Take the 2-minute tour ×
Seasoned Advice is a question and answer site for professional and amateur chefs. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I am a vegetarian looking to save time. I thought cooking in large batches and freezing would be a good option. However, I don't know which of my recipes are freezable and which are not, how can I tell? Are there certain ingredients that make a recipe non-freezable, or is it only possible to tell on a case-by-case basis, and if so what are the criteria?

Otherwise, are there good online resources for healthy, freezable, vegetarian recipes? Or, can anyone share any suitable recipes they recommend?

share|improve this question
add comment

3 Answers

up vote 11 down vote accepted

Freezing is bad for things which have a special structure and lots of water. Everything else should be OK with freezing.

The prime example of a thing which behaves badly when frozen is a fruit. It consists mostly of water, but is firm instead of liquid because the water is contained within a cellulose structure created by the cell walls of the fruit. When you freeze it, the water turns to sharp ice crystals, which also expand in volume (water is one of the few liquids which does that upon freezing), and they hurt the cell walls. When you defrost the fruit, it turns terribly soft, and all the juice runs out. It is practically like maceration without the sugar. You can use the fruit for cooking, e.g. for a jelly, but it is not the same thing as a fresh fruit.

Another example which is very structure dependent is whipped egg white. It is a fragile foam, and the formation of ice crystals is also very damaging for it. Whipped cream is similar - you can freeze it (and get ice cream), but it melts to a liquid, not a foam.

On the other hand, foods which have a specific structure but not much water are OK with freezing. Butter is not pure fat, it is an emulsion of 17% water in 83% fat. Emulsions tend to have very fragile structures (don't freeze mayonnaise), but butter is OK, because there isn't much water so the formation of crystals doesn't disrupt the structure. Another exception which is OK to freeze is dough. A dough being practically a mesh of gluten, it doesn't get really hurt by the crystals.

There are a few ingredients which develop an off taste when frozen. For example, don't freeze anything carbonated, it tastes terrible afterwards.

You should also consider the problem of freezer burn. It happens when the moisture of the frozen product sublimates in the dry freezer air. To prevent it, you have to seal the food airtight. You are therefore limited by the kind of food you can seal. If you have a food which would make a mess in a home vacuum sealer, like a wet stew, you could try freezing it for a night, so it is hard but does not have freezer burn yet, and then sealing the frozen chunk and returning it to the freezer.

Some ingredients will prevent the food from freezing into a solid block. Notable examples are salt, alcohol and propylene glycol (which is used as a solvent in food coloring and baking aromas). This shouldn't be a food safety problem, because first, bacteria growth is inhibited by low temperatures, and second, if you have these things in concentration high enough to completely prevent freezing at -18°C, then they will kill the bacteria by themselves. But it can cause some logistic problems if the food stays too soft.

As you see, these general guidelines have exceptions, or at least require some knowledge of what food is built like (but frankly, I would have predicted that yeast dough freezes badly if I didn't know from experience that it works well). So you should definitely try to remember it on a per-case basis for the most common things you intend to freeze. A very convenient guideline is to think if you can buy a premade equivalent frozen at the supermarket. If they sell it, it will probably turn out OK when frozen at home (sometimes with differences, like frozen fruit). If they don't have the food (or its major ingredients), there is probably a reason for that.

share|improve this answer
    
Excellent answer. –  BaffledCook Jul 11 '11 at 13:38
    
wow, thanks! combined with baffledcook's tips this basically covers everything not covered by experimentation - would a lasagna freeze well? my guess is a definite no? –  d3vid Jul 12 '11 at 13:12
    
Lasagna should freeze excellently. You can buy it in the store. Bechamel freezes fine. –  BaffledCook Jul 12 '11 at 16:53
    
that's good news, thanks :) –  d3vid Jul 13 '11 at 6:42
add comment

I don't understand why you insist on 'vegetarian'. To freeze or not to freeze that's the question. Most vegetables & fruits freeze well. Some should be blanched before freezing (put the product in boiling water for a minute, then shock it in ice water, then freeze).

Most cooked foods freeze well. The only exception I'm aware of are whole potatoes (but that's a matter of opinion, I've got a book that says potatoes freeze without a problem).

The thing about freezing is to freeze correctly. 1. Let the food cool. 2. Make individual packages (for the amount of food you usually use: 1 person, 2 persons, family). 3. Press all the air out of the packages (use a vacuum if you can). 4. Put the packages flat and distributed in the freezer so they freeze as fast as possible. 5. De-freeze in the fridge.

Do put a date and content on the packages, and enjoy your food.

Pd. Welcome to this site.

share|improve this answer
    
just keeping the question focused :) thanks for the handy freezing tips –  d3vid Jul 12 '11 at 13:09
add comment

From experience, I will say that whole-bean dishes are not great after freezing but frozen bean/dhal puree works. That means frozen chilie will suffer but pea soup not.

Doughs and pastas are mostly good freezing candidates -uncooked. Homemade ravioli, Chinese dumplings, gnocchi, pierogi, and puff-pastry pockets are all good cooked straight from frozen. Lasagna being the most forgiving of the 'frozen left-over' category.

Grain dishes are not usually good candidates; the exception being polenta. Some folks swear by pre-portioned frozen brown rice, however (I will forgive them, just).

Mashed potato freezes well as does the nearly-mashed-texture of scalloped potato. The only other potato dish that is acceptably textured after freezing (mealiness!) is chips/fries -any shape destined to hit the oil.

Tomato-based sauces freeze well as does sauce bases of pureed veg such as onion or eggplant. All will separate a bit on thawing but sauces get stirred anyway.

Soft and wet dishes suffer less than dry chewy ones: veg curry and ratatouille are good choices.

Mixes and patties: raw falafel in balls or slabs are great to have frozen as prep is only worth it for lg quantities. Bean burgers and those made with commercial tvp work well too.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.