How to Julienne

One of the true joys of cooking is learning the many different cutting techniques with a sharp knife. This opens up so many more ways to prepare food and helps you to hone skills to become the best chef you can be.

When I think about cutting julienne vegetables, my mind goes back to that episode of Friends where Monica is trying to get a job and the guy is clearly hitting on her. But while this cutting technique may have become famous in pop culture, it’s also one of the most popular advanced techniques hailing from France.

In this guide, we’ll teach you how to julienne like a pro and tell you everything you need to know to get this technique down to a T. 


Table of contents


What Is Julienne?

When someone says that they will Julienne food, they are saying that they’ll cut it into long, thin strips. These look remarkably similar to a matchstick which is why the French call this cutting style allumette.

The strips are typically between 1/16 and ⅛ of an inch in thickness and normally no longer than about three inches. Some chefs use the tip of their thumb as a guide to measuring julienne slices as this is normally around an inch as and is a good reference if you don’t have a ruler to hand!

Normally, julienne cutting is reserved for things like carrots, peppers, celery, apples and beets but it can be used for any type of food. We’ll show you exactly how later in this guide. The reason that this technique was developed was that thinner strips mean that the food will cook more evenly and much quicker. If you’re eating the julienned food raw, then the thin slices are easier to eat but still have a crunch.


The Traditional Julienne Method

If you’re just starting to learn how to julienne then it’s a good idea to start with an easy food such as a carrot. To julienne carrots, you’ll need to peel your vegetable first, unless of course, you prefer the skin on then that’s fine too. You’ll also need to cut off either end of the carrot.

Now you can split the carrot into segments of between two and three inches with a sharp chef's knife. How many you end up with will depend on the size of the carrot but try to make all of the thin matchsticks of carrot the same width.

Continue slicing, working on one segment at a time and make a thin slice so that the piece has a flat side. Now you can turn this so that the flat side rests on the cutting board and you can make another slice perpendicular to the first. Doing this on all sides will result in a little rectangle of carrot.

Next, you’ll need to slice this rectangle into smaller pieces. This is where the 1/16 to ⅛ rule comes in. But whatever size you choose, keep it consistent for all pieces. The best way to do this is to take each rectangle of carrot and stack them on top of one another, making your julienne slices through carrot slices at once. Now you have used the julienne technique and have perfectly julienned carrots.


Julienne Cheat

Sometimes, you may be in a rush to get things done and might want a quick way to julienne. The good news is that we have a cheat method for just such an occasion.

● Peel your food if you wish to and make sure it’s properly clean.

● Sticking to the julienne size of 1/16 to ⅛ of an inch, make diagonal slices.

● Stack these slices together and continue cutting so that you end up with thin strips.

The great thing about this method is that you typically end up with less food waste as well as it taking far less time. However, we would usually recommend this method when you’re working with longer foods like courgette or cucumber.


How to Julienne Irregular Foods

The methods we have already discussed are ideal for certain foods but when it comes to irregular foods that are soft, layered or even hollow, it’s not quite as effective. But that doesn’t mean you cannot julienne these foods.

Before you start, you will need to make sure that you separate the different parts of the food. You’ll want the firmer parts that you can julienne such as the outer parts of a bell pepper. Once you have done this, you may also need to cut the food into smaller pieces but that all depends on what you’re cutting and how big it is to begin with. Just make sure you end up with 2-3 inch segments.

Use your non-cutting hand to hold the food down and make it as flat as possible. This will then allow you to cut the item into julienne strips. Just keep the size 1/16 to ⅛ of an inch in mind and you won’t go far wrong.


What's the Best Tool for Julienne?

There are special items out there that you can use to julienne such as the mandolin. But if you want to do it the traditional way then you’ll need a good quality knife. The key here is to find something as sharp as possible as this will give you much greater precision. Generally speaking, a santoku knife, chef’s knife or utility knife are the best options although much of this depends on the food you are cutting and your personal preference.

You will also need a wooden cutting board as these are self-healing and incredibly sanitary. What’s more, wooden cutting boards are much more durable and just look a lot nicer in your kitchen. Just make sure you choose one that’s large enough as you’ll be surprised at how many pieces you end up with once you start cutting.


Final Thoughts

To julienne means to cut food into long, thin strips. This helps with the cooking process and makes for a more elegant appearance. Learning to julienne is considered one of the more advanced cutting techniques but it’s certainly easy enough to get to grips with when you practice, especially if you use the right equipment!

Now you can add another technique to your knife skills, and when you come across a recipe that requires it, you'll be able to julienne cut your ingredients with confidence.
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