Eating fruit is part of a healthy diet. Fruits provide vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. Many people choose to buy fresh fruits in season when they are ripe and flavorful. But fresh fruits eventually spoil. An alternative is to freeze fruits when they are in peak season so you can enjoy their taste any time of year.
How long do frozen fruits last?
Frozen fruits can keep for 8 to 12 months in the freezer before quality starts to decline. The key to maximizing frozen fruit shelf life is properly storing them at 0°F or below. At this temperature, the growth of microbes and the enzymatic activities that cause food spoilage are stopped or significantly slowed.
Properly stored frozen fruits will retain their fresh flavor, color, texture and nutrients. Over time, some deterioration is inevitable. Frozen fruit stored for more than a year will become duller in color and begin drying out. Taste and texture will start to suffer. Vitamin C content degrades faster than other nutrients. Beyond 12 months, frozen fruit is still safe to eat but quality is diminished.
Signs frozen fruit has expired
Here are some signs that frozen fruit is past its prime and should be discarded:
- Ice crystals or freezer burn – Dry shriveled patches on the fruit
- Discoloration – Browning or excessive darkening
- Soft texture – Fruit has become mushy
- Off odors and flavors – Fermented or rotten smell and taste
- Mold – Cottony or fuzzy growth anywhere on the fruit
As long as frozen fruit shows no signs of spoilage, it is safe to eat but the flavor and nutritional value degrades over time. Eat oldest packages first and try to use within 12 months.
Proper frozen fruit storage
To get the most optimal frozen fruit shelf life, follow these storage tips:
- Use high quality freezer bags or airtight containers
- Exclude as much air as possible
- Freeze fruit immediately after harvesting/purchasing
- Avoid overloading freezer to allow proper air circulation
- Know your freezer’s temperature and adjust accordingly
- Keep frozen fruit away from freezer door/walls which are warmest
- Minimize temperature fluctuations – don’t open freezer frequently
- Store at 0°F or below
Freeze fruit properly
The key to delicious frozen fruit is starting with high quality fresh fruit and freezing it properly to lock in flavor, texture and nutrients. Follow these steps:
- Select ripe, unblemished fruit at the peak of freshness
- Wash and dry fruit thoroughly
- Cut away any bruised or damaged spots
- Prepare fruit as desired – leave whole, slice, dice, purée, etc.
- Place fruit in single layer on tray and freeze until solid
- Pack solid frozen fruit into bags/containers, removing as much air as possible
- Label with contents and date
- Return to freezer immediately
With proper handling, freezing can preserve fruits at their nutritious best for use long after harvest season is over.
Shelf life of common frozen fruits
How long different fruits maintain optimal quality when frozen can vary. Here are some general guidelines for maximum frozen shelf life:
|Berries – strawberries, blueberries, raspberries etc.||8-12 months|
|Citrus fruits – oranges, grapefruit, lemons||4-6 months|
|Melons – cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon||8 months|
|Tropical fruits – mangos, bananas, pineapple, kiwi||6 months|
Berries have a shorter shelf life than other fruits when frozen. Citrus fruits and tropical fruits also degrade faster. Fruits like plums and grapes maintain their quality longer in the frozen state.
Can you refreeze thawed frozen fruit?
It is best to avoid refreezing thawed frozen fruits. When fruit thaws, the ice crystals puncture cell walls and release juices. Refreezing will cause more damage to the fruit’s texture. The overall quality deteriorates faster with each thaw-refreeze cycle.
If thawed fruit is refrozen before any signs of spoilage, it is still safe to eat but the taste, color and texture will not be as good. Try to use thawed fruit within 2-3 days. Fruit that has completely defrosted should be discarded.
Is it safe to eat frozen fruit past its expiration date?
Frozen fruits typically do not have an expiration or “use by” date on the packaging. Shelf life depends on how long they have been stored at 0°F. The determining factors on whether frozen fruit is still safe to eat are quality and signs of spoilage.
As long as frozen fruit has been continuously kept at 0°F and shows no signs mold, dryness, freezer burn or off odors, it should still be safe past 12 months. The flavor, texture, color and nutrient content will gradually decline. But spoiled fruit poses no health risks if eaten.
Discard any frozen fruits that are moldy, have an odd smell or show other obvious signs of deterioration. When in doubt, remember this simple rule – if you wouldn’t eat fresh fruit in the same condition, do not eat frozen fruit in that condition.
Tips on using up frozen fruit before it expires
To use your frozen fruit stash before it goes bad, keep these tips in mind:
- Let fruit thaw in fridge overnight before using
- Incorporate into oatmeal, yogurt, cottage cheese for breakfast
- Blend into smoothies
- Make antioxidant rich fruit bowls
- Fold into muffin, bread or cake batter
- Swirl into ice cream, yogurt, pudding and other desserts
- Simmer fruit into sauces for meat
- Add to pancake batter
- Purée and freeze into popsicles
Get creative with recipes and find ways to use up frozen fruit while it’s still at peak quality. The possibilities are endless.
Frozen fruits can remain safe and nutritious for 8 to 12 months if properly stored at 0°F. Monitor fruit for signs of spoilage like texture changes, freezer burn and mold. Stick to the recommended storage times for optimal quality and flavor. With some planning, you can enjoy delicious frozen fruits long after fresh versions are out of season.