If you are a spinach foodie like I am, you may be wondering how to freeze spinach for smoothies. I enjoy smoothies a few times a week and when I prep on Sundays it makes things so much easier on those busy weekdays.
With about 2 grams of fiber, 3 grams of protein, and no cholesterol, spinach is a highly nutritious vegetable. And freezing your spinach and tossing them in a smoothie (or recipes that call for spinach) is such a great way to get those nutrients easily.
Spinach will normally become soft and mushy after freezing, but because it retains its taste and nutrients, spinach can still be an ideal add-on to smoothies and cooked dishes.
Plus, frozen vegetables that are ready to be used in meals and drinks are incredible time savers. So, before your spinach starts turning brown and soggy, here’s how you can turn them into manageable frozen portions and store them in the freezer ready for throwing into your smoothie as and when you like.
Why Is Spinach Good In Smoothies?
Spinach is one of the most nutrient-dense veggies out there. It’s high in calcium, folate, fiber, and vitamins A, C, and K, but low in calories. It also comes fully packed with cancer-fighting antioxidants and plant compounds.
Not to mention, spinach is a great source of zeaxanthin and lutein, which are antioxidants that promote overall eye health and protect them from damaging UV light.
By integrating spinach into your smoothie, it can manifest remarkable, restorative abilities.
Can You Freeze Spinach For Smoothies?
Yes, you can absolutely freeze spinach for smoothies. Although freezing spinach might cause a loss of nutrients, this loss isn’t significant enough to raise concern. You will still get plenty of health benefits.
For the best texture and flavor, use baby spinach leaves. Older and yellowing spinach leaves can produce a rubbery texture and a nasty taste after being in the freezer.
Why Go Frozen?
Generally, the golden rule of making the perfect smoothie is to use frozen fruit or vegetables. This is the best way of enjoying the flavors that vegetables and fruits give you.
Keep in mind that adding ice to your smoothie will only water it down, thus diluting the natural sweetness of your ingredients. With regard to spinach, blending unfrozen and raw spinach is a great way of adding vitamins to your smoothie.
However, it doesn’t make for good consistency.
When you blend raw spinach, it tends to turn into a watery, sludgy mess. Frozen spinach, on the other hand, is smoother and will give your smoothie an amazing chill factor.
What’s more, frozen is a great way of keeping your greens from spoiling, especially if they’ve been sitting in your refrigerator too long.
Commercially Packed vs. Locally Grown Spinach
It’s always wise to buy fresh and locally grown spinach as this will help you maximize the number of nutrients you receive. Commercially packed spinach typically lose about half of their carotenoid and folate content, even when kept at near-freezing temperatures.
Manufacturers usually advise vendors to sell spinach within 14 days. So, you could be sacrificing nutrients if you purchase them during the final week of their shelf life.
How To Freeze Spinach For Smoothies
Just like other vegetables, it’s always wise to cook spinach before freezing them. This will help you remove bacteria from your veggies.Spinach is most nutrient-dense when eating it raw, but it can still retain some nutrients, depending on the cooking method you apply.
Some of the most effective quick-cooking methods that will help leach out the least possible nutrients from your spinach include stir-frying, blanching, or sautéing,
Your Options When Freezing Spinach For Smoothies
So, assuming you want to freeze fresh spinach over the coming holiday season, what’s the best way to go about it?
Well, to achieve this goal, you can either;
- Freeze whole fresh spinach leaves
- Freeze pureed spinach
Freezing Whole Fresh Spinach Leaves
Freezing raw spinach leaves is a total breeze! All you need to do is choose some nice fresh leaves and put them inside a Ziploc bag.
Ensure you squeeze out as much air from the bag as possible before tossing it in your freezer. It doesn’t get any easier!
Freezing Pureed Spinach
If you plan to use your spinach for smoothies, you can put it in a food processor or blender and then blend it with a splash of water into a puree. It’s always easier to freeze the pureed spinach in silicone trays or ice cube trays for smaller portions that are easy to blend.
You can also use baby food containers during the freezing process. Spinach cubes are the best addition to green smoothies. Or you can try tossing them into stews and sauces. They also work well when preparing rice, barley, or quinoa.
The Freezing Process – Explained
Cleaning Your Fresh Spinach
Making sure your leafy greens are clean are the first step in the freezing process.
- Start the freezing process by soaking up the spinach in cool water.
- Place the fresh spinach leaves in a bowl and then use clean, cold water to clean them.
- Use your hands to mix the spinach leaves and sort through them as they soak. This is often done to remove damaged leaves, stones, insects, weeds, or other debris.
- Drain the soak water and then transfer your spinach into a large colander.
- Now rinse the raw spinach under running water for approximately 30 seconds.
- Remove brown-looking and soggy leaves.
Steam the baby spinach leaves for two minutes or blanch them. Once your leafy greens are lightly steamed, you can soak them in ice water for two minutes to allow them to cool, or puree them.
If you decide to blanch the spinach leaves in boiling water, you’ll see the water turning green. This is a clear indication that you’re leaching out nutrients from your spinach.
Instead of pouring this water, you can save it and use it to cook grains like rice or freeze it for stock. To avoid losing nutrients, steam your blanched spinach for two minutes by putting them in a steamer basket to keep the baby spinach leaves above the boiling water.
Freeze Your Spinach
It’s now time to freeze your spinach. Once you remove the spinach from ice water, blot them on a thick towel or spin them dry in a salad spinner to remove excess water.
Stuff the leaves into freezer bags, putting either one or two cups in each bag. This depends on your desired portion size. Remember, freezer burns happen when frozen fruits or veggies get exposed to air, and your spinach won’t taste good if it has freezer burn.
So, try to remove as much air as possible before sealing the freezer bags. You can use a straw to suck out the excess air around the spinach leaves. Now place the sealed bags in the freezer.
Don’t stay with your frozen spinach in the freezer for more than 14 months for the best quality. Remember, this freezing method is ideal for freezing spinach for stock, soup, stir-fries, or casseroles.
Feel free to also add your frozen spinach in pasta dishes, dips, and quiche.If you know you’ll be using your frozen spinach for six months or less, you can freeze them without blanching.
This method will yield more of a slimy spinach mixture upon thawing.
How to Make Spinach Ice Cubes
If you are interested in making frozen spinach cubes, that is also a great way to give a smoothie a boost. Frozen cubes can be created not just with spinach, but really any favorite fruits or vegetables that you want to use.
Th best way to create smoothie cubes is to puree your fruit or vegetable before freezing them. Place them in a high-speed blender and puree away.
For the spinach specifically, all you have to do is place it in a blender and add some water to get the blending process going.
What you need
- Fresh spinach
- Coconut water (2/3cups)
What to do
Aside from spinach, you can also use any leftover leafy greens like romaine, kale, or swiss chard to make your green smoothie. Add some water to help loosen the mixture up and then blitz it until it’s a smooth puree.
The next step to freeze spinach leaves is to ladle the mixture into an ice cube tray and then freeze it for about 4-12 hours or until completely solid.
Finally, this last step involves removing your frozen spinach from the ice trays and transferring them to a freezer bag, and then placing them in your freezer for storage. Don’t forget to label the bags with date and content before stashing them in your freezer so you know how fresh it is.
When it comes to size, try to use either 1 or 2 spinach cubes in your smoothie at first.
But keep in mind that spinach comes with a fairly neutral flavor profile. Therefore, don’t be afraid to use as many cubes as possible, especially if you want a noticeable kick.
After all, getting to know what works best for your taste buds is part of the fun of blending smoothies.
If you’re in a hurry, make your smoothie ahead of time by placing whole ingredients, including spinach, into a freezer bag. Ensure you measure every ingredient carefully, mix, zip, then freeze, and voila!
You have a green smoothie-in-a-bag.
So, all you’ll need to do to make a quick breakfast smoothie is dump the freezer bag in your blender, add your favorite substitutes, such as milk or yogurt, and then press frappe for instant breakfast.
Don’t forget to use these leafy green cubes in other dishes such as soups, stews, or even in eggs.
Blanch Spinach To Help It Last Longer
Perhaps you want to freeze spinach for your smoothie which you will make in a few days.
But maybe you also want to freeze it for other purposes that are a little farther in the future. If so, you’ll be better off blanching them to avoid rolling out brown and wilted spinach instead of the fresh mixture you were hoping for.
Fortunately, blanching spinach is a straightforward process.
Put your spinach in a sieve and then submerge it entirely into a pan full of boiling water for about 60 seconds. Ensure you choose a vessel that has a handle.
You should notice your spinach turning vibrant green.
Remove your spinach from the boiling water and then quickly dunk it in ice-cold water which will help stop the cooking process.
Next, layer the spinach on a paper towel to blot some of the extra liquid and you’ll be good to go and can now place int a baggie to store in the freezer.
TIP: If you have houseplants, the water that you just had the spinach is a great way to feed your plants, or you can use that water to cook rice or pasta.
How to Use Frozen Spinach
Frozen spinach leaves can act both as the primary component of your morning smoothie or as an add-on to your evening meal.
And you won’t have to worry about cooking the spinach again as you’ve already steamed it before the freezing process. If you used the spinach cubes process, you should consider taking one or two cubes. This amount should be ideal enough for a single serving smoothie.
Ensure you taste it first before you settle for a specific number of cubes so you can make the necessary changes.Note that, the intensity of the amount of nutrients and flavor per cube greatly depends on the thickness of the mixture.
As with everything else, conduct a taste test to determine whether or not you need to adjust your recipe.
Give it a Try!
Blend your spinach leaves with other delicious vegetables and fruits to make a perfect green smoothie that’s rich in healthy fats and vitamins. For instance, avocado will make your smoothie creamy while adding more potassium and a healthy dose of fat than bananas.
Pineapple and bananas naturally sweeten your greens, while coconut water offers hydration and antioxidants.
Do you have to blanch spinach before freezing?
If you plan to use your frozen spinach within a couple of weeks, you don’t have to blanch it. However, if you keep un-blanched spinach in the freezer for too long, it will begin to deteriorate.
Is frozen spinach as nutritious and tasty as fresh spinach?
This depends on how you use it. For instance, you’ll come up short when you use it in a sandwich or salad. On the other hand, pop spinach into your smoothie and you’ll receive much of its benefits. To avoid nutrient-loss you can freeze your spinach baby leaves when they’re still super-fresh.
Maintaining a healthy diet that includes green leafy veggies like spinach will definitely go a long way in keeping you physically fit and healthy. While spinach is typically safe to consume, having too much could be harmful. So, always talk to your doctor before adding it to your daily routine to know what’s best for your individual health.