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I have some Dorset Naga chilli peppers bought from the local supermarket.

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Aren't they lovely? :)

Well, unfortunately, my local supermarket (I think the only one in the UK that stocks them) doesn't always have them in stock, so when they do appear on the shelves, I quickly stock-up on them.

Storing them in the fridge, they'll last maybe a week or so before starting to deteriorate.

My question is, can these chili peppers be frozen and, if so, will freezing them have any "negative" effects ?

I buy these particular peppers for their heat (and also their great smoky flavour), so I'd hate for either the heat or the flavour to be negatively impacted if they were frozen.

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Off-topic: if you like heat, there are white chilis (Arctic Ghost I think they're called) that will blow your head off. I tried a piece of one, the size of a pea. Nice flavour for about half a second, then a white light went off behind my eyes and I was in agony for half an hour. The psycho chili freak who gave it to me popped one in his mouth and said "Mm, tangy." If you like to ratchet up the heat, trust me, try these. –  daniel Oct 5 '10 at 10:07
    
How do you plan to use this pepper? Would it be for something fresh like a salsa or cooked in something? –  cspirou Aug 3 '13 at 17:40

9 Answers 9

up vote 16 down vote accepted

Yes, they can be, but you'll want to prick each one with a sharp knife once or twice to prevent them from bursting. Once that is done, put them into a small freezer-safe storage bag, remove as much air as possible from the bag, and seal it. They keep reasonably well for about six months without tasting "burnt," but they tend to be a tad mushy upon defrosting.

I always thought the mushiness factor had to do with length of freezing time, but since you asked, I did a bit of research. Apparently, what makes chilies turn to mush actually has to do with how quickly they initially freeze:

The undesirable mushy end product that comes from freezing fruits and vegetables isn't from the act of freezing itself, but from how you freeze. Your ordinary freezer, or even deep freezer, freezes food slowly. Chilies have water in their membranes, and as they slowly freeze, it forms jagged ice crystals that pierce and puncture the membrane, so that when you defrost it, you're left with a leaky and "tenderized" result. The solution to this problem is easy … faster freezing. If the water doesn't have time to form jagged ice, you won't have a mushy membrane.

Happy Living (from which I pulled the above quotation) has an article about how to safely use dry ice to freeze chilies quickly. (I'll probably keep going the way I always have and accept the mushiness, but if you want to freeze a lot of chilies for a variety of applications, the dry-ice method looks promising.)

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Great answer. I think I will also accept a little mushyness after defrosting (they're probably going into a curry anyway!). My main concern was loosing heat and/or flavour after freezing but that doesn't seem to be the case! –  CraigTP Aug 15 '10 at 13:28
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See the answers on freezing blueberries for advice on quick freezing : cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/1192/… –  Joe Aug 15 '10 at 13:33
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Quick freezing is the secret to non-mushy anything. Thats was the great Birdseye breakthrough - using very cold brine to flash freeze quickly enough that you don't get crystals. –  Martin Beckett Feb 4 '11 at 17:07

I've never tried it, but the Encyclopedia of Country Living notes the following:

Freezing Food That Contains Chili Peppers : Remove the chilies before freezing, or the stuff will get hotter and hotter! To freeze chilies by themselves, chop them up first. The thick and fleshy varieties are best preserved by freezing rather than drying.

And then under the section on sweet peppers:

Freezing Sweets. Cut in half, remove seeds and pulp. Freeze your nicest ones in halves for later stuffing. Dice or slice the others. No need to blanch. Package in small plastic bags, since you make want only a little at a time. ... Never thaw peppers before using. ...

(I removed the bits about serving suggestions or specifically about pimentos, as it wasn't relevent)

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Although not specific to that type of chilli, I freeze whole chillis I grow "as is".

They can be then cut and added to whatever dish you're preparing straight from the freezer (be it a curry, chilli con carne or even salsa)

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I sometimes wonder if the chillies become slightly milder after being frozen, but I don't think the difference in heat is substantial.

If I'm not cooking with the chilli, but as a garnish, I usually put them in a soy sauce to help defrost them without making them taste mushy. (I agree that you should "never defrost the chillies", but at the same time, it's freaking weird to have cold lumps on your food!)

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I freeze habaneros whole and jalapeños diced - never had a problem with either variety noticeably losing heat for up to 6 months. –  zanlok Jan 19 '11 at 20:54
    
Large peppers do seem to get milder on freezing, about the same effect as blanching. There is some other change because frozen peppers don't 'repeat' like fresh ones - at least for me. –  Martin Beckett Feb 4 '11 at 17:09

I freeze whole chillis without any trouble at all. They seem to work much the same afterwards, but I wouldn't want to use frozen ones for anything in which they appear substantially raw, because the texture's seriously compromised. The heat and flavour seem to be more or less unharmed though.

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Yeah, this is my experience too. I freeze fresh chilies bought from an oriental store ( imgur.com/Xtd18.jpg ) because there are so many of them in the package that they'd go bad in the fridge before I've used all. –  Jonik Oct 17 '10 at 18:01

I grow Ghost Chilis (naga jlokia, but jolokia) and have tried freezing them, although the heat and flavour seem relatively unchanged the texture is always going to be mushy. I found drying them is a much better way to preserve them if you need to add them directly to your food, but if I am making a curry sauce or soup I use the frozen as they get chopped up and heated anyway so you don't really get the mushiness. Drying them is as simple as stringing them up in the kitchen or lay them out on a wire rack or similar, so long as air can circulate all around.

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Freeze chillies for cooking. But if you want whole chillies to serve with a meal, store them in a glass jar with white vinegar and a tablespoon of salt. You get the taste of vinegar but the heat and flavor are as they should be. In both cases remove the stalks first.

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If anything, we've found freezing whole "calcutta" chillies in freezer bags has resulted in something strange. They seem to be getting hotter as we work our way through the last bag we froze, using one chili chopped finely in a pasta sauce for two has become sufficient for a heat level between mild and medium whereas we would use two or three of the same type of chili in the past.

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Of course you can also home dry all your chillies (just on a string with air circulating all round) then use same as for all dried chilli. I now have an amazing variety of dried chillies to call on. I will definitely be freezing some now, i always feel guilty going into my local indian supermarket and buying just the one or 2 i need, so constantly have extra!

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