Have good blender, need food processor?
August 15, 2015 1:01 PM   Subscribe

Can a blender reasonably substitute for a food processor?

If so, are there things which it can substitute well/poorly for, and are there things I should do to make it work better?

I have a reasonably nice blender, and I enjoy cooking. I see many recipes which call for using a food processor. I'm in a studio apartment, so kitchen/storage space is rather limited and I'd like to avoid more appliances where possible. (But if it turns out that a food processor really is the best thing for its purpose, I'll be better-able to keep that in mind if I get more space)
posted by CrystalDave to Food & Drink (18 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
You can total live without a food processor, but a blender isn't a substitute for one. Blenders require wetter mixtures and well, blend/puree.

Food processors are better for things that demand some texture or are thicker purees (like hummus or forcemeats) also a food processor is good to things like chopping and shredding vegetables in bulk, although for smaller amounts a knife is better. For doughs I prefer my hands or my stand mixer, but they can be useful there.

Tl;Dr a complement not a substitute.
posted by JPD at 1:12 PM on August 15, 2015 [3 favorites]

What do you want to do? A blender is never going to slice or grate, and it can't moderately chop things (nuts, butter into flour for dough) or make dough.

I have not had a blender (aside from somewhere in a box in the garage) in years, but the food processor lives within reach at all times, as does my stick blender. I did buy one of those $20 smoothie-maker-cup blenders, which is very slim and lives in a weird nook created by the microwave that not much else was going to fit into, but it gathers dust - I don't drink a lot of smoothies or daiquiris.

99% of my blender work is replaced by the stick blender - I make mayo in the jar it'll be stored in every week, emulsified salad dressings and sauces, puree soup right in the pot. The one thing it's crap at is crushing ice, which I can see being a dealbreaker if you have a lot of pulverized-ice requirements like smoothies or drinks.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:16 PM on August 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

Yep, not a substitute at all, but not a necessity either. What kinds of things do you want to be able to cook regularly?

I use my food processor for hummus, pesto, and a few other dips and sauces, as well as pie dough if I'm in a rush. You can't make hummus, pesto, or dip very well in the blender, but you can make pie crust by hand, no problem. Everything else, a blender can handle.

Depending on what kinds of things you want to make, I highly recommend an immersion blender. Some models even come with a mini food processor-type attachment, that can work ok for small amounts of pesto/hummus type purees.
posted by Knicke at 1:16 PM on August 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

They aren't substitutes, but very handy for chopping in quantity and they do work for kneading. I've had my Cuisinart processor, still going strong, since my apartment days. I used to store it when it wasn't in use on the counter.
posted by bearwife at 1:35 PM on August 15, 2015

How many people are you cooking for? You can get mini-food processors; I was gifted with one in college that worked pretty well for amounts of ~3 cups or so. If you're cooking for 1 or 2 people for the most part could you get away with it, they take up very little room.

If you do a lot of entertaining or like to make large batches of stuff and freeze, then you might as well get a just get full size one, though --- running four batches of something through the mini will take you more time than hand chopping if you have any knife skills at all.

Whether or not a food processor is a must-have though is really down to your cooking style. If you're making a lot of salsas or mirepoix or something, then having one can really help. If you do a lot of grilling or roasting whole veg, you might not actually haul it out that much.

Also, I assume you have a dishwasher? I don't, and because of that I don't use mine that often. There's a ton of recipes where you can save a few minutes of prep time by running stuff through the food processor. Far fewer recipes where you can save the 10+ minutes it'll take you to hand wash all the pieces afterwards.

That said, I am glad to have one around for the cases where it really does come in handy. Homemade pizza dough is a recipe that's tons easier with the processor than any other method --- it'll bring together the ingredients well enough that you don't really need to hand-knead.
posted by Diablevert at 1:35 PM on August 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

For what it's worth, I've never failed at making fantastic, creamy hummus in my pretty good blender.

I do a lot of cooking at home and totally get by without a food processor.
posted by wats at 2:26 PM on August 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

With a good blender, you can make hummus, pesto, dips, and the like. The only issue can be with something like pesto, you may find that small amounts don't blend, though you can have this problem in a food processor too.

The only things that I would say you really can't do with a blender is grind nuts (though this is sort-of possible for some nuts with very fancy blenders), coarsely chop things relatively evenly (e.g. bread crumbs) and make doughs (but food processors really only excel at biscuit or pie doughs, which you can make by hand just as well in about two extra minutes). Of course, there is also slicing and grating, but unless you are doing a tonne at once, those are faster by hand.
posted by ssg at 3:06 PM on August 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

For a few years I tried to get by with a blender. I made things like hummus and pesto in it. It was always really difficult to get the mixture to blend evenly -- I had to stop and stir a lot. I tried to use it to chop herbs and nuts and had the same problem.

I bought a good food processor a while back (12-cup Kitchenaid) and use it basically every time I cook. Hummus and pesto are much, much easier in it than they ever were in a blender. It's super easy to chop herbs, nuts, carrots, large amounts of garlic, etc. I also use it very often to cut in butter when making biscuits or pie crust, and even more often to quickly mix and knead bread dough. I used to do those things by hand, but the food processor gives me much better, faster, easier results. I mean, I can mix and knead bread dough in under a minute.

So I say no, a blender can't substitute for a food processor. And a good-quality food processor is a really worthwhile purchase (look online for refurbished Kitchenaid or Cuisinart brands -- refurbished is cheaper). If you ask me, it's well worth the counter space it takes up.

I do use my blender quite often for smoothies and puréeing sauces and soups. I'm glad I have both. But if I had to choose between them, I'd choose the food processor, no contest.
posted by snowmentality at 3:17 PM on August 15, 2015

We bought a Ninja blender with a food processor attachment. It's reasonably similar to the cheapish food processor we had previously. Costco's price on this ($160) was something like $60 less than Amazon's.
posted by cnc at 6:12 PM on August 15, 2015

Things I do regularly-ish in the food processor that wouldn't work in a blender:

Shredding cabbage (helpful for the salads I make in large quantity and bring to work for lunch)
Grating carrots (ditto)
Grating cheese for any quantities greater than "parmesan on top of one plate of pasta" (I *hate* cheese graters; I always grate my knuckles)
Slicing onions in mass quantities (like for French onion soup)
Bread crumbs from leftover bread
Chopping nuts (not super often)
Dough (not super often)

I use it for some other stuff (like hummus) but could probably get by with either my blender or my immersion blender for those things, too.

I definitely use the immersion blender more often than the food processor, but I hardly ever use the big blender. And for a while I tried to survive with just the two blenders, but I realized the food processor was more helpful than the big blender for the stuff I was making regularly.
posted by jaguar at 7:19 PM on August 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

posted by Miko at 7:56 PM on August 15, 2015

Yeah, you're doing this backwards. What you basically want for higher-skilled cooking with less spacec is a food processor and a stick blender. My stick comes with 3 or 4 attachments that totally replaced the prior traditional unit. We live in a tiny house and our food processor is a small version; you can get a 9 or 6 cup version that is not a "mini" because those tend to just chop.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:09 PM on August 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

I've always considered a food processor to be a more basic cooking appliance than a blender. You can *basically* blend in a good (high speed) food processor, given enough time. You might not be able to get things to be creamy smooth, and you won't have the aerating action. But you basically can't food process in a blender. So if you like to cook, swapping one for the other actually seems reasonable to me, unless you're a big smoothie person.
posted by Jack Karaoke at 9:16 PM on August 15, 2015

There are many things you can do by hand/etc. (chopping, shredding and all) that a food processor can do and a blender can do the the rest. But ...

Get a food processor. Really. I didn't have one for so long and once I had one, I would come up with excuses to use it (I have a really great, high-power blender too). It's an appliance I feel like it absolutely worth it. You will never take my food processor away.

You can definitely find cheaper ones (but I do recommend buying the biggest one you can afford).

And yeah, I guess if it's a choice, pick the food processor over the blender, but each does a specific thing the other doesn't. You probably need both. But both are worth it.
posted by darksong at 10:33 PM on August 15, 2015

I gave up my trusty food-processor (24 years old) recently, mainly because I'd been gifted a KitchenAid stand mixer and there was not room on the counter for both. So now I have the KitchenAid, with some extras (meat grinder and juicer), and a stick blender with some extras (mini-blender and slicer).
I am missing my food-processor because I had a lot of habits of use (and hey, 24 years), but objectively, there is nothing I cooked before that I can't do with the new combination.

Several above mention hummus, 25 years ago, I broke my blender making hummus, and since then I haven't had a real blender here. I haven't missed it. After the food-processor has gone, I use either the meat-grinder for a very authentic ME-feel to the hummus, or the stick blender for a more quick and dirty approach. Both are good. Made smoothies for breakfast just yesterday with the stick blender in a tall jar - it takes 30 secs more, but is easier to clean, and the smoothies were well-aerated and delicious.

The thing I really miss, which I can still do, but not as easily, is slice potatoes. I love all sorts of potato casseroles and gratins and moussaka etc. Before, slicing a kilo took less than 5 mins. Now it can take up to 10, because the slicer-application for my stick blender is small and slow. Maybe in the end, this is terrible enough for me to get a new processor. But for now, I try laughing at myself. I mean, what about a knife and a cutting board.. If you use a lot of sliced onions, you'll have the same problem.
posted by mumimor at 1:10 AM on August 16, 2015

I've owned a couple of cheap to medium-priced blenders. Blenders at my house always end up in the same situation: I overwork them and burn out the motor.

I also have a food processor (Cuisinart brand) from the early 80s. Still works great after over 30 years.

I think in both cases, you can get a nice item if you spend enough. My impression is that a regular mass-market blender tends to be less sturdy than a regular, mass-market food processor. If I wanted another blender, I'd probably buy a very high-end one.

That said, my cooking habits don't need a blender. There's one thing a good blender can do that you're unlikely to do in a food processor: crushed ice. There's a set of things that I'd expect both can do well, like pureed strawberries. There are some things I do all the time in my food processor that you really couldn't do in a blender, like cake batter. And, food processors have lots of extra potential disks and attachments for slicing, kneading, what have you, by definition you can't do those in a blender.

Note that there's also overlap between what people do in food processors and other kitchen appliances. A lot of things you do in a food processor you could do in a big Kitchen Aid mixer. Or a bread machine. Making powdered almonds is sort-of-okay in my food processor, perfect in my small electric coffee grinder. (And of course, for centuries, people did all these things by hand, although in fancy kitchens, you probably had an underling to do the drudge work for you....)

If you get a lot of enjoyment out of serving drinks that require a blender, obviously you'd want to go in that direction.
posted by gimonca at 10:50 AM on August 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

You're never going back to a cutting board and knife after you use a food processor to chop onions.
posted by redlines at 1:47 PM on August 16, 2015

Thanks for the help, everyone! Not sure which one to mark as "Best" since there were each different points raised, but I went ahead and got a mini-processor for until I find more kitchen space.

(Now if only I knew this before I got the blender to begin with...)
posted by CrystalDave at 12:25 PM on September 15, 2015

« Older Help me find someone to help me help myself?   |   Help me find a great dedicated Blu-ray shelving... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.