozen broccoli with just butter and salt. Mmmm.
- Air fryer! Toss them with avocado oil, sea salt, and maybe some garlic powder, then place them directly in the air fryer and cook for about 6 to 8 minutes on 375°F. Crispy and yummy!
- Do NOT boil frozen vegetables! Boiling frozen vegetables (or really any kind of vegetables), unless you are making soup, is the worst way to prepare them. Not only will they end up mushy, but you leach out water soluble nutrients. Just don’t.
Seasoning Frozen Vegetables
If you are roasting or sautéing all you may need is some olive/avocado oil and a little salt and pepper. If you like more flavor than that, consider adding a combo of acid, fat and maybe some heat. The acid helps to give the veggies a lift or brighten the flavors, the fat just makes it yummy and of course, if you like spicy, the heat can make anything taste better.
- Acid: lemon juice, lime juice, vinegar
- Fat: grass-fed butter, olive oil
- Heat: red pepper flakes, garlic chili oil
- Other flavor additions: garlic powder, spice mixtures, Parmesan cheese, bacon crumbles (preferably from pasture-raised pigs)
A few examples:
- Frozen broccoli – roasted with avocado oil, sea salt, lemon juice, garlic powder and parmesan cheese
- Frozen fajita blend (bell peppers and onions) – sauté with olive oil, sliced chicken and taco seasoning
- Frozen cauliflower – roasted with avocado oil and tandoori spice
Cooking with Frozen Vegetables
You can use frozen vegetables as an easy way to add more vegetables to anything, or use them as the main ingredient like this quick and easy green bean side dish you can make with frozen green beans. I use a lot of frozen vegetables, more in the wintertime, but as a busy mom I am happy for any shortcuts that don’t negate my healthy meal attempts.
Sauté frozen sliced mixed mushrooms, tri colored bell peppers and whatever else you have until all the liquid is gone, then crack eggs in the skillet and make a veggie scramble!
This is a super easy way to make pizza that is better than take out (in my opinion). I use whole wheat naan, then add my own pizza sauce (or store bought), then usually add mushrooms, bell peppers and broccoli that I have already sautéed until all the liquid is gone (maybe 5 minutes), then a little mozzarella. Then I have a big side of the rest of the vegetables that didn’t fit on the pizza.
I usually have bone broth in the freezer or at least a tasty chicken broth in the pantry, add some leftover chicken or edamame for protein, some frozen veggies like carrots, broccoli, kale or cauliflower and you have a super nutrient, delicious soup.
This is also a quick and easy dinner when you are using frozen veggies. The hardest part is the sauce. If you have one already prepared, you can have dinner in 15 minutes! (See the recipe below.)
How long do frozen vegetables last?
Typically, between 8-12 months. The higher the moisture content (like mushrooms and bell peppers) the higher the risk of freezer burn. Removing as much air as you can (if you’re not using the whole bag at once) will help prevent freezer burn.
Szechuan Tofu and Veggies
This recipe is very versatile. You can use tofu, chicken or shrimp, and you can choose whatever vegetables you like, fresh or frozen. The secret is the sauce. It looks intimidating, but it comes together very quickly. You can always make the sauce ahead of time, then this recipe is really quick and easy!
- ½ – 1 tsp Szechuan peppercorns (or black peppercorns)
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- 3 Tbsp honey (or maple syrup)
- 1 Tbsp sesame oil
- 1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 1 Tbsp mirin
- 3 garlic cloves, finely minced (use a garlic press)
- 2 tsp fresh ginger, grated or finely minced (or use ginger paste)
- 1 Tbsp garlic chili paste (like sambal oelek) or 1 tsp chili flakes
- ½ tsp Chinese Five Spice
Tofu and Veggies Ingredients
- 16 oz tofu, patted dry and cubed (or sub shrimp or chicken cubes)
- 2 Tbsp avocado oil
- ½ tsp sea salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 2-4 cups vegetables of choice – I used frozen sliced mixed mushrooms, frozen tri color bell pepper strips and frozen broccoli (see original recipe for more suggestions)
- scallions, sesame seeds, chili flakes
To make the sauce:
- Toast Szechuan peppercorns in a hot dry skillet over medium heat, until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Crush.
- Place crushed peppercorns and the rest of the sauce ingredients in a medium bowl or small jar and whisk until well combined. Set aside.
To make the tofu and veggies:
- Heat oil in a skillet. Season oil with salt and pepper. Swirl the seasoned oil around until spread out uniformly. Add tofu and sear on at least two sides, until crispy and golden - be patient here. Set aside.
- To the same pan, add a little more oil if needed, then add vegetables and sauté over medium-high heat stirring constantly, until tender and liquid has just about evaporated.
- Add the sauce starting with ¼ cup and adding more to taste. Cook the sauce for 2 minutes, letting it thicken a bit.
- Toss in cooked tofu (or cooked shrimp or chicken) right at the end, just to warm it up.
- Serve as is, over rice, noodles, or cauliflower rice and garnish with sesame seeds, scallions and more chili flakes if you like it spicy!