Whether you are a kitchen pro or a newbie to what you can do in that magical room, you may not be aware of the versatility of modern blenders such as those in the Ninja line. In our ever-increasing press to save money and streamline our lives, it might be tempting to use a powerful Ninja blender as a food processor just so you don’t need to purchase a whole other appliance. But wait! Is that possible? Is it even wise?
Can you use your Ninja blender as a food processor? Yes, Ninja blenders can be used as food processors for certain tasks such as chopping, some nut butters, and making soups, but they are not very good at slicing and they cannot knead bread dough very well.
Deciding to use a Ninja blender as a food processor will take some consideration on your part. You’ll need to first think of all the things you might need a food processor for and then decide if the blender can do a good enough job or not. Below, I’ve taken the guesswork out of this process! I’ll tell you what food processor tasks blenders can do and how well they do them, plus I’ll even give you some tips to help you make your Ninja blender more efficient and useful in your kitchen.
The differences between a blender and a food processor
To fully understand how and why Ninja blenders can do some tasks and not others, it’s imperative to know what the main differences are between blenders and food processors. They’re both kitchen appliances that come in many sizes and price points, and they both have fast-spinning blades, but that is where the similarities end.
Food processors were invented to take some of the tedium out of time-consuming kitchen tasks. They are designed to handle a wide range of kitchen duties including chopping, slicing, cutting, shredding, making purees and nut butters, and even mixing and kneading bread dough. They do this by providing a huge variety of speeds and strengths, plus many come with special attachments to make the jobs even more complete. These are precision appliances meant for serious food prep and beautiful presentation.
Blenders, on the other hand, were invented for a pretty basic purpose. They were originally designed to blend liquids such as drinks and soups. At first, that was all they could do, and many could not even crush ice to put in those drinks. Eventually, the blades became stronger and sharper and the motors were given an upgrade, then people could make smoothies and frozen adult beverages. Yum!
However, modern blenders have grown up and expanded their usefulness even beyond party night cocktails and healthy, frozen breakfast drinks. Ninja blenders are among the best modern blenders with extended capabilities for a reasonable price. They offer some of the same features as food processors, but may not excel in all of them. They don’t typically come with multiple blade styles or attachments either. Blenders are meant for simplicity.
Bottom line: If you care about the consistency, uniformity, and precision part of food prep, you should go with a food processor. If you just want to get things done quickly, a Ninja blender can replace a food processor in many cases.
What can I make in my Ninja blender?
The following list shows you what sort of things you can make in a blender, including many items usually done in a food processor. We’d love to hear your ideas, too, so don’t be afraid to leave a comment with your experiences.
- Nut butters
- Chopped vegetables and fruits
- Chopped meats and seafood
- Medium-thickness batters such as pancake and waffle batters
- Thin batters such as crepe batter
- Wet breads such as banana bread and zucchini bread
- Spice mixes
- Pizza crust (gluten-free cauliflower crust)
- Condiments such as ketchup and mayonnaise
- Bread crumbs and cracker crumbs
- Crumble toppings for sweets
- Mashed potatoes or cauliflower
The list is quite a bit longer, but these are things I’ve done myself. I have used both a Ninja blender and a Vitamix to make these items, and honestly… they performed about the same. So, if you want to save some money and want to make some of this stuff, go with the Ninja.
How to use a Ninja blender as a food processor
It’s not likely that the average person would want or need a full-blown food processor. Most people are too busy to bother with all the set up and break down, the cleaning, and learning to use the machine in the first place. Thankfully, Ninja blenders can be used as food processors if you know how to make it work. I actually have a food processor, but I use my blender whenever possible because it’s just so much easier.
You shouldn’t just toss a bunch of stuff in the blender jar and pray, though. I suppose you can if you don’t mind having “random smoothie of questionable origin” as your next meal, but I would not recommend that. Using a blender as a food processor takes a little know-how and practice. I can’t give you all my practice, but I can certainly share my know-how.
Here are some tips for making a few of the tougher items listed above.
Food processors are your best friend when making nut butters, but a Ninja blender can handle the job, too. It just takes a little ingenuity. Food processors do all the work for you with nut butters, but you’ll need to babysit your blender. You’ll want to use the pulse setting on your Ninja to process nut butters. I’ve had the best luck with peanuts, cashews, and almonds, but I know a few people who have done other kinds of nuts.
The secret is to pulse for a few seconds at a time, scrape down the sides, then pulse again. Your goal is to pulverize everything down while simultaneously mixing the natural oils in thoroughly. This can be tough in blenders because of the way they work. You’re not liquifying the nuts, so watch closely. If you want to add other flavors, do so at the last one or two pulses.
Making salsa in a Ninja blender can be really fun, but it can get super messy in a split second, so watch carefully. This is another time you’ll want to use the pulse setting only. Put all your ingredients into the blender. It’s best to cut the tomatoes into slices and smaller veggies into strips.
Pulse just once for about 2 seconds, then stop. Let it settle for a few seconds, then open it up and check the consistency. If you like it really chunky, this might be enough for you. If you want a little more slosh in your salsa, give it one more quick pulse. You can keep doing this until you reach the right consistency for your recipe.
Wet Breads and Quick Breads
Any bread recipes that do not require kneading can be done in a blender. It’s imperative that you do not try to use a blender for very thick, heavy doughs. This can burn out your motor and void your warranty. But wet, thinner breads such as banana bread and zucchini bread are perfectly moist and delicious when mixed in a blender.
Cut the zucchini or bananas into reasonable chunks, toss in the blender with the rest of the ingredients, and blitz away. The blades with shred those suckers up for you in seconds. It’s also nice that you’ll only have one bowl to clean when you’re all done. Pour the batter right into your baking pan.
There is one caveat to this tip. If your recipe explicitly states that the dry ingredients need to be mixed together first, do so in the blender jar before you add the wet stuff.
When using a blender to make batters, you’ll want to pay close attention to the bubbles. A lot of batters will begin to break down if you mix them too much. This is especially true for pancake batter. You can tell if it’s too much if you start to see bubbles or any kind of foam. That’s way too much mixing!
Just use the pulse functionality for a few seconds at a time. A few bubbles are okay, but for pancake batter, you want to see some small clumps.
Thin batters, such as those for crepes, should be mixed very well. This is a perfect chore for a blender. Just be sure to scrape down the sides of the jar every so often.
Chopped Veggies and Fruits
I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve seen someone online claim you cannot use a blender to chop fruits and veggies. They are so very wrong, folks. Trust me on this one. I’m a lazy chef sometimes and don’t want to chop my veggies. I toss those babies right into my blender and give them a good pulse or two.
I’ve had great success with zucchini, onions, cauliflower, various squashes, carrots, and spinach. Tomatoes and celery weren’t too happy with the ride and either were leafy greens, but if they were going into soup, stew, or other sloppy foods it didn’t matter anyway.
The secret to using your blender to chop vegetables is that magical pulse button. IT only takes a second or two!
Chopped Meats and Seafood
It really trips people out when they watch me use my blender to chop meats or seafood. People see a blender and think smoothies or frozen drinks, so when I toss some chicken in there, they always make faces. It’s actually pretty entertaining.
A Ninja blender has sharp enough blades to finely chop cooked meats. You’ll get better results if the meat is cooked until just done, then chilled in the fridge to firm it up a bit. Right out of the oven, it’s very soft and will just fall apart. That’s great for shredded meats, but if you want it chopped, you have to be patient.
An hour in the fridge is usually sufficient for me, but time your own fridge and see how long you need to wait. You can spend that time preparing other parts of your meal.
Do not try to chop raw meat in your blender. Not only is that a bacterial mess waiting to poison your family, but it’s not going to work. Uncooked meat is just too slippery and pliable. For blender blades to cut like a food processor, they need a little resistance from the ingredients.
Mashed Potatoes or Mashed Cauliflower
Many people use a mixer to mash up their boiled potatoes and cauliflower, but others use a food processor. Now you know that you can also use a blender to make mashed potatoes and cauliflower. You’ll want to make sure the veggies are well-cooked, then add your butter or other fat, then add your liquid. I use cream, but lots of folks use milk or milk substitutes. Whatever you use, put it in last.
Let that sit for about a minute to let some of the liquid trickle in and the butter or other fat to melt. Then… you guessed it, pulse. How many times you pulse will depend on how many chunks you want in your mashed taters.
I hope it’s pretty clear by now that you can use your Ninja blender as a food processor for a large number of recipes. If you’d like to try it out yourself, I suggest starting with easy stuff like salsa or sorbet. These items only need a little pulse and you can usually just drop all the ingredients in at once.
If in doubt, just pulse for a few seconds, no matter what you’re making. You can always blend a little more if you haven’t done it enough. But you can’t un-blend something if you take it too far. When using your blender as a food processor, you want to use short, controlled pulses and keep a close eye on things.
Can you use a blender instead of a food processor? Yes, but only for certain tasks. You can make butters, purees, batters, and chopped vegetables in a blender.
Can you use a blender instead of a food processor for cauliflower? Yes! A blender works very well for both raw and cooked cauliflower.