We’ve all been there: you’ve been anxiously awaiting zucchini season, perhaps patiently hand-pollinating their blossoms, the fruit starts to come along, then all of the sudden… BAM! You have mountains of squash on your hands! You’re already getting sick of it, and the growing season has just begun. Sound familiar? I feel you. Or maybe you don’t grow your own, but suddenly have an abundance of squash to use. Either way, don’t let the extras go to waste! Instead, let’s talk about how to freeze zucchini and squash – so you can save it for a rainy day.
Read along to learn two different ways to freeze zucchini and summer squash: grated or in pieces. Freezing zucchini is one of the quick-and-easiest ways to preserve excess zucchini. In this post, I’ll provide some tips to get the best results possible, reduce waste, and how to use frozen zucchini later. As much as we grow tired of squash during the summer, we’re always happy to have the freezer stocked for the off-season!
Need some ideas to use zucchini fresh? Don’t miss these delectable recipes:
- How to Make Perfect Zoodles (Zucchini Noodles) with Pesto Sauce
- Easy Parmesan Zucchini Fritters with Healthy Yogurt Garlic Dill Sauce
- Rustic Zucchini and Walnut Sourdough Bread
- Fiesta-Style Wild Rice & Veggie Stuffed Summer Squash (Zucchini Boats)
The Best Way to Freeze Zucchini: Grated, Slices, or Pieces?
That depends! Before freezing, it’s best to prepare the zucchini how you plan to use it later. Meaning, it isn’t a good idea to freeze zucchini whole. When it first comes out of the freezer, it will be too hard to cut. You also won’t want to wait until it fully defrosts, as it will become quite soft by then.
Do you want to freeze zucchini for soup? Then cut and freeze it in bite-size pieces or slices. To freeze zucchini for use in bread, muffins, or other baked goods, I suggest grating it before freezing – since that is how it will be added to the recipe later. To use frozen zucchini in smoothies or sauce, you could go either way. We always store a little of both!
In this particular post I show examples of freezing shredded or grated zucchini as well as in chunks, though you can also cut them into round slices. You can even freeze zoodles, also known as zucchini noodles – made with a spiralizer like this. Because they will become soft and watery after they defrost, frozen zoodles aren’t ideal to enjoy as a fresh pasta substitute – though they’re a great addition to soup, chili, or stew!
Do I have to blanch zucchini before freezing it?
Nope! We do not blanch zucchini before freezing it, and you don’t “have to” either. The purpose of blanching food, or the act of quickly submerging it in boiling water and then ice water, is to halt certain enzyme activity within the food. In turn, it can help food retain slightly better color, texture, and quality over time. So, it’s not a bad thing to blanch zucchini before freezing it if you wish to! However, we don’t find the extra step of blanching to be really worth it for squash. Either way, it will soften after being frozen… which leads us to our next question:
Does frozen zucchini retain it’s texture?
Zucchini has a very high water content, so it won’t retain a crisp fresh-like texture after being frozen. As frozen zucchini defrosts, it becomes soft and watery (whether you blanch it first or not). I don’t find it unappealing though! Especially if it’s just going to end up in soup, chili, stew, bread, or a smoothie anyways.
How to Blanch Zucchini
If you do choose to blanch zucchini before freezing it (again, this is totally optional!), follow these easy directions: while you prep the zucchini, bring a pot of water to a boil. Also get a large bowl of ice water ready. Once the water reaches a rolling boil, toss in the zucchini and allow it to cook for one minute. Next, immediately drain (or scoop out) the zucchini using a strainer or slotted spoon and transfer it to the ice bath. Finally, dry the zucchini before freezing it – following the directions below.
How to Freeze Grated Zucchini and Squash
- Start by washing your chosen zucchini to freeze, and trim off of the stem and blossom end. If you have large overgrown squash, I recommend grating those monster types (or stuffing them!) since they tend to be more tough, and saving your average size squash for either enjoying fresh or freezing in cut pieces – though of course you can grate smaller ones too!
- Use a cheese grater to turn the zucchini into fine shreds. A food processor also works.
- Next, remove some of the excess moisture to reduce the chances of freezer-burn and future super soggy squash. There are a couple ways you can do this. 1) Add the shredded zucchini to a fine-mesh strainer perched over a bowl, and then press the zucchini down repeatedly with a large spoon or spatula to force some of the liquid out and into the bowl. I usually get in there with clean hands to squeeze and wring it out further too. Or 2) Bundle the shredded zucchini inside a clean lint-free towel or cheesecloth and wring it out that way. Some folks recommend using paper towels but I find they fall apart, stick to the zucchini, and generally make a hot (wasteful) mess.
- Finally, pack the shredded squash into freezer-friendly containers. When you freeze zucchini this way, it will undoubtedly clump together so I recommend storing it in easily usable portions – such as 1 or 2 cup increments. We like to freeze grated zucchini in these reusable BPA-free storage containers. They come in half-pints (one cup), pints, and quarts – which we routinely use for freezing soup, chili, sauce, and more! You could also use ziplock bags, vacuum sealed food saver bags, or wide-mouth mason jars. Please note that glass jars must have straight sides to safely freeze!
- Pop your grated zucchini in the freezer, and enjoy later! See more tips about storing and using frozen zucchini below.
The Best Way to Freeze Zucchini Slices or Chunks
- First, wash the zucchini or squash and trim off the ends. Then cut the squash into your desired shape and size. To freeze zucchini for soup, I like to cut the whole thing into quarters lengthwise, and then chop it further to create the small pieces shown in the photo below.
- Next, spread out the cut zucchini pieces onto a large baking pan or other freezer-friendly tray. Keep them in a single layer, touching or overlapping as little as possible. Then place the entire tray (or several, as needed) into the freezer for at least 2 hours or up to overnight. The zucchini pieces will freeze individually and therefore prevent them from sticking together once you combine them in their final storage container. This way, you can pull out just a small portion of the frozen zucchini as needed (rather than using the whole stuck-together mass like grated frozen zucchini will require).
- Once they’re frozen solid, transfer the frozen zucchini pieces into your chosen container for long-term storage. We love these reusable silicone food storage bags, though you could also use ziplock bags, vacuum sealed bags, tupperware with a lid, or other freezer-safe containers (like the BPA-free containers I mentioned earlier). Transfer it from the pan into the containers as quickly as possible, minimizing the time it is out at room temperature. If the frozen squash starts to defrost and “sweat”, it is more likely to stick together.
How long does frozen zucchini last or “stay good”?
For optimal quality, use frozen zucchini within 3 months of freezing. However, it won’t necessarily “go bad” after that! It will simply have more chance of developing freezer burn or become increasingly soggy once thawed. Again, if its final destination is in something as forgiving as soup, stew, sauce, chili or something similar – I’d rather use slightly “old” frozen zucchini than let it go to waste. For instance, we often add frozen squash to winter soups that were grown the previous summer – no problem! Do plan to use it within one year.
How to Use or Cook Frozen Zucchini
Frozen zucchini is a welcome addition and good substitute for fresh squash in most recipes – except for those where you’d want a firm zucchini texture, like grilled veggie kabobs or a bowl of fresh zucchini noodles. The flavor of zucchini is so mild that it seamlessly blends into whatever you’re adding it to. It’s a great one for “sneaking” extra vegetables into meals – even smoothies!
There is no need to completely defrost frozen zucchini before adding it to a recipe, or to fully cook it like you would raw squash. As frozen zucchini thaws, it becomes soft anyways. So, all you need to do is let it heat all the way through before consuming. For soups, sauces, chili, and similar, I recommend adding the frozen squash near the end of the cooking time. Check out our no-chicken noodle soup or vegan roasted sugar pie pumpkin 3-bean chili recipes for a few ideas you could add frozen squash to!
To add frozen zucchini to bread or other baked goods, you may need to let it partially defrost in order to break up the clump of shredded bits for easy mixing. Since we already removed most of the extra moisture from the squash before freezing, you don’t need to strain it again (unless it seems incredibly soggy). Yet if you’re making lasagna, casserole, quiche, or another recipe where added liquid will not be welcome, it’s best to thaw the zucchini to drain off excess liquid before using it.
Easy peasy, zucchini squeezy!
Alright folks… As you can see, there is no need to feel overwhelmed by your bountiful summer squash harvests! I hope you enjoyed these simple tips on how to freeze extra zucchini so that it stores well, doesn’t clump, and is easy to use later. If you need any help growing your own, be sure to pop over to our zucchini grow guide! Do you have other go-to ways you love to preserve zucchini? Let us know in the comments below. Thanks a million for tuning in!