For many gardeners, summer means an abundance of zucchini. While there are plenty of delicious recipes using summer squash, it’s sometimes a challenge to use it all before it goes bad. Read on to learn how to freeze zucchini squash and make your favorite zucchini recipes all year round.
Freezing zucchini squash only requires a few simple steps to prevent it from being mushy and discolored when you defrost it.
Although frozen zucchini isn’t quite the same as fresh, it will hold its texture much better if you use the following tricks before popping your zucchini in the freezer.
The best way to store zucchini squash depends on what you intend to cook with it later. For stir fry, soup, casserole, or zucchini lasagna, use frozen zucchini slices.
Shredded zucchini is ideal for making zucchini bread, muffins, and other baked goods. If you have a spiralizer, try making zucchini noodles.
- Best Ways of Freezing Zucchini Squash
- Prepare Zucchini for Freezing
- How to Freeze Zucchini Squash
Best Ways of Freezing Zucchini Squash
Frozen zucchini is an excellent option for quick and healthy weeknight meals. To ensure that your zucchini doesn’t come out of the freezer in a solid, frozen block or defrost into a watery mush, there are a few preliminary measures to take.
Freezing zucchini isn’t quite as easy as just putting a whole squash in the freezer. To prevent freezer burn and keep the zucchini from turning into a soggy mess when you go to thaw it, follow these straightforward steps.
Prepare Zucchini for Freezing
Before freezing zucchini squash, it’s essential to lightly cook it first. If you’re freezing sliced zucchini, blanch it by dropping it in boiling water for a minute. Steaming is best for grated zucchini.
Blanching or steaming zucchini before freezing deactivates the enzymes that cause the squash to lose its water content and get mushy when defrosted. The process only takes a few minutes.
Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Slice the fresh zucchini into quarter- to half-inch pieces, or shred to a medium grate using a food processor or cheese grater.
Line a large dinner plate or a baking sheet with a thick layer of paper towels and prepare a large bowl with some cold water and ice cubes.
Avoid adding salt to the water that you use to steam or blanch your zucchini. Salt breaks down the cell walls and causes the zucchini to get mushy when defrosted.
Once the water reaches a full boil, place the zucchini slices in the pot for about one minute, or until they are a bright green color but still firm. Do not allow it to cook for too long, or you’ll end up with squishy thawed zucchini.
Remove the zucchini slices from the boiling water with a slotted spoon and place them in the ice water bath for two to five minutes.
Thoroughly drain the ice water from the zucchini with a colander, then spread the veggies out on the layer of paper towels and pat dry.
Steaming Zucchini – Stovetop
For steaming grated zucchini, use either a stovetop or microwave steamer basket. For a stovetop steamer, cook the zucchini for one or two minutes until it is bright green and still has a firm texture.
Steaming Zucchini – Microwave
For a microwave steamer, cut the recommended cooking time per volume in half. Cool the zucchini under an ice cube layer and pat dry with paper towels before freezing.
How to Freeze Zucchini Squash
If you have enough freezer space, it’s best to pre-freeze sliced zucchini so that the pieces don’t stick together in the freezer bag.
Lay the zucchini slices out evenly in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with a sheet of parchment paper, so they aren’t touching, and place them in the freezer for at least two hours.
For shredded zucchini, freeze in single-use quantities for your intended recipes. This way, you only defrost a single bag at a time and avoid breaking up a frozen block of zucchini, then refreezing the unused portion.
To protect against freezer burn, make sure to get as much air as possible out of the freezer bag before you seal it.
If you don’t have a vacuum sealer, try inserting a straw into the bag and close the zipper around it. Then use the straw to suck all of the air out of the bag. Remove the straw and fully seal the freezer bag.
How to Freeze Zucchini Noodles
Zucchini noodles, or zoodles, are a fun, low-carb alternative to grain-based pasta. Add them to a pan with a bit of olive oil, and make your favorite pasta dishes.
Zucchini noodles require a different freezing method than other types of prepared zucchini. The end goal is to get the zoodles as dry as possible before freezing.
Thin zucchini noodles tend to better hold their shape and texture when preserved for long periods than thicker cut pieces. Salt the zoodles using one tablespoon of kosher salt per two cups of zucchini noodles.
Adding the salt draws out the excess moisture and preserves the texture of the stored zucchini. Knead the zucchini noodles with your hands, adding more salt as necessary to fully cover the zucchini.
Firmly press the zucchini to squeeze out its water content. As you knead, a bubbly liquid will form on top of the zucchini. Keep kneading for two to three minutes until your zoodles become firm.
Line a colander with a paper towel layer or a thin, fresh cloth, and transfer your zucchini noodles to the colander. Wrap the edges of the towel completely around the zucchini, and secure the corners with clips.
Extract as much of the liquid from the zucchini as possible by twisting the makeshift bag until it stops dripping. Lay the towel flat on a clean surface and spread the zucchini out in a thin layer. Leave it to dry for at least an hour.
The less moisture in the zoodles when you freeze them, the better the result will be. Freeze your zoodles in single portions for your intended recipes so that you don’t have to break up frozen clumps and refreeze the leftovers.
Best Way to Store Zucchini Squash after Freezing
Use zucchini squash within six months of freezing. The sooner you cook it, the better texture the zucchini will have. Be sure to clearly label your freezer bags with the storage date, and use the oldest bags first.
If you employ the pre-freezing technique described above, freezing your zucchini slices in large bags isn’t a problem because the pieces are easily separated while frozen. It’s best to store grated zucchini and zoodles in serving-size portions.
Freezing Zucchini Meals
Zucchini squash has high water content, so it helps to keep frozen dishes moist. Baked goods, casseroles, pasta dishes, and soups with zucchini are perfect candidates for freezing.
Frozen meals that are ready-to-eat upon defrosting are a lifesaver for busy weeknight dinners.
How to Cook with Frozen Zucchini
For most dishes using frozen zucchini, the squash can be added directly to the recipe without defrosting. Doing so helps to absorb the moisture that the zucchini releases during the thawing process.
Frozen zucchini is best used as an incorporated ingredient in recipes like a casserole, soup, sauces, baked goods, and smoothies. The difference in texture compared to fresh zucchini is more noticeable in a salad or stand-alone side dish.
If you were lucky enough to grow an abundance of zucchini from your summer garden, preserve your harvest for the winter by freezing zucchini squash.
By following our tips and tricks for the best way to store zucchini squash, you’ll enjoy the taste of summer throughout the year. Freezing and canning are beneficial for preserving your summer harvest.
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