How to Freeze Strawberries

Follow these simple steps to preserve your berry bounty.

frozen strawberries on a pan lined with parchment paper
Photo: Courtney West/Southern Living

Whether they're just picked from the garden, bought at your local farmers' market, or picked up at the supermarket, one thing is true about fresh strawberries: They have a short shelf life. Even when stored in the refrigerator, they will only last three to four days before they start to wrinkle or turn moldy. (Got less-than-perfect strawberries? Try roasting them, or turn them into a fruity vinaigrette.)

The best way to preserve extra strawberries before they go bad is to freeze them. But you can't just toss them into a bag and call it a day. That will result in a large, icy, boulder-like cluster of berries.

Instead, flash freeze the berries to lock in their peak season taste and keep them from sticking together so you can more easily use them later. Flash freezing also prevents those pesky ice crystals from forming and turning your berries into flavorless ice cubes.

Here, how to freeze fresh strawberries and what to make with frozen strawberries once you have them.

How to Freeze Strawberries

Equipment you'll need:

  • Colander
  • Two tea towels or paper towels
  • Paring knife or strawberry huller
  • Large baking sheet(s)
  • Parchment paper
  • Zip-top silicone or plastic bags
  • Permanent marker
wash strawberries to freeze strawberries
Courtney West/Southern Living

1. Wash and dry the fruit

Place the berries in a colander in a sink, and clean the strawberries under cold running water. Discard any berries that are already mushy or showing signs of mold. These will not freeze well.

wet strawberries on a towel being dried by a hand
Courtney West/Southern Living

Once washed, spread the berries onto tea towels or paper towels, and dry each berry individually with another towel. Let them air dry for 30 to 60 minutes.

Note: Make sure the berries are as dry as possible before moving to the next steps. Excess water will make them more squishy and distort the flavor when thawed.

removing hulls from strawberries
Courtney West/Southern Living

2. Hull the berries

Once the berries are dry, remove the green tops and white centers. You can use a strawberry huller for this. If you don't have one, a small paring knife will work, too. Insert it into the top of the strawberry's shoulder, just beside the stem. Carefully cut along the stem in a circular motion, and pop out the hull.

You can leave the berries whole, or you can cut them into halves or quarters. Large berries are hard to cut when frozen, and large berries are also difficult to break down in a blender. Cutting them at this step is ideal if you know what size you want.

hulled strawberries on parchment paper to be frozen
Courtney West/Southern Living

3. Prepare to freeze

Once they're hulled, place the strawberries on a parchment-lined baking sheet that will fit into your freezer. Spread the strawberries out so that they do not touch. If the berries touch, they will freeze into a large block that is difficult to break apart.

If you have a large amount of berries, use multiple baking sheets, and repeat the process for each baking sheet of berries.

strawberries on baking pan
Courtney West/Southern Living

4. Freeze until solid

Depending on the size and shape of the berries, this could take two to four hours. For larger batches, freeze overnight.

frozen strawberries on sheet pan being scooped into zip top bag
Courtney West/Southern Living

5. Transfer to a ziplock freezer bag

Remove the frozen berries from the parchment-lined baking tray, and place them in a plastic or silicone zip-top freezer-safe bag. Label the bag with the food and date you froze them. Squeeze out as much air as you can, or use a food sealer.

Leave the strawberries in the freezer until you are ready to use them. If you have a chest freezer or upright deep freezer, keep the berries in them for better quality in long-term storage. Do not store the bags in a freezer door. They will be exposed to warmer temperatures as the freezer is opened, and they will quickly degrade.

Tips for Freezing Strawberries

While you know the how to of freezing fresh strawberries, here's what experienced fruit freezers know:

1. Don't wash too early. Strawberries will absorb water if they are washed or soaked, and that will accelerate their decomposition. Instead, wash strawberries just before you plan to eat, cook, or freeze them.

2. Only freeze the best berries. Fresh, firm, in-season fruit will make for better thawed, once-frozen berries. Discard any strawberries that look shriveled or mushy. They'll water out when thawed, leaving you with a sad pile of strawberry goo.

3. Wash your hands. Keep bacteria and germs from the kitchen or garden off your berries. Wash your hands before you wash, hull, and arrange strawberries to freeze. While freezing can kill some bacteria that cause foodborne illness, not all will die.

frozen strawberries in a bowl
Courtney West/Southern Living

Questions About Freezing Strawberries

How long can you freeze strawberries?

Frozen strawberries will last up to one year if they remain frozen. Use within six months for best flavor.

Do you need to wash strawberries before freezing them?

Yes, strawberries can carry a host of bacteria and germs from the farm, packaging, and shipping. Even if the berries are from your backyard, they may have residue of any pesticides you used, as well as soil and even bugs. So be sure to wash the berries before you freeze them, but not too early. Strawberries will begin to break down and turn mushy after they're washed.

How do you thaw frozen strawberries?

The best way to thaw strawberries depends on how quickly you need them. Use this guide:

I need them now: Place the amount of strawberries you need in a microwave-safe bowl, and use the defrost function on your fridge, cooking in one-minute increments until the berries are thawed but still cool.

I need them in a bit: Put the berries in a single layer on a plate, and set it on the kitchen counter at room temperature. Drain off any liquids. If you need the whole bag thawed, fill a bowl with cool water, and place the bag directly into the water. Gently massage the bag every 15 minutes to help the berries thaw.

I need them tomorrow: Move the bag of berries to the refrigerator, and let them thaw overnight.

Cakey Strawberry Cobbler
Antonis Achilleos; Prop Styling: Kathleen Varner; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Get the Recipe: Cakey Strawberry Cobbler

How to Use Frozen Strawberries

Once thawed, previously-frozen berries aren't going to be as vibrant as their former selves. They'll be darker and softer, and they will leak moisture. But don't count them out for flavor. They're still as tasty as the day you picked them.

But the differences in texture will change how you use frozen strawberries, so keep these tips in mind as you plan how to use your stash of frozen strawberries:

For pies, cobblers, and crisps: Use frozen berries as you would fresh, tossing them in sugar and/or cornstarch before adding them to batters or pans. The berries will thaw as the dish cooks, and excess moisture will mostly evaporate.

For cakes or quick breads: Cut any large frozen berries into smaller slices or quarters. Then fold the frozen berries into the batter. The cake can absorb any moisture from the berries as they thaw. Real pros might toss the frozen berries in flour before folding them into the batter so the strawberries don't slip to the bottom of the cake. The flour helps the berries "grip" the batter.

For smoothies, shakes, or frozen drinks: Leave them frozen, and pop them right into the blender. If you left the berries whole when you froze them, consider cutting them into smaller pieces before blending because some blenders have a hard time with the extra-large frozen berries.

For cocktails or mocktails: Once-frozen berries won't make good garnishes, but you can thaw the frozen berries and mash or muddle them as you would fresh ones.

Check out these Fresh & Juicy Strawberry Recipes for more inspiration.

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