How to Julienne Vegetables Like a Professional Chef

Knife Guides
Thursday, October 8, 2020

When it comes to your kitchen knife skills, being able to julienne vegetables, greens, and other garnishes indicates a more advanced skill set. The ability to julienne goes beyond your typical quick vegetable chop, dice, mince, slice, etc. Julienned vegetables will not only upgrade your meal presentation, but also increase the quality of your meals. This is because foods cut in this style are uniform and even -- meaning they make for a more even cook so that you will achieve a consistent level of “doneness.” Consistency is the key to a top quality meal because no one wants to eat a meal with half crunchy and half cooked vegetables due to poor knife cuts. 

Julienne style knife cuts are sometimes referred to as a “matchstick cut” because this is the end result and what your food will look like after it has been cut. To julienne means cutting your vegetables into thin, uniform strips, or matchsticks. You may be asking yourself how this can be achieved when many vegetables are round -- the answer is rounded vegetables are cut into rectangular shapes and then julienned to achieve the perfect matchstick appearance. 

We will be teaching you the basics of how to master the julienne technique as well as how to julienne specific vegetables: 

How to Julienne Vegetables 

The Basics 

Back view of the proper way to grip your knife, paying close attention to how only the knuckle of the index finger is being used. 

The most important piece of equipment you’ll need to julienne, aside from the vegetables, is the knife you’re going to use to do it. There are many options out there, but the best knives for this technique are a chef’s knife or a utility knife. The ability to julienne cleanly and easily comes from a razor sharp knife that will make cutting effortless -- rather than having to saw through a vegetable which will negatively affect your knife cuts. 

A chef’s knife is an all-purpose and heavy duty tool that can be used for slicing, dicing, chopping, deboning, and of course julienning. This might be your go-to option if you’re preparing different foods and you already have it laying out. The great thing about a chef’s knife is the eight to ten inch blade that makes for easy slicing through most ingredients. 

A utility knife is a smaller, more mid-sized knife with multi purpose abilities that include slicing, dicing, chopping, and mincing. This knife averages about a five inch blade, which may not be the best option depending on the size of the ingredient you wish to julienne. 

Once you have selected your knife, ensure you wash both your knife and the ingredients you will be using. Wash the knife with warm, soapy water after each use. Make sure you have a cutting board that you will use to cut the ingredients and store the tiny pieces that will be the result of your hard work. 

When gripping your knife, you will use your dominant hand to hold the knife while your non-dominant hand grips the ingredients and holds them in place for cutting. To begin, pinch the blade with your thumb and the knuckle of your index finger. The index finger should never be pointing straight out, resting on the handle of the blade -- always tuck this finger by gripping the knife with your knuckle. Let your other 3 fingers curl around the handle in a comfortable position. You’re ready to start julienning. 


A Great Beginner Vegetable

An eight inch chef’s knife that would be perfect for julienning vegetables and other types of prep work. Image courtesy of Overlord Knives

Carrots are a great vegetable to begin with when learning the basics of julienning. We will go through how to prepare your carrot and shape it into a rectangle so it can be finely julienned into matchsticks. First, you may or may not peel your carrot, this is optional. Then trim both rounded ends of the carrot -- the top where the stems are and the bottom point. After this break the carrot into two to three inch sections. 

Next, you’ll want to trim the rounded edges of your two to three inch sections. Take one of your sections and slice off a piece of the length to create a flat side. Then cut off another piece to create another flat side that is perpendicular to the one you previously cut. Slice off the two remaining sides to ensure the carrot is flat on all sides of its length. This is now a rectangular piece of carrot that is ready to be julienned. Do this for however many remaining sections of carrot that you have. Any carrot pieces that are too small to be squared off into two or three inch pieces can be set aside and used for another dish. 

From here, you’ll want to take your rectangular piece of carrot and cut it lengthwise into slices that measure 1/16th - 1/8th inches in width. Then stack the slices on top of each other and cut them lengthwise again into matchsticks that also measure 1/16th - 1/8th inches in width. Now you have successfully julienned your first piece of carrot. Do this with the remaining sections. 


A Household Vegetable

Your onion should be halved like in this photo. Cut from one end until you reach 90 degrees, or the middle of the onion and cut again until you reach the end. 

We’re going to use the same squaring technique that we used for our carrot again on our onion. Start by peeling the skin off your onion. Then remove the top and end pieces. From there, stand the onion up on one of the flat sides and cut it in half lengthwise. Next lay your half onion down on its flat side. Then turn your knife to a 45 degree angle, using your non-dominant hand as a guide, start to julienne from the side. Work your way around the arc of the onion until you’ve reached 90 degrees. 

Then tip the onion over onto the side you just finished cutting. This time repeat cutting again around the arc until you’ve reached 90 degrees, this should also be the end of your halved onion. Repeat the same steps with the other half of your onion. 

Bell Pepper

An Essential Meal Enhancer 

Bell Pepper
The top and bottom of the bell pepper need to be removed to achieve a uniform band that can be julienned into thin matchsticks. 

As with the last two vegetables, we are going to begin by squaring the bell pepper so that we can achieve perfectly uniform sized matchsticks. Start by removing the entire top of the bell pepper, past the stem where the base of the pepper begins. Then remove the bottom. 

You will see that the internal structure of the bell pepper contains a core containing multiple seeds. The core should attach to the top of the pepper at three or four points, it will not be attached at the bottom. Stand up the pepper and cut down through the side of the pepper behind the first attachment point. From here flip the pepper back to its side and start to unravel it from where you made your first cut. Cut through the next attachment point and this will further unravel the outside of the pepper. The cut through the last attachment point and the core should be completely removed from the part of the pepper we will be using. 

You should be left with a rectangular band of pepper that is flat on both sides. The goal is to achieve the same width the whole way across to make for easy julienning. From here all you have left is to cut the band of pepper into uniform matchstick strips that can be as thick or as thin as you like. 


For the Perfect French Fries

This long matchstick french fry shape can be achieved with simple julienning techniques. 

You can start by choosing whether you want to peel your potato. Then begin by taking your potato and cut off a plank from the side, lengthwise. Now you can flip the potato to its flat side, the side you just created. This ensures a more stable base that way the potato is not rolling around on its rounded edges. 

On its flat side, start cutting off more uniform and even sized planks of potato until you’ve cut through the entirety of the vegetable. The thickness can be determined based on your preferences. From there take one of your planks or stack a few on top of each other, whatever is more comfortable to you depending on your experience with julienning and cut the planks lengthwise to form smaller matchstick pieces of potato. Again the thickness of your final cuts can be determined by you. The final result should resemble long french fry style cuts. 

With a sharp, top-notch knife and your favorite vegetables you can upgrade your knife cutting skills to include beautiful julienned matchstick vegetables that improve presentation and ensure even cooking for high quality meals. This guide has provided a basic overview with tips on how to julienne your favorite vegetables, the best knife to do it with, and how you should properly hold your knife.