Food and Drink

8 foods your freezer can ruin, if you’re not careful

Using your freezer smartly is one of the best ways to save money, reduce food waste, and make cooking faster and easier. A running joke among my colleagues is how much I say you can freeze - bread! Cake! Tomato paste! Vegetable scraps! Full meals! But the fact is, not everything should be frozen.

Some foods should never go on ice because their quality suffers too much. Others can be frozen if you keep in mind certain caveats and prepare them properly. Here’s what to know about foods you shouldn’t freeze, or freeze only in specific circumstances.

Certain vegetables

Avoid freezing high-water vegetables, including watercress, endive, lettuces, cucumbers and radishes, Gina Homolka advises in “Skinnytaste Meal Prep.” They will turn mushy when thawed. Others, such as celery, cucumbers and tomatoes (peel and core first) can be frozen but are then only suitable for cooked preparations, such as soups and stews, the National Center for Home Food Preservation says.

Most vegetables you want to freeze will benefit from blanching, as food writer Angela Davis explained for us in 2020. Typically that means boiling for two to three minutes before shocking them in an ice bath. Have a look at her full primer on how to blanch and freeze vegetables.

Potatoes can be tricky. Raw spuds may turn mushy and grainy, and even in cooked dishes, they can discolor, disintegrate or lose their flavor. The Penn State Extension recommends using prepared, frozen potatoes within two to four weeks. It suggests freezing small new potatoes after blanching. Also, “when possible, add potatoes to frozen dishes when they are ready to be served.” Oil-blanched potatoes intended for fries freeze well, in addition to twice-baked potatoes or potato casserole, says chef Ashley Christensen, author of “It’s Always Freezer Season Cookbook” with Kaitlyn Goalen.

Fresh herbs

Don’t use frozen herbs as garnishes, as their color and texture won’t hold up. “Mince the herbs as finely as you can and fill your tray about ¾ of the way full,” Davis wrote. “Top the herbs off with olive oil to best preserve flavor, but water works, too. Freeze until solid, then transfer the frozen herb cubes to a storage container.” Another option is to combine herbs and oil in a food processor and transfer to a container, ice cube tray or bag, where you can simply break off what you need.

You can freeze herb sprigs and leaves after washing, draining and patting them dry, according to the National Center for Home Food Preservation. Wrap well and pop in a resealable bag. Again, use only in cooked situations.


Liquid and cultured dairy

Frozen milk, cream and buttermilk “will lose their viscosity and creaminess” when thawed, Christensen says.

The water and proteins in dairy are forced apart when frozen, turning ingredients thin, separated or gritty, Keith Dresser says at America’s Test Kitchen. Avoid using previously frozen dairy in uncooked dishes, beverages or baked goods where it is the star player, such as custards and puddings, though they may be okay in baked goods and mashed potatoes. Shake or blend back together as needed.

Thawed heavy cream won’t whip well either. Previously frozen cultured dairy, including yogurt, sour cream and buttermilk, should not be used in custards, puddings and other uncooked dishes, Dresser says.

Dairy, especially full-fat, already incorporated into a cooked dish is generally okay, according to “Fix, Freeze, Feast” by Kati Neville and Lindsay Ahrens. Sauces may separate but can be recombined after thawing. For extra insurance in something like a soup, hold off on adding the dairy until you’re ready to reheat the thawed food.


In “The New Rules of Cheese,” Anne Saxelby is a hard no on whether you should freeze cheese, saying that freezing alters the “delicate matrix” of “fat, protein, water, vitamins, and minerals.”

If you want to freeze cheese, think about its moisture content and what you are making, says Isabelle Brosen, events and education coordinator at Murray’s Cheese in New York. When the water in cheese freezes, it turns to ice crystals that can adversely impact the texture. Harder cheeses with less moisture will fare better, but they can still turn grainy or crumbly. “Additionally, people sometimes forget that a lot of cheeses are living organisms,” Brosen says, meaning that soft-ripened cheeses with bloomy or washed rinds and blue cheeses can have their organic activity disrupted by freezing.

Frozen cheese - make sure it’s well-wrapped and stored airtight - may work fine melted in mac and cheese or in dishes where it’s playing more of a supporting role, Brosen says. “While the flavor may be slightly diminished, its role within a composed dish with many other flavors will still shine.” But freezing cheese to serve to guests on a cheese board? Pass.


Don’t freeze whole eggs in shells, the U.S. Agriculture Department says. You can, however, crack the eggs, beat together the whites and yolks, and freeze that mixture in containers, ice cube trays, etc. Whites and yolks can also be frozen separately, though the USDA suggests adding a pinch of salt and 1½ teaspoons of sugar or corn syrup to every four egg yolks for the best consistency.

It is safe to freeze dishes with cooked eggs, though you may not end up with great texture. That’s why your best bet is if you freeze dishes with eggs folded in with other ingredients, such as burritos. The American Egg Board does not recommend freezing hard-boiled eggs, as their texture can turn tough and watery.

Custard or meringue-based desserts

According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation, pies or baked goods with cream or custard fillings (such as coconut or chocolate cream pies) are prone to separating and turning watery or lumpy. The major exception: Custard-based desserts intended to be frozen, Christensen says, such as ice cream and icebox pies, where sugar and churning stave off separation. Thawed meringues can turn soft, tough or spongy.

Cured meats

Even when frozen, cured meats can go rancid, the National Center for Home Food Preservation says, in part because of the high fat content and presence of curing salts. It recommends a maximum storage time of 1 to 3 months, noting that the Food Marketing Institute does not advise freezing open packages of bacon at all.


Some people swear by storing their spices in the freezer (or refrigerator), but that “is kind of overdoing it,” Bill Penzey of Penzeys Spices says. If your kitchen is not air-conditioned, it’s very hot and humid, or you’ve had problems with clumping or fading flavors, then you might want to consider cold storage. Otherwise, Penzey doesn’t think it’s necessary.

Angel Gregorio of the Spice Suite in Washington worries that freezing might introduce humidity into the spices, especially if they are not well sealed.