If you want your leftover ricotta to last longer than a couple of days, freezing seems like the only option. Can you freeze ricotta cheese?
Or maybe you have a container that’s near its date, and you know you won’t be able to use it anytime soon. Freezing it would come in handy, wouldn’t it?
If you searched the Internet, you would inevitably find that some people say freezing ricotta is okay, while others claim the process ruins the texture and taste. The truth, as usual, lies somewhere in between.
That’s why I wrote this guide to freezing ricotta. It includes:
- how freezing affects ricotta and if it’s a big deal
- how to go about freezing it, if you decide to do it
- ways of thawing frozen ricotta
- a list of types of dishes that defrosted ricotta works well in
- a few tips on working with ricotta after thawing
Interested? Read on.
Can You Freeze Ricotta Cheese?
Yes, you can freeze ricotta cheese, and it freezes quite well. There will be some liquid separated on the surface, but the overall texture doesn’t change that much.
Frozen and thawed ricotta works great in cooked and baked dishes, and is quite alright in most other uses, including eating by the spoon.
That’s the gist of it. Let’s cover this in a bit more detail.
What the producers say
Ricotta is one of the dairy products that even the producers are split when it comes to whether or not to freeze their product.
While most cheesemakers don’t encourage freezing any of their products, a few out there say you can freeze their ricotta.
Here’s what Sargento says about freezing ricotta cheese (SA):
Sargento Ricotta cheese can also be frozen for up to two months, but freezing may affect the texture of the cheese.Sargento
The critical piece of information here is that freezing can affect the texture of ricotta. That’s true.
Changes in texture
Once you defrost ricotta, there will be some liquid separated, and the texture somewhat altered.
Here’s how defrosted ricotta cheese looks like:
As you can tell, there’s some separated liquid visible, but not a lot. You end up with less liquid than if you freeze heavy cream.
You can stir that liquid back into the cheese (SA) or strain it. I usually go with the latter, but that’s up to you.
Using defrosted ricotta
The texture change isn’t huge, and I can’t quite put my finger on it. Here’s how fresh ricotta compares to a frozen and thawed one:
As you can tell, the difference isn’t nearly as pronounced as in frozen sour cream, for example.
Nevertheless, I’m sure some of you might be able to tell fresh ricotta from a frozen and thawed one easily. And that some brands might freeze better than others.
Because of that, many people suggest that you should freeze ricotta only if you plan on using it in cooked or baked dishes. If you’re a ricotta connoisseur, that’s good advice.
Here’s how my ricotta cheesecake looked like right before baking:
Looks perfectly normal, doesn’t it? And the cake turned out just fine too (there’s a photo or two later in the article).
When it comes to eating defrosted ricotta in a salad or a dessert, or by the spoon, it’s a matter of personal preference and how well your favorite brand of ricotta freezes.
Feel free to give it a try, but make sure you do it when the stakes are low. In other words, it should be okay for things to go south taste-wise, and you having to discard the dish. Or eat it with a sad face, as I sometimes do when I mess up in the kitchen.
If you only eat this cheese fresh, it might be better to store the leftover ricotta refrigerated for a couple of days and eat it then than freezing the cheese. The same is true for cottage cheese.
Now it’s time to talk about how this process goes.
How To Freeze Ricotta Cheese
The whole thing takes a couple of minutes tops, so there are no excuses for not doing it. Just grab the cheese and get going, you’ll be done in no time.
If you’re freezing a large piece of ricotta, think about how you’re going to use the cheese once thawed, and pick portion size that makes sense for that.
- Prep the cheese. If there’s some liquid in the container, put the cheese on a paper towel and let it strain. Then, cut it into portions if needed.
- Pack the ricotta. Choose freezer bags or airtight containers. If going with the bags, make sure they have no holes. I usually choose the containers because the cleanup is much more convenient (i.e., I don’t like washing freezer bags). If you find it useful, add some labels, so that you know what’s inside and how long it’s in the freezer.
- Transfer the ricotta into the freezer.
If you plan on keeping the ricotta in the freezer for a prolonged period, like more than a month, consider double wrapping the cheese. The easiest way to go about that is by packing the portions into freezer bags, and then those bags into containers for additional protection.
Sargento says you can freeze their ricotta for up to two months (SA), but I’m pretty sure ricotta (in general) should turn out quite okay for even up to half a year.
How To Defrost Ricotta Cheese
Okay, so you have a container or bag of frozen ricotta that looks something like this:
And you want to thaw it. Here are your options.
In the fridge
The easiest way to go about thawing ricotta cheese is to leave it in the fridge overnight, in a bowl of cold or lukewarm water. The water helps speed up the defrosting process.
Here’s how the setup looks like:
It usually takes between 4 to 8 hours to defrost ricotta this way, depending on the amount. Therefore, it makes sense to start it the day before in the evening.
The only downside is that you need to plan ahead when and how you’re using that ricotta cheese.
On the counter
If you’re eating breakfast and you just remembered that you need your ricotta thawed in a couple of hours, not all is lost.
Instead of leaving the bowl in the fridge, you place it on the counter. And you change the water whenever it gets ice-cold, or every hour or so.
This method isn’t safe, and nobody (including me) recommends it.
But I’m sure you’ve had times when you needed to thaw something quickly, and waiting until it defrosts in the fridge wasn’t an option.
If now is one of those times, thawing on the counter might be what’s required.
Remember that it still takes at least 2 to 3 hours to thaw frozen ricotta on the counter. If you need it in an hour or so, that’s not going to work.
If you’re going with this option, use the cheese immediately and in a cooked or baked dish. The heat should kill any bacteria and minimize the chances of you getting sick from that ricotta cheese.
Again, I strongly recommend thawing ricotta in the fridge and using this method only as a last resort.
How To Use Thawed Ricotta
Generally speaking, most if not all cooked dishes will be perfect for frozen and defrosted ricotta. Here are some ideas you might find helpful:
- Pasta dishes. Most people use ricotta in pasta dishes either way. Some ideas include lasagna, ravioli, or mac and cheese.
- Savory dishes like pizza or calzone.
- Cakes and baked goods. Cheesecakes and cheese-filled cookies are the most popular options.
- Pancakes. Yup, ricotta can be used in pancakes too.
After thawing the ricotta, I decided to make pancakes with it, just as I did with thawed cottage cheese. Here’s how they turned out:
They might not look like much, but I enjoyed them all the same.
When shooting some extra footage for this article, I baked a cheesecake with the defrosted ricotta. Here’s how it turned out:
Tips For Using Frozen and Thawed Ricotta Cheese
Use it in recipes that you know
Even though ricotta cheese freezes pretty well, it’s still best to use it only in recipes you’re familiar with.
You probably know that all things can go wrong when you’re cooking for the very first time a recipe you just found. And if you use thawed ricotta instead of a fresh one, your chances of succeeding are even smaller.
Because of that, I recommend going with recipes that you already know and use.
Pay attention to texture
The texture change in ricotta is nowhere as noticeable as in frozen buttermilk, but it’s still there. And in some dishes (hint: pancakes and the like), that slight alteration isn’t something you should gloss over.
I mentioned that you can either stir in the liquid that’s left after freezing or strain it, depending on what’s better for the recipe.
Again, if you know the ins and outs of the recipe, you know when there’s something off that you need to fix.
Cook the dish and freeze it instead
Many dishes with ricotta freeze well. Cheesecake is a great example.
I don’t know about you, but I’m much more likely to grab a few slices of cheesecake from the freezer than to defrost ricotta cheese and then bake that cake. It’s not even close.
If you’re like me, consider cooking that dish you were going to cook with the thawed ricotta now and freezing it (or the leftovers). That’s assuming that it freezes well, of course.
This way, you both use the leftover ricotta and make sure a container of frozen ricotta doesn’t sit in the freezer for months. That’s a win in my book.