In this guide, "Cold Turkey: Freezing Your Way Through Thanksgiving Leftovers", you will discover which dishes can be frozen for later and which should be eaten soon.
🦃 Thanksgiving is almost here.
Thanksgiving is about family, laughter, and a table full of yummy dishes. But once the guests leave, we're left with lots of leftovers. It's time to go "Cold Turkey" on them.
Before we even dive into the article, these are my best practices when it comes to reducing waste and freezing the food the right way.
- Avoid Re-Freezing: It's wise to avoid re-freezing items that were already frozen once after cooking, like pre-made and frozen gravy, to maintain their texture and taste.
- Airtight Packing: Pack each food item in the smallest airtight container possible to prevent freezer burn.
- Prompt Freezing: Freeze leftovers as soon as they cool to maintain freshness.
- Labeling: Label containers with contents and date to keep track of what’s tucked away.
- Thaw Safely: Thaw frozen items in the fridge to ensure they remain safe and tasty.
- Portioning: Freeze in portions for easy thawing and reheating without waste.
❄️ Freezable Items:
🍗Turkey meat: YES
Freezing turkey meat in air-tight containers or freezer bags extends its shelf life to 2-3 months. Ensure it's cool before packing to prevent bacterial growth. Revisit the feast with my compilation of "25 Best Thanksgiving Turkey Recipes" to spruce up the chilled cuts.
🦴Turkey Bones: YES
Don't discard bones; they can be used for homemade broth, which is freezable for up to 6 months, ideal for soups and stews. Learn how with “How to Make Homemade Bone Broth” and elevate your winter dishes.
🥔Mashed Potatoes: YES
Mashed potatoes freeze well and can be enjoyed for up to 2 months post-freeze. Just skip any garnishes like fresh chives or parsley before freezing. When ready, reheat and then toss in those fresh herbs.
🍠Sweet Potatoes: YES
Roasted: Roasted sweet potatoes maintain their texture and taste, frozen for up to 3 months. Reheat and re-season if needed. Check out "Roasted Sweet Potatoes" for a refresher on creating this simple yet satisfying dish.
Casserole: Sweet potato casseroles freeze well, without any crunchy topping which can turn soggy. Store for up to a month, and recrisp the topping post-reheat. Dive into the "Sweet Potatoes Casserole" for a warm, comforting meal.
Freeze gravy to enjoy it for up to 3-4 months. Just leave out any fresh herbs or dairy until you're ready to reheat and serve.
Pumpkin Pie: Freeze to relish within a month. Thaw in the fridge and enjoy a slice of "Whiskey Flavored Pumpkin Pie."
Pecan Pie: Similarly, freeze pecan pie or try the "Butterscotch Pecan Pie Bars" for a delicious alternative.
🍛Stuffing (Dressing): YES
Freezing stuffing for up to 3 months works well, especially if it’s moisture-rich. Try this "Easy Sausage, Cranberries, and Walnuts Stuffing" or the vegetarian-friendly "Vegetarian And Gluten-Free Wild Rice Stuffing."
A frozen cheesecake can last up to 2 months. Freeze the entire cake or individual slices, for easy access. Thaw in the fridge overnight. Explore the "43 Best Cheesecake Recipes" for a chilled, creamy delight.
🥕Roasted Vegetables: YES
Roasted veggies can be frozen for up to 3 months. Reheat in the oven to revive their crispy edges. Try my recipe for Roasted Carrots In The Oven.
🍖 Ham: YES
Leftover ham is incredibly versatile and freezes well. Ensure it’s cooled, then slice or dice it before placing in airtight containers or freezer bags. It retains its quality for up to two months in the freezer.
When ready to use, thaw it in the refrigerator overnight. Your leftovers can be transformed into a delightful Ham Salad, delectable Deviled Ham Stuffed Eggs, or a comforting Grilled Ham And Cheese Cranberry Sandwich, all of which bring a tasty twist to your post-Thanksgiving meals.
🌿 Herbs: YES
Fresh herbs from your Thanksgiving preparations can be frozen for later use. Simply chop them up, place in ice cube trays with a bit of olive oil or water, and freeze.
Once frozen, transfer to airtight containers and use within 6 months for fresh, flavorful additions to your dishes. Or, follow my instructions in this article How To Freeze Herbs For Winter, which provides a wonderful guide on preserving the aromatic essence of herbs.
🍞 Bread, Rolls, And Quick Breads: YES
Bread and rolls can be cooled, wrapped tightly in aluminum foil or plastic wrap, and then placed in airtight containers or freezer bags.
They can be frozen for up to three months. When ready to enjoy, thaw at room temperature or warm them in the oven. Dive into a world of goodness with my 25 Savory Quick Bread Recipes, each offering a comforting, homemade touch.
🥧 Fruit Pies: YES
Fruit pies can be frozen either baked or unbaked. Once prepared, allow them to cool completely, then wrap tightly and freeze.
They maintain their quality for up to four months in the freezer. Thaw overnight in the fridge and reheat in the oven before serving.
My 26 Best Thanksgiving Pies And Tarts collection provides an array of sweet possibilities, promising a flavorful journey back to the Thanksgiving festivity.
🔥 Non Freezable items:
🥗 Salads: NO
Salads with leafy greens or tender vegetables don't do well in the freezer, turning limp and soggy upon thawing due to their high water content.
For a fresh crunch, salads are best enjoyed fresh or stored in the refrigerator for a short period. Dive into some salad inspirations with my Spinach Strawberry Salad, Orange Fennel Arugula Salad, Strawberry Arugula Salad With Pecans And Avocado, or Classic Broccoli Bacon Salad recipes.
🥘 Green Bean Casserole Or Cooked Green Beans: NO
Freezing can alter the texture of these dishes, making them mushy upon reheating due to the high moisture content.
It's best to enjoy these veggies fresh or store in the refrigerator if you plan on eating them in the next couple of days. My Green Beans Almondine (Green Beans with Almonds) recipe is a perfect way to savor green beans.
Furthermore, here are a couple of items that typically don't freeze well post-Thanksgiving:
Dishes with Dairy: Cream-based dishes or those with soft cheeses can separate or become grainy when frozen and thawed.
Fried Foods: The appealing crispiness of fried foods is usually lost when frozen and reheated.
Egg-based Dishes: Dishes like custards or meringues can turn watery or rubbery post-freezing.
Fully Assembled Sandwiches: The bread can become soggy and the fillings may not freeze or thaw evenly.
By identifying the dishes that freeze well versus those that don’t, you’re not only reducing waste but also ensuring that the flavors and textures of your Thanksgiving spread remain as intended. Planning accordingly will help you extend the festive flavors while still enjoying quality meals post-holiday.
Happy holidays everyone!
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