My Brilliant Trick for Making Sad, Droopy Vegetables Amazingly Crunchy Again

published May 22, 2024
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a bowl of creamy dill dip, on a plate with sliced carrots, celery and potato chips
Credit: Laura Rege

As someone who obsesses over produce, nothing bums me out more than sad, soft vegetables wilting away in my crisper drawer. Sometimes it’s not even my fault, either! I bring home some beautiful radishes and everything seems fine. Then, BAM! They shrivel up. 

Well, not anymore because I have a trick that brings limp veggies back to life. It seems almost too easy, but the answer is ice. Just 20 minutes in a bowl of ice water makes greens crispier, radishes snappier, and cucumbers and carrots crunchier! Your fridge is a dry place, and it’s making vegetables sad and droopy. Much like a plant on a sunny windowsill (or your brain after one too many cocktails the night before), vegetables are at their best when they are fully hydrated.

Why It Works

If you want to get scientific about why you should use your precious ice cubes (some of us don’t have the luxury of an ice machine), here’s the deal: Cold water restores turgor, the water pressure within plant cell walls. Vegetables lose moisture when they dry out or when you slice them for a recipe. The cold also firms up natural pectin in produce. Submerge your chopped vegetables in ice water for 10 to 20 minutes or up to an hour and watch them become the crunchiest version of themselves. I like to add a little kosher salt for flavor, plus it further hardens the pectin. Just pat them dry before you use them.

Why You’ll Love It

  • It’s cheap. I love when something is effective and only uses two ingredients you always have on hand: ice and water.
  • It’s easy. You don’t have to do anything special; just dunk all your chopped vegetables in the ice water and let them do their thing.
  • It’s scientific. The vegetables are limp because they’re drying out. Shocking them with ice water rehydrates them and firms up their natural pectin.

The Exceptions

While this works with most greens, herbs, and crunchy vegetables, there are always some exceptions. Produce that is meant to be juicy like a tomato or creamy like an avocado won’t gain anything from a cold plunge. Onions will stay snappy, but will lose some of their bite (that may be a good thing, but it’s worth keeping in mind!).

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: Rachel Perlmutter

Try It with These Recipes

Use this technique in any recipe if your vegetables need reviving! Prep the wilting produce first and toss it in some ice water while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. Then pat dry and use as directed.