Ingredient Intelligence

Freezing Lettuce Works If You Follow This One Simple Rule

published Jun 22, 2022
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Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

If you’re wondering how to freeze lettuce, I’m betting there’s a good chance you’re staring at an overabundant garden or CSA delivery box. While it’s normal to freeze a variety of produce — including mushrooms and celery — freezing lettuce is not frequently done. Truthfully, lettuce is always better consumed fresh, within a week of harvesting or purchasing. 

Why shouldn’t you freeze raw lettuce leaves? It’s all about science. And texture. Freezing causes ice crystals to form within the lettuce’s cell walls. Because lettuce is so delicate and so high in water content, these crystals cause the cells to rupture, leading to unsightly and off-tasting crystallization. Lettuce that has been frozen then thawed has a watery, soggy, or “damp” texture that’s entirely unpleasant to eat in salads. (Starchier veggies, like peas, suffer less cellular damage when frozen).

That said, if you really want to freeze lettuce there is one technique that will preserve it relatively well. And all you need is a blender and ice cube tray.

How to Freeze Lettuce by Puréeing It

Here’s a rule of (green) thumb: The hardier the greens, the better they will endure processing and freezing. Kale can handle a lot. Baby arugula, not so much. But no type of lettuce can stand being frozen whole, then thawed and consumed in a salad or as a garnish. 

Instead, purée it into a liquid, then freeze it. While you won’t be able to enjoy your leafy greens in salads, you can use them in a variety of other recipes. To begin, rinse the lettuce thoroughly under cool water, being sure to remove any sand or dirt. If it’s head lettuce, remove all of the leaves from the core before washing. Then add to the jar of a blender and purée, loosening with cool water until you have a frothy, thick liquid. (It should be pourable).

Pour the blended greens into ice cube trays and freeze until solid. Remove each cube and store them in a freezer-safe zip-top bag until ready to use.

How Long Does Frozen Lettuce Last?

When preserved using the blender method, frozen lettuce will keep for up to nine months — depending on how efficient (or overstocked!) your freezer is. If your lettuce becomes freezer burnt, it’s best to discard it, as the flavor and texture will be negatively affected.

What Happens If Lettuce Freezes in My Refrigerator?

Have you ever reached into your crisper drawer for a package of lettuce to discover it has frozen? This is the result of a too-cold refrigerator. The ideal temperature range for a refrigerator is 34°F to 40°F; use a refrigerator thermometer to check to see if yours is set to colder than that. 

Can you save those accidentally-frozen leaves? While they won’t be good in salads, you could try using them in a stir-fry. Hardier greens will fare better than the tender, soft varieties.

How to Use Frozen Lettuce in Recipes

Now that you’ve got a freezer full of puréed lettuce ice cubes, how can you use them? They’re surprisingly versatile.

  • Toss them into just about any soup along with the stock to add nutritional value (puréed soups work even better, because any textural weirdness will be disguised).
  • Whipping up a smoothie? Add a handful of lettuce cubes for a light, fresh flavor boost.
  • Drop a cube or two of frozen lettuce into a pot of quinoa (or any other grains) as they cook. It’ll delicately color and flavor the grains.
  • Stir-fries and veggie sautés will benefit from a frozen lettuce cube, which will bring a gentle herby flavor to the mix. After you’ve gotten an initial sear and some color on the vegetables, pop the cube in and let it melt.
  • Adding a lettuce cube to braised hardy greens, like chard and kale, works too. Just pop it into the pan and let it melt as the greens slowly cook.