Tips & Techniques

My (& Andrea Nguyen’s) Freezer Staple Doesn’t Require Defrosting

February 10, 2017

Even in New York City, Thai chiles are surprisingly hard to find—especially red ones. (Anyone know why green are more readily available?)

So when I see them, I buy them—even if I don’t have a plan for them. Then, I stick them in a little baggie in the freezer, where they take up absolutely no space and keep for up to a year. I throw them into any dish that could use a little fresh heat, or sub them in when I don’t have a fresh jalapeño or serrano (guacamole is so much easier to whip up now).

This sounds pretty awesome, yes? So here’s the best part: You don’t have to defrost them. These chiles are so tiny that you can slice them frozen—in fact, they’re easier to cut frozen—and they’ll thaw on their own in whatever you’re cooking.

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I take no credit for this so-smart tip that a few of you already know about: When I was visiting my family friend Mei one winter break in high school, I caught her taking Thai chiles out of the freezer, not the fridge, to add to our morning frittata. (And that is when I said, I must be a food writer! Just kidding.)

It’s also a trick Andrea Nguyen nestled into the first few pages of her new book The Pho Cookbook (she also told us about a great cheesecloth hack up there—the book is worth it just for the first 30 pages!). She says that while Thai—as well as jalapeño, Fresno, and serrano—chiles keep for just a week in the fridge, Thai chiles can keep for up to a year in the freezer.

So next time you find them at a grocery store (marked as Thai chile or bird’s eye chile) or your garden gives you lots of them (Sam1148 mentioned on the Hotline they’re very easy to grow), grab a whole bag. Oh, another tip: To avoid touching the chiles at the store and potentially burning your eyes later, turn your plastic bag inside out and use it as a glove to snatch up a handful of the chiles.

Once you’re stocked up, you might want some recipes:

Tell us: What does your freezer always have?

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Nila
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Editor/writer/stylist. Author of I Dream of Dinner (so You Don't Have To). Last name rhymes with bagel.


Nila February 5, 2019
I always have a variety of chilies, curry leaves (hard to find), and shredded coconut in the fridge - no defrosting/instant South Indian staples.
Windischgirl February 14, 2017
Fresh frozen chopped parsley, dill, and chives. Bones, meat trimmings, and some veggie trimmings for stock. Bananas. Homemade bread.
AJ, I could have used you about 15-20 yrs ago, back in the day when I could take a 30-minute recipe and have it on the table in about 2 hrs!! You know those days...between trying to wrest the kids from daycare, get home, change diapers, mediate squabbles...
If I only knew then what I know now ;0)
AntoniaJames February 13, 2017
What does my freezer always have? Homemade lakhsa and Thai curry pastes, tamarind - cilantro - garlic sauce, garlic confit, shallot confit (or garlic and shallot confit), Mallika Basu tomato curry sauce, Ina Garten's Alla Vecchia Bettola sauce, and a variety of stocks and similar staples, which tend to vary from month the month depending on what's on my menu plan (which is here: scroll down to see what is actually in my freezer right now).

Another item I have in my freezer regularly - and this may come as a shocker to some of you -- is kale. Yes, kale! I blanch kale from the farmers' market within an hour of getting home, squeeze it dry and freeze in deli containers to use later in the week. It holds up perfectly for use in frittatas, caldo verde, and especially slow-cooked kale. Try it! (Chard also freezes well - but do try to use your blanched greens within a few weeks.)

I'm mentoring several other Food52 members - young professional women meeting the dual challenges of demanding careers and putting great meals on their tables -- for whom I pulled together this list of recipes I go to again and again for big batch cooking, to use later "fresh from the freezer"

I used to keep fresh curry leaves as well, but bought a curry leaf plant from Santos Spice (Indian grocery wholesaler in the East Bay) last year, and it's done great all winter, so I have a ready supply right outside my kitchen.
Caroline L. February 10, 2017
I caught YOU pulling chiles from your freezer and it changed my kitchen-life!! So grateful for this tip and how many times it's saved me. (I also pop jalapeños in there, and it works just as well.)
R. L. February 10, 2017
My suggestion with Thai and other small (or even larger) chiles is to always use scissors instead of a knife. You take a few chiles out of the freezer, and, holding them by the stems, snip the chiles into your dish. You can do this one at a time, or holding a bunch. (Then, of course, toss the stems.) This way there is no chance of getting the capsaicin in your eyes or into another dish.
Emily S. February 10, 2017
I thought maybe the only reason I could find green chiles is that they're unripe, and I just had to let them sit out on the counter and ripen and then I'd have red chiles. It did not work. (They just shriveled.)
granjan February 10, 2017
Fresh curry leaves, magrut lime leaves, the non-offensive name for kaffir lime leaves, lots of nuts, dry yeast, fresh chopped cilantro and parsley in little cubes, fresh lime and lemon juice also in mini cubes and 4 kinds of paprika!