Coleslaw is a tricky subject when it comes to freezing. Much of the answer depends on the recipe used, but cabbage itself can also pose a problem when it hits the freezing mark or lower.
My First Attempt
A few years ago, we over-ordered bags of shredded cabbage for our restaurant. Not wanting it to go to waste, I attempted to freeze the unopened bags. We pulled one out a couple of weeks later to use it for coleslaw and found it unusable. The shredded cabbage was wilted from the freezing, even though it was in a plastic sealed bag. It looked like green noodles and we had to throw all of it away. What a waste!
Coleslaw Can Be Frozen
The good news is you can freeze coleslaw as long as you follow instructions. The first thing to do is look at the ingredients because some simply don’t freeze well.
Traditional coleslaw consists of shredded cabbage, carrots, onions, relish. Some people add other things like nuts or raisins but, for this article, we will discuss the basic recipe.
Beyond those ingredients, you have the dressing. This is where freezing gets complicated. You can easily freeze coleslaw made with a vinegar dressing and seasonings like sugar, salt, and pepper. However, it is nearly impossible to freeze coleslaw made with a mayonnaise-based dressing. It can freeze, but won’t taste good when thawed.
Freezing Dry Coleslaw
- There are several methods of freezing coleslaw with all ending in the same result. The first is how to freeze the dry ingredients without the dressing. To freeze the vegetables, place them in a zipped freezer bag. Be sure to remove all air from the bag by pushing it out of the top of the bag. Then, seal it and label it with the date and name.
Thawing Dry Coleslaw
- The secret to properly thawing dry coleslaw where the vegetables remain crisp is to be patient and allow for enough time to thaw. Take the freezer bag out of the freezer several hours or overnight before you plan to serve it. Let it thaw in the refrigerator until it is completely thawed. Then, add your dressing and serve. Be sure to refrigerate immediately after your meal.
Freezing Dressed Coleslaw
- This is best if using a vinegar-based dressing. The difference here is you can use a sealed container or a freezer bag for freezing. However, either way, be sure to eliminate all air in the container before you freeze.
- That means those using a sealed container should fill it up where there isn’t any room left for air and be sure the seal fits tightly and firmly on the container. With a freezer bag, do as you did before by pushing out all the air before sealing the bag.
There is another method that is highly touted as the perfect way to freeze coleslaw. That is the stacking method.
To use this method you will need:
- A seal-tight container
- Wax paper
- Slotted spoon
Take the slotted spoon and put enough coleslaw into the container to cover the bottom. Then, place a piece of wax paper over it. Do the same with the next layer and cover with wax paper. Repeat until the container is filled. Seal with lid and label with the date.
Experts say this is the best way to freeze coleslaw as it prevents liquid from freezing in a block.
Thawing Coleslaw With Dressing
- To thaw coleslaw that has a dressing, put the container or bag in the refrigerator for at least two hours before you plan to serve it. Allow for more time if it is a large container or bag.
- When you bring it out, use a slotted spoon to dip it into your serving container. Get rid of excess liquid. You may want to add a little more dressing to the mix.
For Better Results:
There is some additional advice on making sure your cole slaw remains crispy after freezing. Part of the reason this works is that the claw freezes flat instead of in a clump.
For this you will need:
- Wax paper
- Baking sheet
- Large freezer bag
This can be used with either dry or dressed coleslaw. With this method, put the coleslaw in a freezer bag like instructed in other methods. Push the air out as you did before and seal the bag.
Now, take wax paper and lay it on a baking sheet. Lay the freezer bag of slaw on the baking sheet and pat it out with your hand so it is the same thickness throughout the entire bag. Now freeze on the baking pan.
Thawing Coleslaw On Wax Paper
- Thaw in the refrigerator for at least two hours before serving. You will need to drain off some liquid that is created from freezing before you serve it. While it is perfectly fine to serve, you may want to freshen the coleslaw by adding a little fresh cabbage or carrots.
Be aware that frozen foods can’t be kept forever. Most will last two months but then would need to be thrown out. Coleslaw can be kept frozen longer, but shouldn’t be eaten after a year.
Also, you will need to eat the thawed slaw within three days of defrosting. It can’t be refrozen. In fact, no food should be frozen twice according to health standards.
Labeling and dating are important. While you may think you will remember the package and what is in it, you may not after frost accumulates on the top of the container or bag. Labeling serves as a reminder.
Your favorite coleslaw can be saved to enjoy later in the year! Thinking ahead and doing a little prep work will help save coleslaw when you make too much. That way, you and your family can enjoy it again with all its crispness and taste.