How to Store Broccoli

This is a close look at frozen broccoli stored in a plastic container.

Broccoli is high on the list as one of the most preeminent vegetables out there, notorious for strong opinions of distaste, yet others claim to love it! Whether you are a broccoli hater or lover, we all know that this bushy veg is a superfood jam-packed with nutrients, fiber, and antioxidants. However, they are infamous for their short shelf-life, so let’s find out exactly how to store these nutritious greens.

Store raw broccoli in the fridge using the paper towel, perforated bag, or banquet method to keep broccoli fresh for 4 to 5 days. Alternatively, store broccoli in the freezer by blanching cut-up florets and freezing them when dry. In addition, can or preserve broccoli to increase its shelf-life.

Continue reading for some helpful tips and storage tricks to make broccoli stay fresh for longer.

How Long Does Broccoli Stay Fresh?

This is a close look at raw and fresh broccoli with leaves.

Broccoli plants are generally bumper plants, so if you have a bunch of them in your garden, you may have to harvest them all at once. If you have too many broccoli heads to eat, consider giving a few to your family and friends, or preserve them correctly to enjoy long-term usage.

Broccoli stays fresh for a couple of days to a few months, depending on your storage and preserving process. So, before jumping into various ways of storing broccoli, let’s look at how long broccoli stays fresh, depending on each method.

The duration fresh and cooked broccoli stay fresh for on the counter, in the fridge, or the freezer:

On the counterIn the fridgeIn the freezer
Fresh broccoli2 to 3 days (Fresh broccoli rots after 3 to 5 days)4 to 5 days (Up to 10 days if freshly picked)3 to 8 months (Color, taste, and texture will fade without blanching)
Cooked broccoli1 to 2 hours (Bacteria growth is fastest at room temperature, putting broccoli n the “Danger Zone” after two hours)4 to 5 days (Only if you follow proper storage methods)10 to 12 months (Only if stored adequately at 0°F)

Now that you know how long broccoli lasts regarding which method you choose let’s discuss each process individually to ensure appropriate storage and the best results.

Can You Store Broccoli On the Counter?

You can store broccoli on the counter; however, I would not recommend it. Store-bought broccoli stored at room temperature generally only lasts for 2 to 3 days before turning yellow and going bad.

In addition, a freshly garden-picked broccoli head will start to rot after 3 to 5 days. So, if you’re planning on using your broccoli later in the day, avoid wrapping it in plastic or resealable bags. Broccoli keeps fresh best with some room to breathe.

So, instead, wrap your broccoli in a slightly damp paper towel to ensure that it stays moist and fresh before use.

Can You Eat Cooked Broccoli Left On The Counter?

This is a plate of broccoli florets with anchovies and garlic.

If you accidentally leave your cooked broccoli on your kitchen counter overnight or for most of the day, think twice before eating it.

According to the USDA, most cooked veggies left outside the fridge for over two hours are safety risks, and it is best to throw them away. The reason being that bacteria rapidly grow at room temperatures between 40°F and 140°F. So, it’s best to discard the broccoli to prevent seriously getting sick.

Note: Reheating broccoli in the microwave or on the stove does not make it safe to eat. Some types of bacteria, like staphylococcus aureus, can form a heat-resistant toxin that heating won’t be able to prevent you from getting.

How To Store Broccoli In The Fridge?

This is a piece of large broccoli stored in the fridge.

If you opt to store broccoli in the fridge, it can last 4 to 5 days if it is store-bought and up to 10 days if you pick the broccoli fresh out of your garden. However, note that the longer your store broccoli, the more nutrients it loses, and the chewier and stringier the stems become.

You may want to wash your broccoli to remove all the insects and pests hiding between the florets; however, it’s best not to rinse the broccoli until you need to use it as the excess water encourages mold.

So, here are three brilliant ways to refrigerate broccoli.

1. Refrigerate Broccoli Using The Paper Towel Method

These are small pieces of broccoli on a paper towel.

Forget about plastic bags and aluminum foil wraps and instead opt for the paper towel method. Mist the heads of the broccoli and loosely wrap your broccoli in a slightly damp paper towel before popping it into the fridge. Using a wet paper towel will provide a moist but breathable environment to keep your broccoli fresh and healthy.

Storing broccoli using the paper towel method will allow it to stay fresh for 3 to 5 days.

2. Refrigerate Broccoli Using The Perforated Bag Method

These are frozen pieces of broccoli in a plastic bag.

Consider using the perforated plastic bag method if you have run out of paper towels at home and aren’t planning to eat the broccoli immediately.

It is as simple as placing the broccoli into the perforated plastic bag (use a sharp-pointed knife to make several holes in the plastic bag) and then placing it into the crisper area of the fridge.

3. Refrigerate Broccoli Using The Banquet Method

A broccoli and a glass of water to be used as a vase for storage.

This last storage method may sound strange, but I guarantee you it works like a dream! To use the banquet method, fill a glass, jar, or wide-mouth pitcher with a few inches of water and place the broccoli (stalk side down) into the glass jar, ensuring that its stems submerge into the water. Also, ensure that the head peeks out the top like a banquet of flowers (if it gets wet, mold may form).

This method will allow your broccoli to stay freshly crisp and vibrant green for 3 to 5 days; however, be sure to change the water daily.

How To Refrigerate Cooked Broccoli?

These are fresh broccoli wrapped in plastic for refrigeration.

Busy schedules often force meal-prepping due to the lack of time to get everything done in one short day. When using broccoli, you need to ensure that you keep the cooked broccoli in an airtight container to prevent it from rotting.

Refrigerating broccoli in an airtight container will allow it to stay fresh and edible for approximately 3 to 5 days.

Other alternatives are wrapping the cooked broccoli n aluminum foil or cling wrap to cover the veggies fully before refrigerating them. Be sure to warp the vegetables as tight as possible to keep them airtight.

Note: Aluminium foil, cling wrap, and airtight containers are only helpful for cooked broccoli; raw broccoli needs a breathable environment to stay fresh.

How To Freeze Broccoli?

These are frozen pieces of broccoli from a plastic bag.

The best broccoli is in-season produce. So, if you have a large harvest of broccoli or choose to purchase a large amount of broccoli in season, then refrigerating the whole lot may not be effective for long enough.

So, your next best option is to freeze the broccoli. Uncooked broccoli will last for 3 to 8 months in the freezer if you store it the right way.

Tip: When harvesting or purchasing broccoli, look for tight and firm broccoli heads to get the tastiest results. So, if you notice that individual buds are even slightly opening, avoid using these broccoli heads for freezing.

Here are five easy steps to prep broccoli to ensure that it will stand the durability test when frozen.

  1. Wash and separate the broccoli florets: First, separate your broccoli heads into floret sections no larger than 1.5 inches across. Then, remove the thicker stems of the broccoli (you can save them to add into stews and soups). Next, soak the florets in salt and water (4 teaspoons of salt for every gallon of water) solution for 30 minutes. Lastly, rinse the broccoli well with water.
  2. Blanch the broccoli: To effectively freeze broccoli, ensure that you blanch the florets and stems. Unfortunately, freezing the broccoli while raw will produce bitter, shriveled broccoli stems. Blanching the broccoli allows it to retain its green color, firm texture, and nutritional benefits while killing harmful bacteria.

Blanch the broccoli in a large pot with boiling water for approximately three minutes or steam the broccoli for five minutes.

Tip: Use a Chinese spider sieve to remove broccoli quickly from the water to prevent overcooking, or place the broccoli into a colander that fits inside a large enough pot to remove the broccoli all at once.

  • Allow the broccoli to cool down: Place the blanched broccoli into ice water for the same time as the blanching or steaming process.
  • Dry the broccoli: Be sure to dry the broccoli florets as best possible before freezing them. Consider using a salad spinner to force the excess water out of the floret joints. Alternately, drain the broccoli using a colander and then spread the florets and stems out on a towel or parchment paper and blot dry.
  • Bag the broccoli: if the broccoli is thoroughly dry, you can quick-freeze the broccoli florets individually on a parchment-lined tray and package the broccoli into airtight freezer bags (ziplock bags). Alternatively, package the broccoli in portion-size amounts into freezer bags or a vacuum-sealed container.

Tip: freeze the stems and florets individually as you would most likely use them for different dishes.

After bagging the broccoli florets and stems, gently shift the broccoli around in the bag to get the florets as flat as possible to speed up freezing.

Freezing broccoli preserves broccoli’s nutrients and rich fiber for winter enjoyment — and it’s genuinely a snap to prepare the frozen broccoli florets. You can add frozen broccoli directly into your dish while cooking. However, don’t thaw and use the broccoli raw; the freezing process destroys the cell structure, making it soft and mushy once melted.

Can You Preserve Broccoli?

This is a close look at a jar of preserved broccoli pieces in spices.

Canning and preserving broccoli may sound strange, but these two options are easy and effective for keeping broccoli fresh (especially in electric outage events).

However, to prevent the broccoli from going soggy, use fresh broccoli heads from the garden for the best possible results. Follow these eight quick and easy steps to can your broccoli.

  1. Soak and wash the broccoli in cold water to remove all the dirt and bugs from the broccoli head.
  2. Cut the broccoli heads into florets of two-inch-long pieces.
  3. Boil the broccoli for 3 minutes.
  4. Immediately pack the broccoli into sterilizer canning jars and cover it with the same hot water you boiled it in. Ensure that you leave an inch of space at the top of the jar.
  5. Then, add a teaspoon of canning salt to each jar and place the sterilized bands and lids onto the jars.
  6. Process the jars of broccoli in a pressure canner for 30 mins and allow the jars to cool overnight.
  7. Store your canned broccoli in a cool, darkroom.
  8. If you notice that some of the lids have not sealed properly, refrigerate the broccoli and use it as soon as possible.

Watch this quick video for a visual on “how to can broccoli” https://youtu.be/Y90YQ1fiT-A

In addition, fermented foods are quickly rising in popularity, and preserving broccoli is an easy and delicious method to stretch the freshness of your broccoli harvest.

Here’s how:

  1. Wash the broccoli to rid of dirt and pests.
  2. Then, chop up your broccoli heads into bite-size florets.
  3. Place the florets into a mixture of salt, vinegar, and additional spices of your choice.
  4. Place the broccoli into closed airtight containers in the freezer to ensure that the broccoli stays fresh.
  5. You’ll have yummy preserved broccoli to use for 4 to 6 months.

How To Tell When Broccoli Has Gone Bad?

This is a close look at an old rotten piece of broccoli.

Despite these practical solutions to preserve and keep broccoli fresh for as long as possible, things may go wrong, and it’s essential to know when your broccoli has gone off. Here’s what to look out for:

The Smell: The first sign that broccoli starts to go bad is a noticeable, sulphur-like odor that gradually intensifies.

The Color: Broccoli florets tend to perish faster than the rest of the broccoli. So, another early indication is when the broccoli florets lose their bluish-green green color before the rest of the plant. If the broccoli florets change from dark green to a yellowish tint, the broccoli is starting to spoil.

In addition, if the crown is already brown and if you see moldy parts, throw away the broccoli immediately.

The Texture: Spoiled broccoli will have soft, limp stems, and the crown will have a slimy texture.

When noticing any of these signs, avoid eating the broccoli and add it to your compost heap or throw it away.

Conclusion

You can store broccoli for days to months, depending on the preserving method you choose!

Hopefully, you have all the vital information and tips on storing and preserving broccoli in ways that best fit your need.

Please remember that broccoli is generally a highly perishable vegetable. So, if you notice yellowing or browning, limp stems, and off-odors, discard your broccoli, as these are all signs of its spoilage, meaning it has lost its nutrients and is not fit for consumption.

Resources:

Mashed: 10 Interesting Ways You Never Thought To Cook With Broccoli

Sweet Water Organic: Broccoli

Listonic: How to Store Broccoli

Gardening Know How: How to Store Broccoli After Harvest

HGTV: How to Freeze Broccoli

Insider: Foods You Can Leave Overnight

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