Refrigerator and freezer technology was a game-changer for healthy eating. Fresh foods could be preserved for longer periods of time, and spinach and other leafy greens could be safely frozen long before they wilted. That meant the ability to eat your greens even during the winter months when so many edible plants stop growing. How's it done? We have three sure-fire methods for how to freeze spinach for smoothies, and seven phenomenal superfood smoothie recipes to use them in.
What Does Freezing Do to Vegetables?
Freezing vegetables doesn't suspend them perfectly. It's a process that does cause some damage and nutrient loss. Between the blanching process that happens prior to freezing (more on that below) and the damage that's caused by the formation of ice crystals, frozen foods inevitably lose certain flavor and texture features. Frozen blueberries are mushier when thawed than they were when they went in, for example, and fresh spinach and frozen spinach are simply not the same entity.
Some nutrients preserve better than others. The phytonutrients in plant foods, for instance, tend to keep well, like anthocyanin flavonoids. However, the vitamin C and folate content of veggies can go down as dramatically as 25% with blanching before freezing, and 10% of vitamin B1 (thiamin) can be lost as well.
These numbers change based on preservation methods and the containers used when freezing. The final nutrient count is also dependent on the nutritional profile of the vegetables before they're prepared. Leafy greens like organic kale, Swiss chard, and baby spinach have overwhelming nutrient value, so much so that the hit they take from freezing is still dwarfed by the number of nutrients they retain. And besides, food frozen is always more nutritious than food that has rotted and wasted before you had time to consume it.
So yes, freezing does cause some nutrient loss, but it's a small price to pay to preserve the rest of those vitamins and minerals long term (up to 6 months). Let's talk about how it's done.
How to Freeze Spinach for Smoothies: Top 3 Methods
Let's say you're taking the green smoothie challenge and you want to prep your green ingredients for ease of use each day. Here are the top three methods for how to freeze spinach and other leafy greens for your healthy smoothies.
As mentioned before, blanching does remove a significant portion of the nutrient content of your vegetables before freezing. So why do it at all? Because blanching (i.e., scalding in boiling water briefly before cooling/freezing to stop the cooking process) helps preserve veggies for longer.
Fresh greens that are blanched can last up to a year in your freezer (instead of the 6 months recommended for unblanched fruits and veggies), and while blanching does put a dent in the nutrient content, it's the same dent that cooking makes on any vegetable: raw spinach vs. cooked spinach would also have this same nutrient difference.
If you're cooking, blanching, and freezing for one person, maybe this method isn't necessary, but if you want to store a lot of food safely and indefinitely, you may want to blanch it first to help sterilize and remove enzymes that cause an excessive amount of texture and flavor loss over time. Here's how it's done.
- Rinse first. Whether the spinach comes from your home garden or was purchased at a store or farmers market, it's always wise to wash these foods to remove any bacteria, dirt, or pesticide residue that may be attached.
- Tear up. Remove any chewy stems from your spinach leaves and tear them into bite-sized bits that you can comfortably eat later.
- Boil water. Bring to boil the proper amount of water for how much spinach you have, about 2 gallons (7,600 milliliters) for every pound (0.45 kilograms) of spinach.
- Ice water. While the pot on the stove comes to a boil, prepare a separate bowl of ice water—this is where you'll transfer the spinach once it's boiled long enough to arrest the cooking process.
- Boil spinach. It takes about 2 minutes in boiling water to properly prepare the spinach. Too much longer and it will be soggy, but under-blanching can have the counterproductive effect of activating enzymes you're specifically attempting to eliminate.
- Ice spinach. Transfer the boiled spinach directly into an ice bath with a slotted spoon or strainer. Let the spinach cool for 1 minute, and add more ice if the water becomes lukewarm.
- Drain and dry. Once chilled, drain the spinach in a colander, then spread the spinach leaves over a paper towel and pat dry.
- Freeze. Place these dried leaves into a ziplock freezer bag, and be sure to label it with the date of preparation so you know when to prioritize it for green smoothie recipes. Try to squeeze out as much air from the bag as possible before sealing it. Use smaller baggies if you want pre-made portions you can pull from the freezer one at a time.
2. Fresh Freeze
If you don't like the idea of blanching and just want to take fresh spinach leaves and freeze them for a little bit longer, there's a method for that too. The benefit here is that you don't have to go through a multi-step blanching process, and you don't have to worry about nutrients being boiled away—you just have to be prepared to use the spinach you freeze in the next 6 months before the freezer temperatures can't preserve them well anymore. Here's the process.
- Rinse clean. Always be sure to rinse/wash fresh foods before consuming them, and throughout the process you can inspect your spinach leaves for any brown, crushed, or mushy leaves that need to be removed.
- Dry and cut. Pat dry your clean spinach leaves with paper towels, and then cut or tear them up into smaller pieces. Smaller shreds are easier to work with once they are thawed—depending on how large the leaves are, you don't want to have to wrestle them into your smoothie blender later.
- Bag, label, and freeze. Once your spinach is clean, it's ready to be bagged. Squeeze out as much air as possible without crushing or bruising the spinach, because where there's air in the bag, there's potential for freezer burn. Label them with the freeze date and know that these unblanched leaves are good for up to 6 months.
3. Purée Freeze
This may be the most effective way to freeze spinach for smoothies: purée them first, freeze them in ice cube trays, and use them 1 or 2 at a time as desired. This cuts down on future prep time and minimizes the surface area that is exposed to freezer burn. There are extra tips and tricks you can use to make freezing spinach even more smoothie-friendly.
- Wash and clean. Rinse your raw greens of any dirt or unseen elements, and then sort them to make sure they are clean, free of tough stems, and perfectly fresh.
- Blend. Blend your spinach now so it's even easier to add to a refreshing smoothie later. You can blend the spinach up with a few tablespoons of water to make your puréed spinach nice and smooth, or you can use a little almond milk or coconut water if you'll be using those liquids in future smoothies anyway (orange juice works too!).
- Portion and freeze. Once your spinach is blended to your texture preference (total time should take no longer than 1 minute), pour the mixture into ice trays to freeze. You don't have to leave them in these trays indefinitely—freeze them and if you have other needs for your ice trays, simply break them out and store your spinach cubes in another container or freezer bag.
Top 7 Superfood Spinach Smoothie Recipes
Now that you have several ways to freeze spinach for smoothies, what's on the menu? Check out these phenomenal superfood spinach smoothie recipes from the nutritional experts at VeggieShake, who have also developed All-in-One and Daily Boost powdered formulas made from leafy greens like spinach and kale, just another convenient way to add vegetable nutrition to your daily life.
This smoothie combines spinach, kale, and spirulina, three superfood greens in one simple vegan recipe. Designed to deliver an anti-inflammatory boost to your immune system with pineapples and bananas for vitamin C and fruity flavor, our Super Greens Veggie Smoothie also calls for almonds and almond milk, which contain the vitamin E we need to guard against free radical damage to our cells.
If you value your greens but don't enjoy chewing on salad, this Super Greens Veggie Smoothie is a perfectly easy way to gain plant nutrients.
This spinach smoothie is a vessel for another powerhouse green: matcha powder, the concentrated form of green tea. Green tea products like matcha have been shown over and over again in scientific trials to prolong human life. By including it in this Ultimate Green Smoothie along with coconut milk, pineapple, banana, and avocado, we've created a smoothie loaded with filling protein and rich with antioxidants.
Creamy and full of vitamins, this is an excellent recipe for a DIY multivitamin—it contains vitamins B5, B6, C, E, and K in spades.
How about a spinach smoothie with all the fixins? We're talking about natural supplements you can include like bee pollen, which has antiviral and antimicrobial properties targeted towards boosting your immune system. On top of that, spinach is joined by avocado, cucumber, and grapes, all of which are blended together with coconut water.
The end result is a refreshing, hydrating blend of nutrients like potassium for healthy blood pressure, copper and manganese for bone strength, antioxidants for battling oxidative stress damage, and essential fatty acids from the final secret ingredient: hemp seeds.
This spinach and kale smoothie comes with a ton of vegetable content. The recipe calls for cauliflower (full of vitamins and minerals like folate, iron, and calcium), celery (for vitamins K and B6), and cucumber (potassium and magnesium). That's not all: it also includes lemon for extra vitamin C, flax and chia seeds for omega-3 fatty acids, almonds for fiber, and bee pollen and green tea for protein and antioxidants.
The Green Machine Veggie Smoothie is designed to keep you running like a well-oiled machine.
Here's a spinach smoothie (the only one on our list) that isn't green! Thanks to the inclusion of blackberries and activated charcoal (for antioxidants and detox support respectively), this smoothie gets its smoothness from kefir and its hydration from a lemon.
Ease your tummy and your digestive tract with this unique veggie blend.
This recipe brings together spinach, kale, peaches, almond milk, and MCT oil, a concentrated form of coconut oil. Popular for those on the ketogenic diet because it offers up extra healthy fats that the body can use for energy, MCT oil makes this healthy smoothie as filling as a meal replacement. It's perfect for those who want to reduce their calorie consumption and lose weight without losing valuable nutrients along the way.
This recipe was developed to prioritize heart health. Spinach, lemon, mint, honey, and maca powder contribute antioxidants, and the electrolytes in coconut water soothe inflammation and boost your workout potential by providing energy and reducing any digestive discomfort. It's a full-body boost targeting heart health and more.
Sold on Spinach Smoothies
Smoothies are great for kids and adults to get concentrated whole-food nutrients into their systems. Spinach is a staple of healthy green smoothies for a reason, and being able to freeze and preserve fresh spinach long term means it's always on hand for your blending needs.