Creamy, cheesy, and salty—it is no wonder mac and cheese is one of the most popular comfort foods out there. Having this well-loved favorite on hand as an easy quick fix would be ideal because we sometimes just don’t have the patience to wait 90 minutes for dinner.
Can You Freeze Ricotta Cheese? (YES...
Can You Freeze Ricotta Cheese? (YES...
The good news is, not only can you preserve mac and cheese leftovers for a second heat-and-eat, but next time you cook a batch of cheesy goodness, you can make a double batch to freeze and simply pop it into the oven before your guests arrive for a freshly baked macaroni and cheese winner.
Here is a step by step guide with everything you need to know about freezing and reheating macaroni and cheese.
Types of Mac and Cheese
Mac and cheese recipes can be prepared in two distinctly different ways:
Oven-baked Mac and Cheese
As the name suggests, oven-baked mac and cheese is made by baking the pasta and cheese sauce in the oven in a large casserole dish. It is usually drier than stovetop mac and cheese, with a slightly more set structure.
An oven-baked mac and cheese recipe includes a breadcrumb topping which crisps up as it is baked. The aim is a soft creamy macaroni dish covered in a crispy cheesy topping.
Stovetop Mac and Cheese
Stovetop mac and cheese is faster to make than its oven-baked counterpart. It involves stovetop cooking of the pasta, making of the cheese sauce, and mixing the two together. It is creamy, has a saucy texture, and does not have any crispy toppings.
Can Mac and Cheese Be Frozen?
Yes. Regardless of the preparation type, macaroni and cheese can be frozen. Due to its high dairy content, careful precaution needs to be taken to ensure it remains safe to eat and keeps its appetizing texture upon defrosting.
To prevent mac and cheese from flavor or textural changes in the freezer, it is important to protect the dish from freezer burn. Keep the temperature consistent throughout the length of the storage period.
Problems you could have if you do not prepare the dish properly for freezing, include soggy pasta, secretion of watery liquids, or a dry end product. Below, you will find out exactly how to go about freezing mac and cheese for an on-hand comforting cheesy meal at any time.
How To Freeze Mac and Cheese
Mac and cheese can be frozen either before baking, or after it has been cooked. Freezing the dish before baking results in a creamier dish once cooked as it has not been heated up twice. Doing this, however, is only possible if you are making an extra batch for future catering.
If you need to freeze leftovers from an already cooked batch, that is perfectly fine too. Creamy versions of mac and cheese are ideal for freezing as they have more sauce keeping the pasta moist when reheating.
Who would want to send any cheesy goodness to the bin when it can be enjoyed again by simply preserving it in the freezer?
How To Freeze Cooked Mac and Cheese
Step 1: Cool Completely
Leaving your warm homemade mac and cheese at room temperature for too long places it at risk for harmful bacterial growth. The safest way to cool your warm mac and cheese dish is by placing it in an ice bath.
Pour ice water into a flat pan or dish which is wider than the mac and cheese serving dish. Fill it only one-third of the way with water and a few ice cubes. Place your macaroni dish in the ice bath so that the base is surrounded by the ice water and cools down quickly.
Leave the dish in the ice bath for at least 5 minutes, until cool to touch or near room temperature. Don’t ever place mac and cheese that is still warm in the freezer. The steam forms ice-crystals which will ruin the texture of the dish once thawed.
Step 2: Portion
If you are going to freeze cooked macaroni and cheese in its entirety, skip this step and go straight to step 3. Portion the mac and cheese into individual servings so that you do not have to defrost the entire batch at once and can take out just as much as you need at a time.
Step 3: Wrap and Seal
For smaller portions, scoop each portion into a resealable freezer bag. Lie the bag flat and press out all the air before sealing.
If you are freezing an entire casserole, make sure the dish you have baked your macaroni and cheese in is freezer-friendly. Cover the whole dish twice with plastic wrap, making sure that all the corners are well-sealed and that no gaps are left open where air can enter.
Step 4: Foil Wrap
Now, it is time to put the second layer of protection to prevent freezer burn. Cover your full, cling film wrapped dish with a layer of foil. Again, ensure that all the edges are completely covered to create a tight seal around the whole dish.
Ziplock freezer bags can be wrapped in foil for extra protection or placed in a freezer safe container.
Step 5: Label and Freeze
Label your wrapped containers with the contents and date as this will help you keep track as to how long it has been in the freezer.
How To Freeze Uncooked Baked Mac and Cheese
This method still involves some cooking as you will have to prepare the pasta and the sauce as per the recipe before baking. It is, however, a great option to simply take the dish out of the freezer, pop it in the oven and have a freshly baked mac and cheese on hand.
Freezing unbaked mac and cheese results in a creamier texture and better-tasting end product than freezing macaroni and cheese that’s already a completely cooked dish.
Step 1: Prepare the Recipe
Prepare your mac and cheese as per the recipe and fill one large dish or alternatively a number of individual portions in smaller dishes with your precooked mac and cheese mix. Fill the dishes slightly below the rim and top with breadcrumbs as required. Make sure that the dishes you use are both freezer-friendly and oven safe.
Step 2: Cling Wrap
Wrap each dish with a double layer of plastic wrap ensuring that it is well-sealed and no gaps are left open where air can get in. The presence of air can cause freezer burn, affect the taste and the texture of the dish.
Step 3: Foil Wrap
Cover the dish again in a layer of foil to create a secure seal.
Step 4: Label and Freeze
Label the wrapped containers with the contents and date as this will help you keep track of how long it has been in the freezer. Arrange the dishes in a flat, open area of the freezer to ensure it freezes evenly. Placing them on a baking sheet in the freezer can help to keep them at an even level. Once completely frozen, remove the baking sheet as there will be no more chance of spilling.
How To Thaw Mac and Cheese: Step by Step Instructions
The way you defrost and reheat mac and cheese will depend on whether it has been cooked before freezing or whether it is the first time you will be baking it.
How To Defrost Cooked Mac and Cheese
Step 1: Thaw
Take the frozen macaroni and cheese out of the freezer and place it in the fridge. Thaw frozen mac and cheese overnight.
Step 2: Remove Wrapping
Once thawed, remove the cling film and aluminum foil wrapping. Keep the foil wrapping aside as you may use it again later.
Step 3: Heat
Now that the mac and cheese is thawed, you can choose to reheat baked mac in the microwave, on the stovetop, or in the oven. If the mac and cheese is dry after defrosting, you can add a little milk when reheating to add moisture.
Heating in the microwave: Put your thawed and unwrapped mac and cheese in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for 1 to 2 minutes at a time, stopping to stir it between increments. Continue until it is heated through.
Heating on the stovetop: Place your thawed mac and cheese in a pot adding a few tablespoons of milk to the serving. Heat on medium-low while stirring to ensure that it is evenly heated through.
Heating in the oven: Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Transfer your thawed and unwrapped mac and cheese to an oven-safe dish. Covering the dish with foil will keep it moist. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes depending on the portion size.
If you wish to have a crispy topping, remove the foil after it is heated through and top with breadcrumbs and cheese. Place the dish under the grill for 2 to 5 minutes just until it turns golden brown.
How To Thaw and Cook Unbaked Frozen Mac and Cheese
When baking uncooked mac and cheese after freezing, you do not have to thaw overnight. Thawing it will decrease the cooking time, however, you can just place the frozen dish into the oven to work its magic if you are not in a hurry for it to cook.
Step 1: Preheat the Oven
Preheat the oven to 375 °F (190 °C).
Step 2: Defrost (Optional)
If you are cooking the mac and cheese after freezing, skip this step and go straight to step 3.
To defrost your macaroni and cheese in the microwave before cooking it, you need to ensure it is in a microwave-safe dish. Remove the foil. Use the ‘defrost’ setting on the microwave which is equal to 30% power. Check the dish after seven minutes and continue to defrost for a few more minutes, if needed.
Once thawed, continue baking it in the oven straight away.
Step 3: Cover With Foil
Whether frozen or thawed, remove any cling film wrapping from your dish and cover the top with foil only. Set the dish on a baking tray to prevent any cheese or juices from melting or dripping onto the base of the oven.
Step 4: Bake
Make sure the oven is heated completely to 375 °F (190 °C) before placing the mac and cheese inside to cook. Bake the foil-covered dish for 25 to 50 minutes depending on the size of the dish and whether it has been thawed.
Step 5: Remove Foil and Bake
The foil only stays on the dish as part of the baking process. Remove the foil and bake the uncovered dish for another 5 to 25 minutes. If your portions are small, bake them uncovered for an additional 5 to 10 minutes. If you are baking a large tray of mac and cheese, continue cooking it uncovered for another 25 minutes.
Step 6: Remove and Cool
Once the top is golden brown, remove the mac and cheese from the oven. Switch the oven off. Let the dish cool for a few minutes before serving as it will be piping hot.
How long does mac and cheese last in the refrigerator?
Due to the high dairy content, mac and cheese will be kept fresh for only 2 to 4 days in the refrigerator. It is best to keep it covered or in an airtight container.
How long does mac and cheese last in the freezer?
Macaroni and cheese will last up to three months in the freezer, if properly wrapped. The flavor and texture will diminish slightly, the longer the dish stays in the freezer.
Can you thaw mac and cheese in the microwave?
The best way to thaw macaroni and cheese is by placing it overnight in the refrigerator. As a last resort, you can use the defrost setting on the microwave to thaw your dish, however, doing this tends to dry it out. For the best results when using a microwave, thaw your mac and cheese first, and then use the microwave to heat it up just before eating.
Can you refreeze frozen mac and cheese?
Yes, you can refreeze frozen macaroni and cheese as long as you didn’t leave it in the room temperature for too long. Also note that repeating the freezing process will reduce the taste and quality of your food.
Whether it’s the quick and easy stovetop type or the baked crispy topping that has you weak at the knees, don’t worry about wasting any of your delicious creamy cheesy macaroni. Just wrap it well and pop it in the freezer for another day’s gooey indulgence.
Make sure to carefully follow the freezing guidelines and precautions to prevent your dish from spoiling, getting freezer burn, or thawing with a soggy or dry texture. For the best flavor and texture, eat it within three months of freezing.
Enjoy your bowl of creamy comfort without any hassle.
Up Next: 3 Best Ways To Reheat Macaroni and Cheese
Image by depositphotos/resnick_joshua1
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How long can you freeze Mac and cheese? It can be kept in the freezer for up to 3 months. We recommend writing a “reheat-by date” on the container lid for 3 months after the date it was made.How do you defrost frozen macaroni and cheese? ›
The best way to thaw frozen mac and cheese is always overnight, in the fridge. Otherwise, on the counter for a couple of hours. And at the last resort, directly in the microwave but this tends to dry it out often, will vary by recipe.How long does frozen mac and cheese take to thaw? ›
Defrosting almost any food is best done overnight in the refrigerator, and that's true for mac and cheese. But if you haven't planned that far ahead, no problem. You can reheat in the microwave on low power, cutting the portion in half after a while to expose the center.How do you defrost frozen mac and cheese in the oven? ›
Let it stand on the counter until cooled, the wrap in plastic wrap and pop in the freezer. When you're ready to eat it, it can go straight from the freezer into in a 400°F oven. Cook for 1 hour, covered with foil, the take the foil off and bake for another 15-20 minutes to brown the top.Is it better to freeze Mac & cheese before or after cooking? ›
You can either freeze it after it's baked (and then reheat it when it's time to eat) or you can prepare your mac and cheese, but freeze it before baking. If you freeze it before baking, it tends to come out creamier and less grainy when it's time to cook it because it hasn't been heated up twice.Does frozen cheese thaw well? ›
To find out, we stashed a variety of cheeses (extra-sharp cheddar, Brie, fresh goat cheese, and Pecorino Romano) in the freezer. Six weeks later, we thawed them and tasted the samples, and to our surprise, all were essentially identical to never-frozen controls: The frozen cheddar even melted properly.How is the proper way of thawing frozen pasta? ›
To thaw fresh-frozen pasta, leave it in the refrigerator in its original box for 24 hours. Once thawed, fresh pasta has a shelf life of 16 to 21 days.How do you make frozen mac and cheese better? ›
Brown the mac and cheese under the broiler for a couple of minutes and voila, amped up mac and cheese. Adding fresh vegetables, herbs, and seasonings helps tailor frozen dinners to your own personal taste and make bland freezer meals taste a little more homemade.Do you have to defrost frozen mac and cheese from Costco before baking? ›
⏲ Can you put frozen Costco mac and cheese in the oven? Yes, you can cook Costco mac and cheese from frozen. Put the contents of half the tray in a metal baking pan, and cover with foil. Place the pan on a dark cookie sheet and bake in an oven preheated to 400F (200C) for 60 minutes.Can you defrost macaroni in the microwave? ›
Yes, you can defrost pasta in the microwave. If you have leftover pasta and sauce, you should freeze separately, as it is easier to defrost in the microwave. Transfer the pasta into a microwave-safe container, add a splash of water (to stop it sticking) and cover. Set the microwave to the defrost setting or 50%.
Press these three keys together: Option (or Alt), Command, Esc (Escape). Or choose Force Quit from the Apple menu in the corner of your screen. The Finder is always open, but if it stops responding, you can force it to quit and then open again: Select Finder in the Force Quit window, then click Relaunch.How do you thaw a Mac? ›
- Press Command- Esc-Option on your keyboard at the same time, then release them. ...
- Select the name of the frozen application from the menu's list and click Force Quit. ...
- If the Force Quit menu doesn't appear or the frozen program doesn't close, you'll need to restart your computer.
Place it in the center of a microwave-safe plate, bowl, or pan. Microwaving cheese is the fastest method to defrost cheese, but it can also lift the whey and milk from the cheese, leaving it oily or wet.
Freezing macaroni and cheese that is still warm will result in a mushy mess after thawing, so be patient! Once your macaroni and cheese is cool, it's time to freeze. If you are freezing an entire casserole, then it's recommended to prepare it in a freezer-safe container, or to scoop it into one for freezing.Is it okay to prep mac and cheese the day before? ›
Q: Can macaroni and cheese be made a day ahead, refrigerated and then baked before use? Editor: Ruth, yes, absolutely. In fact, it can even be frozen at this point. (When ready to use, thaw and bake.)Does freezing cheese change the texture? ›
Freezing cheese causes ice crystals to develop, disrupting the cheese's structure. This may affect the texture and make it drier, more crumbly, and mealy. It can also halt the ripening process of cheeses with beneficial, active mold populations.How long does cheese take to thaw from freezer? ›
❄️ To defrost, take the cheese out of it's packaging so it has space to breathe - ideally place it on some kitchen roll, on a flat plate, in the fridge. Leave it for approx. 12 hours (overnight works) to totally thaw out.Can you defrost cheese in warm water? ›
Never thaw food at room temperature or in warm water. Even though the center of a package may still be frozen as it thaws on the counter or in the warm water, the outer layer of the food is in the "Danger Zone," between 40 and 140°F. These are temperatures where bacteria multiply rapidly.
Does cheese taste different after freezing? It isn't so much the cheese's taste as it is the texture that changes when cheese is frozen. Your creamy brie may come out of the freezer a bit more crumbly and blocks of cream cheese could seem a bit grainy.Does freezing pasta have to be thawed before it is cooked just place the frozen pasta into boiling water and reheat it? ›
Frozen pasta does not have to be thawed before it is cooked. Just throw the frozen pasta into boiling water and let it cook. It will need to cook a little long than unfrozen pasta. Cooked pasta can be stored unsauced in an airtight container and refrigerated for 4 or 5 days.
Frozen cooked pasta should be thawed in the refrigerator and not on the kitchen counter. container so that it does not absorb any odor. Cooked lasagna and baked pasta dishes can be refrigerated or frozen in the same manner as plain cooked pasta.Should I let frozen pasta thaw before cooking? ›
When cooking from frozen, do not defrost. Follow regular cooking instructions for the type of pasta you have, adding just 30–60 seconds of extra cooking time.What to do with frozen Mac? ›
If your Mac is stuck on this screen or keeps restarting
Press and hold the power button on your Mac for up to 10 seconds, until your Mac turns off. Every Mac has a power button. On laptop computers that have Touch ID, press and hold Touch ID. Turn your Mac back on.
Left over pasta can be frozen with or without sauce. Let the pasta completely cool before adding to a freezer bag. Once in the bag, remove any air and place in the freezer until ready to use.Can mac and cheese sit out before baking? ›
Like all other food, mac and cheese can only sit out at room temperature for two hours before entering the “danger zone.” If temperatures are high, above 90 °F, mac and cheese should not be left out for longer than one hour.How long is mac and cheese good for after cooked? ›
Store leftover mac and cheese in a sealed air-tight container in the fridge for up to 4 days for best quality.Can I freeze Costco mac and cheese before cooking? ›
Yes, you can freeze uncooked Costco mac and cheese, and will last for up to 2 months.Is it safe or unsafe to thaw defrost in the microwave? ›
Is it safe to defrost food in the microwave? Yes. Using your microwave to defrost food is safe, but you must cook the food immediately after it's done defrosting. If food is allowed to sit much longer than the appropriate defrost time of 8 to 10 minutes per pound, harmful bacteria could begin to grow.Can you thaw food at room temperature? ›
Perishable foods should never be thawed on the counter, or in hot water and must not be left at room temperature for more than two hours.How do you reheat frozen mac and cheese in the oven without drying it out? ›
- Place the macaroni & cheese into an oven-safe dish. Make sure to only take out what you're going to use.
- Add 1 tablespoon of milk per cup of mac and cheese and mix to incorprate as much as possible. ...
- Cover the dish with aluminum foil and place in the oven at 350°F for 20-30 minutes, or until heated through.
An overloaded drive can be an answer to the question of why my Mac keeps freezing. You can check if it's the problem by clicking the Apple icon > About this Mac > Storage. If there are not too many GB left, time to clean up. The easy way to get rid of extra files and give your system a polish is to use CleanMyMac X.Why is everything frozen on my Mac? ›
Reasons Your Mac Is Frozen
Sometimes, running too many apps at the same time may cause a frozen Mac, or simply processing a particularly demanding app (for example, design or gaming software). In the worst-case scenario, malware or hardware problems may also cause your Mac to freeze.
Press and hold the Command + Option + P + R keys on your keyboard. Turn on your Mac by pressing the power button. Hold down the keys until you hear two startup chimes indicating NVRAM has been reset. Release the keys and let your Mac finish starting up normally.Can you defrost cheese in water? ›
But, even so, it is really helpful in the kitchen. I do this – water bath defrosting – to defrost frozen cheese, lemon/lime cubes, hard ice cream, frozen fruit, frozen fruit puree, and more! If the food is in a freezer bag or container, nest it inside a larger bowl of cool water.Can you cook with frozen cheese? ›
However, freezing will change the consistency and make the cheese more crumbly. So frozen cheese is fine for cooking, particularly if you need to grate it first.How do you melt cheese so it doesn't clump? ›
Hot liquids, like pasta water, heavy cream, melted butter, or beaten eggs, help distribute melted cheese evenly by surrounding it with heat. Since every bit of surface area is in contact with hot liquid, the cheese melts at the same rate. No clumps to be found, just a glossy, luscious sauce.How long is mac and cheese good for in the refrigerator? ›
Properly stored, cooked macaroni and cheese will last for 3 to 5 days in the refrigerator. To further extend the shelf life of cooked macaroni and cheese, freeze it; freeze in covered airtight containers or heavy-duty freezer bags.Which cheese is not suitable for freezing? ›
Creamier cheeses such as Brie, cream cheese and Camembert should be avoided when freezing as they have a higher water content, which means they will be susceptible to damage caused by ice-crystals forming in the freezing process.What cheeses should not be frozen? ›
- Cottage cheese.
- Queso fresco.
An overview of Food Network's mac and cheese roundup reveals that most recipes have one type of cheese in common: sharp Cheddar. Sharp Cheddar —especially the inexpensive, mass-market block you can buy at the supermarket —strikes just the right balance between meltability and flavor. Consider it your base cheese.
Combined with the cheese, the eggs create a smooth sauce that doesn't clump the pasta together but gives it a light and velvety texture. Japanese carbonara also includes an egg combining beaten eggs with miso for a rich and flavorful sauce.Why is my homemade mac and cheese not creamy? ›
You want equal amounts of butter and flour by weight. This is key. Throw in too much flour, and sure the sauce might get thick, but it also might taste floury and be lumpy. Even if you get the roux right, use too much or reduce your sauce down too far, and the macaroni and cheese will turn out dry.Why does my cheese have white spots after freezing? ›
They're most likely calcium lactate crystals, also known as “cheese crystals.” They are completely safe to eat, and usually signify that a cheese is flavorful and well-aged.Can you freeze mac and cheese? ›
Yes, you can! Freezing Mac and Cheese is a great way to keep leftovers, saving them for a busy night when there's no time to cook. Learn our tips and trick for how to reheat mac and cheese too. Whether you make Mac and cheese from a box or a homemade recipe, you can freeze any leftovers.Should you keep cheese in the fridge or freezer? ›
It's best to keep cheese, of all varieties, in a dark, cool and airy space – the vegetable compartment of an average fridge is ideal, as it is not too humid or cold.How long to thaw Stouffer's party size mac and cheese? ›
Place: Try on baking sheet, center rack. Cook: Frozen: 55 minutes. Thawed: 35 (Product must be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degree F. Product may be thawed under refrigeration (40 degree F) no more than 48 hours.Can you thaw Stouffer's mac and cheese before cooking? ›
If thawing, product must be thawed under refrigeration (40°F) for no more than 48 hours prior to cooking. DO NOT REFREEZE. For food safety and quality, follow cooking instructions. Cook product to an internal temperature of 165° F.Is the use of microwave an acceptable way of thawing food? ›
You can safely thaw food in a microwave oven if the food will be cooked immediately. Large items such as roasts or turkeys may not thaw well in a microwave. As part of the cooking process. You can thaw food as part of the cooking process.Should frozen pasta be thawed before cooking? ›
When cooking from frozen, do not defrost. Follow regular cooking instructions for the type of pasta you have, adding just 30–60 seconds of extra cooking time.How do I make store bought frozen mac and cheese better? ›
Transfer the cooked mac n' cheese to a small baking dish. Cover completely with sliced cheddar. Sprinkle breadcrumbs on top. Broil in your oven until the cheese is completely melted and just starting to brown -- around five minutes.
Add 1 tablespoon of milk per cup of mac and cheese and mix to incorprate as much as possible. *If you'd like to add more creaminess and flavor, substitute half-and-half or cream. 3. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and place in the oven at 350°F for 20-30 minutes, or until heated through.How quickly does cheese defrost? ›
❄️ To defrost, take the cheese out of it's packaging so it has space to breathe - ideally place it on some kitchen roll, on a flat plate, in the fridge. Leave it for approx. 12 hours (overnight works) to totally thaw out.How long do you cook frozen Stouffer's mac and cheese? ›
Microwave oven (1100 w).
- Leave film on tray, do not vent.
- Cook on high 16 minutes.
- Uncover, stir, and recover. Continue cooking on high 2 minutes.
Every spoon deserves Stouffer's Mac & Cheese-- personalize yours by adding a touch to your flavor of choice. Red bell peppers put a colorful twist on Classic, broccoli brings some greenery to White Cheddar, and Garlic Parmesan is perfect with a dash of parsley.Is Stouffers mac and cheese better in the oven or microwave? ›
“I love the color and cheesy flavor of Stouffer's. For this taste test, it was microwaved; when baked in a conventional oven, the sauce thickens and it gets a more home-baked feel and even a top crust.” All of the participants thought Stouffer's took a while to congeal after it came out of the microwave.