Can you freeze raw food? Well, the answer is yes…and no. Some foods freeze better than others, and it’s important to understand why so that you can decide for yourself whether to freeze raw food or not.
We’ll start by looking at what freezing actually does (although it isn’t a pretty picture to start with), and I’ll give you my own recommendations.
What freezing does
Freezing affects the water within food
If a food has little or no water content, it is not particularly harmed by freezing. So you can freeze raw foods such as nuts, seeds, grains, and dried fruit, without any particular damage.
Food that are high in water content are definitely affected, and not always in a good way. This is because freezing makes the water in the food expand, so it’s a bit like the cells ‘exploding’, which means that they die. When air reaches the food, oxidation occurs (those brown spots in a half-eaten apple). Therefore nutrients are lost.
This is why frozen food never tastes quite as good as fresh – that brown spotted apple doesn’t have the same taste as when you first bit into it, does it? Oxidation is the culprit!
Freezing makes food more susceptible to bacteria
Bacteria can also create a potential problem, because when the cell walls burst, the food is more susceptible to bacteria which has up until that point been dormant. (There are reasons for that involving lysosomes, but I’ll spare you that bit! If you’re curious, you can read more about lysosomes here).
Such bacteria can be dealt with by cooking, or blanching before freezing (immersing rapidly in boiling water), but if you’re not cooking your food…well, let’s just say that this is why most of us prefer raw food when it’s fresh.
Why you might want to freeze raw food (despite the above)
Let’s face it, most of us are rushing daily, and anything we can do to make our lives easier is a bonus.
So if it’s easier for you to eat more raw food if you freeze it, well I think you’re better off nutritionally having that frozen fruit in your homemade smoothie or ice cream, instead of going for the store-bought, chemically-laden variety.
This goes for soups, curries and anything else you’re making at home and then freezing.
That raw soup you made a few weeks ago and froze half of is going to still taste pretty darn good, and be way better for you, than the frozen ready-meals that are waiting to tempt you in the supermarket freezer!
Nuts, seeds, grains and dried fruit can be expensive to buy, if you’re only getting small bags at a time.
And if you buy in bulk and don’t refrigerate them, they can spoil before you’ve used them all.
If you have room in your refrigerator, you can store them in there (and yes you can still soak and sprout your nuts and seeds).
And of course they’ll keep for even longer in the freezer. (This is especially important for flax seeds, which can go rancid quite quickly.)
So if you haven’t got room in the fridge, and you feel you have to choose between using bottled store-bought oils and frozen nuts, seeds and grains, well I know what I’d choose!
Freeze raw food that is low in water content
Because nuts, seeds, grains and dried fruits are low in water content, they freeze well and without too much damage to the nutrients.
So you can still use frozen nuts to make nut milk: you just want to thaw them before soaking.
Or you can make a lot of nut milk in one go, and freeze the rest in an ice-cube tray, as I’ve done in the picture at the top of this article. I put the ‘milk cubes’ in freezer bags and voila, instant nut milk whenever I need it! (Note: You can freeze the leftover nut pulp too.)
As for seeds and grains, yes they will still sprout – as long as they are thawed first. Kind of amazing, I think!
Avoid freezing these foods
Don’t freeze raw foods like:
- Celery sticks, whole watermelon, tomatoes, apples, grapes (unless you snack on them frozen), oranges and other citrus fruits, or cucumber. These very high water content foods do not freeze well at all!
- Sprigs of fresh herbs, sprouts, lettuce and other salad greens.
- Peppers, onions, radishes (again, these are all high water content foods)
- Raw dairy (or even standard dairy, for that matter) doesn’t freeze well. This is because the ingredients tend to separate and you’ll have a frozen mess as a result.
A good test is to imagine freezing the food, taking it out and then eating it as it is. If the thought scares you, it’s because it probably isn’t a good idea!
Prioritize fresh food
Because frozen raw food doesn’t have quite as many nutrients and is more susceptible to bacteria, I would keep their use to a minimum.
You still want to eat plenty of fresh food daily.
So yes do have your frozen sorbets, ice creams and other treats – just not every day.
Use dried foods that keep well and are easy to rehydrate
Mushrooms are the best example I can think of. You can buy large quantities of dried mushrooms and rehydrate them whenever you need them. They will keep for quite a while and are tasty in soups, curries and other main dishes.
Most dried fruits keep really well and don’t need to be frozen. The only exception I’ve found is if I’ve bought extra-soft prunes. I store them in a large glass jar in a cool place, or in the refrigerator if I can.
Only freeze prepared dishes that were not made with frozen ingredients, and heat them well afterwards
If you make a raw soup, sauce, pudding or other ‘liquid’ dish, it is fine to freeze it. Just be sure you didn’t use any frozen ingredients when you made it in the first place. Freeze small portions and use them as soon as possible.
When they are thawed, heat them gently but thoroughly (do the finger test: if it’s warm but you can leave your finger in, it’s still raw) and eat them right away so that you aren’t giving bacteria a chance to multiply.
Some dishes that I have frozen that have worked well are:
- My Hey Pesto sauce
- My Italian Pasta sauce
- Any of my soups or curries (the sauce, not the cauliflower ‘rice’).
The recipes for all of the above are in my program 30 Days Of Raw.
(Note: If in doubt, you’re better off heating your food slightly more. Even if the result is that it’s not as raw, high heat kills off many kinds of bacteria. I can eat just about anything and I’m fine, but that might not be you!).
And finally, got any questions?
If you’re wondering whether you can freeze a particular food or not, or how you can use it when it’s thawed, let me know in the comments!