How to Freeze Spinach For Smoothies

With about 2 grams of fiber, 3 grams of protein, and no cholesterol, spinach is a highly nutritious vegetable. And what a great way to incorporate these nutrients other than freezing your spinach and tossing them in your smoothie?

Spinach normally becomes soft and mushy after freezing, but because it retains its taste and nutrients, frozen spinach can act as 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 fresh 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?

You definitely can. Although freezing spinach can cause loss of nutrients, this loss isn't significant enough to raise concern. 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 ingredients. This is the best way of enjoying the flavors that your 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 fresh 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, it's 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.

So, How Can You Freeze Your Spinach?

Preparation Methods

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 sauteing,

Your Options When Freezing Spinach For Smoothies

So, assuming you want to freeze some 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 fresh 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

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. Remember to remove brown-looking and soggy leaves. If you do a thorough cleaning, the first soak and rinse are likely to help you remove most debris. But to be extra cautious, repeat the cleaning process twice, especially if your spinach seems to be too dirty, to get rid of as much dirt as possible.

Steaming/Blanching Spinach

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. Generally, the method you use is a matter of convenience and choice.

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.

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 want to puree your baby spinach leaves before freezing them, you'll have to place them in a high-speed blender and puree away. All you have to do is place the spinach in a blender and add 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 chard to make your green smoothie. Add some coconut water to help loosen the mixture up and then blitz it until it's a smooth puree. The next step to freezing spinach 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 cube 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.

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 green smoothies.

Bonus tip

If you're in a hurry, make your green 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.

How to Blanch Spinach For Later Use

Perhaps you want to freeze spinach for your smoothie, but you also want to freeze them and build up a stockpile. 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. Next, layer the spinach on paper towels to blot some of the liquid and you'll be good to go.

How to Use Frozen Spinach

The frozen spinach mixture can act both as the primary component of your morning smoothie or as an add-on to your evening rice 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.

Simple Recipe for Green Smoothie

Serves: 1

Ingredients

  • 1 heaping cup fresh spinach
  • 1/2 banana frozen
  • 1/2 cup frozen pineapple chunks
  • 1/4 avocado
  • 1 cup coconut water

How to Prepare

Place spinach and coconut water in a blender and blend them. Add frozen banana, pineapple, and avocado and blend until smooth and creamy.

Closing Thoughts

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.

FAQs

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 unblanched spinach in the refrigerator for too long, it will turn brown.

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.

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