12 Foods That Should Never Be Frozen

Photo: Mike Krautter

Storing food in the refrigerator is natural, but not everything that goes into the fridge will hold up as well in the freezer. Palak Patel, a chef at the Institute of Culinary Education, says the reason is simple: Not all ingredients taste as good after spending time in the freezer. "Generally speaking, anything that has dairy, or a very high water content, is not going to do well when frozen," Patel says. "Freezing these ingredients—or recipes that feature these ingredients up front and center—is going to be disappointing."

Patel reminds us that any food that has been frozen and defrosted should not be refrozen, as even the heartiest ingredients will become inedible. It's also a red flag for food safety, according to Amy H. Simonne, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. "Freezing food doesn't destroy all traces of bacteria and viruses, and it's easy to introduce cross-contamination or other foodborne illnesses as a result of initial contamination," Simonne says. "If you leave something out after you've cooked it and bacteria happens to grow after the time you let it cool, it will continue to impact the food when you place it into the freezer."

Here are 12 common ingredients that don't freeze well due to quality issues and safety concerns.

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Recipes that are milk- or cream-based or are heavy with dairy components can be ruined when frozen, Patel says. "When you freeze things containing dairy, the fat will separate from the liquid forms in dairy. Separation—or, even worse, curdling—can occur because most common dairy items have been emulsified." Similarly, containers or packages holding dairy products should not be stored in the freezer, with one exception being butter which can be safely frozen for up to nine months. A small amount of cream in a dish won't sabotage a fully cooked meal stored in the freezer (think: soups and stews), however.

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You probably wouldn't consider freezing a jar of mayo. But if you use more than a small amount of mayonnaise in sauces and creamy casseroles, the consistency will change in the freezer. Patel says recipes made with a mayo base will become overly soft, or take on a rubbery, sponge-like texture, so stick to freeze-ahead recipes that are free of mayonnaise.

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Cream Cheese


Like the other dairy items in this roundup, cream cheese can easily separate and become very watery after defrosting. Packages of cream cheese or recipes that are cream-cheese based, such as dips, should not be frozen.

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thai cucumber salad
Bryan Gardner

Among the produce items that should never be stored in the freezer, Patel places cucumbers at the top of the list. Because of their very high water content, freezing turns them inedible. "When you freeze more water-concentrated vegetables like cucumbers, the water content will freeze and expand, crystallizing over time, turning the vegetable into a mushy mess," Patel says.

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Zucchini is another item that can become limp and water-logged after being defrosted, and also can take on an oxidized color and aroma. Frozen zucchini products sold in the supermarket have been specially prepared, so in order to hold onto optimal flavors and textures, you should store homemade zoodles or zucchini side dishes in the refrigerator.

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Lettuce and Cabbage

Marcus Nilsson

Few would consider freezing a salad, but cabbage likewise has a high water content and doesn't hold up well in the freezer. Avoid freezing cabbage-based dishes, including casseroles and sides—according to Patel, freezing will definitely sour the dish.

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braised chicken with tomatoes and freekeh served in a casserole dish
Kate Mathis

According to Patel, tomato sauce-based recipes are great options for freezing, as they have been completely processed and puréed. But freezing whole tomatoes—or dishes that contain prominent tomato slices or chunks—is not a good idea as it will alter the texture of the tomato's flesh and skin.

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Baked and Boiled Potatoes


Use discretion when it comes to freezing potatoes. If they are a supporting ingredient in soups, stews, and sauces, they won't affect the quality of the dish overall. But freezing baked potatoes or cubed, boiled potatoes is not recommended, says Patel. They will become unable to hold a shape or form, and ruptured ice crystals will lead to an unpleasant, watery consistency.

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Cooked Pasta


Generally, pasta is a fine addition to sauce-based recipes headed for the freezer; it can maintain its shape and texture in various casseroles. But when stored on its own, most pasta loses its form and becomes mushy upon being defrosted.

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Meringue and Custard Filling

passion fruit meringue martha bakes
Mike Krautter

Freezing cakes, cookies, and even pies is second nature for most bakers, but Patel points out that homemade meringue can take on an unpleasant, rubbery profile when defrosted. Since eggs are also a chief ingredient in custard fillings, which can become watery and lumpy if frozen and defrosted, it's best to store custard in a cool place in your home.

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Fried Foods


Frozen french fries bought at the supermarket are fine in the freezer, but it's not always a good idea to freeze homemade fried food. Once defrosted, your golden, crisp fried chicken will be limp and soggy.

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Freezing shrimp, lobster, and other shellfish once is okay (here's some literature on the best way to do so) but you'll run into safety issues when you try to freeze it again after it's defrosted. Shellfish is one of the most delicate perishable items, Simmone says, \ so it's best to enjoy this seafood staple as soon as possible. Foodborne illnesses can develop if thawed shellfish is left at room temperature even for just an hour.

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