Olive oil is a staple in Mediterranean cuisine and is loved the world over. If you have bought a lot on holiday or just use olive oil infrequently you will be pleased to know you can freeze it.
Olive oil is regarded as a healthy fat for its high monounsaturate content and many antioxidants. It is commonly used in salad dressings and for roasting but is very multifunctional.
Olive oil must be stored away from heat, air, and light as these can cause it to go rancid. Unopened olive oil can last around 2 years, which reduces to 1 year once open. You may wonder why people would freeze it, and it’s a matter of taste.
A team of Italian chemists froze extra virgin olive oil for between 12 and 18 months and compared it to olive oil stored at room temperature in the dark. They discovered that the aromatic profile improved upon freezing. If you are an olive oil connoisseur, this could be something for you to try.
How to freeze olive oil
The best way to freeze olive oil is in individual serving sizes. Our favorite way to do this is through the use of an ice cube tray. A standard tray creates cubes of 2tbsp. This is the perfect amount of olive oil to heat in a pan to start any dish, and means no more oily measuring spoons!
Leave the ice cube tray in the freezer overnight to freeze solid. Remove from the freezer and pop the olive oil cubes out of the ice cube tray. Place in an airtight glass container or freezer-safe ziplock bag. Ensure it is labeled clearly with the contents, date, and volume of each cube.
If you are storing large quantities, we recommend storing olive oil in an airtight glass container in the freezer.
You can also use olive oil to freeze fresh herbs. This works with garlic, chili, and the zest of citrus fruits too. Mince the herbs and mix well with the olive oil. Heat the oil gently until the herbs or other chosen additions are very fragrant.
Cool the oil rapidly in a bowl of iced water. Pour the mixture into an ice cube tray and place in the freezer. Once frozen solid, remove from the tray and transfer to a labeled ziplock freezer bag.
How to defrost olive oil
If you are using the olive oil cubes in a hot dish, simply drop the frozen cube into the pot. There is no need to thaw in advance as the pan’s heat will do it quickly.
If you are thawing a larger quantity of olive oil or are using it in a cold dish, simply allow the olive oil to return to room temperature. If thawing cubes, we recommend putting it into a small bowl or glass to thaw to prevent mess.
You can also thaw olive oil in the refrigerator to use in place of butter. If it reaches room temperature it will melt completely and return to its original state. If it remains cold, the taste should be unchanged and it will be easily spreadable.
We do not recommend storing olive oil in the refrigerator as at 40 degrees Fahrenheit the fats begin to solidify. Your oil will not be liquid unless stored at room temperature.
While olive oil has a relatively long shelf life prior to freezing, once thawed it must be used within 3-4 days. It is important not to thaw more than you can use in this period of time to prevent food waste.
We do not recommend exposing the frozen olive oil to heat, such as in a microwave. This is because the oil has a very low water content which is what the microwaves target. Microwaving frozen olive oil is not going to cause it harm, it is just a futile exercise.
Factors to consider before freezing olive oil
Olive oil is made from fats known as triglycerides and fatty acids, different structures that freeze at different temperatures. This can potentially cause cloudy areas to form within the oil during the freezing process. Do not worry about this, it is completely normal.
If you are using an ice cube tray it is important to measure the amount of olive oil each cube holds. This is so that you know the portion sizes for future use.
Freezing herbs in olive oil is a great way to extend their shelf life and prevent the dreaded freezer burn. This also allows the herb flavors to permeate the entire dish, giving a more nuanced flavor profile. Hardy herbs such as thyme, oregano, sage, and rosemary tend to hold up best to this method of preservation.
You should not use plastic containers to store olive oil in the freezer long term. This is because the oil can potentially take on harmful chemicals from the plastic as it deteriorates over time.
The quality of olive oil is not affected by freezing and as soon as it returns to room temperature it will be restored to its original state. Some manufacturers recommend storing olive oil at a cooler temperature, such as in the refrigerator, to extend the shelf life of the oil.
Freezing olive oil will not affect the flavor or texture profile. It will also not extend the shelf life greatly, so there is not much point in freezing it by itself.
We recommend using olive oil to freeze and preserve herbs and other aromatics. This will enhance your cooking and extend the shelf life of the fresh herbs dramatically.
Some people believe that if olive oil turns solid in the refrigerator, the extra virgin label is proven. This is completely false, and many high-quality oils do not freeze solid at refrigerator temperatures due to the fat contents.
We hope that you now feel confident in your knowledge of freezing olive oil. It is quick and easy to do and will help to reduce your food waste and save you time.