Can you freeze oranges? Oh yes you can!

A few weeks ago, after just getting back from Arizona towing a suitcase weighed down with citrus, a friend asked me if she could freeze oranges. She had an abundance and didn’t want them to go to waste. I swiftly said no, but if she really wanted to savor ripe citrus year-round she should zest and juice the fruit and freeze those respectively.

Although she wasn’t bothered by my answer (or didn’t seem to be) I was bothered by it, for a few weeks even. Logically, we shouldn’t be able to freeze citrus. If all of the food science classes in college taught me anything it was that freezing fruit, especially those that contain a high percentage of water, destroys the texture and quality of the fruit.

We know that water expands when frozen— remember the forgotten water bottles in the freezer that are bulged and misshapen when you find them? Well, the same happens to the water inside of fruit. When the water in fruit freezes, it expands and pushes on the fruit’s cell walls, breaking and destroying them. This, in turn, causes a breakdown in texture and quality of the fruit. Hence why frozen fruit is most often reserved for smoothies and cooked sauces, it just isn’t nearly as good as fresh.

So my answer is valid, citrus shouldn’t be frozen, right? Well, partially right, and partially wrong. I think we can all agree that frozen fruit is not as good as fresh, but surprisingly, oranges aren’t too bad when frozen and thawed. After testing a few freezing methods, I found one method that produced a desirable product (again, not as good as fresh, but still pretty good)!

How I prepare and freeze oranges:

  1. Peel oranges and remove as much of the white pith as possible.
  2. Divide each orange into quarters.
  3. Place orange quarters in resealable freezer bags, remove air, and seal.
  4. Place bags in freezer until needed.
  5. When ready to use, remove desired orange segments from freezer and let thaw 20–30 minutes at room temperature.
  6. Divide each quarter into individual segments and use as needed.

 
Click here to get my favorite reusable freezer bags!

 

How I use frozen and thawed oranges:

Although they can be eaten as is, they aren’t as enjoyable as eating a whole fresh orange. I prefer to slice the orange segments and toss on salads, yogurt, or in pilafs. You can, of course, also use them in smoothies as well (Orange Julius anyone?). Check out my favorite Winter Green Salad, developed (and photographed—see how delicious the oranges look!) using frozen citrus. 

Q & A Freezing Oranges | Zestful Kitchen

If you have an abundance of lemons or limes, I suggest freezing the zest and juice instead of the fruit itself, because how often do you eat a lemon? And because we usually resort to lemons and limes for their juice and zest.

How to prepare lime and lemon zest to be frozen:

  1. Zest citrus fruit and transfer zest to an airtight container fitted with a lid.
  2. Transfer container to freezer, fluff zest with a fork after 2 hours, then keep in freezer until needed.
  3. When ready to use, no need to thaw, just measure out how much you need and return to freezer.

How to prepare lime and lemon juice to be frozen:

  1. Juice lemons or limes, strain, then pour into ice cube trays.
  2. Transfer trays to freezer and freeze until solid.
  3. Remove frozen cubes from trays and transfer to resealable freezer bags, seal, and store in freezer until needed.
  4. When ready to use, remove cubes as needed and thaw.

Q & A Freezing Oranges | Zestful Kitchen

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About The Author

Lauren Grant is a professional culinary food scientist, food writer, recipe developer, and food photographer. Lauren is a previous magazine editor and test kitchen developer and has had work published in major national publications including Diabetic Living Magazine, Midwest Living Magazine, Cuisine at Home Magazine, EatingWell.com, AmericasTestKitchen.com, and more.

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Comments

        1. Hi Janet, you definitely could use frozen oranges for marmalade. Instead of peeling and segmenting, I would slice them according to your marmalade recipe instructions (I imagine it calls for quartering the oranges then slicing 1/8 to 1/4-inch thick with the peels on). That way you still get those wonderful peels in the marmalade!
          When you’re ready to make the marmalade you can either thaw the oranges overnight in the refrigerator or dump them in the pot frozen, the cooking time will just increase by a few minutes.
          I hope that helps!

  1. Wish I new this last year when my grocery store delivered two kilos of oranges instead of just two oranges. 🙂 I froze the juice and threw the juice cubes into smoothies. Thanks for experimenting with this.

  2. I freeze oranges all the time. But never mess around with peeling them. I just rinse them off and cut into segments with peel on. I freeze on a tray then bag or container freeze them. When I want an orange I take out a desired # of segments and nuke on 90 % for 40-50 seconds. (or you can let thaw naturally) Flavor is fine. They peel right off the rind. when I bite into them. A wee bit mushy but flavorfull and juicy. I also use them as frozen segments for ice cubes in my pop or juice. Just drop in like a water cube. I save the ends I’ve cut off before freezing segments and freeze them separate and use in baking or zest for cooking. Waste not want not.. 🙂

  3. I just want to use frozen citrus slices in a jug of water. I figured the frzen fruit will look pretty and also flavor the water and keep it cold. Will this work as I am trying to prepare ahead to save time. Any info is appreciated….thank you

    1. This would definitely work! I would first freeze the slices on a parchment paper-line baking sheet, then when fully frozen, transfer them to a zipper-lock bag. This way the slices don’t stick together and you can pull them out as you need them.

  4. I did this last winter (Jan 2018) without realizing you aren’t suppose to freeze citrus fruit. I used them in punches, drinks and smoothies. Delicious!

    1. Totally agree! The integrity of the texture does suffer a bit during freezing, but I found this is the best way to maintain the fruit’s texture. Love having flavorful citrus year-round!

  5. after all these years. I figured out one can almost freeze anything…Be sure to zest your citrus so you will always have zest for cooking. So many times in the past I have needed zest and didn’t have lemon lime or orange zest and finally wisened up to zest, freeze, put in container and freeze..

  6. I have an orange tree and I juice the oranges. I fill up a zip top freezer bag with juice and put it on a cookie sheet so it freezes flat (2 bags usually fit fine). I can then stack the bags of frozen juice in my freezer. I was looking for something to do with the peels. I am thinking about trying to dry the peels to be used later for cooking or potpourri. I like your idea for freezing the slices too! Thank you!

    1. There are all kinds of things to do with the peels on Pinterest. I’m a newbie to all this but you can zest and freeze that, or zest, dry and make a powder, or peel, dry and do things with that. You can make things from candied peel to cleaning products.

    1. Hi Missy! Great question—I should add that information to the post. I find that frozen oranges are best enjoyed within 6 months of freezing, although I’ve certainly used them up to a year after freezing. All-in-all, I would use them within 6 months!

  7. I love eating frozen fruit . Bananas, blueberries, pineapple. To me it’s almost like ice cream. I am going to freeze oranges and enjoy those!