How to Keep Cauliflower From Turning Brown

Organic cauliflower on wooden background


When choosing cauliflower, sturdy and crisp is ideal; so is a crown void of brown spots and other discolorations. Once you find the freshest cauliflower in the bunch, bursting with creamy-white florets, it’s disheartening to watch it turn brown before your eyes in a pot of boiling water or during a short storage period in the fridge. Careful storage and handling, along with some milk and lemon juice, stop browning.

Keep It Chilled

Store cauliflower in the refrigerator, unwashed and uncut. Prewashing and cutting the cauliflower into pieces before popping it in the refrigerator encourages browning. Washing and cutting should be done just before serving. Store cauliflower, crown side up, in perforated or unsealed plastic bags so that it can breathe while in refrigeration. Stored properly in the refrigerator, cauliflower keeps up to five days before quality begins to diminish.

Blanch It

blanch cauliflower before freezing it. Cut the cauliflower into 1-inch sections, and then add them into a pot of boiling water, seasoned with a few dashes of salt and a few tablespoons of lemon juice. Boil the cauliflower for 3 minutes, and then remove the pieces with a slotted spoon, plunging the boiled sections into an ice water bath for a minute or two to cool. Transfer the cauliflower to a colander to drain thoroughly before freezing.

The Right Pot

Avoid cooking cauliflower in iron and aluminum pots and pans. The use of either material results in color changes in the vegetable. Chemical compounds within the cauliflower react with those of aluminum, turning the cauliflower a garish yellow tone. The same chemical compounds react with the compounds in iron pots, turning the cauliflower green, blue and sometimes brown.

Milky-White Florets

Sometimes the simple act of boiling turns cauliflower brown. This browning is easily avoided by adding 1/2 cup of milk to the water. Another way to avoid the discoloration is to ditch the water and boil the cauliflower in milk instead. Overcooking also causes browning, so only cook the cauliflower until tender. Check tenderness by pressing a skewer into the florets. The florets should be soft yet hold their shape when pressed with the skewer; they should not be mushy.