To freeze mac and cheese, first, ensure it’s cooled to room temperature. Portion it into air-tight containers or freezer-safe bags.
For extra protection, cover the mac and cheese with a layer of plastic wrap or aluminum foil before sealing.
Label your container with the date, and store it in the freezer. When you’re ready to eat it, thaw it in the fridge overnight before reheating.
It’s important to note that some types of mac and cheese will freeze better than others.
Best Mac and Cheese for Freezing
The good news is that you can freeze all varieties of mac and cheese. However, creamy, saucy mac and cheese freezes better than baked mac and cheese.
Creamy mac and cheese varieties have more liquid than baked dishes. That’s why the cream sauce is still runny and sauce-like. The liquid helps them freeze and thaw better.
You can still freeze baked mac and cheese. But it will be somewhat dry after reheating.
Baked mac and cheese dishes freeze better before cooking. That makes them an excellent choice for make-ahead meals.
How to Freeze Mac and Cheese
There are four primary steps to freezing mac and cheese. They are as follows:
1. Let the Mac and Cheese Cool Completely
Never freeze hot or warm foods. It will affect the quality of the food, and it can also mess up other foods in your freezer.
Always let mac and cheese (and other dishes) cool completely before freezing them.
2. Transfer the Cooled Leftovers to Freezer-Safe Containers
You can use freezer-safe Tupperware containers, Ziploc bags, or something else. Just ensure the container is airtight, leak-proof, and freezer-safe.
Then, portion the mac and cheese into whatever size you like best. (Pre-portioning makes thawing and reheating easier.) Transfer those portions to your various containers.
3. Date and Label the Containers
Use a marker to date your container. You should also put “mac and cheese” on the label. It seems silly, but it’s easy to forget what’s in your various bags and containers.
Dry-erase markers are a good choice, as they wash off fairly easily. However, if you don’t want to write directly on the container, use masking tape or food-safe labels.
4. Freeze the Containers
Finally, pop the dated and labeled containers in your freezer. If you have plastic containers, set them right-side-up. If you’re using Ziploc bags, lay them flat.
How to Freeze Baked Mac and Cheese
Freezing baked mac and cheese is slightly different. As mentioned, it freezes best before you’ve cooked it.
These next sections explain how to freeze baked mac and cheese before and after baking.
Freezing Mac and Cheese Before Baking
Want to prep your baked mac and cheese dinner ahead of time? No problem! You can easily do that by using a freezer-safe baking dish.
Follow the instructions in your recipe, but stop short of sticking it in the oven. Once you’ve completely prepared the dish, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap instead of baking it.
Then, wrap it in another layer of aluminum foil. Date and label the aluminum foil, and stick the baking dish in the freezer.
Freezing Baked Mac and Cheese
If you have leftover baked mac and cheese, let it cool completely before freezing it. Then, cut the dish into smaller portions.
Transfer those portions to freezer-safe bags or containers, then date and label them. Stick them in the freezer in an upright position.
How Long Can You Freeze Mac and Cheese?
Whether baked or creamy, mac and cheese lasts about 3 months in the freezer. After that, the texture degrades, and you risk freezer burn.
Remember to date your containers and use the mac and cheese before the 3 months are up.
How to Thaw Mac and Cheese
Timing is key when it comes to thawing mac and cheese. Know beforehand when you plan on serving it. Then, transfer the container from the freezer to the fridge and let it thaw overnight.
If you didn’t plan ahead and want to serve frozen mac and cheese that day, you’re not out of luck.
Remove the container from the freezer and let it thaw on the counter at room temperature. It’ll take about 2 hours, maybe a little longer.
Some suggest nuking it in the microwave, but I avoid this method. It dries out the macaroni and cheese.
How to Reheat Mac and Cheese
Once the macaroni and cheese thaws, you have three options for reheating it.
In the Oven
My favorite way to reheat leftover mac and cheese is in the oven. Simply add a little milk to the leftovers. Then, transfer them to a baking dish and cover it with aluminum foil.
Bake it for 10 to 15 minutes (or longer for larger portions) at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Add extra milk and a little shredded cheese before baking if your mac and cheese is especially dry.
In the Microwave
I don’t like using the microwave to reheat mac and cheese. However, it’s a viable option if you’re in a hurry. Transfer the thawed leftovers to a microwave-safe bowl.
Then, microwave them on high for 1 to 2 minutes. If they’re too dry, add a splash of milk and stir it in. You might have to reheat it for another 30 seconds after adding milk.
On the Stovetop
You can also reheat leftovers on the stove. Again, add a little milk before heating the mac and cheese. Then, warm it over medium-low heat for about 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Can You Refreeze Frozen Mac and Cheese?
Technically, you can refreeze frozen mac and cheese if you don’t let it thaw on the counter. (i.e. – You let it thaw in the fridge or reheat it directly from frozen.)
However, just because you can doesn’t necessarily mean you should. Refrozen mac and cheese will become softer, mushier, and less flavorful.
The texture will be even worse if you add milk before reheating the leftovers.
Tips for Making Mac and Cheese That Freezes Better
If you know you’re likely to have leftovers, there are things you can do to help them freeze better. Here are some of my pro tips:
- Top baked mac and cheese dishes with shredded cheese. Do this before baking the dish. It’ll help protect the macaroni from getting so hard. This will make the texture less mushy after freezing it.
- Cook baked mac and cheese low and slow. Instead of cooking it at a high temp for a shorter period, go low and slow. Set the oven to 375 degrees and cook the dish for about 40 minutes. Mac and cheese baked this way will freeze better.
- Use whole milk and add heavy cream to the sauce. Doing so adds extra fat to the dish. The higher fat content makes it hold together better when frozen.
- Use milk powder instead of milk. Mac and cheese made with milk powder freezes better than mac and cheese made with real milk.
- Don’t fully cook the macaroni before adding the sauce. The noodles will continue to cook after the sauce is added. If you fully cook them beforehand, you risk overcooking them. Overcooked macaroni degrades faster in the freezer.
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