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Can You Freeze Cooked Cabbage? – The Right Way

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Both delicious and nutritious, cabbage is a great vegetable to keep at home. It can be used in so many different dishes and can be found really cheap most of the time. Stocking up on cabbage is a good idea, but it has a fairly limited shelf life when kept in the fridge.

If you are wanting to keep your cabbage for longer, can you freeze it? Yes, you can freeze cabbage, but it needs to be cooked first. Being a leafy vegetable, cabbage does not do well when frozen raw, due to the fibrous membranes and high water content. Freezing cabbage raw and then thawing it, will result in a soggy, mushy cabbage.

If you cook the cabbage before freezing it, it will have almost no change in flavor or texture. If you do not want to completely cook the cabbage before freezing, you can choose to blanch it before, which will make the cabbage more resistant to cold temperatures.

Choosing The Right Cabbage To Freeze

You need to choose the right cabbage to freeze, as the process will affect the quality and taste of the cabbage, so the better quality and the healthier the cabbage before freezing, the better the cabbage will hold up when frozen.

Make sure to purchase fresh cabbages for freezing. These should have solid, dense heads, and the leaves should be green and fresh. Avoid freezing cabbages that have yellow or wilted leaves. Make sure to also check the sell-by-date on the packaging.

Most cabbages are picked when at peak freshness but are then stored in a warehouse and transported. If possible, try to purchase the cabbage from a local farmers market, where you can be assured that it is as fresh as possible.

If you are lucky enough to have cabbages growing in your own garden, you should pick these in the morning before it gets too hot. You should wait until it is nearly frost before harvesting cabbages in the garden, to ensure optimal freshness.

Types of Cabbages To Freeze

There are quite a few different types of cabbages, and some hold up to freezing better than others. Here are a few different types of cabbage to choose from, all used in different ways and in different meals.

Green Cabbage – Green cabbage is the most commonly found type and is best when cooked. It can be used in a multitude of ways, added into stews and stir-fries.

Red Cabbage – Red cabbage has a beautiful red/violet color. While red cabbage is almost as popular as green cabbage, it is more commonly used raw in salads and slaws.

Bok Choy – Bok choy is incredibly popular in Chinese cooking and is known for its deep green leaves and fleshy stems. It is very fibrous and hardy and needs to be steamed before eating.

Savoy Cabbage – Savoy is quite distinctive, it has patterned leaves with a light green hue. Savoy cabbage is mainly cooked and added to stir-fries and soups, but it is a seasonal vegetable and is not available all year round.

Preparing Cabbage For Freezing

You need to ensure that the cabbage is cooked before freezing, and if it is not already in a meal, you should blanch it first. Blanching the cabbage helps to lock in the nutrients and maintain the natural color, and ensures that the cabbage maintains its great quality and taste when frozen and thawed.

In order to prepare the cabbage for blanching, you should wash the heads properly.

Remove any critters and dirt hiding under the leaves, and you may even soak the cabbage in salt water for 30 minutes to ensure it is completely free of bugs. Once the cabbage has soaked in the salt solution, rinse it thoroughly with plain water.

The next step is to peel off any yellow leaves and to cut the cabbage into quarters. Avoid removing the core as this helps to keep the leaves together during blanching. Using paper towels, dry the cabbage by patting it gently.

It is then time to blanch the cabbage.

  • Fill a large pot with water and allow it to come to the boil over high heat.
  • Once the water is boiling, add in the quartered cabbage pieces.
  • Leave the cabbage in the boiling water for a minute and a half.
  • Once the cabbages have been boiling for a minute and a half, you need to remove them and place them into an ice bath. This prevents further cooking and helps to lock in the natural green color. Use a colander to remove the cabbage from the boiling water and to place them into iced water.
  • Once the cabbage has cooled completely, remove it from the ice bath and try and shake off any excess water.

Freezing Cabbage

It is important to ensure that the cabbage is as dry as can be before freezing. Any excess water on the cabbage will lead to freezer burn, and to an excess of ice crystals forming, which could destroy the cell walls of the cabbage leaves and turn them soggy when thawed.

Place the cabbage leaves on a baking sheet and place this in the freezer. This will flash freeze the cabbage leaves which will prevent them from sticking together when frozen. The cabbage will need around two hours in the freezer to flash freeze.

Once the cabbage has frozen on the baking sheet, you can place the leaves into freezer-friendly plastic bags. Remove as much excess air from the plastic bags as possible, seal the bags tightly and label them with the storage date. Place these plastic freezer bags into the freezer and you are done!

You can also choose to shred the cabbage first and then place this into freezer bags. This is handy if you are planning to use the cabbage in cooked meals such as soups or stews.

Freezing Cooked Cabbage Meals

If you have used your cabbage in some meals and wish to freeze those, you are able to do so. The process will obviously be much different than blanching and freezing the cabbage, as there are now other ingredients involved.

Here are some popular meals featuring cabbage, and the best ways to freeze them:

Cabbage Soup

Cabbage soup is popular diet food, and making it every day might be a bit of a hack. You can successfully freeze cabbage soup so you have a few portions on hand for when you need a quick fix.

It is best to use rigid plastic containers that have airtight lids. Ladle the cabbage soup into the airtight containers, and make sure there is some space left in the containers – do not fill them to the top. The cabbage soup will expand as it freezes, so it needs to be left enough space to do so.

Close the lids securely, label the containers with the date of freezing and place the containers in the freezer. You can either freeze multiple smaller containers for single meals or one large container for a family dinner.

It is better using rigid plastic containers, compared to plastic freezer bags, as it might be difficult to ladle the soup into flimsy plastic bags, and then pour the thawed soup out into a bowl.

Cabbage Rolls

The cabbage in cabbage rolls would have been cooked thoroughly before freezing, so you will need to do a little prep to ensure that the cabbage does not turn soggy once thawed.

Begin the process by chilling the leftover cabbage rolls in the fridge for a few hours. Then place the cabbage rolls into a freezer-friendly container. Once the rolls are chilled, place them straight into the freezer.

If you are making a large batch of cabbage rolls with the intention of freezing a few, try and freeze the cabbage leaves separately, so you can the construct the cabbage rolls when it is time for them to be eaten. This is the best way to ensure they do not become soggy!

Fried Cabbage

Fried cabbage is often mixed in with some fried bacon, the two flavors deliciously complementing each other.

It is really easy to freeze fried cabbage, but try to not cook the cabbage fully, allowing it to have some crunchy texture before freezing. Place the leftover fried cabbage and bacon into the fridge and leave it to completely cool.

Once it has chilled, spoon portions into plastic freezer bags, squeeze out as much air as possible and seal tightly. Label the bags with the date of freezing and pop them into the freezer. Smaller portions make for really easy quick-fix meals or side dishes during the week.

Thawing Frozen Cabbage

You cannot rush the thawing process of cabbage. If you do, the cabbage leaves will be absolutely ruined and will have a very mushy, soggy texture.

Avoid thawing the cabbage at room temperature, in the microwave, or under hot water. Not only will this turn it soggy, but it will ruin the flavor and color as well.

The best way to thaw frozen cabbage is to leave it in the refrigerator overnight. This allows it to slowly and gently thaw, protecting the texture and flavor of the cabbage, and keeping it safe from higher temperature which could also promote bacterial growth.

Once the cabbage has thawed in the fridge overnight or for a few hours, you can then place it into the microwave, stove or skillet to be cooked.

If you are planning on using the cabbage in soups or casseroles, you could simply drop frozen shredded cabbage into the dish to heat up and cook, there is no need to thaw it beforehand.

The Shelf Life Of Cabbage

Knowing how long cabbage can be kept fresh, refrigerated, frozen and at room temperature will help you ensure that your cabbage has the best quality when it is time to be eaten.

  • How long cabbage lasts in the fridge or freezer will depend on the handling and storage conditions.
  • Stored properly in the fridge, in airtight containers, cooked cabbage will stay fresh for up to 5 days.
  • Stored properly in the freezer, in freezer-friendly plastic bags or in an airtight container, cooked cabbage can last up to 12 months. It will still be fine to consume after this amount of time, but the quality will begin to deteriorate.
  • Once frozen and thawed in the fridge, cooked cabbage can be kept in the fridge for an additional 3 days.
  • If the cabbage was reheated or thawed in the microwave or at room temperature, it should be eaten immediately and not be kept for later consumption.
  • If cooked cabbage is left out at room temperature for longer than 2 hours, it should be discarded.
  • The danger zone for bacteria is between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit, and cabbage, or any cooked food, exposed to this temperature range longer than 2 hours risks becoming dangerous to eat. This bacterial growth can lead to food poisoning. Refreezing the food will not kill the bacteria, instead, it will only render it inactive. Once thawed, the bacteria will start thriving again.
  • You can refreeze cooked cabbage once thawed, as long as it was not exposed to temperatures over 40 degrees Fahrenheit. If the cabbage is kept in the fridge, and even better, if it still has ice crystals, it can be refrozen. However, if the cooked cabbage is heated or if it has been left at room temperature, you should not refreeze it. Not only will it heighten the risk of bacterial growth, but the refreezing and thawing will greatly deteriorate the flavor and texture of the cooked cabbage.
  • To tell if the cooked cabbage has spoiled, you should smell and look at the cabbage. If the smell or appearance seems off, it is better to just discard it. It is not worth risking becoming ill from spoiled cabbage.

Related Questions

Can you freeze cooked red cabbage?

Red cabbage, once cooked or blanched, freezes very well, much like the popular green cabbage. Once thawed, the red cabbage can be reheated successfully and added to many dishes.

It is important to blanch the cabbage first, as red cabbage has such a vibrant color, and blanching will help keep this color, and the nutrients, in great condition.

Can you freeze raw cabbage?

It is possible to freeze raw cabbage, whether in quarters or shredded. These can be wrapped in plastic wrap or aluminum foil, or placed into freezer bags.

Frozen raw cabbage is best used in soups or stews, as the texture does not hold up as well as frozen cabbage which has been blanched prior to freezing.

The mushy or soggy consistency common with thawed raw cabbage can be hidden well when it is added to soups or stews but does not make the cabbage great to eat without cooking.

Can I freeze cabbage leaves for cabbage rolls?

It is recommended to freeze cabbage leaves separately if you want to freeze some cabbage rolls. Blanch the cabbage leaves in hot water, cool them down in an ice bath and then lay the leaves out on a baking tray.

Flash freeze these and then place them into a freezer-safe plastic bag. This stops the leaves from sticking together, which could cause them to tear.

Freezing Cooked Cabbage

Freezing cooked cabbage is a great way to make the most out of excess produce, and it also allows you to have some extra ready-meals on hand in the freezer for when the weekdays are too busy to cook from scratch.

Following a few simple steps, you can successfully freeze cooked cabbage, and ensure it retains its great quality and taste when thawed. 

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