Freezing is one of the most effective ways to prolong the shelf life of food. Especially for perishable food, it is natural to want to know if there is a way to extend its shelf life, to allow you to enjoy the food for longer, or just prevent wastage.
Dairy is notoriously perishable, and things like a carton of heavy cream are typically too much to use up for one recipe. How can you preserve it if you want to ensure you will get multiple uses out of your carton of heavy cream? Is freezing it a viable option?
Can You Freeze Heavy Whipping Cream?
You can freeze heavy whipping cream for later use but there will be textural changes. The longer heavy cream is frozen, the more ice crystals it will form, and the less easy it is to whip due to the change in consistency. If you are planning to whip your heavy cream later on, it is best to whip the heavy cream first prior to freezing.
Can Heavy Whipping Cream Be Frozen?
Most types of food can be frozen and preserved for later use, and dairy products are no exception. While it isn’t always ideal to freeze dairy due to the textural changes that may arise from the process of freezing, it is often the better choice rather than throwing it out and wasting food.
Especially if you buy your heavy cream in bigger containers, there is always a chance that you’ll find yourself with several extra cups of heavy cream that would be unfortunate if allowed to go to waste.
Freezing, then, is the more sustainable and less wasteful option.
According to the USDA, heavy cream may safely be frozen for about 3-4 months. If stored properly and thawed properly, it may safely be used in your recipes.
Keep in mind, though, that the longer the heavy cream is frozen, the more ice crystals it will form and the thinner it will be, which will make it difficult to whip. If you are planning to whip your cream later on, a better option would be to whip it first and then freeze it.
Frozen heavy cream will also exhibit some textural changes. It will appear grainier than unfrozen and unagitated heavy whipping cream, but giving it a good shake once thawed will allow the fats to redistribute and re-emulsify the mixture, perhaps not exactly as it was prior to being frozen, but enough to make it usable in your recipes.
What Happens to Heavy Whipping Cream When It is Frozen?
Freezing makes food safe to eat indefinitely, really. At such low temperatures, bacteria cannot proliferate and cause food spoilage, which means that your food will last pretty much forever when kept in the freezer.
However, food safety isn’t the only important issue. When we preserve food, we also want to make sure that we preserve its quality, texture, and taste, as much as possible, so that we can effectively use them as we usually do. Otherwise, there would be no point in freezing it, to begin with.
How Freezing Changes Heavy Cream
Freezing causes heavy cream to undergo the following changes.
1. Grainy Texture
Frozen and then thawed heavy whipping cream will likely have a grainy texture. This is caused by the fat molecules clumping together, a response to the process of freezing.
Shaking the carton of heavy cream prior to whipping, and adding some sugar as you whip will help improve the texture and smooth out some of the graininess, although to be honest, it is possible that you may not completely remove all the grainy bits.
Homogenization is the process in which fat molecules are evenly distributed throughout the mixture to ensure uniform consistency.
Freezing messes this up and destroys the stable structure formed by the fats through homogenization, resulting in heavy whipping cream that separates. In general, higher fat creams are less prone to separating compared to lower fat creams.
3. Thinner Consistency
When heavy whipping cream is frozen, ice crystals will inevitably form. When thawed, these ice crystals melt into water, resulting in heavy cream with a thinner consistency.
The longer it is frozen, the more ice crystals will be present, and the thinner the consistency becomes. This can make it difficult to whip your thawed cream.
This isn’t really a problem if you plan to use your cream to add to dishes like soups and stews. However, it may be difficult if you plan to whip your cream. This is why it is advised to whip cream up first prior to freezing.
No matter the texture changes that happen in the heavy cream post-freezing, it will still impart the same richness and deliciousness to your dishes as unfrozen heavy whipping cream.
Best Tips For Freezing Heavy Whipping Cream
So you have decided to freeze your heavy whipping cream. What are some useful things you can remember to ensure you get to maximize the use of your frozen heavy whipping cream?
1. Freeze in Whipped Form
Heavy whipping cream that has been frozen will be harder to whip and may have textural and consistency changes that make it difficult to whip up to creamy, cloud-like goodness.
You can then scoop small rounded mounds of whipped cream or pipe them onto a baking sheet, freeze until frozen solid, usually overnight, and then store them together in an airtight container or freezer bag. That way you can just thaw and use them in single portions, without having to thaw the entire package.
3. Use Ice Cube Trays
Using ice cube trays to form your heavy whipping cream into individual, manageable portions will make them easier to add to your recipes later on and will reduce wastage.
You can measure the heavy whipping cream in one or two tablespoons per block so that it is already measured out and you can simply just add them to your pot of soup or pan of chicken.
The heat will melt and incorporate your heavy whipping cream beautifully into your dish without needing to thaw in the fridge.
4. Freeze in A Spacious Container
You can also freeze your heavy whipping cream as is, in the carton that it came in. Just make sure it is not filled up all the way to the top as it will expand when frozen, and it would be useful to have a little headroom up there to make room for it.
You can also transfer your heavy whipping cream to a freezer-safe, airtight container with some space on top.
When ready to use, simply pop it in the fridge a few hours to overnight prior to when you have to use it, to allow even thawing. This is a good method to use if you know you will be using all your cream up for a recipe and will not have any leftovers.
Previously frozen and thawed cream cannot be frozen again, so make sure you are able to use all of it up.
5. Freeze in Measured Portions
Similar to the ice cube method, you may pre-measure your heavy cream and store them in airtight containers before freezing.
This works when you know what you will be using your heavy cream for, and when you know exactly how much you need next time. Rather than measuring in ice cubes, you can pre-measure in cups to add them in larger amounts.
How to Thaw Heavy Whipping Cream
Heavy whipping cream is best thawed in the refrigerator, for a few hours up to overnight prior to when you need it. This ensures even and safe thawing.
Depending on what you will be using it for though, this step may or may not be necessary. Especially if you have frozen your heavy whipping cream in small batches, say in ice cube form, you may just directly add them to your dishes. The heat will thaw and melt the whipping cream as it heats up your dish, and incorporate nicely into whatever it is you are making.
If you have frozen the whole carton of heavy whipping cream as is though, your best bet is to thaw it in the fridge until it is thawed enough to pour and use.
Keep in mind that once you thaw your frozen heavy cream, you must use it all up right away. As with most foods, you cannot re-freeze it as it will go bad quite easily once thawed.
To avoid potential wastage, it is best to freeze your heavy cream in smaller batches if you know you won’t be using all of them in one go.
How Long Can I Keep Heavy Whipping Cream in the Freezer?
Heavy cream may be frozen for up to 3-4 months according to the USDA. The longer it is frozen though, the more ice crystals form and the more textural changes occur once thawed.
While they are still safe to consume, they may not behave as well as you would expect from fresh, unfrozen cream, so it is important to keep this in mind.
How Long Can I Keep Heavy Whipping Cream in the Fridge?
Heavy whipping cream may last for several weeks in the fridge as long as the temperature is constant and it is not left out at room temperature for long periods of time.
The higher fat content of heavy whipping cream contributes to its longer shelf life. Ultra-pasteurized or UHT creams may last even longer, about a month or so in the fridge.
Regardless of the time frame and type of cream you have, it is important to check for signs of whether your heavy cream is still good to consume.
How Do I Know If It’s Time to Toss That Heavy Whipping Cream?
The good thing about dairy products is, it is easy to tell that they have gone bad simply by using our senses.
Heavy cream that has gone bad will have mold or discoloration on its surface or on the container, will have an off-odor or sour smell, and a sour and off-taste. Its appearance may also be curdled or separated.
If your heavy whipping cream is exhibiting any of these signs and if it is way past its expiration date, it is best discarded rather than put yourself at risk for a food-borne illness.
Frequently Asked Questions to Can You Freeze Heavy Whipping Cream?
How To Defrost Frozen Heavy Whipping Cream?
To defrost frozen heavy whipping cream, simply place the box or container in the refrigerator for a few hours to overnight. This ensures safe and even thawing for your heavy whipping cream.
How Long Can You Freeze Heavy Cream?
Heavy cream may be frozen for up to 4 months, but will be safe to consume beyond that. Keep in mind though, that the longer that it is frozen, the more ice crystals will form that will have a big impact on its thawed-out consistency and texture.
My Frozen Heavy Cream Curdled. What Do I Do?
Separation is normal when heavy whipping cream is frozen. To remedy this, simply stir or shake your heavy cream prior to use to reincorporate the displaced fats. Keep in mind though, that it will probably not be as smooth as cream that has not been previously frozen.
Conclusion to Can You Freeze Heavy Whipping Cream?
Heavy whipping cream may be kept in the freezer for up to 4 months for later use. Depending on what you plan to use it for, you can freeze in pre-measured smaller portions or just freeze it in the carton it came in. You can also whip it up first and freeze in individual servings.
It is important to keep in mind, though, that previously frozen and thawed heavy cream cannot be re-frozen again, so it is best to plan ahead before putting that carton of heavy whipping cream in the freezer.
Daniel Iseli (Head Chef)
Hi, my name is Daniel and I am passionate about cooking. I have been cooking for the past 20 years and am happy to share my best recipes and cooking-related knowledge with you.