As much as I love walking over to my neighborhood farmers market every week and packing my tote bags with a colorful array of produce, I am not above the freezer aisle. In fact, I might argue the freezer aisle at your go-to grocery store is just as much of a treasure trove of produce. All frozen produce is flash-frozen at the peak of ripeness, which ensures it’s as nutritionally dense as possible. Plus, it’s much more affordable than buying fresh, which can make all the difference, especially in our current world of inflated prices.
Not all frozen vegetables are created equally, however. While they are all budget-friendly and wholesome (so long as you buy frozen vegetables that aren’t in a sauce or overly seasoned), some are especially worth their weight in gold. In fact, there are a few vegetables that I almost exclusively buy frozen because of just how exceptionally useful they are in the kitchen. Here are the 5 best vegetables to buy frozen.
The night I chewed my way through a mouthful of sandy spinach was the night I declared frozen spinach superior. While baby spinach is a quick convenience I love raw or cooked, bunches of mature spinach need to be cleaned thoroughly to rid them of dirt and sand. That’s why it’s hard to beat frozen spinach, be it chopped or in whole leaf form. I prefer bags of frozen spinach rather than the boxes because you can shake out just what you need instead of thawing the entire brick. Toss it still-frozen into smoothies, soups, and curries, or thaw it and squeeze out any excess liquid before adding it to frittatas or using it as a pizza topping.
Peak-summer fresh corn is unbeatable, but the season is short. Frozen corn is your next best option the other three seasons of the year. It’s as sweet as the summer stuff and gets bonus points because you don’t have to shuck it. Defrost the kernels and turn them into quick and satisfying fritters, use them to bulk up cheesy quesadillas, or tuck into creamed corn when you’re craving a cozy side dish.
Not only are fresh artichokes hard to source most of the year, they’re difficult to prepare. Frozen artichoke hearts, however, are available 365 days a year and require zero prep. While you could say the same of canned or jarred artichokes, frozen artichokes are both cleaner in flavor and brighter in flavor and more versatile since they aren’t packed in oil or brine. Frozen artichoke hearts only need to be partially thawed before stirring them into pasta or risotto. Or let them shine on their own as a side dish by tossing them olive oil, salt, and pepper and roasting on a hot sheet pan until the edges crisp and caramelize.
A bag of frozen peas isn’t just useful for icing a sore knee! They’re the most quick-cooking frozen vegetable of the bunch and deserve a spot in your freezer all year long. They lend color and sweetness to everything from rice to pasta, but can also stand on their own. You don’t even need to cook them in order to use them in salad. Or blend them with toasted nuts, garlic, cheese, and olive oil for a surprising yet oh-so vibrant twist on pesto.
While you can buy pre-cut fresh butternut squash, it can be a bit expensive due to its convenience. Frozen cubed butternut squash is just as convenient and much more budget-friendly. Blend it into soups and pasta sauces, toss it into a quick vegetable sautè, or even steam or microwave it until tender and puree to use in quick bread.