I love growing squash, but there are some plants that can be rather prolific (ahem, I’m looking at you, zucchini). I don’t like anything going to waste, so learning how to freeze squash can ensure that you will enjoy this tasty vegetable well into the winter. There are different methods you can use, depending on your space and the state you’d like your squash to be in when it comes out of the freezer (i.e. cubed or puréed). And, summer squash and winter squash are require different steps. In this article, I’m going to share a few ways that I prepare squash to go into my frozen pantry—aka the freezer. This also works for squash you’ve bought at the supermarket or a farmers’ market, and don’t have time to cook right away.
The type of squash you grow will affect your freezing options. Summer squash, like zucchini, has a soft skin that you can often eat, and a higher moisture content than winter squash. Winter varieties have a hard rind, which makes squash a good storage vegetable. But it also freezes well, too.
Why freeze squash instead of storing it?
There are a few reasons why you may want to freeze squash instead of storing it for the winter in a cold cellar. And the type of squash you grow will also dictate how you store it. Summer squash, such as zucchini and patty pan, can only be stored for about two weeks. It’s not a vegetable that you’ll be able to store in a root cellar.
Winter squash, such as pumpkin, butternut, and acorn, can be stored in a root cellar, as outlined in this article. If you don’t have a good place to properly store squash, the freezer becomes a great option. And when it comes to a single, sizable winter squash, sometimes you don’t want to eat the whole thing in one meal. Saving your squash to freeze can stretch out your meals.
Immature squash that you pick at the end of the growing season are also perfect candidates for freezing.
How to freeze winter squash
To me, fall is the start of squash season and an essential ingredient in hearty soups and stews, comfort food pasta dishes, and warm salads. I like to grow different varieties of pumpkins and butternut squash, but I freeze some that I can pull out and thaw for certain meals.
Dicing winter squash to freeze
The supermarket sells bags of diced squash in the frozen food section, so that’s something you can easily prepare from your own harvest. There are a couple of ways to freeze squash after you slice it up into cubes. Be sure to discard the ends of the squash and remove the skin. Space the pieces out on a cookie sheet so they don’t touch, and place in the freezer as you would with berries. Once the squash has frozen, place it in a freezer bag. Try to squeeze out as much air as possible as you seal the bag shut.
You can also blanch your squash first by adding it to boiling water for about four to five minutes and then immediately scooping it into a large bowl of ice water. Drain well and freeze your pieces as mentioned above. Thaw to use or simply toss it into a sauce and allow the heat to thaw the cubed squash.
How to purée winter squash to freeze
I have a few recipes that call for canned pumpkin—besides pumpkin pie, of course! Pulled pork and coconut curry are favourites. Instead of buying my own tin, minus the pie filling spices, I just make my own if I have extra squash on hand. It’s quick and easy to make.
Simply slice your squash in two. (I used to dislike this step until I discovered my serrated bread knife is the perfect kitchen utensil to easily cut through squash.) Remove all the seeds and put them aside to roast if you want to keep them.
Line a baking sheet with parchment and place each squash half on it with the inside facing down. Use a paring knife to add a couple of slits in the skin so that steam can escape. Bake at 400°F for 30 to 45 minutes. Check after 20 minutes. I find some squash have less flesh inside, so they don’t need to be in the oven for as long. Allow the squash to cool before scooping it out and putting it into a food processor to purée.
To store, measure it out into amounts that would be called for in recipes. A small can is usually 13.5 oz or about 400 mL. Measure out one-cup or one-tin servings in a freezable food container. I will often use a freezer bag, so I can store it flat on top of something or sideways. Pull it out to thaw when you need it.
How to freeze spaghetti squash
Because of the way spaghetti squash is used in recipes, you can cook and shred it with a fork before freezing as you would if you were preparing it to eat fresh. You may want to take the additional step of cooking and then draining it overnight in a colander before freezing to get rid of excess liquid.
How to freeze summer squash in pieces
Summer squash, like crookneck and zucchini varieties, doesn’t really purée well, but you can freeze it in cubes, like you do with winter squash, by blanching it first. Wash your produce and then slice it into pieces (about an inch wide or so). Discard the ends. Use a slotted spoon or skimmer to lower pieces into boiling water for about a minute. Remove the pieces promptly and place them in a bowl of ice water. Remove, drain, and dry on a clean tea towel.
Place a single layer of the dried pieces on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (without letting them touch). Put it into the freezer for an hour or two. Once the slices have frozen, place them freezer bags or an air-tight container to store. You do not have to remove the seeds as you do with winter squash.
How to grate summer squash to freeze
If you want to save a summer squash, like zucchini for baking, you can grate it and freeze it in a freezer bag. I use a box grater, but you could also use a food processor if you have a grating attachment.
Place your shredded zucchini on a clean, dry tea towel (you can use cheesecloth of you have it handy, too). Squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Place in a freezer bag and put it in the freezer. When you thaw your frozen squash, you’ll likely need to drain some excess liquid.