10 Delicious Ways to Use Up All Those Frozen Veggies You Bought

published Apr 27, 2020
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Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

Judging by the empty freezer aisle, we’ve all stocked up on at least a few extra bags of frozen vegetables during these unprecedented times. And rightly so: Frozen vegetables are good for us and they last for months. But how do you make frozen vegetable taste less like, well, frozen vegetables

The truth is frozen vegetables don’t deserve their bad rap — we’ve just been cooking them all wrong by nuking them into mushy submission (when we should be roasting them to crispy perfection) or not cooking them at all.

Here are 10 delicious ways to use up your stash, from simple side dishes to veg-centric main courses. 

1. Roast frozen broccoli and cauliflower.

One of the best ways to coax maximum flavor out of broccoli is to roast it in the oven, and frozen broccoli is no exception. Try this super-easy roasted broccoli sprinkled with Parmesan for a quick side dish. To make broccoli florets more of a meal, pair with chicken or tofu, a bowl of steamed rice, and this easy creamy peanut sauce and you’ve got a tasty rice bowl that rivals any takeout.

Not to be outdone by its cousin broccoli, frozen cauliflower can also be roasted to great effect. Add a can of rinsed and drained chickpeas, half of a thinly sliced red onion, a good glug of olive oil, and a few generous pinches of za’atar, berbere, or curry powder. Toss everything together and roast at 450°F until the florets are tender and browned in places, about 20 minutes. Squeeze half of a lemon over everything and serve with dollops of plain yogurt. Got harissa paste? Add a squidge of that at the end for a spicy kick. 

Credit: Joe Lingeman
Easy Mexican Corn Salad

2. Turn frozen corn into a Mexican salad.

One of the most popular of the frozen vegetable family, corn needs a little help to brighten its somewhat bland sweetness. For a delicious elote-inspired side dish, sauté corn in a hot cast iron pan until slightly charred. Remove from the heat and add crumbled feta or Parmesan, a squeeze of lime juice (or lemon juice, or pickled jalapeño juice), a generous pinch of cayenne pepper, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir in a little sour cream or yogurt if you’ve got it. A little fresh cilantro is nice, but not mandatory. 

3. Add bacon to frozen peas.

Some folks love peas with only a pat of butter, but I for one need a little bribing. Enter: bacon. Sauté a few strips of bacon with some sliced shallot or onion until crisp. Discard half of the drippings, add the peas to the pan, and sauté until heated through. If you have some fresh, tender herbs (think: mint, dill, or parsley), add a few chopped tablespoons, along with some flaky salt, at the very end of cooking. For more of a main course, turn this winning combination into risotto.

4. Turn carrots and peas (aka astronaut veg) into fried rice.

I’m never without a bag of this blend of perfect little cubes of carrots and bright green peas to add to my weekly batch of fried rice. There’s nothing better than the smoky-seared flavor of leftover rice stir-fried with garlic, ginger, egg, and frozen peas and carrots. Add leftover cubed ham, frozen shrimp, or cubes of tofu, and hit it with a little soy sauce and/or few tablespoons of hoisin sauce or Sriracha, and you’ve got a back-pocket meal fit for an emperor.

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

5. Blend your California medley with eggs.

This mix of cauliflower, broccoli, and carrot slices has nothing much to do with California cuisine, but it is a handy mix to add to your favorite egg preparation. Personally, I like to finely chop the blend of veggies and use it as a base for muffin-tin egg bites. For 6 muffins, mix 1 cup of finely chopped, defrosted California medley with 4 beaten eggs, 1/2 cup of shredded cheese, and seasonings of your choice (hello, Mrs. Dash!). Ladle the mixture into a preheated nonstick muffin tin sprayed with cooking spray (preheating the pan will prevent sticking). Bake at 425°F for 12 to 15 minutes until cooked through and a knife inserted in the center comes out with no liquid egg clinging to it. Bonus: These can be kept in the fridge for up to 1 week and reheated in the microwave. 

Credit: Faith Durand

6. Braise your green beans.

Green beans’ texture breaks down when the beans are flash frozen, so you’re not going to get a just-off-the-vine snap of fresh beans, but that can work in your favor. My favorite vegetable recipe from my time in Greece is green beans braised in a garlicky tomato sauce with lots of dill. The dill can be fresh or dried and you can add a bit of feta cheese at the end, if you have it. The beans will be fall-apart tender, but in a very good way. 

7. Cream your greens.

Whether you’ve got a solid block of old-school spinach or a bag of trendy kale or chard, steak house-style creamed greens are just a few steps away. Defrost the greens, squeeze out all of the excess moisture, and then sauté them in a bit of oil with sliced garlic until hot. Stir in a little cream or spreadable herb cheese like Boursin, and serve alongside grilled meat. If you really want to get fancy, add a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg; it makes creamy things taste even creamier. 

Credit: Joe Lingeman

8. Make Shepherd’s pie.

Shepherd’s pie has been a staple pub dish in Britain for generations for a reason: It’s a smashing way to use what’s on hand! Add frozen peas and carrots to a skillet of browned ground beef (or vegetarian grounds), onions, and broth, and top it with creamy mashed potatoes (instant mashers are fine). Pop it in the oven and Bob’s your uncle! 

9. Turn (almost) any frozen veggie into soup.

Credit: Faith Durand

10. Toss frozen greens with pasta (and meat).

Pasta with greens is such an easy one-dish meal, and so satisfying. Add frozen leafy greens to the boiling pot of pasta the last minute of cooking. Once drained, dress the pasta and greens with butter and salt and pepper, or throw in some spicy sausage.