So you have some leftover ricotta, or you bought a container more than you needed, and you want to preserve it. Can you freeze ricotta cheese?
Or perhaps you’re wondering if you can make a ricotta-based pasta filling ahead of time, and freeze it until ready to use.
The good news is that ricotta cheese freezes quite well, at least compared to some other dairy products. But, same as cream cheese, it separates and dries out a bit after freezing.
Because of that, defrosted ricotta works much better in some settings than in others.
Want to learn about freezing, defrosting, and using ricotta cheese and ricotta-based mixtures?
Let’s jump right in.
Can You Freeze Ricotta Cheese?
You can freeze ricotta cheese, but you should know that there will be visible separation after you thaw it. However, the texture change isn’t that bad, and such ricotta is still okay to use in most recipes.
That said, the best options for frozen and thawed ricotta are dishes that you cook or bake, like pancakes and pasta fillings. I talk about those specifically later in the article.
Now, you’d probably want to see how thawed ricotta looks like. Here’s mine after defrosting:
You can see that some of the whey separated from the curds, but it’s not that bad, right? Defrosted sour cream, for instance, looks much worse.
And it gets even better after removing the whey and stirring it:
Okay, you’re probably convinced that defrosted ricotta isn’t as bad as some people paint it. It’s a bit drier than it was, but that’s about it.
But, say you want to prep in advance the ricotta-based mixture for your next dish, and freeze it. Can you do that?
Ricotta Cheese Mixture (or Filling)
There are a few popular ricotta cheese mixtures out there, such as:
- ricotta cheese with eggs
- classic ricotta cheese mixture (with shredded mozzarella, eggs, and spices)
- ricotta and spinach (something like this)
- anything else that’s similar to the above
Those mixtures are used for all sorts of pasta dishes like lasagna, ravioli, ziti, manicotti, and the like.
I know you might be skeptical about freezing ricotta with eggs because eggs don’t freeze particularly well.
But, freezing isn’t an issue anymore if the eggs are stirred together with other ingredients (pancake batter is a good example). They actually help bind everything together.
Now, I’m far from saying that all ricotta mixtures freeze great. But most of them should freeze well and turn out perfectly fine after cooking or baking them with pasta.
The easiest way to test yours is prepping the mixture the day before you need it and freezing a small amount overnight. Then, the next day you defrost it, assess its quality, and use it.
One such try, and you will know for sure if your mixture freezes well.
How To Freeze Ricotta Cheese
Freezing ricotta is super simple. Grab a couple of freezer-friendly containers, and let’s get to work.
Here’s how you freeze ricotta:
- Decide how you’re going to use the ricotta after thawing. It’s best to freeze the cheese in dish-sized portions to avoid any leftovers after using it. You need to decide on a recipe you’re going to use the cheese in for that to happen.
- (Optional) Remove excess whey if there is a lot on the surface. Some separation in ricotta is perfectly normal and nothing to worry about. But that whey will freeze straight into ice crystals and end up as liquid on top after defrosting. You might as well remove it using a teaspoon or paper towels before freezing.
- Portion the cheese. Grab as many containers as you need, and pour the ricotta in them. Grab a teaspoon and level out the surface in each container. I noticed the more surface area there is, the more liquid separates during thawing, hence the suggestion.
- Freeze everything. If your containers aren’t transparent or you have lots of dairy in the freezer, consider labeling each container with the name, date, and amount. If you’re not freezing dairy products too often, it’s not necessary. I don’t do it.
That’s it. The same process works for both store-bought and homemade ricotta.
You can freeze an unopened container of ricotta cheese if the amount is just right for your recipe. No need to open the container just to transfer its contents into another one.
I know I didn’t stir and level out the ricotta before freezing it. Do as I say, not as I do.
How Long Can You Freeze Ricotta?
Try to use the frozen ricotta within 2 to 3 months from the day you froze it. The sooner you do that, the better the quality.
Of course, there isn’t anything special about the 3-month mark, and the ricotta won’t be much worse if it sits in the freezer for an extra week or month. It’s more of a reminder that freezing it for months on end isn’t a good idea.
I find that the longer food sits in my freezer, the less likely I’m to defrost and use it. That, of course, results in a constantly overflowing freezer.
Food that I froze recently is still top of mind, and that’s when I’m most likely to use it. But if it’s there for more than, say, 3 to 4 weeks, it often gets forgotten. That’s another reason why I advocate using frozen foods as soon as possible.
Thawing Frozen Ricotta Cheese
To thaw ricotta, transfer the container into the fridge and leave it there overnight. Those 6 to 8 hours are usually enough for the cheese to defrost.
Generally, ricotta needs 4 to 8 hours to defrost, depending on the amount. You can speed things up a bit (to like 3 to 6 hours) by submerging the container in lukewarm water (still in the fridge). Water transfers heat faster, hence the shorter thawing time.
Here’s the simple setup:
If you want to help ricotta thaw faster, grab a teaspoon and stir it after an hour or two of sitting in the fridge.
The sides will be thawed by this time, but the central area won’t. That stir will mix the frozen and defrosted areas and spread them more evenly, resulting in faster thawing.
Once your ricotta is thawed (or before you stir it during thawing), you’ll probably notice some separated liquid (like you can see in my photo above). It’s up to you whether you stir it in or discard it. I usually opt for the latter.
One great benefit of defrosting ricotta in the fridge is that you can safely refreeze it. That means that even if you freeze the cheese in portions that don’t quite match your recipe, you can still refreeze the leftovers.
That is if you don’t have any other way to use the ricotta that’s left.
Nevertheless, each subsequent freezing will make the cheese drier and degrade its quality even further. Because of that, it’s better to plan out how you’re going to use the ricotta after thawing and portion it accordingly.
Long story short, you can refreeze ricotta if you thawed it in the fridge, but try to avoid it if you can.
Using Thawed Ricotta
There are hundreds of dishes in which defrosted ricotta will work as well as fresh ricotta does. If a dish includes cooking or baking the cheese, chances are it will do.
Some of the most popular ones include:
- pasta fillings – think lasagna, ravioli, or ziti filling
- cheesecakes (except maybe those no-bake ones) and similar cakes
- pizza, calzone
The way to go about it is to use ricotta in a recipe you know well. If you know its ins and outs, substituting defrosted ricotta for the fresh one is no biggie.
One thing to pay attention to is the texture. Thawed ricotta is drier (especially if you removed the separated whey) than its fresh counterpart, and you might need to adjust for that by adding more liquid ingredients.
Another thing to remember is that you don’t always need to replace fresh ricotta with the defrosted one. You can mix both in whatever proportions work for you and use that mix instead.
Say your recipe requires two containers of ricotta, but you only have one in the freezer. Great. Thaw the frozen container, grab a fresh one from the fridge and mix them.
Freezing Dishes That Include Ricotta
Instead of freezing ricotta cheese by itself, in most cases, you can use it in a dish and freeze that dish instead.
I don’t know about you, but I much prefer to grab a portion of frozen lasagna from my freezer than to take a container of ricotta, defrost it, and only then cook the lasagna.
If your frozen ingredients tend to sit in the freezer forever because you never feel like defrosting and cooking something, freezing ready-to-eat dishes might be the solution for you.
A few dishes that freeze well include: