Blender vs. Food Processor: When to Use Which for What

Whether it's soups, salad dressings, or sauces, learn which appliance is best for the job.

Preparing Pumpkin Soup in Domestic Kitchen
Photo: GMVozd / Getty Images

If you're thinking of whipping up a a creamy soup or batch of rich pesto, you may toss your ingredients into a blender, food processor, or immersion blender. And you might assume that all three work the same magic and are interchangeable, but they each serve their own purpose.

Learn what makes each appliance most useful and when to utilize each in your cooking:

Food Processor

A food processor combines a powerful motor with razor-sharp blades to finely cut foods.

"Food processors are best used when you need to prepare relatively dry ingredients. Think of a food processor as your personal kitchen assistant: it chops, slices, dices, mixes, and pulverizes ingredients to make the work of food preparation quicker and easier," says Sofia Norton, RD.

What can you use it for? Mincing vegetables, grating potatoes and cheese, grinding nuts, puréeing food, grinding meat, and kneading dough.

"Unlike blenders, food processors don't need liquid to work their magic. However, they should never be overfilled," says Norton. "That means they may not work well when making large batches of liquid meals like soups and smoothies," she adds.

And you'll need some good kitchen counter room to keep one at home. "Because these devices have big motors and large capacities, they tend to use up lots of kitchen space. Most come with additional blades and accessories, further adding to the problem," she says. However, there are mini food processors when lack of kitchen space is an issue, so feel free to grab a smaller version, instead.

Countertop Blender

Unlike food processors, traditional blenders don't need ultra-sharp blades to work. "Instead, their combination of powerful motors, large-capacity jars, and — most importantly — the addition of liquid is what makes them work," says Norton. So, you can't just toss in a bunch of dry ingredients as you would with a food processor and expect the blender to make it smooth and silky in texture.

"With that said, you should use blenders whenever you need to purée or liquefy large batches of food," she says. A countertop blender can make delicious smoothies, soups, sorbets, sauces, crushed ice cocktails, and more. As a bonus, blenders don't use up as much kitchen space and are easy to clean.

"You can also use new generation blenders with a 'chop' or 'pulse' function to get extra fancy, which is where a food processor would traditionally come in handy," says Norton. "However, they may not be as effective and quick as a food processor when used this way."

Immersion Blender

If you have a tiny apartment, an immersion blender might be your new best friend. "An immersion blender uses up the least kitchen space and gets very few dishes dirty," says Norton. "However, it is also the least powerful food processing device on the list with its tiny motor and gentle blades."

How best can you use it? Pull out the immersion blender for puréeing soups, sauces, and salad dressings. "Simply immerse the blender into a pot of cooked soup and blitz until creamy. You can use this device to mix, liquify, and puree semi-soft and soft ingredients," she says. Immersion blenders can also be utilized for making dishes like homemade mayonnaise, blending and aerating the recipe at the same time.

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