When to Use a Food Processor vs. a Blender
Don’t pass up a great recipe because you’re missing an appliance. Our Test Kitchen pros explain the food processor vs. blender debate, plus offer tips on how to make the most of your kitchen tools.
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As a former caterer, current cookbook creator and overall foodie, I have a confession: I don’t own a food processor.
Sure, I have a few blenders (from a margarita phase I went through in my 20s), but whenever I asked fellow cooks about food processors, they usually dismissed them, saying I likely didn’t need one.
Fast-forward a few years, and my heart still sinks when I find a dynamo recipe, only to read that it calls for a food processor. Granted, many recipes indicate that I can use a blender instead, but not all—and, of course, those are the ones I want to try the most.
I reached out to my friend and Taste of Home Food Stylist Josh Rink for advice. After all, Josh works in the Taste of Home Test Kitchen all day. If anyone knew the ins-and-outs of the blender vs. food processor dilemma, it’s him, right?
“There really aren’t any rules about substituting a blender for a food processor,” Josh said with a smile. “But I do have a few thoughts about when it might be better to use one in place of the other.”
What to Consider When Choosing a Food Processor vs. Blender
Food Processor vs. Blender: Texture
When considering swapping the use of a blender for a food processor, Josh suggests thinking about the shapes of the two appliances. “A blender’s pitcher narrows at the bottom, helping to funnel the ingredients to the base,” he says.
As such, blenders are great for emulsifying ingredients, like a vinaigrette, a creamy Caesar dressing or a frosty shake. “I found that because the food processor’s base is wide, emulsifying small-yield recipes, such as salad dressings, is difficult,” he adds.
A basic blender works great for softer foods, especially foods with high water content. “A perfect example of when to substitute a blender for a food processor is when making soup,” Josh explains. “If a recipe calls for processing a thick, creamy soup in batches, then a blender should work just fine.”
Conversely, the wide, flat base and large blade of a food processor works well for dry, crunchy foods. “It’s perfect for processing things like graham crackers, cookies or wafers into crumbs for the crust of a cheesecake,” he adds. “Trying to do the same in a standard blender could be pretty frustrating.”
If you’re not sure where your recipe falls, check out our handy list below:
The Best Foods to Make in a Food Processor:
- Cookie or graham cracker crusts
- Nut butters (We love this creamy cashew butter.)
- Chopped veggies
- Shredded cheese
Be sure to read our list of the best mini food processors.
The Best Foods to Make in a Blender:
- Smoothies (We love making them in a portable blender!)
- Blended drinks (Hello, pina coladas!)
By the way, do you know the difference between a blender and an immersion blender?
Food Processor vs. Blender: Quality and Power
The quality of the appliances and the power of their motors makes a huge difference of what can be accomplished with a blender or a food processor.
“High-end blenders would be able to handle certain foods better and produce a better result,” Josh says. In other words, if you want a blender that can do it all, you might need to spend a bit more. Vitamixes are pricey but worth it. These are the best Vitamix blenders you can buy.
Food Processor vs. Blender: Attachments
Food processors usually come with some pretty cool attachments that blenders do not. “Some recipes call for chopping with a food processor or even shredding or slicing,” adds Josh. “Obviously a blender cannot duplicate these functions.”
I think it might be time to reserve my blenders for margaritas and add a food processor to my wish list!
What to Consider When Buying a Blender
When buying a blender, there are four key components to keep in mind:
- Size: Are you planning to blend for just one or two people? Or an entire family? Since blender capacities range anywhere from three to 14 cups, keep size in mind while shopping. This metric also impacts how much storage space you’ll need!
- Speed and power: A blender with three to 10 settings and a 500 watt motor will meet most people’s needs. If you want extra power for crushing ice, making nut butters or other difficult tasks, consider a blender with more power.
- Special attachments: Some blenders double as coffee grinders or single-serve smoothie makers. Take note of any special attachments you may like, as well as ones that you definitely won’t use.
- Price: Blenders cost anywhere from $30 to several hundred dollars. Set a budget and stick to it!
The Best Blenders, According to Our Test Kitchen
Learn more about our top blender picks.
What to Consider When Buying a Food Processor
When buying a food processor, consider these four key components:
- Capacity: If you’ll be using your food processor for meal prep, bigger is better. But for the occasional onion chop or homemade dressing, you can get away with a smaller food processor. Before hitting “add to cart,” evaluate what you intend to use your food processor for.
- Blade: Ideally you want a sharp blade that reaches every piece of food and chops with uniform precision. Some food processors also come with blade attachments for shredding and slicing.
- Price: While even the most expensive processors don’t cost as much as a high-end blender, there’s still a wide range of prices to choose from. Expect to spend anywhere from $20 to $300.
The Best Food Processors, According to Our Test Kitchen
Still deciding? Check out the details in our food processor buying guide.
Josh Rink, Taste of Home Food Stylist, contributed to this article.