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15 Foods You Can Freeze

Faster dinner prep, fewer shopping trips, lower food bills? Cool!

spinner image assorted food, herbs and more that can be frozen
Noah Fecks; Stylist: Susan Ottaviano

Your freezer is one of the most underrated kitchen tools, says David Lee, cofounder and executive chef of Planta restaurants in Miami, Toronto and other locations. It can help you jump-start dinner, take advantage of sales, reduce waste and spoilage, and always have the ingredients you need on hand. Try keeping these unexpected items in the freezer. It’s a game changer!​

spinner image an assortment of bread
Noah Fecks; Stylist: Susan Ottaviano

1. Bread

Whether you stocked up when your favorite brand was on sale or have half a loaf you won’t finish before it gets moldy, turn to your freezer to ensure it doesn’t go to waste. “Bread freezes amazingly,” says Jake Schmidt, executive chef at The Swag resort in Waynesville, North Carolina. Almost all varieties of bread, store-bought or homemade, hold up well in the freezer for up to three months. Simply wrap bread (or even bread dough) tightly in plastic wrap, stick in a plastic bag and seal tightly before freezing.

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spinner image an assortment of cake on a pink background
Noah Fecks; Stylist: Susan Ottaviano

2. Cake

Layer cakes, sheet cakes, cupcakes, loaf cakes, Bundt cakes — they all freeze beautifully, frosted or not, so you can enjoy a treat later without having to heat up your oven. Ensure your cake has cooled, then wrap tightly in plastic wrap, stick inside a plastic bag and seal tightly, Schmidt says. If you’re freezing a frosted or decorated cake, freeze the whole cake on a baking sheet first, then wrap it up once frozen. Defrost in the fridge or on the counter.

spinner image sliced avocado on a pink background
Photo: Noah Fecks; Stylist: Susan Ottaviano

3. Avocados

Slice in half, peel and remove the pit. Brush the avocado halves with lemon juice and wrap them tightly in plastic wrap. Add them to a freezer-safe bag, then press out the air before sealing and freezing. Thaw, then mash into guacamole.

spinner image sweet potatos on a green background
Noah Fecks; Stylist: Susan Ottaviano

4. Sweet potatoes

The secret to the best baked sweet potatoes? Freezing them ahead of time. (Who knew?) “The freezing process changes the cell structure so they become ultra creamy,” Schmidt says. Wash and dry your sweet potatoes, then toss them raw into the freezer. When you’re ready to use them, bake them, skin on, from frozen until soft (about two hours) to achieve the ultimate texture.

spinner image cubes of frozen stock
Noah Fecks; Stylist: Susan Ottaviano

5. Stocks and broths

If you won’t use that full quart of chicken broth before it expires, or you prepared too much homemade vegetable stock, stick it in the freezer to use later. Schmidt recommends pouring cooled stock into reusable plastic deli quart containers or, for smaller amounts, an ice cube tray. When it’s time to use your stock, thaw the containers under running water or simply pop out the frozen cubes and drop them into soups or sauces. Note: According to food safety guidelines, once fresh stock has cooled and been frozen, it can only be reheated once more, so don’t save leftovers.

spinner image garlic and butter
Noah Fecks; Stylist: Susan Ottaviano

6. Garlic

Mincing garlic is smelly business, so make it worth your while by preparing a big batch and freezing it. Add a little minced garlic to cavities in an ice cube tray, then fill with olive oil and freeze, suggests Tony France, executive chef at The Ritz-Carlton Dallas, Los Colinas. You can cook with frozen garlic in olive oil as if it were fresh. This works best for recipes in which garlic will be simmered, such as a sauce or soup.

7. Butter

Stock up on high-quality butter when it’s on sale at the supermarket, and it will stay fresh in your freezer for up to nine months. Keep the butter in its original paper covering, wrap with a dry paper towel and place in a freezer-safe bag, says Richard Sandoval, a global restaurateur and leading chef in Latin cuisine. To thaw, microwave a tempered glass or jar half-filled with water for one minute, then pour out the water and place the warmed glass over a stick of butter on your countertop. Avoid melting butter from the freezer to use in baking, however, as added liquid will result in dense dough.

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spinner image sliced oranges and lemons on a blue background
Noah Fecks; Stylist: Susan Ottaviano

8. Lemon or orange slices

Freeze them in a glass container. Defrost them for eating or cooking (you could add them to a sheet pan dinner or use them to stuff a chicken), suggests Palak Patel, chef at the Institute of Culinary Education.

Tips on Freezing Fruit

  • Sort, wash, drain and pit the fruit.
  • Slice/chop it to your preferred size.
  • Put it on a tray, to dry.
  • Place fruit into a freezer container and freeze directly. Or spread the fruit on a shallow tray and freeze, then promptly place in a container.

9. Grapes and other fresh fruit

Whole grapes freeze beautifully and can be used in a variety of ways. Try frozen grapes as a stand-alone snack or summertime poolside refreshment. Another option is to place them in an ice cube tray with other fruits and water or juice to create “fruit cocktail cubes” that can be added to water or drinks for an extra punch of color and flavor, France says.

And grapes are not the only fruit you can freeze. Note: Freezing does not sterilize food, but does slow the growth of microorganisms.

spinner image assorted peppers
Noah Fecks; Stylist: Susan Ottaviano

10. Peppers

Fresh peppers: Habanero and ghost peppers freeze particularly well, France says. Wash and dry whole raw peppers, then freeze in a plastic bag. “Because so few peppers are needed in most dishes, freezing keeps them from being wasted,” France says. Chop from frozen when ready to use.

Dried peppers: If left on the counter and exposed to light, dried chile peppers become brittle and lose their vibrancy, Sandoval says. Pack dried peppers into a double-zippered, freezer-safe bag, and they’ll stay fresh in the freezer for up to one year. To thaw, soak the peppers in warm water until they’re soft, then blend them into a paste.

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spinner image cubes frozen milk
Noah Fecks; Stylist: Susan Ottaviano

11. Milk

Pour the milk into a container, allowing enough room for the liquid to expand. Milk will appear curdled when you defrost it (but will taste OK), so its best use is for baking, Patel says. Or use the thawed milk to make homemade buttermilk, blending it with a touch of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar.

spinner image assorted pasta on a red background
Noah Fecks; Stylist: Susan Ottaviano

12. Pasta and ravioli

Pasta: Speed up dinner prep by defrosting partially cooked and frozen pasta. Undercook the pasta by a few minutes, then rinse it with cold water, Patel recommends. When it’s cool, toss pasta with a little oil, spread it on a baking sheet and freeze it for a few hours before transferring to a bag. Ready to eat? Finish cooking the pasta in a sauce.

Ravioli: Freeze raw filled pasta on a tray coated with semolina flour on the bottom to keep it from sticking, Schmidt says. Once frozen, transfer ravioli to a plastic bag or a lidded plastic container. Cook directly from frozen.

spinner image various hard cheese on a green background
Noah Fecks; Stylist: Susan Ottaviano

13. Cheese

Harder kinds of cheese, such as aged cheddars and Parmesan, withstand freezing better than soft ones, says Joe Baird, cheesemonger and culinary consultant for Real California Milk. Keep the cheese whole, in its original wrapping, and place it inside a freezer bag near the front of the freezer.

spinner image ginger and other herbs
Noah Fecks; Stylist: Susan Ottaviano

14. Fresh herbs 

Don’t let excess parsley or basil go to waste. Blend it with olive oil or water, then freeze it in an ice cube tray, says Mario Garcia, executive chef with Hilton Chicago. Stir the frozen cubes into sauces.

Treat fresh ginger as you would garlic, France says. “It’s great for those last-minute soup or stir-fry needs.” Or you can peel and cut your knob into the portion sizes (e.g., 1-inch sections) you use most often, add the pieces to a plastic bag and freeze them in a single layer.

spinner image leafy greens on a blue background
Noah Fecks; Stylist: Susan Ottaviano

15. Leafy greens

Steam spinach or kale until it’s completely wilted, then allow it to cool. Freeze up to 1 pound at a time in a sealed bag, Lee says. When you’re ready to use it, thaw it in the fridge overnight; heat the greens in the oven after tossing them with olive oil, salt and pepper.

Video: How to Store Three Foods in Bulk so They Last Longer

Editor's note: This article was originally published on January 28, 2021. It has been updated to reflect new information.

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