Maybe you don’t use ricotta that often, but you don’t want to create any food waste, and you’re well aware that it perishes easily.
Or you use it a lot, but you’ve bought more than you needed because it was on sale. Maybe you were hungry when you went shopping (always dangerous), and temptation got the best of you.
Or you’ve made a huge dish which has ricotta as one of the main components, and now you’re wondering if you can freeze the leftovers and save it for later, or if you’ll be forced to eat it for the rest of the week.
All begs the question: can you freeze it? Yes, you can. But should you freeze it? What happens to the ricotta cheese when you freeze and thaw it?
Should You Freeze Ricotta Cheese?
Considering that ricotta is a dairy product, and an extremely soft cheese at that, you might think that it would be difficult to freeze. Fortunately, that’s not the case.
However, it does go through some changes during the freezing and thawing process, which makes it unsuitable for some dishes.
Once it has been frozen and defrosted, ricotta cheese loses some of its moisture, and it separates.
Having said that, the consistency change is less dramatic than in some cheese and other dairy products.
So thawed ricotta would be less disappointing, than say, fresh mozzarella balls which have been frozen.
Having said that, you’re still better off using thawed ricotta cheese in baked or cooked dishes, and there are examples of how you can use it below.
You’ll notice that some whey separates from the curds, but you can fix this by removing the excess liquid and stirring the cheese.
It will still be noticeable that the cheese has dried out a little, but that’s a small price to pay for being able to extend its shelf life.
The Shelf Life Of Ricotta Cheese
You may or may not know that ricotta cheese will go off quickly, more so than other types of soft cheese. This is because it has comparatively low levels of fat compared to other types of cheese, but it also has a lot of protein packed into it.
When stored in the fridge, unopened ricotta cheese will last a maximum of 9 days before it goes off. If it’s opened and stored in the fridge, this reduces to 5 to 7 days.
By freezing ricotta, you can extend its shelf life to a maximum of 3 months, making it worth freezing it.
For best results, use within a month or two, as the flavor will still be at its best after freezing.
It’s worth noting that the longer ricotta cheese sits in the freezer, the more likely it is to develop freezer burn, and the less pleasant it will be once you thaw it.
It’s not the case that after 3 months the cheese will be unusable.
The quality and flavor will still start to decline, which starts to render the freezing process useless. After all, we’re freezing the cheese to try and prolong it, not to make it a lesser version of itself.
You can also prepare a ricotta cheese mixture for dishes in advance, and freeze it that way.
You can pair it with eggs, or shredded mozzarella and spices, or spinach, providing a base for pasta dishes such as ravioli, lasagna, ziti, and others. Experiment to see what works best.
While you may be cautious about freezing eggs, they do freeze better when incorporated with other ingredients, such as pancake batter.
But how do you freeze ricotta cheese by itself?
The Best Way To Freeze Ricotta Cheese
The method of freezing ricotta only takes a couple of minutes, and it’s exactly the same process for both store-bought and homemade ricotta cheese.
In order to decide how much to freeze, you should probably have an idea of what you want to use it for once it’s defrosted.
You can begin by taking off excess whey if there’s too much on the surface of the cheese. The easiest way is to use a teaspoon, and this will help stop some separation once you thaw it.
This is because whey immediately turns into ice crystals once frozen, and it will defrost into liquid.
Of course, you can’t stop all the separation from occurring, but this step will make a big difference, and it only takes a few seconds to do.
If you want to throw a whole, unopened container into the freezer, you can do that too. Just make sure that the container will survive the freezer, or you’ll have ricotta all over the place!
You’ll also need to portion the cheese. You’ll want some airtight containers which are freezer friendly.
Simply pour the ricotta into the containers, making sure to level out the surface with a teaspoon. Again, this will help reduce separation.
It’s not an essential step, if you’re short on time, but it will help.
Seal the containers, label, and freeze. Aim to use the ricotta cheese within 3 months of freezing it for best results. The less time you leave it, the better the cheese will be.
How To Defrost Ricotta Cheese
The best way to defrost frozen ricotta cheese is to put the container straight into the fridge.
You will need to leave it overnight to gradually defrost, for at least 6 to 8 hours, but this will also depend on how much ricotta you’ve frozen at a time. So it helps to plan ahead where you can.
If you need it a little quicker than that, you can put the sealed container into the fridge, sitting in a bowl of tap water.
This will shorten the time it takes for the ricotta to defrost, where it may take anywhere from 3 to 6 hours to thaw completely.
You can also use a teaspoon to help break up the still-frozen bits after about 2 hours of leaving it in the fridge. By mixing the thawed edges with the still-frozen center, it brings the temperature up just a little faster.
Whichever method you choose, keep it in the fridge to defrost. Don’t be tempted to leave it out on the counter.
Once completely thawed, you’ll notice some separation within the ricotta cheese. You can either stir it back in to reincorporate it, or discard the excess, whichever you prefer.
How To Use Thawed Ricotta Cheese
There are endless opportunities to use thawed ricotta cheese, and in most cases, you won’t be able to tell it was frozen in the first place.
This is, of course, if the dish you are making involves baking or cooking the cheese.
You can still use the cheese as is, but it won’t be nearly as nice as the fresh stuff, and you will notice that it is much drier than its fresh counterpart.
Some of the best ways to use thawed ricotta include pancake batter, cheesecakes that need baking, pizza or calzone, or as part of a pasta filling like ravioli.
Can You Refreeze Ricotta Cheese?
As long as you defrost the ricotta cheese in the fridge, you can refreeze it. Just in case you don’t use it all at once, you can refreeze the rest of the ricotta as a last resort.
The reason why it’s a last resort is that freezing the cheese means it loses more moisture, leading to another drop in quality. The more that you freeze and defrost it, the worse the cheese will be.
So it is worth only defrosting what you need, and planning ahead where you can. While you can refreeze it, you’re better off using it, as there won’t be any further loss in quality.
How To Get The Best Out Of Thawed Ricotta Cheese
The first time you freeze and defrost ricotta cheese, you should use it in a recipe that you can make blindfolded. Or near enough.
The reason for this is that you know what the texture of this dish is supposed to look like, and more importantly, you know how to adjust it without upsetting the delicate balance of the dish and ruining it.
Because thawed ricotta cheese is much drier than the fresh version, you may need to compensate by adjusting the liquid parts of the dish to stop it from drying out.
If your thawed ricotta cheese is very dry, you can also mix it with some fresh ricotta if you have some, or use half of each. That way, the texture change is practically unnoticeable.
Why You Should Freeze Dishes Which Include Ricotta
While you might be tempted to freeze fresh ricotta on its own, why not save future-you some time, and freeze a whole dish that includes ricotta?
Doesn’t it sound better to grab some frozen casserole or lasagna from the freezer, rather than having to defrost ricotta and then make it?
If you find that your freezer is full of ingredients which you never seem to get round to using, making far too much of a dish and then freezing the leftovers is the perfect solution.
In the long run, it will save you time and money, and how can you argue with that?
Dishes that include ricotta that freeze well include ricotta cheesecakes, ricotta pancake batter (or the pancakes themselves, if you want to), ricotta lasagna, or casseroles, depending on the individual recipe.
Because the ricotta is incorporated into a dish, it will also freeze better than if it’s frozen as an ingredient by itself.
It will also defrost better. While some separation may still occur, it will be less noticeable, and easy to fix.
There are endless options when it comes to using ricotta, and when you freeze it, you can prolong both the shelf life and the ways in which you can use it.
Not only can you use it as a melt when thawed, but if you use it as a cheese mixture or as part of a larger dish, the texture and moisture changes will hardly be noticeable.
This leaves no reason why you shouldn’t freeze ricotta and save it for later, as it will also save you some time and some money in the long run.