Can You Freeze Cheese?

Yes. Should you? It depends.

April 15, 2020
Photo by Julia Gartland

This article is a part of Cheese Week—seven days of recipes and stories, all cheese—presented by our friends at Proudly Wisconsin Cheese.

Can you freeze cheese for a longer shelf-life? Sure you can! But, will it taste good? Well, it depends.

Freezing can irreversibly alter some cheeses’ fat membranes and protein networks. When water in cheese freezes into crystals, those crystals (ice takes up more space than water does) cause the fat membranes to collapse. Which means, when thawed, originally creamy cheeses can taste grainy, crumbly, or worst of all off.

Harder cheeses, such as Parmesan or Pecorino, are slightly less sensitive to this, but not immune. Your best bet? Store both hard and soft cheeses, wrapped in parchment or cheese paper, in a drawer in the fridge. Hard cheeses will last for about six months in the fridge, though I’d aim to use them within three. If a small bit of mold forms because of excess moisture on the cheese’s surface, simply cut off any affected pieces—the rest will still be good to use. If mold is seen throughout, you’ll have to throw it out. Bummer.

This all said, freezing soft cheeses has been done. Some cheesemaker on the dark web has reported that, well-wrapped and frozen for a relatively short time (two weeks), high-fat, soft cheeses like Brie and Camembert can freeze and thaw without growing grainy.

If the choice is between throwing away cheese or freezing it, definitely opt for freezing. The thawed texture will not be the same as it was before, but this also may not be such big a deal if you’re planning to melt, bake, or saucify the cheese anyway. Just try to limit freezing stints to three months or less, because dairy contains fat and fat attracts freezer smells.

How to Freeze Cheese

1. Wrap it. Wrap it real well.

Wrap the cheese in freezer or parchment paper, then in a layer of aluminum foil. The paper allows the cheese to breathe, while the foil protects against moisture loss.

2. Freeze that cheese.

Again, try to avoid freezing cheese for longer than three months. Label cheese clearly with variety and date, and if freezing numerous odds and ends, keep them in a plastic bin or box so they don’t get lost in the tundra.

3. Thaw the cheeseberg.

If you’re dead-set on using thawed frozen cheese in an unheated application (power to you), keep the thawing process as gentle as possible. Overnight in the fridge will work just fine. If you’re going to bake or cook with the cheese—go ahead and use it frozen, though the cook time may need to be extended.

Got Grainy Cheese? Here’s How to Use It.

Have you frozen an artisanal, soft, runny cheese and lived to tell the tale? Brag about it in the comments!

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Coral Lee is an Associate Editor at Food52. Before this, she cooked food solely for photos. Before that, she cooked food solely for customers. And before that, she shot lasers at frescoes in Herculaneum and taught yoga. When she's not writing about or making food, she's thinking about it. Her Heritage Radio Network show, "Meant to be Eaten," explores cross-cultural exchange as afforded by food. You can follow her on Instagram @meanttobeeaten.