Perhaps you’re just starting out on a clean-eating journey, wanting to prepare more meals at home, but buying both a high-speed blender and a food processor at one time is not realistic. Or you value each square inch of counter space and simply don’t have room for two new appliances. Or maybe you’re like me and really wish you had just one appliance that could do everything to keep things minimal.
So, what do you do? Do you buy a high-speed blender or a food processor?
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To be perfectly honest, I own both – a Vitamix blender and a Breville food processor*. I love both, but didn’t buy either. The Vitamix was a gift from my husband’s grandma and the food processor was a wedding gift. I use one of them every day, and some days I use them both. However, if I could only keep one of these appliances, it would be the Vitamix.
While there are many similarities between these two appliances, they do have structural differences to make them each uniquely suited to specific culinary tasks. Which one is better ultimately depends on what you want to use it for.
In this quick review, I break down the differences between a blender vs food processor, what I use each appliance for, and why I think the Vitamix is a better choice.
Differences Between Blender vs Food Processor
The job of both blenders and food processors is to lighten up the work load and make food preparation easier. Both appliances use blades and motors to accomplish their tasks, but the particular mechanisms are different.
There are four types of blenders:
- High-speed blenders
- Standard (conventional) blenders
- Personal (space-saving) blenders
- Immersion blenders
For the simplicity of this review, I will only focus on high-speed blenders, specifically the Vitamix, which according to Cook’s Illustrated and Food Network is the gold standard of blenders.
The motor of a high-speed blender is typically more powerful (has more horsepower) than that of a food processor, allowing the blades to spin quickly. This is why blenders are able to achieve the silky-smooth texture so characteristic of blended foods. However, blender blades are not very sharp. In fact, they are quite blunt – still you don’t want to stick your hand in there, but what mixes things up is the powerful motor.
The blade is fixed in a cone-shaped container. This configuration encourages the contents of a blender to fall towards the middle of the container, forming a vortex in the middle.
A food processor, on the other hand, uses removable “ridged and razor-sharp” blades, which allow them to slice through thicker and more substantial foods. The blades are larger than those of a blender and positioned at two different heights. The bottom one scrapes the base and the higher one chops things from above, designed for pulverizing solid food into smaller pieces. This, plus the addition of accessories like a shredder blade and slicing discs, allows a food processor to accomplish a number of labor intensive tasks.
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The bowl of a food processor is flat and wide, ideal for drier ingredients that can spin outward.
When to Use a High-Speed Blender
Vitamix is a professional high-speed blender. f you walk into a smoothie bar or a coffee shop, you will most likely find a Vitamix blender making the drink you keep coming back for. This machine will pulverize just about anything you put into it.
A Vitamix blender wins on all classic blending tasks, such as smoothies, plant milks, soups, sauces, dressings, and purees. It’s also great for thick blends, such as frozen desserts, icy drinks, nut butters, dips, and spreads. Its dominance comes from the combination of the powerful motor, the circulation vortex, and the tamper. The tamper allows you to push ingredients down without having to stop the machine, open the lid, and scrape down the sides. These features are also what makes Vitamix machines better and more versatile than any other blender on the market.
Grinding nuts, seeds, legumes, and grains into flour can be tricky with a standard blender. You might be able to actually do it, but it will take a long time and leave a lot “mealy” texture that you will have to sift out. More importantly, most blenders are not designed for grinding. Hard grains and legumes will dull the blades and wear the motor out quicker than desired.
This is why Vitamix developed a “dry” container (48-ounce/1.4-liter and 32-ounce/0.9-liter) with a blade design intended to grind grains, legumes, and nuts. The blades on the dry container blast things out and up as opposed to the Vitamix standard “wet” container that blends things together. Another way to think about it, the blades in the dry container create a reverse vortex, pushing dry ingredients away from the blades to prevent packing.
Remember having shaved ice (aka snowballs, snow cones) as a kid? The same consistency as dot ice cream – differently sized, but small bits of ice that all stick together when put into a single container. Sure, you could use a shaved ice maker to make snowballs, but why not use a Vitamix? Just toss in ice and blend for a few seconds.
Shaving and crushing ice is not an easy task for regular blenders. Blenders with lower wattage can chop ice, but not blend it. Low-quality blades can scrape the ice, but not crush it. So if you don’t want your regular blender’s life to end, think wisely about the job you give to your blender.
Note: Vitamix instructions say to add water to your ice before crushing but many tests and users have no problem blending ice with a Vitamix without liquid. If you add water with the ice as instructed, then you might have to strain the water out after crushing.
When to Use a Food Processor
Chopping, Grating, Shredding, Slicing
A food processor is the perfect tool when you need something that requires a large quantity of chopping, grating, or shredding. Think cauliflower risotto (with cauliflower acting as the “rice” part in the risotto), coleslaw (with thinly sliced cabbage, carrots, and onions), breading (with finely chopped nuts and seeds), or even shredded cheese. The Vitamix can also chop, in a sense, but I find the results much more consistent in the food processor.
Now, something that the Vitamix definitely can’t do is slicing. Food processors have the advantage of adjustable slicing disks that allow you to evenly slice and grate ingredients. Your only job is to make sure you have the right attachment in place. I use these disks for cutting potatoes in fries, beets and yams into slices for chips, and onions into rings. It’s easy, fast, and efficient. This is how chefs and cooks in restaurant kitchens crank out top quality food in record time.
While blenders work beautifully for pastry batters in need of aeration, heartier doughs like the ones required for breads, pie crusts and biscuits achieve their sturdy texture thanks to the blades of a food processor. Of course, if you have a KitchenAid mixer, you’ll probably prefer that for the size of the bowl. But your food processor can perfectly knead your dough for virtually anything you want to bake.
Want to make fresh pasta dough? A food processor can handle that too with the benefit of significantly cutting down on the prep time.
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Food processors shine when you need to mix (blend) something but don’t want the result to be completely smooth. This includes things like pesto, chunky salsa, homemade energy balls, snack bars, raw pie crusts, cookie dough, etc.
Raw desserts are actually the number one reason I wanted a food processor. Mixing nuts and dates into energy balls just doesn’t happen in a blender. Actually, it does, which is where things begin to overlap a little …
Crossover Between Blender vs Food Processor
In many cases, a high-speed blender can be used as a food processor and vice versa.
By using lower speeds, a Vitamix can leave texture in things like pesto and salsa. The pulse function allows you to make raw crusts and energy balls. The dry container is great for kneading dough. Even chopping is possible in the Vitamix – simply add large pieces of vegetables and enough water to float the chunks off the blades (the water will circulate the vegetables past the blades and keep them from getting stuck), blend, and then drain the vegetables using a colander.
A food processor can easily handle dressings, sauces, dips, spreads, frozen desserts, and nut butters. If you let your food processor run long enough, you can even get smooth results (although not quite as smooth as if you used a high-speed blender). Making flour out of whole grains and legumes is doable in a food processor although not ideal because the hard grains and legumes will eventually dull and can potentially damage the sharp blade. The same goes for crushing ice.
As you can see in the chart below, there’s a considerable amount of crossover between the two appliances. However, they both excel at different tasks.
Vitamix vs Food Processor
So which appliance is right for you?
Simply speaking, a blender is a better option for items with a lot of liquid, like smoothies and soups. A food processor is best suited for foods that are mainly solid and require more labor intensive handling, such as chopping and slicing. However, since the line between food processor and blender has, well, blended, you can find high-end appliances that handle both tasks admirably.
So, why would I personally choose the Vitamix vs the food processor? I make about 14 smoothies a week (I love smoothies for breakfast and my kids choose smoothies for their afternoon snack). Purees and blended soups are on a daily menu (my son is only 1-year old). I mill my own flour (buckwheat, quinoa, chickpea, and almond are probably the most frequent ones) and make a variety of nut butters you can’t even find in the store. The same goes for nut milks (try homemade almond-hazelnut milk if you ever get a chance). Also, the fact that Vitamix essentially pays for itself in a year (who wouldn’t want to save $3,100/year just by using the Vitamix), makes this blender a clear winner for me.
The food processor? Yeah, it’s nice. It makes meal prep a breeze, but I could always use a sharp knife and a mandolin instead.
*Update: in September 2020 Vitamix released a food processor attachment. With this attachment, the Vitamix has essentially become both a blender and a food processor.
This post was created in partnership with Vitamix (a brand I’ve loved and used for years) and contains affiliate links. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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