Vegetables are an important part of every day. They are one of the highest recommended foods on the food pyramid. According to dietary guidelines posted by the USDA, you should consume anywhere from 5-13 total servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
If you follow any kind of healthy eating plan, vegetables are most likely the number one food that is recommended. With that knowledge, it would be extremely effective to cook vegetables ahead of time and then freeze them for future use.
Can you freeze cooked vegetables and how would you reheat them best when you are ready to use them? You can freeze your cooked vegetables. You can also freeze raw vegetables if you’d like.
Freezing your cooked vegetables is a great way to preserve leftovers but also to prep meal options ahead of time so that all you have to do is pull your veggie from the freezer and reheat it on the fly.
How Long Can You Freeze Cooked Vegetables?
We’ve put together a guide to walk you through everything you should know about freezing cooked vegetables as well as the methods you should follow when doing so. Be aware that there are some vegetables that freeze better than others but for the most part the freezing instructions will work across the board. If you don’t have some, you’ll certainly want to get some quality double-zip freezer bags to store your vegetables.
Keep reading to learn everything you need to know to freeze your cooked vegetables.
Freezing Cooked Vegetables
Freezing cooked vegetables is relatively simple. You don’t require any special tools or supplies. Grab some freezer bags or some airtight containers and you’re pretty much set to freeze those cooked vegetables as much as your little heart desires.
Whether you’re freezing vegetables because you over-cooked and had a bunch of leftovers you’d rather not waste or you simply want to cook ahead and freeze things for later, the process is quick and easy. It does not take anything more detailed than what you might follow to stow leftovers in the fridge.
So many times we tend to throw leftovers out because we are worried that they just won’t store well or we don’t even think of freezing as an option. The good news is; it IS an option! Now is the time to make the vegetables and start freezing them.
Learning new possibilities is always fun. You discover things you didn’t know you were able to do and you find the tips that will help you be successful. That’s why we’re here. We want to share with you all of the information you might need to have the best experience.
You can store your raw vegetables in much the same manner that you can store your cooked vegetables. Depending on your cooking methods, it might not really save you a lot of time to cook and then freeze your vegetables but the potential is always there.
Freezing your cooked vegetables is a great alternative and the reheating methods are super quick. Plus, we should mention that if you are freezing cooked vegetables you have already completed the preparation steps that involve cutting or slicing.
Freezing is a perfect plan-ahead tool to pull that veggie out and add it to your recipe or to simply reheat it as a side when you need something quick to go with your pasta or another main course. You can also add the frozen cooked veggies to casseroles and mix them into dishes.
If you are roasting your vegetables, don’t forget to use the best baking sheets for roasting vegetables.
Let’s talk about some of the upsides and downsides to freezing cooked veggies.
The Upsides to Freezing Cooked Vegetables
- Preserves leftovers or pre-cooked foods to be used at a later time
- Simple to freeze
- Simple to reheat
- If the vegetable is cooked, you do not lose flavor or consistency in freezing
- Great way to multi-purpose and save vegetables
- Not a complicated process
- No thaw time required
The Downsides to Freezing Cooked Vegetables
- Some vegetables do not freeze well – cucumbers, lettuce, salad greens, and sprouts are primary examples
- Some vegetables may lose some of their integrity upon reheating and are better frozen when raw
- Freeze time has its limitations
- Food will need to cool prior to freezing
- May have some mushiness in your vegetables but this is primarily with the vegetables that do not freeze well.
We’ve provided this information to set you up with basic expectations for your freezing expedition. We certainly don’t want you to think you can freeze anything you want and never have issues.
It is true that the majority of foods can be frozen in both raw and cooked states. However, it’s also important to remember that not everything freezes the same and some things do lose texture when they are thawed and/or reheated.
A Guide to Freezing Cooked Vegetables
As we mentioned earlier, freezing your cooked vegetables is not very difficult. Most vegetables that you cook to serve are easy to freeze and they reheat just fine as well.
If you notice the list above that mentions some vegetables that don’t freeze well you will also notice that those vegetables are not typically cooked when served. They are most often served cold rather than cooked in some form. This does not necessarily apply to all of them all of the time.
There are some basic steps to follow when you decide to freeze your cooked vegetables. Let’s discuss that process and then also discuss the necessary steps to take for thawing and reheating those cooked vegetables.
Before we begin, remember we said that it is a relatively simple process to freeze cooked vegetables. You will be amazed at how easy it is.
- Allow cooked vegetables to fully cool to room temperature – do not overcool the vegetables as you don’t want to risk them going bad. They can typically cool in about 30 minutes.
- Scoop your cooked vegetables into an airtight container or a freezer bag. If there is juice with your vegetables, pour that into your storage method as well.
- Seal tightly and place into freezer
- Label with a title and date for the vegetables
- Store in the freezer up to 9 months safely
- That’s it! Your cooked vegetables are waiting patiently for the day they are needed.
Thawing and Reheating Frozen Cooked Vegetables
The best part about freezing your cooked vegetables is that they can be reheated relatively quickly and thaw time is not required. In fact, we recommend taking your frozen cooked vegetables directly from the freezer to the pan.
If you do choose to allow your frozen vegetables to thaw out prior to using them, allow them to thaw in your fridge. We do not recommend thawing on the countertop as this may cause only portions of them to thaw appropriately, leading to excess condensation.
- Pull your cooked vegetables from the freezer
- Place into a pan with a lid
- Cover the pan and heat to medium heat
- As the vegetables begin to thaw under the heat, stir them and break them apart.
- Warm to your desired temperature and serve
- Alternatively, you can heat your frozen cooked vegetables in the microwave. Place the frozen vegetables in a microwave-safe container and microwave in about 5 minutes, stirring after every minute.
- It is not necessary to add water for these methods unless you feel as though they don’t have enough moisture during cooking.
If you intend to use your cooked vegetables in a casserole or mixed into a dish rather than serving them individually as a side, you don’t need to fully cook them. Place them on the stove or in the microwave just long enough that they are not fully frozen. Then add them to your dish and bake it as directed.
Frozen cooked vegetables are recommended to be used within 9 months but vegetables and fruits both preserve quite well in the freezer and you most likely could extend the freeze time if absolutely necessary.
We hope that this guide has been informative to you as you go through the process of freezing your cooked vegetables. We have provided some common questions and answers that we invite you to review for some additional information.
Is it Better to Blanch Raw Vegetables and Freeze than to Freeze Cooked Vegetables?
Ultimately the choice is yours. Freezing cooked vegetables and freezing raw vegetables that have been blanched primarily delivers the same results in the end. The benefit to either option is that you can prepare the vegetables however you like before doing so.
Cooking your vegetable prior to freezing allows you to also season them to your taste and the seasoning settles into them while they are in the freezer.
What if I Don’t Put the Juice from My Cooked Vegetables in When Freezing?
This step simply allows the natural juice of the vegetable to be preserved with the vegetable. However, if you do not have juices from cooking or you do not add that to your freezer bag or container it does not hurt anything. You might simply need to add some water when you reheat those vegetables.