Spinach is a leafy green vegetable that is packed with nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, calcium, and antioxidants. It’s a versatile ingredient that can be eaten raw in salads, sautéed, roasted, or added to soups, pastas, and more. Many people buy fresh spinach in bulk and want to freeze the excess to help it last longer.
Can You Freeze Spinach in the Original Bag?
If you have a bag of pre-washed spinach from the grocery store, you may wonder if you can freeze it in the original packaging. The short answer is no – you should not freeze spinach in the original bag it came in from the store.
These bags are designed for short term refrigeration, not for freezing. They are not completely airtight, which means air and moisture can still get in. This can lead to freezer burn, which dries out the spinach leaves. The moisture in the bag can also lead to the growth of ice crystals and cause the spinach to turn mushy when thawed.
For best results, you’ll want to take the spinach out of the original store bag and repackage it yourself before freezing.
How to Freeze Fresh Spinach
Follow these simple steps for freezing spinach:
- Pick through the spinach and remove any damaged or bad leaves. Rinse the leaves thoroughly under cool water to wash away any dirt or debris.
- Let the spinach leaves drain in a colander to remove excess moisture. You don’t want the leaves to be wet when freezing because this can damage the texture.
- Blanch the spinach. This helps stop the enzyme action that could lead to loss of flavor, color, and texture. To blanch:
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
- Add the spinach leaves and boil for 1-2 minutes until the leaves are wilted.
- Drain the spinach and immediately submerge it into an ice bath. Let cool for a few minutes until chilled.
- Drain again and squeeze out any excess water.
- Pat the spinach leaves dry with paper towels or a clean dish towel. Spread them out in a single layer on the towels to completely dry.
- Chop or leave whole. If desired, roughly chop the leaves.
- Pack into freezer bags or airtight containers, removing as much air as possible. Flat packs freeze quicker and are easier to stack.
- Seal and label with the date. Freeze for up to 8 months.
With this process, the spinach will retain its texture, color, flavor, and nutrients better than just freezing in the original bag.
Can You Freeze Fresh Spinach Without Blanching?
Blanching is recommended for freezing spinach because it deactivates the enzymes that cause it to spoil and protects the color, texture, and nutrients. However, you can freeze spinach without blanching if you want to save time.
The drawbacks to freezing unblanched spinach are:
- It may develop off colors or flavors more quickly
- The leaves may turn limp or mushy when thawed
- Higher nutrient degradation
If not blanching, be sure to dry the spinach very well before freezing. Pack in airtight containers and try to use within 3-4 months for best quality.
Thawing Frozen Spinach
Thaw frozen spinach leaves in the refrigerator overnight. Do not thaw at room temperature or in hot water because this increases the risk of bacterial growth. You can also cook frozen spinach directly in soups, sautés, casseroles, and other dishes without thawing first.
Once thawed, use the spinach within a day or two. The leaves may not hold up as well in raw applications like salads after being frozen and thawed. It’s best suited for cooking.
How to Use Frozen Spinach
Frozen spinach retains its nutrition and flavor remarkably well. Here are some ways to use thawed or cook-from-frozen spinach:
- Sauté into eggs, rice, pasta, or meats
- Add to casseroles, lasagnas, and baked pasta dishes
- Make a creamy spinach dip
- Purée into soups
- Add to quiches, frittatas, and stratas
- Fold into risotto
- Blend into smoothies
How Long Does Frozen Spinach Last?
Properly stored frozen spinach will maintain best quality for about 8 months in the freezer, although it will still be safe to eat after that. Over time, the texture, color, and flavor may degrade so it’s best to eat frozen spinach within a year.
Signs that frozen spinach may have expired beyond the safe point include:
- Liquid leaking from the package
- Unusual soft or mushy texture
- Translucent appearance or ice crystals
- Strong off odors, colors, or flavors
If in doubt, remember the old adage “When in doubt, throw it out” – don’t risk eating spoiled frozen spinach.
Freezing is a great way to preserve fresh spinach to last for months. To freeze spinach properly:
- Wash the spinach thoroughly and dry it very well
- Blanch the leaves for 1-2 minutes
- Cool in an ice bath, drain, and dry again
- Pack into airtight containers or bags
- Freeze for up to 8 months
Thaw frozen spinach in the fridge before using. Frozen spinach is perfectly suited for cooking in casseroles, sautés, soups, and other dishes. With proper freezing and storage, you can enjoy delicious spinach any time of year.
Nutrition Facts of Frozen Spinach Compared to Fresh
Freezing spinach does lead to some nutrient loss compared to fresh leaves, but it still retains most of its nutritional value. Here is a comparison of the main nutrients in fresh raw spinach versus frozen spinach:
|7 cal per cup
|10 cal per cup
|0.9 g per cup
|1.1 g per cup
|1 g per cup
|2 g per cup
|0.7 g per cup
|2 g per cup
|30 mg per cup
|87 mg per cup
|0.8 mg per cup
|1.8 mg per cup
|23 mg per cup
|35 mg per cup
|14 mg per cup
|39 mg per cup
|167 mg per cup
|254 mg per cup
|9.2 mg per cup
|8.3 mg per cup
|188 mcg RAE per cup
|469 mcg RAE per cup
|56.3 mcg per cup
|482.9 mcg per cup
As shown, frozen spinach retains many of the vitamins, minerals, fiber and protein of fresh leaves. The main losses are vitamin C and some B vitamins. Overall, frozen spinach still provides significant nutritional value.
Tips for Freezing Spinach
Here are some top tips for freezing spinach perfectly every time:
- Choose fresh, young spinach leaves for freezing as they will better withstand the process.
- Clean the leaves very thoroughly to wash away grit and bacteria.
- Use a salad spinner or pat very dry with towels – excess moisture is the enemy of frozen spinach!
- Blanch in boiling water for 1-2 minutes to maintain color and texture.
- Chill rapidly in ice water bath to stop cooking process.
- Drain again before freezing to remove all water.
- Pack in airtight freezer bags or containers, removing air.
- Label bags with date and contents.
- Freeze for up to 8 months.
- Thaw in fridge before using.
- Use within a day or two of thawing for best quality.
Storing Thawed Spinach
Properly thawed spinach will only last a day or two in the refrigerator before it starts to degrade. Here are some tips for storing thawed frozen spinach:
- Keep thawed spinach stored in a container or zip top bag in the fridge.
- Use within 24 hours for the freshest taste and texture.
- Do not refreeze thawed spinach – this increases risk of bacteria growth.
- Cook thawed spinach dishes completely until steaming hot.
- Do not eat thawed spinach cold – use in cooked dishes only.
- If you can’t use thawed spinach right away, discard it.
With proper storage times, thawed frozen spinach can be safely used in your favorite cooked dishes and sides. Just be sure to eat it within a day and don’t refreeze.
Cooking with Frozen Spinach
Cooking brings out delicious flavors in frozen spinach. Here are some recipe ideas:
Baked Eggs with Spinach
Divide thawed and drained spinach between oven-safe ramekins. Make indentations in the spinach and crack an egg into each. Bake at 350°F until egg whites are set. Season with salt, pepper, and Parmesan cheese.
Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells
Mix thawed spinach with ricotta cheese, Parmesan, garlic, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Stuff into jumbo pasta shells and bake with tomato sauce.
Spinach, Tomato, and Mozzarella Frittata
Sauté onions and garlic. Add thawed spinach and cook until heated through. Pour over beaten eggs combined with mozzarella. Bake until set. Add diced tomatoes on top.
Creamy Spinach and Artichoke Dip
Blend together thawed spinach, artichoke hearts, Parmesan, mozzarella, mayo, garlic, and Greek yogurt. Bake until hot and bubbly. Serve with pita chips or crackers.
Spinach Lasagna Roll Ups
Spread ricotta on lasagna noodles. Top with seasoned frozen spinach and shredded mozzarella. Roll up and place in baking dish. Cover with tomato sauce and bake.
Frozen spinach is endlessly versatile in hot dishes. With so many possibilities for cooking, be sure to take advantage of your frozen spinach stash!
Can I substitute fresh spinach for frozen in recipes?
You can substitute fresh spinach for frozen in recipes, but keep in mind frozen spinach has a more concentrated flavor and releases more liquid during cooking. Use about 1 1/2 cups fresh leaves for every 1 cup frozen spinach. Reduce any extra liquid released.
Can frozen spinach be eaten raw?
It’s not recommended to eat thawed frozen spinach raw in salads or smoothies. The texture will be limp and soggy. Frozen spinach is best used for cooking only.
Does squeezing or chopping spinach affect nutrients?
Squeezing and chopping won’t significantly change the nutrient composition. However, lengthy processing like blending can degrade some heat-sensitive nutrients over time.
Can you freeze raw spinach?
Yes, raw spinach can be frozen without cooking it first. Be sure to clean, dry, and pack the leaves properly. Blanching is recommended but optional if short on time.
Can frozen spinach be refrozen after thawing?
No, don’t refreeze thawed spinach. The moisture and texture changes make it susceptible to bacterial growth. Refreezing greatly increases food safety risks.