Soup is the ultimate make-ahead freezer meal. Because most soups can be stored in the freezer for at least three months, it’s a great dish to make on a Sunday afternoon and enjoy for weeks to come.
However, learning how to freeze soup is not as simple as tossing your chicken tortilla soup in the icebox. There are a few tricks to freezing soup that ensure it’ll taste just as good as it did when it was fresh.
Can You Freeze Soup?
In most cases, yes. But unfortunately, you can’t freeze any ol’ soup. Just like how some foods freeze better than others, some soup recipes are better suited for preserving.
Avoid Freezing Soup with Starch
Certain starches tend to soak up all the liquid when frozen and become soggy when reheated. That’s why we avoid freezing soups that contain:
- Cubed potatoes
That being said, there are a few exceptions to the rule. Pureed potatoes, like the kind found in this Slow Cooker Sweet Potato Soup recipe, end up just fine. And interestingly enough, barley keeps its texture and shape when frozen, so consider making one of these comforting barley soup recipes if you’re looking for a filling soup. Otherwise, hold the pasta, rice or potatoes and add them back in once the soup has thawed.
Think Twice Before Freezing Dairy-Based Soups
We recommend avoiding freezing most dairy-based soups, as the soup tastes grainy once reheated. But if you’d really like to freeze dairy-heavy leftovers like chowder, there are a few tricks to help the soup taste as creamy as day one:
- Avoid boiling the soup before freezing and as you reheat.
- Try whisking a little heavy cream or sour cream into the soup as you reheat.
- Gradually add a cornstarch slurry to the reheated soup. Two parts cold liquid with one part cornstarch will do.
The best way to avoid the odd texture? Like our advice for starches, hold the dairy. If the recipe calls for toppings like cheese or cream, it’s best to exclude that ingredient until you’re ready to serve. Simply add it back in when you’re reheating the thawed soup. There are different advantages to using broth or stock as a base, too.
What are the Best Soups to Freeze?
While the rules above may seem limiting, trust us, there are tons of great options for freezer-friendly soups. Our Test Kitchen finds this slow-cooked chicken enchilada soup to be a freezer-favorite as well as this brothy steak soup. Check our complete list of soups that freeze well for more inspiration.
What’s the Best Way to Freeze Soup?
It’s simple to learn how to freeze soup, follow along for our best tips.
Step 1: Pick a Portion Size
Freezing soup in one- or two-person portions not only helps the soup freeze faster but is the perfect plan for a make-ahead lunch or dinner for smaller families. Consider what works best for you before you freeze.
Step 2: Choose the Right Soup Container
- For those who don’t like to wait for soup to thaw: Try the round, reusable kind like these freezer-safe Twist ‘n Loc containers from Ziploc ($11). When you’re ready to eat, run cold water over the outside of the container to loosen. The soup will pop right out into a stockpot or Instant Pot for easy reheating.
- For those who want to maximize freezer space: Ladle cooled soup into freezer-safe quart- or gallon-sized plastic bags. Freeze flat and stack once the soup is fully frozen. (This is one of our favorite freezer organization tips!)
Step 3: Cool the Soup
You’ve been simmering that amazing slow cooker soup for hours; don’t let your hard work go to waste! Always be sure to let your soup cool to room temperature before moving into a freezer container. Then, stick it in the fridge to cool the temp down (to somewhere below 40°) before freezing.
It may seem fussy, but if you toss hot soup into the freezer, it will develop large ice crystals and freeze unevenly. (Which means mushy soup when it thaws!) Cooling soup also protects the contents of your freezer. No one wants the hot soup’s steam to thaw out all the other food.
Step 4: Avoid Freezer Burn
While freezer-burned food is safe to eat, it might not taste that great. Luckily, freezer burn is easy to avoid! The ice crystals responsible for the burn are caused by exposure to air, so the first step in protecting your food from freezer burn is to keep the air out.
This becomes a little tricky when freezing soup, as liquid expands when frozen. (Think: cracked soup containers!) It’s important not to overfill or underfill the container. When storing soup, leave about ½ in. of headroom in the vessel.
And if you’re particularly concerned about freezer burn, cover the surface of the liquid with plastic wrap, smooth the plastic so that it makes contact over the surface of the food, then put the lid on the container. Using freezer-safe air-tight containers, like these from Arrow ($15) helps keep the air out, too.
Step 5: Label, Label, Label
Have mystery food that’s been lurking at the back of your freezer? Say no more! Before placing soup in the freezer, label the outside of the container with the name of the recipe, date and reheating instructions. For example: Flavorful White Chili; January 9th; Reheat on stovetop and top with shredded cheese. This will help you remember what the food is, how long it’s good for and if there are any extra steps to finish up the recipe.
Pro tip: Our Test Kitchen loves to use Post-it Extreme Notes ($20 for 12 pads) to label food containers. They stay sticky over long periods of time and are water-resistant.
How Long Does Homemade Soup Last in the Freezer?
For best quality, soups will last about 3 months in the freezer, though certain vegetable-based broth soups can be safely enjoyed 6 months or more out.
If you don’t like pushing your luck with that guideline, use the classic test: when in doubt, throw it out. If it smells and looks funky, give it the toss. Read up on our complete guide to how long leftovers last.
Craving soup? Try our contest-winning soup recipes.