Here’s all you need to know about freezing oranges. Learn how well they freeze, how to freeze oranges, and how to use them after.
Got a bunch of oranges that you don’t want to go to waste? If so, you’re probably wondering: can you freeze oranges?
If you’re like me and often buy fruit by the bag, instead of considering how much you need, sooner or later you’ll end up with more oranges than you can use. That’s when you start looking for ways to preserve oranges.
Freezing is one of the easiest and most popular preservation methods. And that’s why it’s the first one you researched.
So without further ado, let’s talk about if and when freezing oranges actually makes sense.
Table of Contents
Can You Freeze Oranges?
You can freeze oranges whole or segmented. Freezing whole oranges is great if you plan on juicing them after defrosting, while segments can be thrown into smoothies and the like. Alternatively, you can juice the oranges and freeze orange juice instead.
The issue with freezing oranges, and freezing fruit in general, is that they soften after defrosting. That makes them poor candidates for snacking or using in a fruit salad.
But you already know that, right? We usually reserve frozen fruit only for certain dishes, like smoothies, oatmeal, or baked goods.
Because of that, frozen oranges have a pretty limited number of uses, and juicing the orange after defrosting is probably the best one out there.
In other words, you can freeze them, but they become much less versatile than when fresh.
Now, before we move forward, let me remind you that oranges last quite some time, and if yours aren’t old already, you probably still have a couple of days to use them up.
Related: How long do oranges last and how to tell if one is bad?
If you need to freeze orange zest, process the fruits and freeze the peel separately. Use the instructions I give in my article on freezing lemon zest or one on freezing limes.
Navel Oranges and Freezing
According to the University of California’s Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, freezing Navel oranges is a bad idea. Here’s their explanation:
Navel oranges do not freeze well. A very bitter compound called limonin develops in oranges when they are frozen. This compound is found in higher levels in Navel oranges, which makes them a poor choice for freezing whole or as juice.
And in case you didn’t know how Navel oranges look like (I didn’t), here’s a photo:
In short, if you have a bunch of Navel oranges, freezing them probably isn’t that good of an idea. If you want to use them up quickly, juice them, but remember that fresh orange juice lasts only a few days.
How To Freeze Oranges
Below, I cover two methods of freezing oranges. Freeze them whole if you want to juice and/or zest them later on, or divide them into segments if you want to throw them into smoothies.
Freezing Whole Oranges
Freezing whole oranges is super simple, but there are still a couple of things to remember, especially if you plan on zesting them later on.
Here’s how you freeze whole oranges:
- Prep. Wash the oranges under running water. If you plan on zesting them later on, dewax them if that’s what you usually do. You should take care of that now because you’ll want to zest those oranges while they’re still frozen. When it comes to whether you should peel the oranges, it depends on how you’ll juice them and if you’re going to zest them. If you’re using a citrus juicer, leave the peel on. But if you have a masticating or centrifugal juicer, peel them so that you don’t have to do that after thawing.
- Put them in a freezer bag. Squeeze out as much air as possible before sealing, and add a label with the freezing date if you find that useful.
- Place the bag in the freezer.
That’s it. Frozen whole oranges retain decent quality for at least 3 to 6 months.
If you want to zest the orange, do so while it’s still frozen. It’s much easier to work with a firm frozen one than a super soft defrosted one. The only downside is that frozen oranges are freezing cold (duh!) and zesting them isn’t a particularly pleasant experience.
When it comes to using thawed oranges, the best option is to juice them. Getting the juice takes only a couple of minutes, and what you get is perfectly fine quality-wise. You can drink it fresh, or use it in any number of dishes that call for it.
If you’re into baking, there are hundreds of recipes for orange-flavored cakes, muffins, and other sorts of baked goods out there. Just type into Google what you are looking for, and you’ll have a whole host of possible choices in a matter of seconds.
Freezing Orange Segments
The method that I recommend is the dry pack method of freezing, which requires the least amount of hands-on time and doesn’t involve sweeteners. Basically, it’s a lazy (or busy) man’s way of freezing a citrus fruit, with the added benefit of steering clear of any extra sugar.
There are other methods, like sugar syrup packing or pectin syrup packing. Those are great for people who like spending lots of time preserving their food. I don’t, and if you’re reading this, I guess you don’t either.
Now, let’s go through a step-by-step of the dry-pack freezing of oranges.
- Peel the oranges. Remove as much of the pith as you usually do.
- Divide into sections or segments. Choose the option that works for you. The NCHFP suggests removing all the membranes and seeds at this point, but I don’t think it’s necessary. Feel free to do so if you’d like to play with your knife for an extra couple of minutes, though.
- Pack the sections into a freezer bag. Remove the air and seal it. Add a label if you like.
- Freeze. Put the package into the freezer.
If you skip cutting off the membranes and aren’t very thorough with removing the white pith (like me), this whole process takes roughly 5 minutes for two oranges.
If you freeze oranges this way, the sections or segments will freeze together. Fortunately, you should be able to tear off a piece or two whenever needed (I was).
If you remove the membranes, pre-freeze your oranges, so that they don’t form a big clump. That’s what I recommend when freezing grapefruits.
If you prefer the segments not to clump together, you need to pre-freeze (or open-freeze) them first. Here’s how to pre-freeze orange segments:
- Prepare a cookie sheet. Line it with parchment paper or a silicone mat, so the fruit doesn’t stick to it. You can also use the cookie sheet without any kind of cover, but removing the orange segments from the sheet might be difficult.
- Place all the segments in a single layer.
- Freeze until the pieces are solid. That usually takes a couple of hours, or you can do it overnight.
- Transfer the frozen segments into a freezer bag and back into the freezer.
When it comes to using frozen orange segments, they work best in smoothies.
How To Thaw Frozen Oranges
There are a couple of ways of defrosting frozen oranges. Choose one that makes the most sense for whatever you’re preparing:
- In the fridge. Slow thawing is best quality-wise, and takes two to four hours, depending on whether you’ve split the oranges into sections or single segments. If you’re defrosting a whole orange, do it overnight or allow at least 6 to 8 hours in the refrigerator.
- On the counter. If you need your segments to be thawed before you add them to a smoothie, leave them on the counter for 40 to 60 minutes, and use them right away. Don’t defrost whole oranges at room temperature.
- Throw them in frozen. There are at least a couple of cases when you don’t need to thaw the oranges. You can throw in a frozen segment or two into a glass of water on a sweltering day, or use frozen orange pieces instead of ice cubes in your smoothie (make sure your blender can crush them first).
Freezing Oranges FAQ
Can You Freeze Orange Slices?
Technically speaking, yes, but make sure you have a plan on how you’ll use those slices after thawing.
The issue with freezing orange slices is that there aren’t that many ways to use them. Perhaps you could throw those frozen orange slices (peeled) into a smoothie, but that’s all I can think of at the moment.
Most recipes call for orange juice and not the fruit itself, so freezing the orange whole is probably a better option.
That said, if you’d like to learn how to go about freezing citrus fruits sliced, check out my article on freezing lemons.
Can You Freeze Oranges for Smoothies?
Yes, oranges can be frozen for smoothies. If you just want the orange juice, freeze the fruit whole and juice it after defrosting. If, on the other hand, you want to add an orange section to your smoothie, freeze the citrus fruit in sections or segments.