I love fresh broccoli, but having frozen broccoli florets on standby is a great way to ensure that a healthy dinner or simple side dish is only a quick cook away.
Through lots of frozen broccoli taste tests, I found three different methods that work exceptionally well to prepare delicious broccoli side dishes.
You can sauté, oven-roast or steam frozen broccoli. For sautéing, it is best to defrost frozen broccoli. But oven-roasting or steaming works straight from frozen.
My favourite way to cook frozen broccoli for a light and healthy broccoli side dish is to steam it. I found that the texture is closest to fresh broccoli and, as a bonus, it has the fastest cook time.
But I also love my broccoli with charred crunchy bits, so oven-roasted frozen broccoli is probably the way I make it most often – with LOTS of olive oil, of course.
How to buy the best frozen broccoli florets
You want small, individually frozen broccoli florets for the best, roasted frozen broccoli.
Steaming is more forgiving of uneven-sized florets. And with sautéing, you defrost the florets first, so you still have the opportunity to cut large florets in half.
Feel the florets inside the bag.
- Look for individually frozen florets. If they clump together, they were either frozen wrong or defrosted at some point during transportation.
- Try to distinguish the size of the florets. You want evenly-sized, small broccoli florets for oven-roasting.
How to season frozen broccoli
All vegetables benefit from seasoning while warm. I use a two-stage seasoning process to bring frozen broccoli to its delicious best.
Step 1: Season with salt while hot
Add seasoning immediately after cooking. I add about half a teaspoon of salt per pound (450 grams) of frozen broccoli florets. You can add more to taste.
Seasoning blend options:
- Mix ½ teaspoon garlic powder with ½ teaspoon salt (or use shop-bought garlic salt).
- Mix ½ teaspoon onion powder with ½ teaspoon salt.
- Mix ½ teaspoon of dried Italian herbs with ½ teaspoon salt.
- Mix ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (or paprika or a pinch of cayenne pepper) with ½ teaspoon salt.
Step 2: Add a flavour-boosting dressing
After seasoning the cooked florets, I always add a second flavour booster in the form of a dressing. It can be as simple as a squeeze of lemon juice or a drizzle of harissa oil.
- Sweet Asian dressing: Mix a teaspoon of soy sauce with a teaspoon of maple syrup and a tablespoon of sesame oil.
- Classic Italian: Add a splash of balsamic vinegar and a generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
- Mediterranean favourite: Add a squeeze of lemon juice and some olive oil. Or replace the lemon juice with preserved lemon puree.
- Fragrant Moroccan: Mix a tablespoon of olive oil with a teaspoon of rose harissa paste. See how to make rose harissa paste at home.
Step 3: Optional toppings to serve
A sprinkling of fresh herbs, seeds or cheese goes a long way to elevate a simple broccoli side.
Final topping ideas:
- Grated parmesan cheese (or pecorino) works great with the classic Italian flavours. Or use nutritional yeast flakes if you want to keep it vegan.
- Try toasted sesame seeds with the sweet Asian dressing.
- Toasted sunflower seeds (or toasted almonds) pair perfectly with a squeeze of lemon. Why not grate over some lemon zest while you’re at it?
- Za’atar or chopped fresh parsley is fantastic with the spicy Moroccan harissa dressing.
- And, of course, flaked sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper works with it all.
For a quick and easy, tasty side dish of steamed, sautéed or oven-roasted frozen broccoli, pick and mix your seasoning salt, dressing and final topping.
How to sauté frozen broccoli
You can get a beautiful colour on the broccoli by sautéing it in a little olive oil. And as far as taste goes, this easy method makes a delicious broccoli side.
But if you don’t defrost the broccoli first, it will sputter like crazy as the broccoli releases liquid into the hot oil. The other methods both work perfectly straight from frozen.
Defrost the florets thoroughly
Arrange the florets in a single layer on a flat surface to defrost evenly. Don’t be tempted to defrost it in the microwave unless you want very mushy broccoli.
Use kitchen paper and gently dry the defrosted broccoli florets. Cut any large pieces in half since smaller florets will have more surface contact and develop more flavour.
Cook in a hot skillet with oil
Heat a skillet or frying pan over medium-high heat with a drizzle of oil. Once hot, add the dried broccoli florets. Don’t add too much broccoli in one go. They should fit in a single layer with space in between.
Leave the broccoli undisturbed for a few minutes. Then move them around to allow even browning. It takes about ten minutes in total.
Season while warm
Add the warm, cooked broccoli to a large mixing bowl, sprinkle with seasoning and mix with your chosen dressing.
Transfer to your serving plate and sprinkle with your topping.
How to steam frozen broccoli
I found that lightly steaming the broccoli best preserves its crunchy texture. It is also the simplest of the different methods. And, therefore, the one I use most often.
Use a steamer and a saucepan with water
Add an inch (2.5 cm) of water to a saucepan with a steamer basket and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat.
If you don’t have a steamer basket, use a colander or a sieve on top of a saucepan with a tight-fitting lid to keep the steam contained. I have a stainless steel colander that fits one of my pots perfectly.
Play around with different pots and lids until you find a combo that works for you.
Add the frozen broccoli
Once the water reaches a rolling boil, add your frozen florets to the steamer or colander. If your broccoli florets are uneven sizes, add the largest ones first.
Cover with a lid to steam.
Steam the florets
Leave the broccoli covered to steam. And check in after three minutes.
It is best to test the tenderness by piercing a floret with a fork. The broccoli should be tender and warm but still vibrantly green. Three minutes is perfect if you want to retain some crunch as I do.
You can cook it for longer if you prefer it softer. But don’t overcook the broccoli, or it will have a dull unappealing colour and mushy texture.
Season the steamed broccoli
Place the just-cooked broccoli in a mixing bowl, sprinkle with seasoning salt, gently toss it with your dressing, and serve warm.
Or, to make a cold broccoli salad plunge the steamed broccoli into an ice bath before seasoning it to stop the cooking process.
How to roast frozen broccoli florets
Roasting frozen broccoli florets is such a convenience. And the charred crispy bits add bucket loads of flavour.
The Kitchn has an article on how to roast frozen vegetables where they highlight the three most important steps. Taking their tips to heart, I managed to create this tasty roasted frozen broccoli recipe after many failed attempts. (We ate A LOT of broccoli this month.)
This roasted frozen broccoli side dish is super yum. My husband says it’s up there with the best broccoli ever. I’ll take that, thank you.
Frozen broccoli roasting tips for the best results:
- Preheat your pan with fat. It allows the broccoli to start cooking as soon as it hits the pan. And it means you don’t need any parchment paper. Add enough olive oil to coat your baking sheet and preheat it in the oven.
- Use a large baking sheet. You need ample space between the frozen florets to allow them to roast instead of steam.
- Roast in a hot oven. Like really hot. Don’t be afraid to crank your fan oven up to 230 °C / 450 °F. The high heat evaporates condensation that causes the broccoli to steam instead of roast.
- Use plenty of fat. Toss the frozen broccoli with a tablespoon or two of olive oil before spreading it onto the oiled baking sheet. Everything should be coated with a thin layer of oil to crisp up and infuse flavour.
- Don’t defrost the broccoli florets. Add the frozen florets directly to the oiled and preheated pan. And get it into the hot oven as soon as possible to avoid a soggy mess.
- Season the broccoli while warm. Remove the broccoli from the oven once roasted to your liking. And season generously with garlic salt and a squeeze of lemon while hot.
See the recipe card for the full oven-roasted frozen broccoli recipe.
Is roasted frozen broccoli crispy?
Roasted frozen broccoli will never crisp up the same way that fresh broccoli does. But the florets develop these crispy broccoli bits that are crunchy and packed with flavour.
- Large rimmed baking sheet
- 450 grams (1 pound) frozen broccoli florets
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 teaspoon garlic salt, or ½ teaspoon garlic powder and ½ teaspoon salt
- a squeeze of lemon juice (optional)
- Preheat a conventional oven to 250 °C / 480 °F (or 230 °C / 450 °F for a fan oven).
- Rub a large baking sheet with one tablespoon of olive oil and place it in the preheating oven for the final 10 minutes.
- Only remove the broccoli florets from the freezer once the oven is ready. Place the florets in a large bowl and drizzle with two tablespoons of olive oil. Gently mix to coat the florets evenly.
- Moving quickly, arrange the broccoli pieces in a single layer on the preheated baking sheet. And return it to the oven.
- After 10 minutes, gently stir and toss the broccoli in the oil. Continue to cook for another 10 minutes until the florets are charred and crispy.
- Sprinkle the roasted broccoli with seasoning while hot, toss and serve immediately with a squeeze of lemon juice.
- I use the conventional setting (non-fan) at 250 °C (480 °F). Reduce the temperature to 230 °C (450 °F) for a fan-assisted oven.
- You can place the cooked florets on paper towels for a moment before seasoning if you want less oil. But I love the taste of the extra olive oil, so I don't.
- See the tips for oven-roasting frozen broccoli for more information.
- You can also steam frozen broccoli or sauté defrosted broccoli florets.
- If you want to try more flavour combinations, see how to season frozen broccoli.