We don’t freeze fresh fruit often. But if you have a bunch of oranges you don’t want to go to waste, you’ve probably asked yourself: can you freeze oranges?
If you’re like me and often buy fruit by the bag, instead of thinking about 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 of preserving this citrus fruit.
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.
Can You Freeze Oranges?
I have good and bad news for you.
The good news is that you can freeze oranges, and there are many ways of using them.
The bad news is that not all types of oranges freeze well, and the quality of the fruit isn’t quite the same after thawing.
Let me explain.
The first thing you should know is that, according to the University of California’s Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC), 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.
When it comes to quality after thawing not being that great, you already know that, right? We usually reserve frozen fruit only for certain dishes, like smoothies, salads, or baked goods. They’re just not as good for eating on their own as fresh fruit.
The same principle applies to the oranges you want to freeze.
Okay, now that you know all the possible downsides, you’re ready to freeze this citrus fruit.
How To Freeze Oranges
Below I describe 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 oranges, with the added benefit of steering clear of any extra sugar.
There are also other methods, like sugar syrup packing (NCHFP) or pectin syrup packing (UC). Those are great for people who like spending lots of time on preserving their food. I don’t, and if you’re reading this, I guess you don’t either.
Anyway, if you’d like to read more about those methods, you can find the links in the sources at the end of the article.
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 prefer the segments not to clump together, you need to pre-freeze (or open-freeze) them first. Here’s how to do it:
- 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.
If you can’t be bothered with freezing oranges, you can juice them and freeze OJ instead!
How To Thaw Frozen Oranges
When it comes to defrosting, it’s best to thaw only as many sections or segments as you need at the moment. That’s why we don’t freeze the oranges whole after peeling them.
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.
- On the counter. If you’re prepping a fruit salad, remove the segments you need from the freezer 40 minutes to an hour before you start. They should be ready when you need them.
- 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).
How To Use Frozen and Defrosted Oranges
Eating frozen and thawed oranges as-is is okay-ish (for me, at least), but definitely not as good as having a fresh one. Instead, here are a couple of ways you can use them:
- Smoothies. Smoothies are probably the most popular way of using frozen fruit. If you’re into blending foods and veggies to make a nutritious drink, you’ll use those frozen oranges in no time.
- Cakes and baked goods. If a recipe calls for pureeing oranges, the thawed ones should work just as good as fresh ones.
- Fruit salads. When making a fruit salad, make sure the oranges aren’t the star of the salad, but only the side-kick instead. The vast majority of the salad should consist of fresh ingredients.
If you’re wondering if your thawed oranges will work in a recipe, ask yourself the following question: does the success of the dish depend on the oranges being juicy, firm, and fragrant? If so, you’re better off with fresh oranges. If not, feel free to use frozen and thawed ones.