Can You Freeze Feta Cheese?
You’ve purchased a container or two of feta, added it to the recipe you bought it for, and there are some leftovers. You don’t plan on making another salad or any other dish that calls for feta in the nearest future, but you also don’t want to discard the cheese. Freezing it seems like the perfect solution, right?
Well, that depends. Fresh feta is tastier and has a more pleasant texture than frozen and thawed one, so using it fresh is the best solution here. And feta with brine has a pretty long shelf life in the fridge, so before you jump the gun with freezing, it makes sense to talk a bit about storage.
Feta, like pretty much all dairy products, comes with a sell-by date on the label. And that date is a pretty good estimate on how long the cheese will retain quality. That being said, you can often get away with storing it unopened for a week or even longer past that date.
When it comes to opened feta cheese and any leftovers that you might have, it all depends on whether or not the cheese is in brine. Feta in brine can retain good quality for even up to 4 weeks after opening. And in case you didn’t know, you can make feta brine yourself. Leftovers without brine last up to a week.
|Leftover feta (in brine)||3 - 4 weeks|
|Leftover feta (drained)||4 - 7 days|
All of that means if you keep your opened feta in brine, you have quite some time to use it up. You can, of course, go ahead with freezing it, but you should know that the process alters the feta. Let’s talk about that.
Many kinds of cheese freeze very well, but not all of them. Some, like brie, work well mostly for cooked or baked dishes, and not that great served on their own. When it comes to feta, it’s not the best cheese to freeze, but it’s definitely not the worst one either.
As I already said, freezing alters the feta somewhat. The thawed feta becomes more crumbly, and sometimes loses some of its salty flavor. While the former is a bad thing, the latter depends on your taste. Some people find less-salty feta better. And if you’d like to bring that flavor back in, you can prepare feta brine and submerge the cheese in it for a couple of hours.
All in all, as long as the texture change doesn’t ruin the dish you’re preparing, you should be just fine with using frozen and thawed feta. That means it should work well in all cooked meals, but not necessarily in all salads. So make sure to test out your favorite salad recipe with thawed feta before serving it to your guests.
Here’s pasta with spinach and thawed (and then cooked) feta, turned out really good:
The process of freezing feta is super simple and takes a couple of minutes tops. Since freezing blocks is a bit different than freezing crumbled feta, I decided to prepare separate instructions for each.
- Prep the feta. Feta blocks come with some brine, and we need to strain it before freezing. That means if your package is still unopened, it’s time to open it now. Discard the brine and pat the block with a paper towel. Don’t try to remove all the water, though. Removing most of it is okay.
- Portion the cheese. If the whole block is too much for the dish that feta will go into, divide it into smaller portions. If you’re not sure about the portion size, it’s always better to go with smaller ones, as they are more versatile.
- Packaging. If you’re freezing feta for the short term (like up to a couple of weeks), just throw it into a freezer bag. If you suspect it might sit in the freezer for longer, wrap it with plastic wrap, and then chuck into a bag. Remove as much air from the bag as you can and seal it tightly. Write the name and date on the label if needed. If you’re worried that the cheese will get squashed before it freezes, put that freezer bag in a freezer container. If you already know that you’re going to use the feta cubed, you might as well cube it before freezing, just like I did.
- Put the freezer bag or bags into the freezer. Once the cheese freezes, it looks like this:
- Portion the cheese. If the whole container is too much, divide its contents into a couple of portions.
- Packaging. The plastic container that crumbled feta usually comes in is perfect for freezing. If you have a few portions, transfer the others into freezer containers or bags. For long term storage consider adding another layer of protection by putting the prepared containers into a freezer bag. As usual, add name and date if needed.
- Stick the prepared packages in the freezer.
When it comes to thawing feta, the refrigerator is the way to go. Depending on the size of the block or package, it might take between 3 and 12 (for larger blocks) hours, so plan accordingly. I usually go with defrosting overnight, so whatever I need is ready in the morning. If you’re in a hurry, you can speed things up by putting the package in a bowl of cold water. This way, defrosting shouldn’t take longer than a couple of hours.
If the thawed feta lacks saltiness, prepare brine and submerge the cheese in it for a couple of hours. If, on the other hand, thawed feta is still too salty for your taste, submerge it in water for a few hours.
Here are a couple of ways you can use frozen and thawed feta:
- Cooked and baked dishes, like casseroles, stews, pizzas, or frittatas.
- Melting feta over pasta in a skillet. I didn’t know that feta combines that well with pasta until I ate such a dish while visiting friends.
- Sauces. There is a bunch of thick sauces that call for feta, and thawed feta should work perfectly well in those.
- Salads, but they can be dicey. Strain the excess water after thawing the dairy product, and start with a small batch as a test.