When it comes to storing food items for a long time, freezing is probably the first thing that comes to mind. Prepare, pack and freeze - it's so simple yet so effective. If you bought a ton of onions on sale or just want to keep your onions precut and ready for preparing meals then I’m sure you are asking, “Can you freeze onions?”
You might be delighted to know that you can, indeed freeze onions. Freezing onions is not that complicated. Everything needed for this purpose is available in most kitchens.
However, just knowing this is not enough. There are several other questions that you may have regarding freezing onions, such as, “Can you freeze caramelized onions?”, “Do you need to defrost frozen onions before using them?”, or, “How do you defrost them?’. In this article, I am going to address all of these questions. So, let’s begin!
Can You Freeze Onions?
Yes, you can freeze them. However, like any other vegetables, it is always best to use fresh onions for your recipes. Onions have a good shelf life, but freezing onions might be necessary if you have too many to use.
For example, maybe you live in a place where the environment is either too hot or too cold. Storing onions in such weather conditions can make them sprout or go moldy within a matter of months. In this case, freezing your onions might be a good idea.
Typically, zero to four degrees Celsius is the perfect onion storing temperature range. (Source) By placing them in a cold and well-ventilated space, you will be able to store them for a long time. Also, by freezing them you will further increase their shelf life by slowing down the process of sprouting or becoming moldy.
Can You Freeze Raw Sliced Onions?
When it comes to freezing onions, the first question that comes to everyone’s mind is, “Can I freeze raw sliced onions?” You certainly can, and the freezing process is not that complicated.
To freeze the sliced onions, peel the onions and cut them into your desired slice size. Now take a freezer bag and squeeze all the air out of it. Make sure that the bag is made of food-grade materials.
Place the sliced raw onions in the bag and seal it tightly. A tight seal will prevent the smell of onions from leaking inside your freezer.
Note that it is always recommended to freeze onions in smaller portions. That way, you will only take what is needed at the time, leaving the rest in the freezer. Also, try to make the storage bags as flat as possible. This will allow you to save some freezer space.
Can You Freeze Caramelized Onions?
Caramelizing onions is a lengthy process and requires a lot of patience. Some might not want to caramelize fresh onions every time they are needed for a recipe. Instead, you can make a big batch of caramelized onions and freeze them.
That way, whenever you need them for your soup or stew, you can just open your freezer and grab the amount needed at the time.
The “ice cube tray method” is the most common technique for freezing caramelized onions.
Simply stash your caramelized onions on an ice cube tray and put them in your freezer for a few hours.
Once they are rock solid, pluck out the individual cubes of caramelized onions and transfer them to a separate storage bag or container and place them in your freezer.
What Is The Best Way To Freeze Onions?
The best way to freeze raw onions is by slicing them to the size pieces that you desire and storing them in your freezer. Although you can freeze a whole onion directly, it is not recommended.
The primary purpose of freezing onions would be to preserve them, and when preserving something we want to make sure that the food we are storing maintains its nutritional integrity and taste. Common sense dictates that pre-cutting onions would ruin their taste and texture. That doesn’t happen when freezing.
When freezing at very low temperatures the water molecules freeze up and retain the integrity of the onion for a long time. So, storing whole onions really won’t do much. Also, peeled whole onions will take up much more space than sliced onions. That is why slicing your onions before freezing is recommended.
Do You Need To Defrost Frozen Onions?
One of the best things about frozen onions is that you don’t need to defrost them for most recipes. You can directly add frozen onions to many dishes. This is especially true for soups and stews.
Freezing and defrosting onions make them a bit soggy. So, when you defrost them, they will not be as crisp as before. For that reason, you should always avoid using frozen and defrosted onions in salads or other raw meals. For fried recipes or meals that you are going to slow cook for a long time, you can use defrosted onions. However, whether frosted or defrosted, it will not make that much of a difference when it comes to taste.
How Do You Defrost Frozen Onions?
Defrosting frozen onions is very easy. In fact, you don't need to do anything extra to defrost them. All you have to do is pull out the bag of frozen onions from your freezer and place it on your kitchen counter, or any place that you may think suitable for defrosting purposes. Your frozen onions will defrost within several minutes.
To speed up the thawing process, you can break the frozen onion layers. Also, you can place the storage container into a bowl filled with warm water to make things much faster.
For dishes such as stews or soups, it is not necessary to defrost the onions. Simply break off the number of frozen onions that are needed for your recipe and toss them into the dish. As you cook, the heat will automatically thaw the frozen onion.
How Long Will Frozen Onions Last In The Freezer?
If onions are kept in a dark and cool place and without refrigeration they can last for about 2 to 3 months without getting moldy.
However, when you freeze onions, their shelf life increases dramatically. Freezing whole or diced onions, and storing them in the freezer, allows them to keep for up to eight months to one year. However, the shelf life can become much shorter if the storage container is not airtight, thereby potentially contaminating the onions.
Cooked or caramelized onions can last even longer. In fact, caramelized onions can last over a year,
when properly stored in freezer bags or sealed containers and then frozen.
Are Frozen Onions As Good As Fresh Ones?
This is something that everyone is curious about. The answer is, “No, they are not.” For any vegetables, it is always best to use them when they are fresh. This is also true for onions.
Although freezing vegetables is a good way to preserve nutrients, if the vegetables are frozen for extended periods, they might begin to lose some of these nutrients. Among these are Vitamin C, Vitamin B, and other water-soluble nutrients. Many vegetables, including onions, might also lose some of their nutrients during the preparation phase, depending on the method used for freezing.
It is always recommended that you should use your frozen onions within the first three months after freezing.
Are Onions Still Good If They Are Frozen?
Yes, onions are still good after they are frozen, but freezing onions will alter their appearance and taste. As mentioned before, frozen onions, when thawed, appear a bit soggy. They are also not as crunchy when compared to fresh onions. That being said, they will still retain most of their nutrients.
Again, the more you store frozen onions, the stronger their flavor will become. This is also one of the reasons why many people use frozen onions. When onions are frozen, the ice crystals pierce their cell membranes and, in the process, destroy them. As a result, when they are defrosted, the onions release a stronger flavor and juice.
Can You Caramelize Frozen Onions?
Yes, you can caramelize frozen onions, but it will not be as easy as caramelizing fresh ones..
When you freeze onions, the moisture inside the onion cells will turn into ice crystals. These crystals will pierce the cell membranes of the onion. As a result, when you defrost the onions, they will release much more juice and cause the onion to appear a bit watery. Due to this extra water content in frozen onions, it will take you a bit more time to caramelize them compared to fresh ones.
Pro tip: After the frozen onions are thawed, use a kitchen towel to soak up the extra water, before caramelizing. In doing so, you will save some time in the caramelizing process.
Freezing onions is a convenient way to significantly lessen the prep work needed to cook your meals. An added bonus is that you won’t have to cry every time you need onions for a recipe, because they will already be sliced and ready to cook. Although frozen onions might lose some of their crispiness, nutrients, and texture, they are almost as good as fresh ones.
Hopefully, this article will be of use to you the next time you need to freeze onions.