Can you refreeze frozen veg? Sure you can. But there’s a trick to it, or the frozen vegetables may make you sick.
Frozen vegetables are a real boon for the time-starved cook.
To make a delicious and nutritious meal out of them, all you have to do is take them out of the freezer, jump them in the pan or pot, and cook them briefly—just until they are steaming hot, but still fresh and crisp.
You can keep your home-cooked meal as simple as buttered peas or make it as elaborate as shepherd’s pie. The uses for frozen vegetables are limited only by your imagination, your ingenuity, and the ingredients in your kitchen.
But if you haven’t used up all the frozen vegetables in the package and you don’t intend to cook with them in the next few days, can you refreeze them?
Yes, you can refreeze frozen vegetables for later use as long as you’ve stored them properly and they are still safe to eat.
So let’s take a look at what that means.
How to Store Frozen Vegetables Safely
Frozen vegetables are vegetables that have been washed, sorted, blanched, and then frozen hours after harvest. Blanching preserves the vegetables’ color and crispness, and freezing keeps them safe to eat for a long period of time.
Frozen vegetables should be kept in the freezer at a temperature of 0°F (-18°C), where they will keep their best quality for 12 to 18 months. Remember that frozen vegetables are perishable food that has limited shelf life once you take them out of the freezer.
Frozen vegetables shouldn’t sit out at room temperature for more than 2 hours (USDA). Otherwise, harmful bacteria can form on the surface and make them unsafe to eat. In the dog days of summer, when the outside temperature is 90°F (32°C) and above, this time is reduced to 1 hour.
Refrigerated, frozen vegetables will last for 3-4 days. This includes the time you thawed them raw and the time you kept them cooked in the fridge. If you leave frozen vegetables in the refrigerator for longer, you will have no way of telling if they are edible or not.
This is because the bacteria that cause food poisoning are not the same as the bacteria that cause your food to spoil. While spoilage bacteria make food disgusting, pathogenic bacteria are inconspicuous; they don’t change the smell, the texture, or the flavor of the food.
It’s important to note that the above rules apply to both raw and cooked frozen vegetables. (For the germs that grow on food and cause food poisoning, it makes no difference whether the vegetables were just blanched in the factory or cooked further in your kitchen.)
Do You Thaw Frozen Vegetables?
There’s no need to thaw your frozen vegetables before cooking them, whether you want to steam them, boil them, fry them, or bake them. Instead, take the vegetables out of the freezer just before cooking.
If you have leftover frozen vegetables and you want to refreeze them, put them in a freezer bag or container and put them back in the freezer. The less time they spend on the counter, the safer they will be the next time you cook and eat them.
Frozen vegetables that have been sitting too long aren’t safe to eat after cooking. Heating kills most bacteria, but it doesn’t inactivate the toxins that they’ve left behind. You and those around you can still get food poisoning from these toxins.
Many people mistakenly think that frozen vegetables must be thawed before they are cooked. But as we will see in a moment, thawing frozen vegetables can be counterproductive.
Why Thawing Isn’t Needed
Frozen vegetables have been blanched at the factory, so they are precooked. However, they may still be infected with listeria or other harmful bacteria caused by dust or dirt in the machinery between refrigeration, freezing, and packaging (EFSA).
This is why you absolutely have to heat them until they are steaming hot—and you can’t eat them straight from the package or after thawing—if you want them to be safe for you and the family to eat.
This is also why you shouldn’t leave them on the counter for longer than 1-2 hours or in the fridge for more than 3-4 days. Unlike freezing, which puts all bacterial activity on pause, bacteria multiply rapidly at room temperature and continue to multiply, albeit slowly, in the fridge.
So if you thaw out a package of frozen peas or mixed vegetables, especially if you thaw them a little too long, you can create the conditions for the bacteria on them to multiply to dangerous numbers by the time you get to cooking them.
A much safer option, especially if you plan to refreeze the leftovers, is to cook them straight from frozen and put the leftovers right back in.
How to Refreeze Frozen Vegetables
Now you know that frozen vegetables have been precooked, which is why you shouldn’t leave them on the counter or keep them in the fridge for too long. The less time they spend out of the freezer, raw or cooked, the safer they are to eat.
The best way to cook with frozen vegetables is to take them out of the freezer immediately before cooking. If you have leftover frozen veg, transfer them to freezer bags or containers and put them back in the freezer immediately.
I accidentally put some steamable birdseye frozen veggies in the fridge are they safe to eat!
Hey there, Karen,
I’d take a look at the product instructions. If it says “keep frozen” and/or “don’t thaw,” I’d personally err on the side of caution and discard the veg (in the compost bin or organic waste collection bin in my community).
Hope this helps!