What is the difference between a blender and a food processor?

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One of the most common questions we get is, what is the difference between a blender and a food processor?

And more importantly, do we really need both? 

At first glance, food processors and blenders do share some similarities in terms of looks and functions. Both consists of a container with blades and a base housing the motor. But that does not mean that they are always inter-changeable.

The 2 appliances have different structural designs and mechanisms that make that excel at different tasks. 

So, the short answer is – if you want to do the full range of culinary tasks in a well-equipped kitchen, you’ll need both blender and a food processor. 

However, it is not always realistic or practical to own both. 

It could be due to limited counter space, cost concerns or you simply don’t need it to do everything.

Perhaps, you are looking for something to take away the labor intensive tasks of meal prepping while making an occasional smoothie.

Or perhaps, what you want is a daily smoothie and just an occasional help with the tedious hand-chopping. 

If you are unsure about which appliance is the right one for you. You’ve come to the right place. 

We’ll share with you the difference between a blender and a food processor, when to use each appliance, as well as other more affordable and smaller alternatives to consider.

In this manner, you can determine which appliance is more suitable for you, or if you indeed need both of them.

Let’s dive in. 

Difference #1 – Blades

High speed blenders have blunt blades fixed at the bottom

Most high-speed blenders have a set of blades fixed at the bottom of the jar.

The most common blades are star-shaped or x-shaped. The blades are angled in a way to create a vortex to pull and whirl the ingredients towards the center of the jar for thoroughly blending.

There is another type of blade, known as “wing blades”, which are better suited for crushing ice. These are flat blades with the edges turned up or down. This set of blades

Most blenders are best suited for wet ingredients.

But some high end blenders, such as Vitamix, also have a different set of blade and jar to better handle dry ingredients.

These blades are designed to create a reverse vortex, which blasts the contents up and out. This helps to prevent the dry ingredients (such as flour or powders) from getting stuck or packed under the blades. 

Another interesting feature of the high speed blender blades is that they tend to be hard and durable, but blunt (rather than sharp). The blades are spinning so fast that the job gets done.

The dull blades also ensure that everything gets pulverize smoothly rather than being spliced up. 

I always found this analogy useful.

Would you use a hammer or samurai sword to crush ice? A dull hammer indeed.

However, the Ninja professional blender is an exception as it features a set of floating blades which are very sharp.

Food processors come with razor-sharp interchangeable blades and slicing discs

Food processors on the other hand come with multiple interchangeable blades and slicing discs.

The most common or standard blade is an s-shaped blade that you attach to a pin at the base of the work bowl. The blades are razor sharp so that it can cutthrough the thick, hard solid ingredients. They are positioned at 2 heights – the bottom blade scrapes the base while the one at the top chops things up.

Typically, the food processor also comes with additional accessories such as different slicing discs to cut things in different shapes and thickness. The different discs allow you to perform the different tasks (slice, shred, grate) with more control. These discs are placed at the top, just below the feed funnel.

Food processors are great helpers when it comes to meal prepping. Tedious and manual tasks such as grating potatoes can be completed in a matter of seconds, with great consistency.

Difference #2 – Speed

High speed blenders have more powerful motor (higher horsepower) compared to food processors. The blades spin at a much faster speed. 

Difference #3 – Shape of container

Blenders have taller jars, which are designed to create a vortex that pulls the ingredients down towards the center of the jar, where the blades sit, ensuring even blending. Tapered jars, such as Vitamix blenders, are among the most efficient shapes.

Some brands feature ribbed surfaces or ridges on the jar to increase the turbulence and effectiveness of the vortex. However that makes cleaning more difficult, so a balance is needed.

The jars are often pitcher-like with a handle and pouring spout so that it’s easier to pour out the contents.

Food processors have wider but shorter work bowl with a large flat base as the dry ingredients tend to spin outwards. The wide bowl makes it easier to process larger ingredients. The rounded corners and smooth surfaces also makes ensures that less food is trapped and clean up is easier. 

When do you use a blender?

Blending liquids and wet ingredients

Blenders are great for pulverizing wet ingredients. If you are blending liquids to make smoothies, soups, dips, sauces, dressings, purees and baby food, you should use a blender.

Even though foods such as puréed baby food, hummus and pesto can be made using either blender or food processor, the texture may differ. Pesto made from blenders are smoother compared to a food processor, so it really depends on your preference.

If you enjoy green smoothies, there will be no going back after you have tasted the silky smooth smoothies from high end blenders such as Vitamix and Blendtec. These blenders have peak horsepower of at least 2 horsepower and can fully pulverized even the toughest ingredients, such as kale. The texture of the smoothie is truly velvety and you won’t be able to see or taste any fine bits of kale, unlike standard blenders.

Crushing ice

Due to its ability to crush ice, you can also use a blender to make cocktails and frozen drinks.

Making homemade plant-based milk

You can also make your own homemade plant-based milk using ingredients such as oat, cashew, almond or hazelnut.

Making fresh nut butter

High speed blenders can also be used to make fresh nut butters from peanut, almond or cashew nut. It would work even better if the blender comes with tamper so that you can push down the chunks of food towards the blades.

Grinding gluten free flour

You can also grind grains and nuts to make your own gluten-free flour.

However, you have to be careful not to overdo it or else it will become butter.

If your blender comes with a pulse function, be sure to use that. Also, pause it and give the jar a little shake to reduce the packing.

It is possible to grind nuts and grains into flour using the high speed blender, such as the Vitamix, and its traditional jar. However, it is now even more convenient with Vitamix’s new dry container.

There is no minimum volume needed, unlike the wet jar. This is because the blades are designed differently to create a reverse vortex to prevent the powder from packing at the base around the blades. 

Nuts, grains and ice are very hard ingredients that could be tricky for cheaper standard blenders to handle.

They can also dull the blades over time. This is exactly what makes the expensive powerful blenders such as Vitamix and Blendtec unique. Their blades are blunt to begin with so you can be assured that their blending capability do not get compromised nor reduced over time. 

What can a blender NOT do?

A blender cannot slice, grate or shred vegetables and cheese. It is also unable to knead dough. 

You could still do some chopping like a food processor to make coarse food using the pulse setting. However, it is sometimes more tedious and you don’t get the same result as a food processor.

For example, you can make salsa using a blender on low speed. However, it wouldn’t achieve the same consistency as a food processor. The salsa from a blender will be thinner, more liquid and less chunky.

It is also possible to use a blender to make cauliflower rice. But it takes considerably more effort compared to a food processor.

You need to add the chunks of vegetables with enough water. This is to ensure that the vegetable floats in the water so that it will not get stuck with the blades and gets too mushy from over blending. After the blending, you still need to strain away the water and dry the riced cauliflower.

When do you use a food processor?

Chopping, slicing, grating, shredding

Food processor is the perfect kitchen assistant when it comes to meal prepping large quantities of ingredients. It is great for chopping, slicing, grating, shredding things very quickly and uniformly.

Tedious tasks that you would otherwise have to perform manually using a mandolin, grater box or sharp knife can be completed in seconds.

Cutting potatoes into fries, choping breadcrumbs and grating cheese are some of the tasks that a blender would not be able to do. The cheese will clump up if you are using a blender.

Kneading dough

You can also use a food processor to knead dough if you don’t already own a stand mixer.

Mixing ingredients

The food processor allows you to mix ingredients but retain the chunky texture. This is unlike a blender, which will completely pulverized the ingredients into a smooth uniform mixture.

Pesto, chunky salsa, energy balls and cookie dough are some of the food you can make in a food processor.

When making salsa with a food processor, you have a better control over the size of the ingredients and it is less liquid. Using a blender tend to give a thinner salsa (which may be almost pureed if you are not careful).

Making purees, dips and sauces (may not be completely smooth)

Food processors can also be used to make sauces, dips, dressings and baby purees where you don’t want it to be totally smooth. If you run it long enough, it will be smoother, but not as smooth as a blender.

What can a food processor NOT do?

Soups and runny sauces

You can’t do large volumes of liquids and may have to split the job into multiple batches. The food processor cannot be overfilled as the churning and agitation may cause the liquid to overflow and leak out from the lid.

Grind nuts (less ideal) 

Even though you can use a food processor to grind nuts, we don’t recommend that. Unlike high-speed blenders, food processors uses sharp blades. Hence if you are grinding nuts regular, the blades may get damaged over time.

Blender vs food processor – Which is the one for you?

The blender and food processor excel at different tasks. 

Generally speaking, you should use a blender when you are dealing predominately with liquids, such as making smoothies, soups, smooth purees, dips, sauces, dressings and crushing ice.

A high end blender such as a Vitamix can do some of the jobs of food processor, but results may not be as ideal. Some tasks such as slicing, grating and shredding just can’t be handled by a blender. 

Food processors on the other hand are suited for dry ingredients… solid foods. They can be used to take over labour intensive tasks of slicing, shredding, chopping, dicing and grating vegetables quickly and uniformly.

A great helper if you regularly meal prep large quantities. on the other, are not able to handle thin/smooth liquids as well as blenders. 

There are some jobs that both blender and food processor can perform, though one may be better than the other. 

If you have to choose just 1 appliance, it will depend on what you do most often. You can then supplement it with another smaller and cheaper gadget.

For example, if you have decided that a high-speed blender is better suited for your lifestyle, you could get a mini chopper for the occasional help to make a quick dip. 

Conversely, if you already own a food processor or have decided to buy one, there are other types of blenders that you can consider. An immersion blender is great for making purees and blending soups. They are compact and easy to clean. A personal blender or portable bottle blender may be the option for you if you just need an occasional smoothie.

These blenders are often smaller in footprint and more affordable compared to the high-end high-speed blenders. 

Best of both worlds?

Sometimes, it’s not too greedy to ask for more.

If you have come to the conclusion that you need both a blender and a food processor, I have a good news.

You don’t necessarily have to buy 2 separate appliances.

Thankfully, there are a lot more food processor blender combos available today.

Manufacturers, such as Vitamix, have also listened to their customers and released the food processor attachment to their blenders.

Hence, you can now enjoy the best of both worlds along with space saving benefits. The blender food processor combo uses a single base. So all you have to do is to change the attachment at the top depending on the function you want. 

If a combo is what you are thinking now, why not check out our review of the best blender food processor combos now?

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