The saying “a little goes a long way” rings very true for turmeric root and, although it’s a very handy root to have in your kitchen at all times, it’s not something that is used in every dish.
You can often find fresh turmeric in packages with many little pieces of root, a very cost-effective and efficient way to buy your spice.
Unfortunately, as with all vegetables, it begins to lose potency the longer it sits on your counter.
What options do you have? Can you freeze turmeric root? Yes, you can freeze turmeric root for up to 3 months. You will want to cut or slice it into portion sizes and wrap it with a dry paper towel when you store and freeze it.
In this article, we’ll briefly discuss what turmeric is and it’s many benefits and then we’ll get down to the heart of the matter – how to freeze it properly to make it last.
What Is Turmeric?
Turmeric is best known for its rich yellow color, the pigment that identifies many Indian dishes. It’s most commonly sold in powder form but as it grows in popularity, it’s becoming more common to see the root in grocery stores.
You have probably even seen it yourself though, if you weren’t paying close enough attention, you may have assumed it was ginger.
The two roots, or rhizomes, are almost identical to the untrained eye, but turmeric is smaller and, when you cut it open, bright orange underneath its papery covering.
That orange color will stain everything it comes into contact with almost instantly, so be careful.
It’s worth the risk, however, because aside from having a pungent, earthy, slightly bitter taste that adds depth of flavor to saucy dishes, it’s also one of the most powerful natural medicines known to humankind.
If you’ve never heard of these health benefits, perhaps you’ve heard talk about curcumin, the active substance most well researched for its numerous healing properties.
Turmeric has been used in natural medicine throughout history to cure a wide variety of wounds, infections, and skin conditions.
These days it’s most commonly prescribed as a long-term anti-inflammatory agent and it’s even being thoroughly researched for its promising cancer-fighting potential.
To maximize all the health benefits of turmeric, be sure to always consume it along with some black pepper. The piperine in black pepper helps your body absorb the curcumin.
Turmeric benefits for skin are also a response to reduced inflammation, calming skin conditions, and potentially even reducing scarring. Inflammation is also closely associated with obesity, and many studies are showing that it can help with weight loss as well.
How to Freeze Turmeric Root
Turmeric root freezes well, though it won’t be as firm when it defrosts. For best results, simply make sure your roots are clean and dry and wrap them in a piece of paper towel.
It’s best to break or slice the roots into 1-2-inch pieces that you can use as a single portion. This way you won’t have to take the whole root out to get what you need only to place the rest back in the freezer.
It’s best to only remove from the freezer when you’re going to use it because it starts to unthaw immediately. If you return it to the freezer, it will compromise the quality.
Place the paper towel-wrapped turmeric in a freezer-safe bag and squeeze out every little breath of air you can. This will protect it from freezer damage.
Store it in the main box of your freezer, not in the door. As mention, turmeric will defrost quickly, so you don’t want it to be exposed to warm air every time you open the freezer door.
Freezing Turmeric Paste
Turmeric paste is usually made with ground turmeric, though if you’re making your own you can use fresh turmeric as well. It is commonly blended with high-quality oil, such as extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, or even ghee, some black pepper, and other spices as you like.
It freezes well, and one of the best ways to section off portions is by using an ice cube or freezer tray.
Before you fill the holes with paste, line the entire tray with a sheet of plastic wrap, leaving extra length along the sides. This will protect your tray from turning bright yellow. Next, place 1-2 teaspoons into each indentation.
Use kitchen scissors to cut the plastic wrap so you can individually seal your tiny turmeric paste packets. Once they’re all individually wrapped, you can place them together in a freezer-safe Ziploc bag for further freezer protection.
Whenever you’re in the mood for a Golden Milk or other turmeric concoction, simply pull a single packet out of your freezer.
How Long Does Turmeric Last?
Stored carefully in your freezer, fresh turmeric will last for 3 months, if not longer. In the fridge, it will keep for up to 3 weeks so long as the peeling isn’t overly damaged and it doesn’t attract any moisture.
Ground turmeric will last for up to 3 years if stored properly, in a cool, dry location.
How to Store Turmeric Out of the Freezer
If you’d prefer not to freeze it, you can store fresh turmeric root in your fridge.
The biggest danger to your root is moisture, as it will grow mold quite easily. To prevent this, wrap it loosely, preferably with a paper bag or paper towel.
Place your paper-wrapped root inside a Ziploc bag or Tupperware container, but don’t seal it. You want the airflow to prevent moisture from accumulating.
If you plan on storing your turmeric root in your crisper drawers, make sure it’s set at a low humidity level to control the moisture levels. Again, this will keep it from rotting.
If you do notice some black spots on your root, simply scrape them off and use the rest of the root without worry. It’s not dangerous or toxic.
Truly fresh turmeric root can even be potted. With rich soil, it will start to grow. That doesn’t mean you can’t use it at will, however, just dig up and slice of a portion when needed.
Ground ginger should be stored in a dark, glass container with an airtight lid and then kept in a cool, dry location like your pantry or a spice drawer.
How to Use Frozen Turmeric Rhizome (Root)
If you’ve frozen individual serving sizes, simply remove a piece of turmeric root (rhizome) from the freezer when you need it.
If you let it thaw completely, it will be a lot softer than fresh roots normally are. If you’re going to add it to a blender, this is no problem.
If you’re planning on grating it, do it immediately to use the hard, frozen state to your benefit. It will be less messy, though it will still stain.
How to Cut Turmeric Root
Some people peel their turmeric before using it, but there’s little benefit to doing so and a big downside.
The yellow pigment in turmeric loves to stain everything that comes near, so the more exposed the flesh is, the more staining potential your turmeric has.
To protect your fingers from turning yellow, simply leave the skin on and use a Microplane to grate your turmeric directly into the dish you’ll be cooking in. The metal of your grate isn’t likely to stain and this minimizes all other contact.
Fresh Turmeric Recipes
Fresh turmeric can be substituted for ground turmeric in any recipe, though it takes quite a bit more fresh turmeric to get the same hue and flavor. Replace ½ teaspoon ground turmeric with about 2 tablespoons of fresh, grated turmeric root.
If you’re not working from a recipe but simply want to add fresh turmeric to your day, here are a few of our favorite fresh turmeric uses:
- Fresh turmeric tea or Golden Milk
- Added to smoothies and/or fresh juice blends
- Cooked with rice or other whole grains
- Stewed into soups, curries or casseroles
- Mixed into scrambled eggs or crumbled tofu, a great plant-based alternative to scrambled eggs
Can you freeze ginger root?
Yes, you can freeze ginger root. In fact, the similarities between ginger root and turmeric root are such that all the recommendations for freezing turmeric that you just read in this article apply to ginger root as well.
Can you eat turmeric skin?
Yes, you can eat the skin from turmeric, though the older the root is, the tougher it gets. Most people will buff it off the root, or peel it if it gets too thick.
If you’re making tea, paste, or pureeing it, just make sure your root is clean and don’t worry about the skin, especially if it’s young.
If you’re slicing it in a way that it will stay somewhat whole, you may want to scrape the skin off for texture’s sake. Most people simply use a Microplane, garlic press, or another style of grater, skin on.
How long does it take for turmeric to work?
Turmeric doesn’t have one specific job to accomplish, so depending on what you are hoping to see as a result, your current health conditions, and numerous other lifestyle and dietary factors, turmeric can take anywhere from 1 day to 3 months to make a difference in your life.
Most people supplement with turmeric as an anti-inflammatory. It’s not suitable for short-term, instant relief as it does take a while to build up in your system. With daily use, you should start feeling noticeable changes in your inflammation after about 4–6 weeks.