How to Freeze Vegetables
Freezing produce is an easy way to enjoy fresh vegetables from the garden or the farmers market well into winter. For the tastiest results, use top-quality garden-fresh produce and follow these freezing guidelines.
Don’t let any of your garden veggies go to waste—freeze them for later instead! Of course, the process is a little more involved than just chopping them up and tossing them into your freezer. We’ll teach you exactly how to do it, including how to blanch vegetables, what kinds of containers to use, and how much headspace to leave in each container. When we’re through, you’ll be all set to save fresh veggies for the months to come!
Pans and utensils: To freeze vegetables, you need a colander and a large pot or saucepan with a wire basket. An accurate freezer thermometer will allow you to regulate your freezer temperature to 0°F or below.
Freezer containers: When freezing foods, use containers and packing materials that are durable, easy to seal, resist cracking at low temperatures, and are moisture- and vapor-resistant. Choose the right size of container for your volume of food; too much empty space can lead to oxidation and freezer burn. Remember that foods containing water expand when frozen, so make sure the containers are expandable, or leave enough headspace to allow for expansion. The following options work well for frozen veggies:
- Rigid containers: Use sealable, rigid glass or plastic containers designed for freezing.
- Canning jars: Select canning jars approved for freezing—this information is clearly noted on the jar packaging. Use only wide-mouth glass jars; jars with necks can crack more easily as contents expand. To allow for food expansion, do not fill jars above the 1-inch line.
- Plastic freezer bags: Use bags designated for freezing, such as resealable bags and vacuum freezer bags. These are made of thicker material than regular plastic bags and are more resistant to moisture and oxygen. In lieu of a vacuum sealer, use your hands to press air from bags before sealing.
General Freezing Steps
- For freezing, select vegetables at their peak of maturity. Hold produce in the refrigerator if it can't be frozen immediately. Rinse and drain small quantities through several changes of cold water. Lift vegetables out of the water; do not let them soak. Prepare cleaned produce for freezing as specified below.
- Blanch vegetables by scalding them in boiling water. This stops or slows enzymes that can toughen the food and cause loss of flavor and color. Do not blanch in the microwave—it might not deactivate some enzymes. Timings vary with vegetable type and size.
- First, fill a large pot with water, using 1 gallon of water per 1 pound of prepared food. Bring to boiling.
- Add prepared food to the boiling water (or place it in a wire basket and lower it into the water); cover. Start timing immediately.
- Cook over high heat for the time specified below. (Add 1 minute if you live 5,000 feet or higher above sea level.)
- Near the end of the time, fill your sink or a large container with ice water. When blanching time is complete, use a slotted spoon to remove the food from the boiling water (or lift the wire basket out of the water). Immediately plunge the food into ice water. Chill for the same amount of time it was boiled; drain.
- Spoon the cooled, drained food into freezer containers or bags, leaving the specified headspace.
- If using containers, wipe the rims. Seal bags or containers according to the manufacturer's directions, pressing out as much air as possible. If necessary, use freezer tape around container lid edges for a tight seal.
- Label each container or bag with its contents, amount, and date. Lay bags flat; add packages to the freezer in batches to make sure food freezes quickly. Leave space between packages so air can circulate around them. When frozen solid, the packages can be placed closer together.
If you've got a big batch of carrots to freeze, or you want to save some of your summer sweet corn for later in the year, we're here to help! Follow these instructions for prepping and freezing specific veggies for the best results when you're ready to enjoy them:
How to Freeze Asparagus
Allow for 2½ to 4½ pounds of asparagus per quart. Wash; scrape off the scales. Break off the woody bases where the spears snap easily; wash again. Sort the asparagus by thickness. Leave whole or cut into 1-inch lengths.
To Freeze: Blanch small spears for 2 minutes, medium for 3 minutes, and large for 4 minutes. Cool quickly by plunging into ice water; drain. Fill your freezer containers and shake down, leaving no headspace.
How to Freeze Beans (Green, Italian, Snap, or Wax Beans)
Allow for 1½ to 2½ pounds of beans per quart. Wash the beans; remove the ends and strings. Leave whole or cut into 1-inch pieces.
To Freeze: Blanch for 3 minutes. Cool quickly by plunging into ice water; drain. Fill the containers and shake down, leaving a ½-inch headspace.
How to Freeze Beets
Allow for 3 pounds of beets (without tops) per quart. Trim off the beet tops, leaving 1 inch of stem and roots (this will reduce bleeding of color). Scrub the beets well.
To Freeze: Cook unpeeled beets in boiling water until tender (this should take about 25 to 30 minutes for small beets and 45 to 50 minutes for medium beets). Cool quickly by plunging into ice water; drain. Peel the beets; remove the stem and roots. Cut into slices or cubes. Fill containers, leaving a ½-inch headspace.
How to Freeze Carrots
Use 1- to 1¼-inch-diameter carrots (avoid using larger carrots; they might be too fibrous for freezing). Allow for 2 to 3 pounds of carrots per quart. Wash, trim, and peel the carrots, then rinse again. Leave tiny carrots whole; slice or dice the remaining carrots.
To Freeze: Blanch tiny whole carrots for 5 minutes and cut-up carrots for 2 minutes. Cool quickly by plunging into ice water; drain. Pack tightly into containers, leaving a ½-inch headspace.
How to Freeze Whole Kernel Corn
Allow for 4 to 5 pounds of corn per quart. Remove the husks; scrub the corn with a vegetable brush to remove the silks. Wash and drain.
To Freeze: Cover ears with boiling water; return to boiling and boil for 4 minutes. Cool by plunging into ice water; drain. Cut corn from the cobs at two-thirds depth of kernels—do not scrape the corn off the cob. Fill the containers, leaving a ½-inch headspace.
How to Freeze Peas (English and Green Peas)
Allow for 2 to 2½ pounds of peas per pint. Wash, shell, rinse, and drain.
To Freeze: Blanch the peas for 1½ minutes. Cool them quickly by plunging them into ice water; drain. Fill your containers, shaking them down and leaving a ½-inch headspace.
How to Freeze Hot Peppers
Select firm jalapeño or other chile peppers and wash them. Halve large peppers. Remove stems, seeds, and membranes. Place the peppers, cut sides down, on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake in a 425°F oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until the skins are bubbly and brown. Cover the peppers or wrap them in foil; let stand about 15 minutes or until cool. Pull the skins off gently and slowly using a paring knife.
To Freeze: Package in freezer containers, leaving no headspace.
How to Freeze Sweet Peppers
Select firm green, bright red, or yellow peppers and wash them. Remove the stems, seeds, and membranes. Place the peppers, cut sides down, on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake in a 425°F oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until the skins are bubbly and brown. Cover the peppers or wrap them in foil; let stand about 15 minutes or until cool. Pull the skins off gently and slowly using a paring knife.
To Freeze: Quarter large pepper pieces or cut into strips. Fill the containers, leaving a ½-inch headspace. You can also spread the peppers in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze them until firm. Fill your containers, shaking to pack them closely together and leaving no headspace.
Using Frozen Foods
Vegetables are best cooked from a frozen state without thawing them first. Thaw fruits in their containers either in the refrigerator or in a bowl of cold water. Meats, soups, and casseroles should be thawed in the refrigerator for a day or two, in the microwave on defrost, or in a leakproof plastic bag immersed in cold water (change water every 30 minutes). Use frozen fruits and vegetables within 8 to 10 months.