Yogurt is an absolute must-have pantry staple. Tart and refreshing with a ton of healthy probiotic bacteria, yogurt works well in savory and sweet applications. From smoothies to tzatziki or salad dressings, yogurt has a ton of uses so it's hard to imagine needing to extend its shelf life. Once in a while, though, you may find yourself with more yogurt than you can use and that begs the question, "Can you freeze yogurt successfully?"
The short answer is "Yes, you can freeze yogurt", but there are some things you'll need to take into account before doing so.
So, let's dive in!
Can you freeze yogurt?
Yes, you absolutely can freeze yogurt. It's important to understand that when you freeze yogurt you will change the texture and consistency slightly, but there are things you can do to both mitigate that as well take advantage of it.
Yogurt is a live-cultured dairy product like sour cream or cottage cheese. There are several different styles and types available but for our purposes, they can all be used interchangeably. Whether you're making your own yogurt at home or purchasing high-quality Greek, Danish, or Icelandic yogurt from the grocery store, you can freeze all of them with varying levels of success.
When you put yogurt in the freezer some of the water inside the yogurt will be expelled, especially when you finally defrost it. After freezing your yogurt may take on a slightly grainier texture from the loss of water, but there are a few steps to help avoid this.
How to freeze yogurt successfully.
There are several things to consider when freezing yogurt, from container size, temperature, and eventual thawing techniques, there are many things you can do to make sure you maintain the highest quality yogurt possible.
1. Freeze the yogurt in the original container.
It's always best to store and freeze your yogurt in its original container when freezing a large amount. If you are dealing with a product purchased from grocery stores just pop the lid back on your container and put it in the freezer. This will work best when the container is relatively full. If you have less than half of the yogurt remaining, consider using the next tip.
2. Freeze the yogurt in ice cube trays.
Do you make a lot of smoothies? I definitely do, and freezing yogurt in an ice cube tray has been an absolute game-changer.
By pre-portioning yogurt into ice cube trays, you create easy to measure cubes that are a snap to incorporate into your morning smoothy creations. Simply portion the yogurt into an ice cube tray and allow them to freeze. Once frozen, pop the cubes out of the tray and keep them in an airtight container or food storage bag to avoid absorbing off-flavors from the freezer.
Whenever you need to make a smoothy simply grab a few cubes and add them to your favorite ingredients in your blender. As a bonus, this makes it super easy to meal plan or count calories/macronutrients as well!
3. Strain the yogurt first for a better texture.
One of the issues with freezing yogurt can be the watery quality and grainy texture after it has been thawed. This is because when you freeze yogurt the proteins squeeze out the excess water and you have to mix it to incorporate the water back in after it has been thawed. To avoid this you could strain the yogurt before freezing to remove some of the excess water content.
Simply spread cheesecloth over a strainer or colander, and place the strainer inside of a bowl. Add the yogurt to the strainer and allow it to sit in the fridge for an hour or two. Make sure not to agitate the yogurt and after a while, you will notice clear, slightly yellow water or whey collecting in the bowl. Discard the whey when finished and freeze the yogurt as normal.
While this might seem like a lot of work it will yield yogurt that is far less grainy when thawed.
4. Mix the yogurt after it has been thawed.
When you freeze and thaw yogurt you sometimes end up with a more watery/grainy texture than you started with. This is because as the yogurt freezes the milk proteins squeeze out some of the water content and the result can be less than ideal when thawed.
To help maintain an ideal yogurt texture, mix the thawed yogurt with a whisk or spoon to incorporate the components. You can also strain some of the excess water away at this point to reduce the moisture content creating a richer, thicker yogurt overall.
Freezing Greek yogurt?
Greek yogurt is traditionally yogurt that has been well strained creating a thicker, richer, and far more tart product than Danish style yoghurt like Dannon. Good examples of greek yogurt you might have seen would be Oikos, Chobani, or Fage. I prefer freezing greek yogurt because of its lower water content.
When you put yogurt in the freezer that has higher water content, the texture tends to be grainier and more watery when thawed. This is because as it freezes the proteins in the yogurt squeeze out the water molecules as they stiffen. The result is a less than ideal texture when the yogurt thaws.
Because greek yogurt already has a lower water content than other types it makes a great candidate for freezing. It also makes for an incredible ingredient in things like smoothies, yogurt pops, or frozen yogurt because of its super tart and refreshing quality.
Making frozen yogurt or yogurt pops.
I love making yogurt at home, thanks to incredibly yogurt makers like these or the yogurt setting on your instant pot it's easier to make high-quality yogurt at home than ever before. One of the unintended consequences of making my own has been that I have more yogurt at times than I know what to do with. While I can certainly freeze the yogurt and thaw it later, it's also incredibly easy to make frozen yogurt treats, especially during the summer months.
There are a lot of ways to make frozen yogurt but one of my favorite ways is a super low-tech recipe that incorporates frozen berries like strawberry or raspberry or other fruit. By combining yogurt, frozen berries, and a small amount of honey in a blender or food processor you can create a smooth, rich, fruit-forward frozen yogurt without a churn or ice cream maker. Simply transfer the "frozen yogurt" to an airtight container and keep it in the freezer until you need a delicious frozen treat!
If you have popsicle mold it's incredibly easy to turn any frozen yogurt recipe into awesome fruit-flavored freeze pop. All you need is some popsicle sticks and your favorite shape popsicle mold. If you don't have popsicle molds available e you can still make yogurt freeze pops with ease all you need is some go gurts.
These preportioned, tube-shaped, kid-friendly, snacks are awesome as regular yogurt, but they really shine when frozen. All you need to freeze your own pops is a pack of your favorite go-gurt flavor and a freezer. Simply pop the go gurts into the freezer and come back in 2-3 hours. *Pro-tip, allow the frozen go gurt pops 5 minutes to thaw before enjoying, they will be crunchier and more satisfying than straight from the freezer.
How to thaw yogurt after it's frozen.
Freezing yogurt is easy. Put it in an airtight container, or an ice cube tray and pop it in the freezer. Wait around for a few hours and you will have successfully frozen yogurt.
Thawing yogurt on the other hand can be a more complicated process. The easiest and best way to thaw your frozen yogurt is to simply transfer the container from the freezer to the fridge and allow it to return to its unfrozen state over the course of a day or two.
If you are in a rush you can put the container in a bowl and allow it to sit under constantly running water. This will thaw the yogurt much faster but does run the added risk of adding more water to an already slightly watery product.
After the yogurt has thawed you will want to mix it thoroughly to reduce the wateriness and graininess. Alternatively, if you wanted to strain the yogurt at this point that would be easy to accomplish and a great way to reduce the water content.
How long does frozen yogurt last?
Frozen yogurt can last for up to 6 months in the freezer before any noticeable change in quality or flavor. Personally, I don't like to freeze ingredients for more than 2-3 months because I've noticed the introduction of some off-flavors but that's probably more to do with my specific freezer than anything else.
As yogurt sits in the freezer it can become prone to freezer burn from opening and closing the door as well as off-flavors from the other foods you might be storing in there. Realistically this isn't a make or break situation, if you leave your yogurt in the freezer for longer than is ideal it won't go bad it just might not be as tasty as fresh, never frozen yogurt. If you are worried about off-flavors you can easily mask them by using the yogurt in a smoothie or baking recipe!