14 Frozen Vegetables You Should Buy (Even in the Summer), According to Chefs

updated Aug 25, 2023
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Refrigerator, with freezer door opened. Food in freezer has been neatly organized. On the fridge door the freezer inventory checklist is hanging.
Credit: Sarah Crowley

The summer season is slowly coming to a close, which means we’re heading into back-to-school, back-to-work, and back-to-juggling-it-all fall. Despite the shift, we don’t have to say farewell to the taste of grilled corn and versatile veggies celebrated this time of year. In fact, this between time gives food-lovers a chance to play with their palate and experiment with some summer-meets-fall flair by embracing frozen produce. 

Most frozen produce is picked and packaged at peak season, meaning the bagged stuff can taste better than the fresh stuff (if that fresh stuff is bought off-season). Plus, they’re just as nutritious! If that sounds too good to be true, it’s not — even the pros are stocking up on the frosty gems year-round. 

We tapped 14 chefs to share their favorite frozen veggies and how they use them at home. While some of these picks might not be new to you, how these chefs use them will definitely spark some culinary inspiration (“edamame smash” toast, anyone?).

Credit: Jesse Szewczky

1. Green Peas 

“I use organic frozen peas in a pot pie or vol au vent. They are easy to store and convenient to use, and they especially save time during the prep stage. Look for the ones with a low amount of water — they’re more resistant to freezing. Usually, they are harvested and frozen at the peak of maturity and taste better than imported produce.” —Brian Brumec, chef at LPM Restaurant & Bar, Miami, FL 

Buy: 365 by Whole Food Market Organic Frozen Peas, $2.49 for 16 ounces at Amazon 

2. Fire-Roasted Corn

“At home, I’m always looking for shortcuts to get hearty, delicious meals on the table that will satisfy the children and adults in our house. Fire-roasted corn is super versatile: I use it for sweetness and texture in salads, to fill out and add nutrition to quesadillas, or as a stand-alone side dish. We serve a summer corn salad at Osteria Lupo (wood-fired roasted corn cut off the cob tossed with green beans; heirloom cherry tomatoes; lots of fresh herbs, like mint, basil, dill, or even cilantro; shallots; fresh chilies; and goat cheese) that I will often replicate at home in the off seasons using the frozen stuff.” —Brian Burns, executive chef and owner at Osteria Lupo, New Orleans, LA 

Buy: 365 by Whole Foods Market Organic Fire-Roasted Corn, $3.69 for 16 ounces at Amazon

Credit: Leela Cyd

3. Edamame

“Frozen edamame is unrivaled in its convenience and consistent quality. Its vibrant green color, crisp texture, and mild, almost-nutty flavor pairs well with various ingredients across seasons. Try pulverizing the beans into an “edamame smash” with garlic, olive oil, and lemon juice for open-face toasts. I also use it in dips, salads, stir-fries, soups, noodle dishes, and more.” —Chris Arellanes, corporate executive chef at KYU, New York, NY

Buy: Seapoint Farms Edamame, $3.99/ea, 14oz; $4.56/lb at Instacart

Credit: Joe Lingeman

4. Butternut Squash 

“Typically butternut squash is only in season in fall/winter, but thanks to technology and food preservation advancements, we have the luxury of having this sweet and starchy squash all year round. I keep Birds Eye’s butternut squash in the freezer for soups and purées for a base before plating meats and other vegetables.” — Brian Pancir, chef and corporate culinary director at Thompson Hospitality, Reston, VA

Buy: Birds Eye Microwave Roasters Butternut Squash, $3.99 for 6 ounces  at Instacart

5. Green Garbanzo Beans (Chickpeas)

“At Dirty Habit, we use green garbanzo beans in our labne, and we also make a relish and salsa verde using the beans. At home, they’re delicious when sautéed with Moroccan spices, and I love to throw them into protein jerk bowls! Everyone is used to using the canned or dried products, so the green garbanzo beans are a nice surprise for people, and the flavor is much brighter and just as flexible as its other forms.” —Anthony Jones, executive chef at Dirty Habit, Washington, DC 

Buy: Fresh Nature Green Garbanzo Beans, prices vary, for 12 ounces at Albertsons

Credit: Sara Tane

6. Zucchini

“Zucchini helps elevate any dish with tons of flavor and can be used [multiple] ways: steamed, grilled, oven-roasted — the options are endless. While fresh is most abundant in the summer, frozen zucchini means you’ll have them year-round. At home, I grill them to bring out their natural sweetness and flavor, then add them to quesadillas or fajitas for some added crunch. Another favorite is serving them as a side dish with a touch of lime and chili. You can also throw them into your favorite summer salad or a warm soup in the fall.” —Richard Sandoval, Richard Sandoval Hospitality

Buy: Great Value Zucchini Blend, $1.92 for 10 ounces at Walmart

Credit: Jesse Szewczyk

7. Fire-Roasted Bell Peppers and Onions

“Trader Joe’s fire-roasted bell peppers and onions have a ton of flavor. These come out of the freezer, thaw, and are ready to use. I think the best part about a pepper is when it cooks down, it gets soft and creamy: I add them in something as simple as a breakfast taco by scrambling eggs with the mix or as a base in more complex recipes, like sofrito or chicken cacciatore. Their versatility and ease also make them a great freezer staple for cold soups in the summer (think: gazpacho) or a warm, braised dish in the winter.” —Giorgio Rapicavoli, chef/owner at Eating House and Luca Osteria, Miami, FL 

Find it in stores: Trader Joe’s Fire Roasted Bell Peppers and Onions

Credit: Guy Ambrosino

8. Okra

“I like to keep frozen okra on hand all year. It can be harder to find fresh sometimes. If I want something hearty in the winter, I’ll make a nice rich gumbo and add it. For the summer, I’ll just roast it for a light salad.” —Carolyn Nguyen, chef and owner of Revolution Taco in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Buy: Bowl & Basket Whole Baby Okra, $1.97 for 16 ounces at Instacart

9. Cauliflower Rice

“I always keep frozen cauliflower rice on hand; it’s a great addition to any dish. I personally like to add it as a filling in Indian flatbreads or use it in pasta dishes to enhance the texture. Cauliflower rice is also delicious by itself; I often sauté it with an array of spices for a quick and easy dish!” —Maneet Chauhan, award-winning chef, TV personality, author, and co-founder of Morph Hospitality Group in Nashville, Tennessee

Buy: Good & Gather Riced Frozen Cauliflower, $2.49 for 10 ounces at Target

Credit: Joe Lingeman

10. Broccoli

“I always have a bag of frozen broccoli in my freezer. I love to make a broccoli pasta sauce for last-minute dinners. To make it, I simmer the broccoli in a 1/4 cup of water, a tablespoon of vegan butter, and a teaspoon of crushed garlic. I also add a dash of sea salt and a sprinkle of crushed red pepper flakes. Once the broccoli is cooked all the way through, I put it in a blender and purée it before pouring it over my pasta. So delish!” —Mee McCormick, chef and owner of Pinewood Kitchen & Mercantile in Nunnelly, Tennessee

Find it in stores: Publix Steam-in-Bag Frozen Broccoli Florets, $2.19 for 14 ounces

Credit: Photo: Kristin Teig; Food Styling: Catrine Kelty

11. Artichoke Hearts

“Nothing makes me angrier than when I hear chefs dismissing frozen vegetables. I have yet to meet a frozen vegetable that I don’t love. My favorite at the moment is artichoke hearts. Roast them, fry them, or steam them. They are delicious any which way.” —Amanda Cohen, co-founder and chef of Lekka Burger in New York City

Buy: Wegmans Just Picked and Quickly Frozen Artichoke Hearts, $5.79 for 12 ounces at Instacart

12. Ginger

“It gets soft once you thaw it, so you may need to use slightly more to get the same intensity as fresh. Other than that, the ginger stays good for months on end!” —Andrew Lim, chef and owner of PERILLA: Korean American Fare and Sir Chicken in Chicago, Illinois

Buy: Frozen Crushed Ginger Cubes, $3.99 for 2.5 ounces at Target

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

13. Kale

“I always keep frozen kale, along with mangos and berries, in my freezer for protein smoothies. Having it on hand means I have no excuse not to eat my greens. Plus, it teaches my kids healthy habits too!” —Bonnie Morales, chef and co-owner of Kachka and Kachka Lavka in Portland, Oregon

Buy: 365 by Whole Foods Market Organic Chopped Kale, $2.79 for 16 ounces at Amazon

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: Coral Lee/Kitchn

14. Spinach

Frozen chopped spinach has always been a secret weapon of mine. It acts as a quick fix to making a weeknight pasta with fusilli, garlic, and lemon. It’s also the key ingredient for an easy spinach-artichoke dip: Simply whip cream cheese and sour cream together, add thawed chopped spinach, marinated artichokes, grated Parmesan, and mozzarella, and bake until golden and bubbly!” —Mike Friedman, partner and executive chef of All Purpose Pizza DC

Buy: Wegmans Frozen Cut Leaf Spinach, $2.29 for 16 ounces at Wegmans

What frozen veggies are you buying on repeat (even in the summer)?