For years, I shied away from frozen fruit and vegetables because somewhere along the way I heard a rumor that they were lacking in nutrients and tasted terrible. Happily, I've been doing a fair bit of experimenting on my own, and I'm happy to report back that learning how to freeze fruit and vegetables has been a (delicious) game changer thanks to finally learning how to blanch and some quick, easy tricks for freezing fresh produce.
Head to the bottom of this post for a list of products perfect for freezing produce!
Quick Tips for Freezing Fruit and Vegetables
- Freeze fruits and vegetables when they are ripe and at the height of freshness
- After harvesting or buying, frozen fruit and vegetables will need to be frozen quickly
- Use heavy-duty freezer bags and store them flat
- Fill your container as much as possible, then remove all the air you can for better texture and taste (check out these nifty ziplock bag holders---I'm obsessed with them!)
How to Blanch Fruit and Veggies
The best frozen fruit and vegetables all have one nifty trick to them - they have been through a blanch. No idea what that means? You aren't alone. The blanch definition says the word means to take out the color or make something pale. However, why this term was used for freezing fruit and vegetables is a bit of a mystery since taking out the color is exactly the opposite of what we want to do. In kitchen-speak, the blanch definition is more about preserving the color, flavor and texture of a fruit or vegetable you want to freeze. To blanch something is easy—here's how it's done:
- Prepare the items you'll need such as a good knife, a stock pot with water, a slotted spoon and a large bowl of ice water.
- Bring the water in the pot to a boil. Some people prefer to add a pinch of salt, while others do not. I haven't found that it makes a major difference either way.
- Cut your fruit and vegetables while you are waiting for the water to boil. It is best to blanch when items are freshly cut since they do not have as much time to oxidize.
- Put your fruit or vegetable into the boiling water. Do one type at a time and do not overload or cover the pot.
- You want to check the item every 30 seconds to 1 minute to make sure the cook is to your liking.
- Once it is, use the slotted spoon to scoop out the veggies and plunge them into the water with ice.
- After about 30 seconds or so when the vegetable is completely cool, complete the blanch process. Use the slotted spoon to scoop out the items and let them dry on lined paper towels before freezing.
Why do you have to blanch vegetables before freezing?
Can you freeze fresh vegetables without blanching?
You can but that doesn't mean you should. Without blanching, it is very difficult for vegetables and fruits to retain their flavor and texture. In general, you will need to blanch most vegetables and several fruits to freeze with best results. However, there are some fruits and vegetables that do not require blanching, including berries, banana and several vegetables.
How to Freeze Fruits
When in season, there is nothing better than a fresh peach, a juicy orange or a sweetly tart berry. Don't settle for the out of season fruit you find at the grocery store—get the real deal and freeze them to enjoy year round. For the best texture, eat frozen fruit before it is totally dethawed. What are the Best Fruits for Freezing? Nearly every fruit can freeze well. Whether you want to make a smoothie, baked goods, jams or simply eat fruit, here is how to freeze some of the most popular fruits, including:
- berries including blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries
- tomatoes (yes, they are both fruits!)
How to Freeze Apples
There are several ways you can freeze apples. One of the best ways to freeze apples is to make them into pies, bars or cobblers, then freeze them before baking. Once you are ready to consume, dethaw and then bake them as normal. Another easy method for freezing apples is to freeze them in slices. Core and peel the apple, then freeze on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Once they are solid, add them to freezer bags, squeeze the air out, seal and label. Frozen apple slices are not a good texture for eating as is, but they can be used for jams, pie fillings, smoothies, applesauce, and apple butter
How to Freeze Blueberries
Freezing blueberries is simple. Take fresh berries, wash them and then dry them well. For the best taste possible, blueberries should be completely dry before freezing. Once they are dry, spread them out on a baking tray, freeze then scoop into freezer bags. Make sure to squeeze all the air out! Blueberries will have the best flavor and taste during the first 10 months.
How to Freeze Blackberries and Raspberries
To freeze these berries, follow the instructions above for blueberries. It's simple!
How to Freeze Strawberries
Before freezing strawberries, you have a little bit of prep work. Choose the fully ripe, dark red berries, then wash them and dry well. Once they are dry, hull the strawberries and then decide if you would like to freeze them plain or sugared. For plain berries, you can choose to leave them whole, or take the extra step of slicing them before freezing. I have a powerful blender, so I generally leave whole unless they are massive, then they get a quick chop. Then, spread them out on a baking tray and freeze before transferring into a labeled freezer bag with all the air squeezed out. To freeze strawberries with sugar, place halved berries in a bowl and add a half cup of sugar per quart of berries. Stir it all together until the sugar dissolves, then transfer to a freezer safe container and freeze.
How to Freeze Peaches
Peaches freeze great, but there are a few tricks out there to retaining that awesome flavor. Wash and peel your peach, then cut into slices. Toss the slices with about 1 tbsp of lemon juice for every dozen of peaches, along with ½ teaspoon of sugar for each peach added. The lemon and sugar will preserve that peach flavor and help prevent browning. If you are having a hard time peeling a peach, here's a neat trick you can use. Cut a small X into the bottom of each peach, then do a quick blanch. Add the peach to boiling water for about 30 seconds, then drop it into a bowl of ice water. The skin should slide right off. Once your peaches are skinned, tossed nad sliced, lay each slice on a baking sheet, freeze and transfer to a freezer container—don't forget to squeeze all the air out of the bag first!
How to Freeze Banana
Bananas are one of my favorite fruits to freeze. If you want to use frozen banana slices in smoothies, simply peel the bananas, cut into slices, put them in a freezer safe bag, and then plop them into your smoothie or shake when you need. This will greatly reduce the amount of ice needed to make your smoothie cold.
How to Freeze Lemons
Freezing lemons are different from any other fruit. To enjoy fresh lemon flavor year round, you can either juice a lemon and/or zest a lemon and freeze them in bags with air squeezed out.
How to Freeze Avocado
It's so hard to find the perfect avocado—once you do, stock up on them and freeze them! To freeze avocado, slice it in half, remove the pit and cut the flesh into slices. Scoop out the flesh and leave the skin behind, then freeze in a single layer and bag it up.
What can you Make with Frozen Avocado?
If you are having visions of perfect guacamole and avocado toast made from your frozen avocado, you may be slightly (very) disappointed. There is just no substitute for fresh avocado when it comes to those items. However, frozen avocado is awesome in smoothies—it adds a creamy texture and healthy fat to your morning shake.
How to Freeze Tomatoes
Yes, you can even freeze tomato fruit, but before you get too excited, there are a few caveats. Frozen tomatoes keep their flavor, but because they are filled with so much water, they do not keep their structure. Be warned that frozen tomatoes are great for soups and sauces, not for thawing and tossing on a salad or sandwich for a crisp texture. To freeze tomatoes, dip them in boiling water for 60-90 seconds with a slotted spoon and then immediately into ice water. The skin will come off. At this point, you can freeze whole on a sheet, particularly for smaller tomatoes. Larger ones will need to be cored with the stems removed to maximize storage space. Make sure to keep the juices that come out—scoop it all into freezer bags and get as much air out as possible. Store flat and use up to 18 months.
How to Freeze Vegetables
With vegetables, your newfound blanch knowledge will certainly come in handy. Here is how to freeze, blanch and enjoy the best cooked and raw vegetables.
How to Freeze Corn
Corn on the cob requires blanching. For every pound of corn, you'll want to use about a gallon of water to make sure the entire ear is covered. Place the ears in after the water comes to a boil. Smaller ears of corn will need to be in the pot about 5 minutes long and bigger ears may need to be boiled for up to 9 minutes long. Once the boiling is done, scoop out the corn and place it in the ice water for the same amount of time they were blanched. Then, drain all the water, dry off the ears and package in a freezer bag with all the air pushed out. Don't let the ears touch each other until they are completely frozen.
How to Freeze Green Beans
Freezing green beans will result in a flavorless mush if not done properly. However, freezing green beans correctly can give you the best beans you have ever had! Cut off the ends and then blanch. Line them on paper towels and give them about 20 minutes to dry totally before sticking in the freezer on a baking tray without touching each other. Then, add to a freezer bag, squeeze out all the air and freeze.
How to Freeze Zucchini and Potatoes
Both zucchini and potatoes need to be shredded before freezing. Wash your vegetable, peel and then shred. Rather than blanch, place the shreds into a steamer basket for about two minutes until they are soft. Cool in ice water for about 3 minutes and let dry on a paper towel before freezing.
How to Freeze Broccoli
Wash and then blanch broccoli florets and stems in boiling water for 3 minutes. Place them in ice water for the same amount of time they were heated, then let them dry completely. One fun trick is to use a salad spinner to wick off the water, then place on paper towels until completely dry. Freeze by putting them on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and then transfer to a freezer safe bag, removing as much air as possible. To serve, steam/boil for a minute to a minute and a half, or use the broccoli in soups and pasta recipes.
How to Freeze Carrots
Wash and peel your carrots. It is especially important for this vegetable to be frozen and peak ripeness or even while it's a little bit on the green side—older carrots will not have the taste or flavor you want. You can either blanch whole carrots for 5 minutes or cut into slices or strips and boil for 2 minutes. Place the carrots in ice water until they are chilled, then let them dry on a towel or paper towel before placing in the freezer. Now that you know how to blanch fruits and vegetables and freeze them, you are ready to enjoy the bounty or each season all year round. Enjoy!
You can use frozen veggies and fruit in place of fresh in many recipes. Especially when those frozen veggies and fruit were super fresh when frozen. I love using frozen fruit for pies and frozen veggies for soups and, of course, tater tot casserole (family fave!).