How To Freeze Spinach and Leafy Greens
Lets face it, leafy greens like kale and spinach can wilt and go bad pretty quickly. This can be especially frustrating if you buy it organic, harvest a large amount at a time in the garden or buy in bulk.
Also, if you are juicing or doing smoothies then you are used to buying a lot of leafy greens. It is hard constantly going to the store buy fresh kale, spinach, or chard so you don’t have it rotting in your fridge.
Most of us try to save time and money buying spinach or kale in bulk at places like Costco but by the time you get to the bottom of those big bulk tubs you end up with wilting or rotten leaves.
Also, when you consume large amounts of leafy greens, you have to consider that Spinach, Kale, and Lettuce are all ranked in the list of the top 20 highest pesticide foods so buying frozen vegetables doesn’t fix the issue with pesticides. You will know what I mean when you when you rub your fingers on non-organic spinach and kale and feel that waxy coating.
I found that freezing spinach and kale is the best time and cost saving solution especially if you are buying organic, which I highly recommend for leafy greens like spinach and kale.
The big question though is, can you freeze fresh spinach and kale ? Fortunately, the answer is a big YES. There are multiple ways to do this as well as some special tips if you use frozen kale or spinach in smoothie.
Why I love freezing Spinach and Kale
- Saves time using pre-portioned frozen spinach or leafy greens.
- Avoids throwing away rotten spinach / kale.
- Adds a nice coolness to your smoothies instead of needing ice
- Can keep the greens fresher
How to Freeze Spinach and Kale
Spinach, kale and chard all freeze wonderfully and can be used in smoothies, soups or other recipes (but not salads).
The two main ways to freeze kale, chard or spinach is either
1) Rinse and freeze
2) Blanch and freeze
Rinse and Freeze Your Greens
Rinse and freeze method is simply just washing your greens and adding them to freezer bags. It is simpler than blanching your greens.
You can either portion out your greens into servings or freeze then as one bunch.
If you are using kale I would recommend just freezing the leaf part. By removing the kale leaves from the main stem it is easier for the blender to puree the kale. Some blenders have a hard time blending the frozen kale stems.
Make sure to press all the air out of the bags and double-bag or use freezer bags.
Blanch Kale or Spinach for Freezing
When I first heard someone say “you should blanch your vegetables” I had no idea what they were talking about. Fortunately, it is pretty easy.
A lot of people like to blanch spinach and other greens before freezing to help retain the color and nutrition.
Some people like to blanch their greens because they want to lower oxalate levels that are present in leafy greens but there isn’t much medical research confirming any issues with consuming leafy greens and oxalate. Source: link
How to Blanch Spinach
- Thoroughly wash the spinach several times.
- Boil enough water to cover you spinach in a bowl. To save time I just boil the water in a kettle.
- Mix the spinach and hot water in a bowl for about 2 minutes so that the spinach is fully covered and you see a bright green color.
- Drain the boiled water from the spinach.
- Fill a different bowl with water and some ice cubes.
- Put the spinach in the ice water for 1-2 minutes(just do it until the spinach feels cool). The cold water stops the spinach from cooking, keeps the spinach tender and helps retain the nutrients.
- Thoroughly drain out the cold water and separate out the spinach into portions for freezing.
Best Way to Freeze Kale and Spinach
I suggest using freezer bags and pressing down the spinach in the bags to get all the air out so you don’t end up with freezer burn.
Before freezing, keep in mind that about 2 cups of fresh greens equals about 1 cup of frozen greens. Either(2 cup raw or 1 cup frozen) is the recommended serving size.
TIP for Bagging Frozen Greens:
I like putting measuring out 2 cups of blanched spinach or kale for each individual Ziploc sandwich bag which works well for 1 smoothie.
Then put those individual sandwich bags into a larger, gallon freezer bag. The double bags keep the frost out and it is cheaper using the basic sandwich bags than using the more expensive freezer bags for each individual serving. Make sure to push out all the air in the bags before freezing.
What If You Buy Pre-Washed Vegetables ?
The standard commercial pre-washing method uses chlorine water in a large processing plant. In 2010 Consumer Reports did a study of pre-washed (or tripple-washed produce) and found: “In our tests, 39% of samples exceeded that level for total coliforms and 23 percent for enterococcus, which are two types of fecal contamination.” – Source: Link
“In our tests, 39% of samples exceeded that level for total coliforms and 23 percent for enterococcus, which are two types of fecal contamination.” – Source: Link
In other words, if you are consuming a lot leafy greens, make sure you still wash those “pre-washed” vegetables.
Great Way for Freezing Spinach for Smoothies
If you are using the frozen greens for smoothies then you can pre-blend the kale, spinach or other leafy greens in a blender mixed with water.
- Wash the fresh greens thoroughly.
- Add water and greens to blender. Usually use about 1 cup of water to 6 cups of kale or spinach. You want just enough liquid to allow the blender to puree the ingredients but you don’t want to water it down.
- Blend until the liquid consistency is smooth and there are no chunks.
- Pour the green liquid into molds. We like using silicone muffin trays because they are larger than ice cube trays and easier to flex than ice cube trays.
- Put the trays in the freezer. Once frozen you can use right away or put the frozen cubes in a ziplock bag for later use. Depending on your blender you can either use the frozen cubes directly in the blender or thaw them prior to use.
When you mix the water and raw greens measure out number of cups of greens you use you know how many frozen cubes you end up with. Then when making the smoothie you can count out the # of frozen cubes to use.
Tips For Using Frozen Leafy Greens For Smoothies
- We prefer portioning our frozen leafy greens in separate bags for ease of use. For each bag you can measure out 2 cup of greens for each smoothie portion.
- Remove the thick stem from kale so it is easier to blend the frozen kale leaf.
- If you froze the spinach or kale as whole leaves in portions then you can measure out the frozen fruit for each smoothie at the beginning of a week and add to each bag of frozen spinach / kale before freezing. Then when you are ready to make the smoothie, just add one bag of frozen ingredients and some liquid and blend.
Do you freeze your fresh greens ? I would love to hear your thoughts.