Can you use a blender instead of a food processor? (Plus more blender FAQs)

Blender FAQs: How to clean a blender, can you use a blender instead of a food processor, and more
(Image credit: KitchenAid)

If you've ever wondered how to clean a blender or if it can be used as a food processor, you're in the right place. Our blender FAQs guide has the answers to those questions and more, including tips on deep-cleaning your blender if it's not dishwasher-safe and what foods you can and cannot place in it. 

The best blenders are increasingly made to be dishwasher-safe and stain-resistant, but if yours is giving you some grief, we've included two ways to clean it, including after gentle use and when tough stains need dislodging. 

Another FAQ asks if you can use a blender instead of a food processor. The best food processors are typically designed for different tasks to blenders, but there's significant crossover. Keep reading to find out more. 

(Image credit: Getty)

Can a blender be used as a food processor?

There are no quick answers to this question because it depends on what you intend to do. You’ve seen your blender easily puree soft fruits and vegetables, and you might want to try blending some heartier foods. Remember that most blenders lack the power or technology necessary to tackle all food types. Blenders are designed to create fibrous liquids. On the other hand, food processors come with multiple attachments to help you shred, chop, blend, and slice. 

For the difference between these two machines, check our guide on food processors vs. blenders. In some cases, you can use a food processor and a blender interchangeably. One such example is when making soup or sauces because they're wet enough to react well to the design of a blender but can still be blitzed in a food processor. 

Using a blender on certain foods will likely just break your motor or damage your blades. This differs for high-power blenders, like the Cuisinart Hurricane, which can handle various foods. However, these blenders can be way more expensive than the average blender. Suppose you’re looking for a machine that can help you chop vegetables, potatoes, cheese, and leafy greens, among other foods. In that case, you should consider the Cuisinart Custom 14-Cup DFP-14BCNY, the best overall food processor we tested.

How to clean a blender, can you use a blender instead of a food processor, and more blender FAQs

(Image credit: Amazon)

Foods you shouldn't put in a blender

As a general rule, keep your foods soft when using a blender. Resist the urge to grind coffee beans or cocoa beans in your blender. The same goes for hard nuts. Your blender's motor is likely not strong enough to work with these hard foods and may overheat if you try to blend them.

Similarly, you should never make dough in your blender. When the blades spin too quickly, combining water and flour, they create a very strong gluten bond that could permanently damage your device, and it won't make great bread either. It’s better to use a mixer or bread maker when making dough.

As Southern Living states, you also shouldn't blend potatoes. Since they’re made of starch, potatoes whipped in a blender have a gross, sticky texture far from fluffy like mashed potatoes should be.

Also, remember that strong-tasting foods, such as garlic, can leave a lingering flavor in your blender that might take several washes to get rid of. Nothing's more disappointing than taking a sip of your fruit smoothie and tasting onion.

You also want to avoid blending super hot liquids. Steam rising inside the blending cup can cause the lid to blow open, raining hot liquid down on your kitchen. That being said, some blenders are designed to blend soup, and we tested their ability to make great soup in our reviews. Just make sure the contents aren't too hot while in the blender.

How to clean a blender, can you use a blender instead of a food processor, and more blender FAQs

(Image credit: Getty)

Foods you might not know you can make with a blender

A blender can make so much more than smoothies, but you may not always have that in mind when buying one. Here are some ideas for getting a little more use out of your blender:

Condiments: Homemade mayonnaise might be quite nice for a special dish or even daily use, and it’s pretty easy to make if you have a good blender.Salad Dressings: With the right ingredients and five minutes, you can whip up some pretty amazing salad dressings. 

Nut butter is borderline, but if you soak nuts to make them easier to blend and add plenty of oils, you can make some pretty great nut butter with a blender.

Milk alternatives: Soak oats and water before blending, then strain to get great homemade oat milk. You can also follow the same process to make almond milk and cashew-based sauces for vegan mac and cheese. Yum.

Dips: A blender isn't going to work for chunky guacamole or complex salsa. However, it will work for smooth homemade dips like hummus.

Sauces: Pestos can be made in your blender or food processor, so whichever one is easier to use will work for different recipes.

How to clean a blender, can you use a blender instead of a food processor, and more blender FAQs

(Image credit: Getty)

How to clean a blender

You should clean your blender after every use because grime and leftovers can build up quickly and even go moldy in a blender pitcher or on the blades. One of the best ways to dislodge anything difficult to reach from your blender is to let the machine do the hard work. Here's how:

1. Add hot water to your blender: Not boiling, but hot enough to tackle any nasties. Add enough to fill roughly a quarter of your blender. 

2. Mix in some dish soap: Just a squirt will do—any more than that could cause a bubble explosion. Yes, this does sound like a terrible smoothie recipe so far.

3. Turn the blender on. Turn on your blender and blitz up your dish soap and hot water. The powerful blades will circulate your cleaning solution through the blender. 

4. Scrub for good luck: Check if anything's still clinging to your blender's side or the blades. Turn off the blender and give it a generous scrub with a bristled brush. 

5. Rinse and dry: Your soapy solution has done its work, so now it's time to rinse out the interior of your blender. This will remove any bubbles, which can add a pretty nasty taste to your next smoothie. Dry thoroughly, and if any stains or buildup remain, check out our instructions below on deep cleaning a blender. 

How to clean a blender, can you use a blender instead of a food processor, and more blender FAQs

(Image credit: Shuttershock)

How to remove blender stains 

After several smoothies, your blender might be in serious need of deep cleaning. Many blenders come with the advantage of dishwasher-safe pitchers, but it's rare to find one with a dishwasher-safe blade. Remember that abrasive chemicals and cleaners, such as bleach, can harm materials like ceramics and glazes. As with cleaning a refrigerator, you can't use anything harmful to ingest when cleaning a blender, as it could damage your machine and make its way into the food you blend. We've put together some instructions to help you safely remove stubborn stains:

1. Unplug the device: The last thing you want is to get a nasty shock.

2. Quick clean: Remove all food residue and wash the blade, jar, and lid in soapy water. If any element is dishwasher-safe and you have a dishwasher on hand, throw it in.  

3. Dry all components: Take a microfiber cloth and thoroughly clean everything. 

4. Tackle the stains: Now you’re ready to tackle the deep stains. Mix one tablespoon of baking soda and one teaspoon of white vinegar per cup of warm water to make a paste. Apply topically or dilute for a general clean. You need enough liquid to submerge the items you’re cleaning.

5. Now we wait... Submerge or cover any parts with stubborn stains for one to two hours. Never submerge the component holding the motor, as this can render it useless and dangerous.

6. Get scrubbing: Use a sponge to remove any residue. Check to see if the stains are gone. You might need to remove your spare toothbrush and scrub some things before the stains disappear.

7. If that's not enough... If the baking soda and vinegar mixture doesn’t work, it’s time to pull out the big guns. Consider using a razor or knife to carefully shave off harder stains and buildup from any superficial elements. Don't do this on anything essential, such as the base of your blender or a part of the lid that could break.

8. Base time: If the base of your blender needs cleaning, use a damp, soapy rag to wipe away grime and smudges. Be careful not to allow water to drip into the motor area, as this will damage your blender.

How to clean a blender, can you use a blender instead of a food processor, and more blender FAQs

(Image credit: KitchenAid)

Glass or plastic blender pitchers: Which is better? 

The material your blender's jar is made of on a day-to-day basis might not matter too much. Over time, though, the jar material might make a difference. There are three types of jars:

Glass blender pitchers

Pros: Glass is incredibly durable and looks good after years of use. It is extremely resistant to scratches and does not absorb food smells like some plastic jars.

Cons: Glass blender jars are pretty heavy. As such, some people may find them difficult to use. Also, they can shatter if you drop them at a bad angle. The latest jars are designed to resist breaking – but they are glass, and glass can break.

Plastic blender pitchers

Pros: Plastic pitchers are lighter than glass ones, which makes them easier to clean and carry. Also, you don’t risk them shattering if you drop them.

Cons: They tend to discolor over time. In addition, they get scratched up, especially if you crush a lot of ice, and the cheaper ones absorb odor.

Stainless steel blender pitchers

Pros: Though still rare outside of restaurants, stainless steel jars are starting to appear with household blenders. They look very sleek and are also very durable and stain-resistant.

Cons: You can’t see what is happening inside the jar, so it might be harder to track blending progress. Also, they tend to be expensive.

Millie Fender
Head of Reviews

Millie Fender is Head of Reviews at Top Ten Reviews. She also works on our sister sites: Real Homes, Ideal Home, Homes & Gardens, and Livingetc. As Head of Reviews, Millie is on a mission to make sure that we are reviewing all of the latest and greatest products for you and your home, whether it's a vacuum cleaner or an inflatable hot tub.