Lettuce is the second most popular veggie in the States just right after the potato. This is not surprising information since it is one of the most popular bases for tossed salads.
I understand the need for people to stock up on it and try to store it so they can always enjoy a fresh and healthy meal, but some ingredients are simply not freezer-friendly. Unfortunately, I must burst your bubble and tell you that storing and freezing lettuce while retaining its crunchiness and freshness can be a very difficult task.
Freezing lettuce or any other type of green leafy veggie except spinach is not what I would normally do or recommend, but I decided to give it a go since many of you have asked me, can you freeze lettuce?
So Can You Freeze Lettuce?
As I already said, in theory, you can freeze almost any food, but in the case of the lettuce vs. freezer, I can only say that the ultimate loser here is lettuce. So my answer here will be yes and no.
Why is it not okay to freeze it?
Lettuce is a fragile and gentle plant due to the fact that lettuce consists of 94% water the freezing process causes ice crystals to form in plant cells and that makes lettuce unusable for making a tossed salad. When ice crystals form, they rupture the cell walls, which leads to a slimy mess called frozen lettuce. For vegetables that are high in starch, such as corn or peas, cell wall damage isn’t as visible because they contain little water.
When is it okay to freeze it?
If you plan to use it for smoothies, cooking, or additional flavoring of your side dishes, you can freeze it since, in that case, a changed texture won’t be such a big problem for you.
Which Types Of Lettuce Can You Freeze?
When we talk about freezing lettuce, two things influence the ability to freeze it properly: lettuce type and provenance.
Naturally, thicker-leafed lettuces handle freezing better than iceberg lettuce that has thinner leaves. The freezer-friendly lettuces include heirloom varieties, Cos types such as romaine or Boston types such as butterhead, as well as the cross blend of both romaine and butterhead traits such as ‘Little Gem’. Each of these lettuce types comes with a variety of different leaf colors, from deep burgundy to rich green.
The best lettuce types to freeze are those you grow yourself or ones you purchase from local farmers since they are organic, and this is where provenance comes into play. The lettuce that is homegrown or locally grown hasn’t endured storage and shipping like the ones you buy in the supermarket, so they tend to hold up better through the freezing process.
How To Freeze Lettuce
We already established that the lettuce is not a freezer-friendly veggie, and I will always advise you to consume it in a fresh form. However, leftover lettuce can be stored in the freezer if you buy it in bulk, and you can’t or don’t want to use it within a few days. Even if it is done properly, the end result won’t be as good as you hoped but anyway do it with extra care and attention.
In case you stocked up on store-bought lettuce that is already placed in a bag or shredded and placed in the bag, make sure you remove it from those flimsy bags and transfer them to freezer bags.
Where To Start
The first step always is to separate the leaves and wash them thoroughly in cold water to remove dirt and all impurities. You should also remove the leaf bases. The second most important thing is to thoroughly dry leaves with towels since it will freeze better if they do not have any amount of water on the surface. Make sure to do it gently if you want to freeze them in fresh form.
There are two available methods to freeze them. One is in fresh form, and the other is in for of purée. Lettuce freeze like this can be used within six months and always remember to put a date on the container or a bag.
Method I – Freeze Fresh Lettuce
Make sure you discard the stalk and the damaged and diseased leaves.
As said, wash the leaves in cool water and place them in a colander to remove excess water after this use paper towels or a soft cloth to dry the leaves thoroughly since it is very important to minimize the moisture on the leaves.
Once you are sure, all the water is removed, put the leaves in a freezer bag, and store them in the freezer. I advise you to press the leaves gently to release excess air from the bag here; you can always use the straw. This will help to retain freshness. Always store bags with lettuce on top of the freezer; otherwise, they will be crushed. If you freeze different types of lettuces, freeze them in separate bags.
Remember, you must be very gentle throughout the process of cleaning and storing the leaves. You can try this method, but I must tell you that frozen leaves will have a changed texture, and they will be rather limp and lifeless than crispy once they are thawed.
In order to thaw the frozen leaves, take them out of the freezer and stay in the refrigerator overnight and place it on the countertop for the next hour or two to completely thaw them.
Method II – Freeze Pureed Lettuce
This is one of the easiest methods to preserve lettuce, and it is way better if you ask me since there is no change in the texture. If you prepare your lettuce this way, you can use them for smoothies or enhance the flavor of your soups, curries, and stews.
Just like in the first method, discard the stalk and separate the leaves. Wash them well with cold water. The next step is to place the leaves in a blender and puree them along with a very small amount of water. Pour the puree into ice trays and put it in the freezer. When the cubes are completely frozen, remove them from the ice trays and store them in the freezer bag or airtight container.
How To Use A Frozen Lettuce
Make sure you use frozen lettuce within six months for the best quality. As I said, you can add it to soup or stock, casseroles, and stir-fries.
You can even use frozen lettuce to substitute the spinach in case you run out of it. For example, you can substitute spinach with lettuce in those mega-popular green smoothies; believe me, lettuce ice cubes are great for them, and they do not make a smoothie taste grassy.
Whole frozen lettuce leaves (if you are lucky and they don’t turn soggy) work well as wraps. If they get slimy and limp, you can always braise them with butter and chicken, for example, and save the situation since this is still the better thing to do than to throw it away.
In The End
Almost every food can be frozen, but this does not mean everything should be frozen. I will strictly hold my ground beliefs and advise you not to freeze the lettuce, not even for the smoothies since lettuce loses a lot of beneficial nutrition during the freezing process.
However, I can’t beat the fact that you can freeze it for cooking purposes just like we do with spinach, so if you are willing to eat stews made out from frozen lettuce, then go ahead and freeze as much as you like.
Since I am here preaching about using lettuce in its most natural form, I feel the need to share this advice with you and help you prolong its shelf life in the fridge.
What I always do is separate leaves from the base and lay each leaf flat in the bag with a paper towel between each leaf. I do not wash the lettuce until the moment I am ready to use it. Change towel paper each day until you completely use it. This way, you can store lettuce in the fridge for up to a week.