13 Foods You Shouldn't Put In the Freezer
Simply put, there are some things you should never put in your freezer. Due to their chemical makeup and how freezing affects their consistency or flavor, there are a handful of specific food items that just don't freeze well — and could cost you time and money if you freeze them by mistake.
Fresh foods with a high water content, for example, become a soggy mess once defrosted. Eggs and many dairy products, on the other hand, lose their consistency to the point of becoming inedible once frozen.
So to help you avoid wasting food and money, here's a list of 13 foods you should never put in the freezer.
Lettuce and Other Greens
Some foods with high water content, like lettuce and soft greens, don't maintain their shape and texture once frozen and thawed, which is why you should never freeze these leafy greens "unless you intend to use them in soups or smoothies," Jeanine Donofrio of Love & Lemons cautions. They'll become limp and soggy, nothing like the crisp fresh version.
Certain Fresh Fruits and Veggies
Avoid freezing "any vegetable that you want to eat later as a fresh salad, such cucumbers and tomatoes," recommends Donofrio. Once thawed, their texture is never quite as firm. The one exception? "Frozen and thawed peas are great in salads," she shares.
No matter how low-hassle you want your want morning routine to be, if you insist on eating eggs (any style) for breakfast, you should never freeze them in advance. Stick to making them right before you want to eat them. "People swear by frozen breakfast burritos, but I test-froze some recently and concluded that life is too short to eat rubbery thawed scrambled eggs," Donofrio tells us. "For a quick breakfast burrito, I recommend prepping the components ahead of time and take a few extra minutes to assemble your burrito fresh," she suggests. Raw or boiled eggs in their shells don't work well in the freezer either. Once frozen, the insides expand causing the shells to crack.
Just like apples become brown after sitting out too long, some items are simply best fresh, never frozen — and avocados are one of them. "It becomes brown as it thaws," Donofrio explains. If you must freeze a dish that's topped with avocado, remove it before freezing and cut fresh slices for a garnish upon serving the leftovers.
A common misconception, many people think that freezing bags of ground coffee or whole coffee beans helps them stay fresh longer, but that's not true. Freezing your coffee actually zaps some of the flavor and aromas. Keeping it in the fridge or simply at room temperature is a better option.
Fried Foods and Crumb Toppings
As delicious as these foods are when fresh, upon freezing, fried foods or foods with a crumb topping lose all of their signature crunch — the thing we love about them so much in the first place! Once defrosted, fried foods and crumb toppings turn into a soggy mess. A smarter bet would be to fry or add fresh crumb topping just before cooking and serving any pre-made dishes.
Get the Recipe: Air-Fried Buffalo Chicken
Most Dairy Products
When it comes to dairy, only hard cheeses can be frozen — and even then, the fridge is a much better option, even for longer periods of time. (Many hard cheeses can last months in the fridge.) Milk, yogurt, cream, sour cream, buttermilk, and soft cheeses all become inedible once frozen, since they separate and curdle upon defrosting, changing the texture and consistency entirely. Your milk will separate into a watery mess, for example, and your yogurt will become grainy, curdle, and separate when defrosted.
Freezing raw potatoes should also be avoided. They become soft and get a somewhat grainy texture upon defrosting. Cooked potatoes, however, are just fine to freeze and reheat.
Cooked Pasta and Rice
While it's tempting to freeze that leftover pasta or cooked rice, it won't be worth your time. Upon defrosting, most cooked pastas and rices become mushy and flavorless. One exception is pre-baked lasagnas, which store well when frozen and baked just before serving.
Mayonnaise, as well as ketchup, can become clumpy when frozen, which is why it’s never a good idea to store mayo-based salads, like egg salad, tuna salad or chicken salad, in the freezer. To make these ahead, you can mix and freeze all the ingredients aside from the mayo in advance and stir in the mayo after the other ingredients have been defrosted.
Get the Recipe: Country Cottage Potato Salad
Cashew-based Soups and Sauces
While cashews add instant creaminess to any recipe — one of the reason they're such a popular ingredient in vegan dishes, amongst others — freezers don't do them justice. "I love to make vegan mac and cheese and creamy vegan chowder, but their texture becomes less creamy and more gritty, once thawed," Donofrio explains.
Get the Recipe: Vegan Cashew Alfredo Sauce
Canned Foods or Bottled Beverages
Maybe you've made this mistake before: putting a can in the freezer to cool your drink quickly, only to forget about it and have it explode. That certainly leaves a giant mess inside your freezer! When canned foods or bottled beverages freeze, the liquids inside them expand, exerting too much pressure on their containers and causing them to burst.
Some spices, like cloves, pepper, and garlic, can lose their potency and flavor when frozen. "I haven't tried freezing spices since they have such a long shelf life as it is,” Donofrio says. “I do, however, love storing fresh herbs in the freezer. Hearty herbs like rosemary and thyme store very well and are great to have on hand throughout the winter for soups and stews," she explains.
How to Freeze Foods Safely
Beyond what you're storing in your freezer, how you store foods in the freezer matters, too. Follow these three steps to ensure you're freezing foods safely.
1. Check your freezer's temperature.
First, make sure your freezer is at the right temperature. According to the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, as a general rule of thumb, if your ice cream isn't rock hard, your freezer temperature is too warm.
2. Use the best freezer storage containers.
Next, consider your freezer storage methods. Using air-tight storage containers, made of glass or plastic, is your safest bet. "I freeze all types of glass storage — Snapware, Weck jars, and mason jars," says Donofrio. "Plastic can be frozen, but I recommend using BPA-free plastic and refrain from using the microwave to thaw foods in plastic containers," she shares. However, you can also use zip-top bags or tight-fitting, heavy-duty aluminum foil effectively, as well. And don't forget that foods expand when frozen, too, which is why you should always leave some extra room in your freezer storage containers to account for it. One woman lost 60 portions of food because she didn't leave some extra room at the top of her mason jars before freezing them, so they all cracked under the extra pressure and her food became ruined.
3. Keep track of "best by" dates.
You should also be mindful of how long you’re storing foods in the freezer. Clearly labeling and dating each one can help. Consider referencing FoodSafety.gov's FoodKeeper App for recommended freezing times, too.