Spend a few extra minutes properly preparing your dish for the freezer so you can save a lot of time (and space) later.

By Kimberly Holland
November 07, 2010
Photo: Victor Protasio; Food Styling: Margaret Dickey; Prop Styling: Heather Chadduck

Before you read any further, take a second right now to congratulate yourself on cooking ahead. After all, if you’re looking up information on how to freeze a casserole properly, that likely means you’re into meal prep. Or you could be trying to cook a few dishes in advance so you have options the next time your family’s weekly schedule is a little more than hectic.

Future you is going to be so thankful.

Freezing casseroles is incredibly easy. While you can certainly freeze whole casseroles in baking dishes, your dish will be out of commission until you decide to cook that meal. If you have a bounty of baking dishes, that’s probably fine. But if you don’t, try this casserole freezing technique instead.

How to Freeze a Casserole

To freeze a casserole, you’ll need the dish’s ingredients, a baking dish, aluminum foil, plastic wrap, masking tape, and a permanent marker. Keep all these items close at hand to make this process go seamlessly.

Casserole ingredients that won’t freeze well

Taco-Tot Casserole image

Photo: Gina DeSimone; Food Styling: Blakeslee Giles; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis

Get the Recipe: Taco-Tot Casserole

Most casseroles are freezer-friendly, but before you haul out your ingredients, double check to make sure you really should be freezing that dish you intend to make.

Foods that don’t freeze well:

  • dairy, excluding cheese
  • mayonnaise
  • eggs
  • starchy vegetables like potatoes
  • leafy greens

Surprisingly, macaroni and cheese and dishes topped with shredded cheese do OK in the freezer. Some cheese sauces may develop a slightly grainy texture when the dish is thawed and cooked, but that’s nothing you can’t overlook for the convenience factor.

Pot pies, enchiladas, lasagnas, and pasta casseroles are particularly freezer-friendly dishes. Soups and stews are too, but you don’t need to freeze them in any particular shape or dish.

Should you bake a casserole you intend to freeze?

If the casserole you’re making has raw meat in it, you should absolutely bake the dish to the full temperature before you cool and freeze it. If it has pre-cooked meat or no meat, you don’t have to cook it at all. Freeze the casserole uncooked, and save the cooking for later.

Preparing a casserole for the freezer

First, line the baking dish you intend to use with aluminum foil. Leave extra on the sides so you can wrap the casserole with the foil. You’ll also use the foil to pull the frozen casserole out of the dish, so a little extra won’t hurt.

Then, fill the baking dish with the casserole. Cover with the foil flaps, and freeze 24 to 36 hours. 

When the casserole is frozen solid, remove it from the baking dish. Cover it in plastic wrap. Place a piece of masking tape or a freezer label on the frozen casserole. Mark it clearly with the type of dish or the recipe’s name, the date you froze it, and brief reheating instructions (e.g. bake at 350°F for 1.5 hours).

Place the frozen, wrapped, and labeled casserole back into the freezer.

This casserole freezing method frees up your baking dish so you don’t have multiple pans occupied at the same time. It also means you can more neatly stack your future meals in your limited freezer space. Frozen meals can last in the freezer up to four months.

How to Cook a Frozen Casserole

Jennifer Causey

Get the Recipe: Creamy Broccoli-Cheddar Casserole

When you’re ready to cook the casserole you stored previously, you can follow the recipe’s instructions. (Hopefully it has thawing and reheating instructions.)

If it doesn’t, you can choose to thaw the casserole before baking it, or bake from frozen.

Method #1: Thaw first

Remove the plastic wrap and aluminum foil from around the frozen casserole. Place the casserole into the original baking dish. Thaw the dish in the fridge for 24 to 36 hours before you intend to cook it. When you’re ready to cook the casserole, follow the recipe’s original instructions. Cook until a thermometer inserted in the middle reads 165*F.

Method #2: Cook from frozen

If you are cooking the casserole from frozen, remove the plastic wrap and aluminum foil, and place the frozen casserole in the original baking dish. Preheat the oven to the recipe’s intended temperature. Add about 15 to 25 minutes to the original cook time to account for the frosty start. You may want to cover the casserole with aluminum foil for the first hour of cooking, if the instructions don’t call for that already. The aluminum foil acts as a shield so the top layer won’t burn.

When a thermometer reaches 165°F, you can pull the casserole from the oven.

If the casserole recipe calls for any fresh herbs as a finishing ingredient, add them just before serving. Do not add them to the top of the dish before freezing it. The delicate herbs will not withstand the long stay in the freezer or the hot oven.

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