freeze mac and cheese

Can You Refrigerate and Freeze Macaroni and Cheese?

Mac and cheese is undoubtedly a perfect representation of comfort foods loved by kids and adults. It is scrumptious, filling, and generously covered in cheese!

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Although this pasta dish is relatively easy to make, the preparation is quite laborious and takes a lot of time.

It is a great idea to make a large batch and store for later. But, can you make mac and cheese ahead of time and freeze it? What about leftovers?

The short answer is, yes! Like other pasta dishes and casserole, mac and cheese also freezes pretty well. You can freeze either cooked or uncooked mac cheese. 

With a few extra steps, you can significantly prolong its shelf life from just a few days in the fridge to months in the freezer.

If you’re curious about how to freeze mac and cheese, keep reading! In this article, we share the complete guide to freezing and reheating this delectable dish!

The Best Way To Freeze Mac and Cheese

You can freeze macaroni and cheese either after or before baking. If you have leftovers, you can definitely freeze it. Likewise, if you prefer prepping the ingredients but choose to bake the dish later, that’s also an option.

Freezing leftovers might result in slightly overcooked and too soft pasta. Well, it’s leftover anyway. It’s still better than tossing it out. Meanwhile, unbaked mac and cheese creates better results after thawing and baking.

Without further ado, let’s get down to the step-to-step guide of freezing mac and cheese both ways!

How To Freeze Cooked Mac and Cheese

Freezing macaroni and cheese is incredibly easy and straightforward. If you live alone, consider packing the dish into individual portions. On the other hand, if you want to serve the meal for your family, you can freeze it in a casserole dish.

Make sure to allow the dish to cool before freezing to prevent condensation, which later causes freezer burn. Check our step-to-step guide below to freeze mac and cheese successfully!

  • 1. Prepare mac and cheese according to your favorite recipes.
  • 2. Cooldown after cooking (skip this step when freezing leftovers). To speed up the cooling process, place the dish in a pot of ice or cold water. Replace the water when it starts to get warm and repeat this step if necessary. (*)
  • 3. Divide mac and cheese into a single serving size or individual portion and pack the dish in a freezer-safe container. Leave appropriate headspace.
  • 4. Cover the surface with plastic wrap.
  • 5. Seal the container tightly.
  • 6. Label the package with the freezing date.
  • 7. Transfer it into the freezer.
  • 8. Maintain the freezer’s temperature at 0 °F (−18 °C) or lower.

How To Freeze Unbaked Mac and Cheese

You’ve probably ever bought a frozen mac and cheese packet that only needs baking at home. That’s exactly what we are going to do now. Here is how you can do it.

  • 1. Prepare mac and cheese as usual, except the baking part.
  • 2. Line a freezer-safe, oven-safe container with aluminum foil. Using this type of container allows to directly transfer frozen mac and cheese right to the oven to bake.
  • 3. Assemble the cooked ingredients in the container.
  • 4. Allow for rapid cooling before freezing.
  • 5. Cover the container with aluminum foil. Make sure to seal all the edges and feel free to add an extra layer of foil for additional protection.
  • 6. Label each package with the freezing date.
  • 7. Transfer the package to the freezer.
  • 8. Maintain the freezer’s temperature at 0 °F (−18 °C) or lower.

How Do You Defrost and Reheat Frozen Mac and Cheese?

Let’s start with handling frozen baked mac and cheese.

To safely defrost mac and cheese, place the package in the refrigerator and let it thaw slowly overnight. Alternatively, defrosting in the microwave is also an option. 

Next, reheat the thawed dish in the oven or stovetop. Make sure to reheat the dish until the center temperature reaches 165 °F.

Once mac and cheese is thawed and reheated, enjoy it immediately. If you still have leftovers, keep it refrigerated for 3 to 4 days.

For the unbaked one, defrost it in the fridge or microwave before baking (don’t forget to remove the foil when defrosting in a microwave). Preheat the oven to 375 to 400 °F and bake the dish covered in foil for 25 to 50 minutes, depending on the size. Remove the foil and bake again for 10 to 25 minutes or until macaroni and cheese turns golden brown. After baking, allow to cool before serving.

How Long Can You Freeze Mac and Cheese?

Mac and cheese can be continuously frozen for 2 to 4 months without pronounced changes in flavor or taste. It can be kept longer, but it won’t be as fresh as tasty.


FAQs

How long is mac and cheese good in the fridge?

Like other cooked dishes, mac and cheese stays fresh for 3 to 5 days in the refrigerator by keeping it in a sealed airtight container. Freeze it to benefit from long-term storage.

Can mac and cheese stay out overnight?

Mac and cheese contains rich nutrients loved by microorganisms. Leaving it too long at room temperature gives them a chance to grow and spoil the dish. It might make you sick, and even if it doesn’t, it won’t be worth eating.

Can cooked macaroni be frozen?

Yes, cooked macaroni, either cooked plain or assembled into a dish, can be frozen successfully. Pack it in a freezer-safe container, leave appropriate headspace, seal tightly, and freeze.

Can you freeze mac and cheese sauce?

Yes, you can also freeze cooked macaroni and the sauce separately. When it’s time to cook, thaw, assemble and bake. Easy!

How many times can you reheat mac and cheese?

There is no limitation to how many times you can reheat mac and cheese. But, bear in mind that repeated heating significantly affects the texture and taste, making it less appetizing.

Take-Home Message

Freezing mac and cheese is definitely worth trying. Whether to salvage leftovers or save time on prepping this pasta dish, freezing works very well to extend its shelf life.

You can freeze mac and cheese before and after baking. Make sure to follow the steps correctly and this comfort food is ready to satisfy your craving whenever it strikes!

Up next: can you freeze cheese?

frozen macaroni and cheese

*image by topntp/depositphotos

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