Exactly How to Freeze 10 of the Most Popular Kinds of Leftovers (2023)


Freezer Friendly

Jesse Szewczyk

Jesse SzewczykContributor


updated Jan 17, 2020






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Exactly How to Freeze 10 of the Most Popular Kinds of Leftovers (1)

(Video) How to Freeze Leftovers

Freezing leftovers is a great way to save money and prevent food waste, but knowing which items can be stashed in the freezer — and how to best store them — can be confusing. Can you freeze cooked rice? What about pasta? To help answer these questions, we’ve rounded up the best ways to freeze and reheat some of the most common types of leftovers.

Keep in mind that the FDA states that leftovers can be safely stored in the freezer indefinitely, but “can lose moisture and flavor” when stored for too long. They suggest freezing leftovers for a maximum of three to four months for freshness, but we’ve noticed that some items start to degrade a bit quicker. For these items, we’ve made suggestions for how long to hold onto them. The FDA also states that all leftovers should be heated to a minimum temperature of 165°F — so keep that in mind when reheating.

One of the best ways to make sure you don’t keep leftovers in the fridge for too long is to label the package with both what it is (“is that chili or tomato sauce?”) and the date it went in. We highly recommend using painter’s tape, since it’s easier to remove. Here’s more on why we love painter’s tape in the kitchen.

Pancakes and Waffles

How to freeze: Place cooked pancakes (or waffles) in a single layer on a parchment-lined sheet tray and pop it in the freezer until they’re frozen solid. (This takes about one hour.) Stack the frozen pancakes between layers of parchment or wax paper to prevent them from sticking together, and place in a freezer-safe bag. Pancakes can be stored in the freezer for up to two months.

How to reheat: Heat the oven to 375°F and warm pancakes on a baking sheet for 10 minutes. Alternatively, place pancakes on a microwave-safe plate in a single layer and microwave in 30-second increments on full-power until warm.

Read more: The Best Way to Freeze and Reheat Pancakes

Whole and Ground Meats

How to freeze: Both leftover whole and ground meats can be stored in freezer-safe bags and stashed in the freezer. To avoid freezer burn, squeeze out as much air as possible from the bags. Cooked meats can be stored in the freezer for up to four months.

How to reheat: You can add frozen meat directly to your recipes during cooking, but keep in mind that some of the fat has been rendered off during the initial cooking, so you might need to add oil or butter.

Read more: This One Tip Is a Game-Changer for Frozen Ground Beef

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How to freeze: Wrap cooked fish in parchment paper and transfer into freezer-proof bags. (This is to prevent the fish from sticking to the bag.) Squeeze out as much air as possible and store in a single layer on a sheet tray in the freezer. Cooked fish can be stored in the freezer for up to a month.

How to reheat: Transfer the fish onto a rimmed baking sheet and warm in a 275°F oven until it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F. Keep in mind that reheated fish will not be as moist as just-cooked fish, so it’s best to serve with sauce, or a bit of olive oil.

Read more: Five Mistakes to Avoid When Reheating Salmon


How to freeze: Wrap cooled, leftover casseroles directly in their pans in a layer of plastic wrap and foil. If there is not enough leftover casserole to warrant wrapping the entire baking dish, remove leftovers and wrap individual slices in plastic wrap and foil. Freeze for up to four months.

How to reheat: Most frozen casseroles can be baked as per instructed in the recipe with an additional 10 to 15 minutes added to account for freezing. For individual slices of leftover casserole, heat them in the microwave in one-minute increments on full power until warm.

Read more: A Helpful Tip for Make-Ahead and Freeze Casseroles

Cooked Vegetables

How to freeze: Transfer cooked veggies onto a parchment-lined sheet tray and freeze until solid. (This takes about one hour.) Transfer frozen vegetables into a freezer-safe bag and store in the fridge for up to three months. Keep in mind that this technique works best for vegetables that are blanched, steamed, or boiled. Avoid freezing roasted or fried vegetables, as they will lose their crispness.

How to reheat: Add directly to your recipes during the cooking process or transfer onto a sheet tray and bake in a 425°F oven until crisp.

Read more: How to Freeze Zucchini

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Fresh Bread and Dinner Rolls

How to freeze: Wrap leftover dinner rolls and sliced whole bread (not individual slices) in foil and place into freezer-safe bags. Keep in the freezer for up to one month.

How to reheat: Remove from the freezer and let thaw in the fridge overnight. Remove from freezer bag and loosen the foil. Heat in a 300°F oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes until warm.

Read more: How to Freeze and Reheat Dinner Rolls

Sauces and Gravies

How to freeze: Cool leftover sauces and transfer into freezer-safe bags or sturdy plastic containers. (We’re partial to these ones.) Most sauces can be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months, but sauces made with fresh herbs, cheese, or other dairy products typically only last a month before they start to diminish in quality.

How to reheat: Transfer frozen sauce into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer, or heat in the microwave in one-minute increments on full power until warm.

Read more: 10 Pasta Sauces to Freeze for Easy Weeknight Meals

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Cooked Pasta

How to freeze: Line a baking sheet with parchment and toss cooked pasta in olive oil. Spread pasta in a single layer or, for long pasta shapes like spaghetti or angel hair, pile into small nests. Pop the tray in the freezer until the pasta is frozen solid. (This takes about one hour.) Transfer frozen pasta into freezer-safe bags and store in the freezer for up to two months.

How to reheat: Add frozen pasta directly to a pan of simmering sauce and cook until the pasta is completely thawed.

Read more: 3 Tips for Freezing Cooked Pasta

(Video) Can Leftovers Be Frozen

Soup and Chili

How to freeze: Transfer leftover cooled soup into freezer-safe bags or sturdy plastic containers and stash in the freezer. Hold off on adding any cream, milk, pasta, or last-minute additions (like fresh herbs) if possible until ready to serve. Leftover soups without these items can be stored in the freezer for up to three months — and soups will last about a month.

How to reheat: Transfer frozen soup into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Alternatively, transfer soup into microwave-safe bowls and heat in one-minute increments on full power until hot.

Read more: 5 Simple Tips for Freezing Any Soup

Cooked Rice

How to freeze: Cool leftover rice and transfer into freezer-proof bags, then flatten into an even layer. Squeeze out as much air as possible and transfer into the freezer on a sheet pan. Rice can be stored in the freezer for up to three months.

How to reheat: Transfer frozen rice into a microwave-safe container, cover, and heat in one-minute increments on full power until rice is hot. (No need to thaw before cooking.)

Read more: How to Freeze Cooked Brown Rice

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What is the best method for freezing leftovers? ›

Freeze large batch recipes in smaller, sensibly-portioned containers for easy cooling, freezing and defrosting. Use bags to save space. Freeze soups, sauces and other leftovers in reseable bags, then lay flat until frozen. These flat, frozen sheets can be stacked horizontally or vertically to maximize storage capacity.

Can you freeze all leftovers? ›

Keep in mind that the FDA states that leftovers can be safely stored in the freezer indefinitely, but “can lose moisture and flavor” when stored for too long. They suggest freezing leftovers for a maximum of three to four months for freshness, but we've noticed that some items start to degrade a bit quicker.

How long should leftovers be cooled before freezing? ›

Any leftover food should be put in the freezer or fridge within two hours of being cooked. This is to prevent the spread of harmful bacteria. In what? All leftovers should be stored in sealable, shallow containers as this will help them to cool quicker.

What cooked foods can you not freeze? ›

But even properly wrapped, the following foods can be problematic to freeze and thaw:
  • Leafy Greens. ...
  • Sauces or Gravies. ...
  • Pudding. ...
  • Cream-Based Soups. ...
  • Non-Fatty Fish. ...
  • Cooked Pasta or Rice. ...
  • Cooked Egg Whites. ...
  • Mayonnaise or Mayo-Based Dressings.
Feb 10, 2022

What is the best way to wrap food for freezing? ›

The most important thing is to avoid exposing frozen meat to outside air. While a vacuum-sealer is ideal for ensuring that meats are packaged correctly, you can get by just fine with double wrapping cuts of meat with freezer paper, plastic wrap, aluminum foil or airtight zip-loc bags.

Can you freeze leftover spaghetti? ›

How to freeze left over cooked pasta? Left over pasta can be frozen with or without sauce. Let the pasta completely cool before adding to a freezer bag. Once in the bag, remove any air and place in the freezer until ready to use.

Can you freeze mashed potatoes? ›

Schmidt tells us that, for best results, you can keep mashed potatoes in "a freezer set to 0°F or colder" for "up to one year." At this temperature and for this length of time, frozen mashed potatoes can be thawed and reheated without losing texture or flavor (and without risking the transmission of foodborne bacteria) ...

Can I freeze food in glass jars? ›

Glass is an excellent way to store food, whether it be in the pantry, the fridge, or even the freezer. It is perfectly safe and very easy to freeze food in glass, but there are are few things to keep in mind.

Can you freeze cooked potatoes? ›

Yes! You absolutely can freeze potatoes, and you should if you have an excess of spuds. But there's one important thing to remember: You should really only freeze cooked or partially cooked potatoes, as raw potatoes contain a lot of water. This water freezes and, when thawed, makes the potatoes mushy and grainy.

What vegetable Cannot be frozen? ›

You can freeze just about any vegetable except celery, watercress, endive, lettuce, cabbage, cucumber and radishes. These foods have a high water content and become soggy and water-logged when thawed.

What is the safest thing to freeze food in? ›

Food grade materials, such as aluminum foil, heavy freezer-weight plastic bags, heavy plastic wrap and parchment or freezer paper are excellent choices. It is safe to freeze meat or poultry directly in its supermarket wrapping, but this type of wrap is thin and lets air in.

What should happen if you wipe your hands on a tea towel after handling raw meat? ›

Tea towels can also spread bacteria so it's important to wash them regularly and be mindful about cross contamination when using them. Remember, if you wipe your hands on a tea towel after you have touched raw meat, this will spread bacteria to the towel.

How do you reheat frozen leftovers? ›

It is safe to reheat frozen leftovers without thawing, either in a saucepan or microwave (in the case of a soup or stew) or in the oven or microwave (for example, casseroles and combination meals). Reheating will take longer than if the food is thawed first, but it is safe to do when time is short.

Can I freeze cooked rice? ›

Rice can be frozen both cooked and uncooked.

Freezing rice uncooked helps to prolong its shelf life so it will keep for longer, especially for brown rice on account of the small amount of natural oils in its kernels!

Is it better to freeze food in plastic wrap or aluminum foil? ›

A foil is also better for storing things in the freezer. It is more airtight around foods and prevents freezer burn. Although, it is recommended to wrap foods in plastic wrap first and then finish with a layer of foil for long-term freezer storage. Tip: Don't use foil when wrapping acidic foods, like tomato or berries.

Is it safe to freeze food in Ziploc bags? ›

Zip-top bags are especially good for freezing food because you can more easily get all the air out of them than out of rigid containers. You can use them for everything from blanched spinach to chicken thighs and, after laying them flat to freeze, stack them to economize space.

Are Ziploc bags freezer safe? ›

All Ziploc® brand Containers and microwavable Ziploc® brand Bags meet the safety requirements of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for temperatures associated with defrosting and reheating food in microwave ovens, as well as room, refrigerator and freezer temperatures.

Can you freeze cooked spaghetti with sauce and ground beef? ›

Yes! You can freeze the pasta together with meat sauce, pesto, or with whatever freezer-friendly sauce you have. You'll want to reheat this in the oven, in an oven-safe dish.

Do noodles freeze well? ›

In the freezer, cooked pasta will last up to three months. When you're ready to defrost the pasta, transfer it to the fridge to thaw. Then, dump the pasta into boiling water (or pop it in the microwave) to reheat.

Can you freeze leftover spaghetti and meatballs? ›

Freeze Cooked Spaghetti and Meatballs Together

The easiest way to freeze this dish is to transfer the cooked pasta, meatballs and sauce as a combined mixture to a freezer-safe container or storage bag, glass jars or an airtight container. Freeze for up to six months for best results.

Do mashed potatoes taste good after freezing? ›

Yes, you can totally freeze mashed potatoes—in fact, it's one of the most freezer-friendly potato preparations out there. The key is to coat your potatoes with plenty of butter and cream. This dairy duo ensures that your potatoes not only freeze well, but also reheat creamy and flavorful.

Why are my frozen mashed potatoes watery? ›

Quick tip: If your mashed potatoes are too watery after reheating, Atanasova says they probably just need more cooking time for the liquid to evaporate. You can also try adding a small amount of cream cheese thicken them.

Do mashed sweet potatoes freeze well? ›

Can you freeze mashed sweet potatoes? This Mashed Sweet Potato Recipe can be frozen. If you make a large batch and are wanting to save them for a later date add the finished sweet potatoes into a large freezer resealable bag or a freezer safe container. Freeze for up to 6 months.

Is it better to freeze food in glass or plastic? ›

Plastic containers can release chemicals when frozen just as they can when heated. For better food safety, opt for glass. The right glass containers are freezer and refrigerator safe, meaning they won't release any harsh chemicals or break if frozen.

Are mason jars freezer proof? ›

Yes, you can! Mason jars are great for space-saving storage in your freezer- absolutely perfect for soups, jams, sauces, stocks, and even leftovers!

Are ball mason jars freezer safe? ›

If you're trying to avoid excessive use of plastic in the home, glass mason jars are a great reusable option that you likely already have around. You can freeze liquids in mason jars and store them for several months in the freezer.

Why should you not freeze potatoes? ›

Because they contain so much water, raw potatoes don't freeze well and can turn mushy, watery or even grainy. Cooking before freezing might seem like a hassle but instead think of it as a time saver.

What type of cooked potatoes freeze well? ›

The types of potatoes that freeze best include baking potatoes, waxy boiling potatoes, and sweet potatoes. Baking potatoes contain less moisture and enough starch to hold up well when blanched and frozen without turning mushy.

Can you freeze boiled eggs? ›

Another storage option for hard-boiled eggs is to freeze them and keep the cooked yolks. If you freeze the entire egg, the whites will become tough and inedible. Storing the yolks will allow them to be used as a fun and tasty garnish on many different dishes.

What fruit should you not freeze? ›

Fruits that don't freeze well include watermelon and citrus fruit. While you may find these fruits frozen, however, you'll notice the texture is totally different when thawed.

Can you freeze eggs? ›

Yes, you can freeze eggs. Eggs can be frozen for up to a year, although it is recommended to use them within 4 months for freshness. Many people find themselves being left with spare egg whites or yolks after a recipe requiring just one or the other, or even throwing out unused eggs when the box hits its expiry date.

What fruits do not freeze well? ›

Citrus fruit and watermelon are both fruits to avoid when freezing. You will find that the texture will be completely mushy once they thaw.

Can you freeze Ziploc containers? ›

Ziploc® Containers with lids feature easy-to-use, leakproof Smart Snap technology. They are BPA free and safe for use in the microwave, dishwasher, freezer and fridge (when used as directed). Use them to store food, organize supplies, or while on the go.

What container material should never put in the freezer? ›

Liquids in glass containers, cans, and plastic containers are also susceptible to exploding in the freezer, according to Murphy. Certain dairy products like milk and sour cream do not freeze well, said Murphy.

What doesn't freeze in the freezer? ›

While shelled eggs and canned foods are the only things that aren't safe to freeze, there are a handful of other foods that don't freeze well. These include: Fruits and vegetables with high water content - (celery, cucumbers, lettuce, radishes, melon). They'll be limp and soggy when thawed.

What meat do you not have to refrigerate? ›

Meats. There are quite a few options for meat that don't have to be kept cold and make for great additions to camping meals. Cured meats like summer sausage, pepperoni or turkey pepperoni, and salami are safe to take camping without a fridge.

What sandwich does not need refrigeration? ›

5 Sandwiches That Don't Require Cold Cuts
  • Variations on PB&J. You've probably eaten a ton of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches throughout your lifetime and made even more for your children and grandkids. ...
  • Yummy Banana Sandwiches. ...
  • Classic Tomato Sandwiches. ...
  • Tasty Cucumber Sandwiches. ...
  • An Alternative to the BLT.
Aug 21, 2018

Can you freeze leftovers more than once? ›

Information. Yes, it is safe to refreeze any food remaining after reheating previously frozen leftovers to the safe temperature of 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer.

Can you freeze leftovers and reheat them? ›

Yes, freezing is one of the safest ways to store food and, when done correctly, will lock in flavour and nutrition. Some leftovers don't freeze well due to loss of texture and appearance (see list below). How soon can you freeze food after cooking? To ensure food stays safe, cool cooked dishes quickly before freezing.

Can you freeze leftovers after being fridge? ›

Freeze or consume leftovers within four days.

Once frozen, leftovers remain safe indefinitely — although food quality can suffer between two and six months later. Safely thaw leftovers in the refrigerator and, after thawing, eat them within 3 to 4 days — or refreeze them.

How many times can you reheat the same leftovers? ›

There are no limits to how many times you can safely reheat leftover home-cooked meals. However, best practice is to limit the number of times you do so. More often than not, you wouldn't need to reheat one type of dish more than once. If you are making meals in bulk, separate and store them in individual portions.

When freezing leftovers they should be called within four hours? ›

Refrigerate or freeze leftovers within two hours of preparation (or one hour on days over 90º F) to reduce the chance of bacteria growing. Any perishable foods sitting out at room temperature for longer than two hours should be discarded. Leftovers can also be immediately frozen for reheating later.

Does pasta freeze well? ›

In the freezer, cooked pasta will last up to three months. When you're ready to defrost the pasta, transfer it to the fridge to thaw. Then, dump the pasta into boiling water (or pop it in the microwave) to reheat.

Can I eat cooked chicken after 5 days? ›

The USDA says that chicken is safe for up to four days in the fridge before you need to throw it out. If you're on day five, it's time to toss it.

What happens to viruses when food is frozen? ›

Freezing to 0 °F inactivates any microbes — bacteria, yeasts and molds — present in food. Once thawed, however, these microbes can again become active, multiplying under the right conditions to levels that can lead to foodborne illness.

Which foods should not be reheated? ›

6 Foods You Should Never Reheat In The Microwave
  • Rice. Rice contains spores of Bacillus cereus, a bacterium that can cause food poisoning. ...
  • Coffee. ...
  • Hard-boiled eggs. ...
  • Fish. ...
  • Turkey. ...
  • Foods you've already reheated.
Nov 13, 2019

What should go on what shelf in the fridge? ›

How to Store Food in a Fridge:
  • Top and middle shelf. Ready-to-eat foods, such as dairy products, ready meals and packaged foods, leftovers, cooked meats and prepared salads. ...
  • Bottom shelf. Raw meat, poultry and fish in sealed containers to stop them touching or dripping onto other foods. ...
  • Salad drawer.
Jan 30, 2015

Why you shouldn't reheat food twice? ›

A common culprit of food poisoning linked to reheated foods is Staphylococcus aureus which many people carry in their nose or throat. It produces a heat-stable toxin which causes vomiting and diarrhoea when ingested. Food handlers can transfer these bacteria from their hands to foods after cooking or reheating.


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