The Quick Blanch + Saute

  • By Jess Dang
  • December 14, 2011

Blanch and Sauteed Broccolini, Brussels sprouts, and Green Beans | Cook Smarts by Jess Dang

3 different vegetables (green beans, broccolini, and brussels sprouts), all blanched and sauteed [Photo by Colin Campbell]

When I was trying to decide on the photos for the COOK + SMARTS website, I immediately knew that my favorite cooking formula would make the final gallery. Blanch + Saute is a cooking formulathat is used almost every night in our kitchen for three reasons: 1) we love making vegetables a big part of every meal; 2) the blanching step makes vegetables cook in a flash (perfect for weekday preparation); and 3) the sauteing step step adds a ton of flavor. This cooking formula can be applied to almost any hearty vegetable, and we have a whole list below to get you through all four seasons.


  • Blanching simply is a cooking process where you cook something briefly in boiling water and then stop the cooking process with cold water. The cold water also helps maintain the original bright color of the vegetable (that vivid green above is not Photoshopped).
  • Sauteing, on the other hand, uses a fat over high heat to cook something.
  • Combining the two steps allows for really quick cooking of the vegetables in the initial blanch, but the addition of flavors in the saute.
  • Plus since we have the additional saute step, you can undercook your vegetables in the blanch and still have perfectly cooked vegetables with the saute. It basically makes your vegetables irresistible to even the pickiest of two-year olds. I guarantee that following this formula means no more soggy, tasteless vegetables for your kitchen table.


Choose pots / pans that suit the number of servings you’re making:

Suggested Vegetables

Below are a whole host of great vegetables to rotate through, along with their recommended blanching times:

  • Asparagus, thin spears – 1 to 1.5 mins
  • Asparagus, thick spears – 2 to 2.5 mins
  • Broccoli – 3 mins
  • Broccolini – 2 to 3 mins
  • Broccoli rabe – 2 mins
  • Brussel sprouts (halved) – 2 to 3 mins
  • Cauliflower – 2 to 3 mins
  • Green beans – 3 mins
  • Haricot verts – 2 mins (the beautiful thin French green beans)
  • Kale – 2 mins
  • Sugar snap peas – 2 mins

Suggested Fats

The saute step involves a bit of fat – pick your desired level of richness (for the first 3 options, about 1/4 tbsp per serving is how I ballpark)

  • Vegetable oil
  • Olive oil
  • Butter
  • Bacon
  • Pancetta

Suggested Seasonings

As for seasoning, I like to keep it simple but garlic, salt, and pepper are a must. Feel free to add anything below to layer on more flavors (though I would not recommend adding everything together):

  • Red pepper flakes
  • Capers
  • Caramelized onions or fennel
  • Grated cheese (parmesan is always a favorite)
  • Nuts (pine, sliced almonds, walnuts are always great)
  • Olives

How To

  1. Chop chosen vegetable to desired size or leave them whole in the case of vegetables such as asparagus or sugar snap peas.
  2. Bring a pot of water to boil that will comfortably fit the amount of vegetables you want to cook. In our house, we make about 4 servings a night to account for leftovers, and a 3 quart pot filled a bit over halfway is perfect.
  3. While water is reaching a boil do two things: First, mince a few cloves of garlic – the amount is really up to you and who you may be kissing that evening. Second, get a large bowl of cold, cold water ready that again will comfortably fit the vegetables you’re preparing. You are more than welcome to add a few ice cubes or an ice pack (ideally one that hasn’t recently touched your child’s bruised up knee) to make the water ultra-cold, though it’s not necessary. Set that bowl of cold water next to your pot of boiling water and put your large mesh strainer in the bowl.
  4. Once water hits a boil, salt like the ocean (my rule of thumb it 2 to 3 wrist-twirls of my salt container), and then add your vegetables.
  5. Boil for the time suggested above, stirring the vegetables from time to time.
  6. When the blanching time is reached, use your stainless steel strainer to scoop the cooked vegetables out. Place them in your bowl of cold water.
  7. Let it sit for a minute, and then pull the strainer full of vegetables out of the cold water. Pour out the water and place the strainer back in the bowl so that the rest of the water can drain from the vegetables.
  8. Now heat up your saute or frying pan over medium-high heat. Add your chosen fat to the heated pan. Throw in the garlic and let it sizzle for a few seconds.
  9. Throw in your vegetables and toss them in the heat with a wooden spoon or tongs. Cook vegetables until they reach desired bite (i.e., when you bite into it, it has a subtle satisfying crunch).
  10. Season with salt and pepper and add any other flavorings you want. I am very partial to pine nuts (I toss them in the pan at the end so they brown a bit) and then grated parmesan cheese, as you can tell from the photo above.
  11. Serve and enjoy with a tasty protein on the side (we will introduce protein cooking formulas very soon).


On your next grocery shopping trip, pick 3 of the vegetables on the list and practice this cooking formula 3x this week. Report back, so we can hear how it went.


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