When to Use a Blender vs. a Food Processor
Don’t pass up a great recipe because you’re missing an appliance. Our Test Kitchen pros explain how to make the most of your kitchen tools.
I have a confession. As a former caterer, current cookbook creator and overall foodie, I have to share something: 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 Blender or Food Processor
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.
Soft or Crunchy
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.”
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.
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!
Josh Rink, Taste of Home Food Stylist, contributed to this article.