Spinach has a relatively short shelf life, so it can be challenging to keep it fresh and available. Freezing spinach will significantly extend its shelf life so that you can always keep it stocked in your kitchen. But can you freeze spinach?
Yes, you can freeze spinach. In fact, it actually freezes quite well. Frozen spinach can be easily incorporated into a wide variety of dishes to add lots of nutritional value and very few calories.
It does make sense to freeze spinach, as this will extend its shelf life from only a week to up to 14 months. Because you need to prepare spinach prior to freezing, this means you can work efficiently by preparing large batches at once. Once you portion the spinach into individual bags in the freezer, it will be ready to use immediately whenever you’re ready to cook.
Image used under Creative Commons from Rob Bertholf
It is important to note, however, that while fresh spinach is crispy (similar to lettuce), frozen spinach will have a soggy, limp texture after it is frozen. This texture change is how spinach responds to being cooked, so it will not make a difference when incorporating your frozen spinach into dips, soups, casseroles, and other cooked or baked dishes. It also should not matter if you like to eat plain cooked spinach as a side dish.
However, frozen spinach is not suited for being consumed raw. The limp texture of frozen spinach would be very noticeably different from the crisp, leafy texture you expect from raw spinach. So if you are planning on using your spinach to make a salad or as a burger topping, you should stick to purchasing fresh spinach. Below is a step by step guide on how can you freeze spinach:
How to Freeze Spinach?
Prepping the Spinach for Blanching
Because spinach grows directly on the ground, it can be quite dirty when you purchase it. Before freezing or consuming spinach, it is important to thoroughly wash it to remove any traces of dirt. Simply dunk the spinach into a bowl of water three times, changing the water between each time. Once the spinach is clean, you can remove the stems and loosely chop the spinach, if desired.
Blanching the Spinach for Freezing
Blanching spinach helps the leaves preserve their green color and nutrients during the freezing process. It will also soften the texture of the spinach in the final cooked dish. You will notice a significant loss in volume from blanching. Typically, 10 to 12 cups of spinach will result in 1 cup of blanched spinach.
To blanch the spinach, boil it in a pot of water on the stove for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Remove the spinach using a spider or strainer and immediately place it in a bowl of ice water to halt the cooking process. Leave it in the ice water for several minutes until it is completely cool.
Remove the spinach and squeeze out as much excess water as possible with your hand. Portion the spinach into the individual servings in an airtight container with a lid or plastic zip bags. Blanched spinach will last for 9 to 14 months when kept in the freezer.
If you will be using the spinach within 6 months, you can opt to skip the blanching process to save time. However, in addition to reducing the shelf life, forgoing blanching the spinach will also degrade the texture of the spinach more significantly.
Image used under Creative Commons from Daniella Segura
How to Thaw Frozen Spinach?
Thawing spinach is simple. If you plan your meals ahead, you can place the frozen spinach directly in the fridge about a day or two before you need it. To shorten the thawing time, you can place the bag in a bowl of warm water in your sink. The spinach should be completely thawed in an hour or two.
Another technique for thawing spinach in a hurry is to empty spinach into a mesh strainer and rinse using warm water. Use your fingers to separate any clumps. This process is incredibly quick and takes only a few minutes. Once the spinach is thawed completely, press down on it in the strainer with your hand to remove any excess water.
It’s surprising how spinach keeps so well in the freezer. Now that you know how can you freeze spinach, go ahead and buy this vegetable in bulk! There is absolutely no need to worry about wasting spinach if you keep your supply in the freezer.