The Secret Ingredient for Keeping Your Veggies Vibrantly Colorful

Updated: Dec. 19, 2023

Is there anything baking soda can't do?

Boiling vegetables is one of the fastest and easiest ways to make a healthy meal. If done right, it keeps your vegetables crunchy and helps them retain most of their valuable nutrients. Plus, you don’t get any of the added fat or sugar from breading, glazes or other marinades. With fresh, ripe spring veggies, this simple method is one of the best ways to truly enjoy the full flavor of the vegetables.

The only downside? When you go to boil those vegetables for dinner, it can be oh-so-easy to overcook them. And then those poor veggies turn them from a gorgeous, vibrant green to an unappetizing grey or brownish color. Yuck! Fortunately, there’s an easy trick for slowing down the discoloration process so that your vegetables stay green and crunchy when you boil them. Better yet, it all comes down to one workhouse cleaning agent you probably already have in your pantry.

How to Keep Vegetables Colorful

Woman Removes Pesticides With Baking Soda by soaking fruits and vegetables CentrallTAlliance/Getty Images

The trick to keeping your vegetables colorful while boiling them is to add baking soda to the pot of water. The addition of baking soda will turn your water alkaline (or basic), as opposed to acidic.

But how and why does this happen? To understand why baking soda’s alkalinity keeps vegetables bright, it’s important to first understand how chlorophyll functions in vegetables.

How Baking Soda Affects Chlorophyll

Simply put, chlorophyll is the element that makes veggies so green. And when it is in an acidic environment, hydrogen replaces the magnesium in the core of the chlorophyll. Finally, when the magnesium is leached out of the chlorophyll, the chlorophyll goes dull and the vegetables turn grayish.

Because baking soda lessens the acidity of the cooking water, it also slows down the chlorophyll dulling process, thereby keeping the veggies greener for longer.

Things to Keep in Mind When Using the Baking Soda Hack

When trying the baking soda hack in your own kitchen, using the appropriate amount is key. Be sure to only use a pinch—less than 1/8 of a teaspoon—for a full pot of water. If you use more than that, you run the risk of imparting a bitter flavor to your vegetables.

Additionally, only use this hack for green vegetables, such as artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, green beans, kale, lettuce, snap peas or spinach. These vegetables have the highest chlorophyll content and therefore the highest potential of browning while boiling and staying green with baking soda.

And finally, because baking soda—sodium bicarbonate—does contain sodium, if you are on a low-sodium diet, this may not be the hack for you. While the amount of salt is minimal, it can still be impactful if you are on a strict health regimen.

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