Having the dinner table covered with more food than you can possibly eat in one sitting is the hallmark of Thanksgiving, and it's hard to imagine scaling back for this once-a-year feast. The next day, though, the mountain of leftovers can seem a bit overwhelming, especially if you don't think you'll eat through everything any time soon.
The freezer can come to your rescue and help with preventing food waste! Here's a list of what can (and can't) freeze well, plus how long each item will last in the freezer, so you can wisely deal with your Thanksgiving leftovers.
Things to Remember About Freezing
When deciding which foods to throw in the freezer, remember that if something was already frozen once after cooking (like the gravy was made ahead and frozen), I would advise not doing it again. And try to pack each food in the smallest possible airtight container to prevent freezer burn.
Now let's walk down each item on the Thanksgiving dinner table and see what can be frozen and what should be eaten up:
1. Turkey: YES
Roasted turkey freezes very well, but you should remove the meat from the bones first and freeze each separately. Turkey can be frozen for up to three months.
2. Mashed Potatoes: YES, with some exceptions
Unlike other forms of cooked potatoes, mashed potatoes actually can freeze well for up to one year. To help the potatoes maintain their structure, however, these mashed potatoes should be well coated with fat like butter and cream, so if your mashed potatoes were just made with broth, they won't hold up well in the freezer.
3. Gravy: YES, with some exceptions
A flour-based turkey gravy can be frozen for up to four months, but cream or milk-based gravies should not be frozen, as these gravies will separate when thawed.
4. Cranberry Sauce: YES
Whether you made your own cranberry sauce or just opened up a can, it can be frozen for up to two months.
5. Stuffing: YES
Stuffing can be frozen for up to one month.
6. Green Bean Casserole: NO
Cooked green beans will not survive the freezing process well, and neither will any kind of crispy topping it came with.
7. Pumpkin, Sweet Potato, or Squash Dishes: YES
In general, dishes made with pumpkin, sweet potato, or squash should hold up well, especially if they have been puréed first. Freeze for up to three months.
8. Rolls: YES
Rolls and bread in general will freeze well and last for up to three months. Make sure to separate the rolls and freeze them individually so that you can just take out a few at a time as needed.
9. Salads: NO
Sorry, salads can never be frozen with any success!
10. Pie: YES, but it depends on the type of pie
- Custard, cream, chiffon, or mousse pies — do not freeze, as the fillings will separate.
- Pumpkin, pecan, or other pies with eggs in the filling — freeze for up to two months, but the texture won't be quite the same.
- Fruit pies — freeze for up to four months.
(Image credits: cobraphotography/Shutterstock; Christine Gallary; Emma Christensen)