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Ohio State University Extension


Food Preservation: Freezing Fruits

Family and Consumer Sciences
Revised by:
Candace Heer, Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension
Emily Marrison, Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension

Freezing fruits is a simple and quick method of preservation. Freezing costs more than canning or drying because it requires purchasing a freezer and maintaining operating costs, but if done properly, it preserves more nutrients and fresh flavor.

Freezing slows the growth of microorganisms (i.e., bacteria, molds, yeasts) that cause food spoilage or illness. As soon as food is thawed, microorganisms will continue to grow. Freezing also slows chemical changes that affect quality. Natural enzymes in fruits cause flavor, color, texture, and nutritive value changes.

Freezing slows enzyme activity but does not stop it. Enzymes must be inactivated to prevent these changes. One example is treating light-colored fruits with ascorbic acid to prevent enzymatic browning.

Selecting and Washing FruitsTwo hands cupping a variety of fresh fruits, including a strawberry, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and other berries.

Fully ripe fresh fruits lose quality rapidly after harvesting. Harvest only the amount you can preserve within a few hours; otherwise, refrigerate and then freeze as soon as possible. Choose fully ripe but firm fruit. Unripe fruits may be bitter. Freeze soft, very ripe fruits as purées.

To remove dirt, wash fruits in cold water. This step can also reduce bacteria and pesticide residue. Drain and rinse several times. Do not let fruits soak.

Packaging Materials

Air leads to the loss or alteration of flavor. If moisture evaporates, frozen food becomes dry and tough and might develop grayish spots called "freezer burn."

Foods for the freezer should be packed properly to protect their flavor, color, moisture content, and nutritive value. Packaging materials should have specific characteristics:

  • food-grade (intended to be in contact with foods)
  • moisture- and vapor-resistant
  • durable and leak-proof
  • resistant to oil, grease, and water
  • not susceptible to becoming brittle and cracking at low temperatures
  • able to protect foods from absorbing other flavors or odors
  • easy to seal
  • easy to labelBags of frozen blueberries, cranberries, and other fruits sitting on a shelf.

Suitable packaging materials include rigid plastic containers with straight sides made for freezing, glass jars and lids made for freezing, and moisture-vapor-resistant bags. Disposable containers intended for short-term storage do not provide effective long-term storage protection against flavor and moisture loss or freezer burn.

For liquid pack, seal fruit and syrup tightly in freezer bags or rigid containers. Squeeze air from the bags before sealing. Leave headspace in rigid containers to allow for expansion (½ inch for pint containers and 1 inch for quart containers). For dry pack whole berries and cut fruit may be frozen in a single layer on a tray until solid. Then immediately pack them in freezer bags or rigid containers leaving ½ inch headspace. Label and date the package and return it to the freezer.


Because water in fruits expands during freezing, which breaks cell walls, thawed fruits may leak juices and be soft. To retain quality, freeze fruits quickly at the lowest possible freezer setting. For best results, freeze only 2–3 pounds of fruit per cubic foot of available storage space within 24 hours.


Maintain freezer at 0 degrees Fahrenheit or lower to best protect the fruits’ quality. If power fails, keep the freezer closed; food should stay frozen 2448 hours. Fruits that still contain ice crystals can be safely refrozen; however, a loss of quality and nutrients is possible. Keep an inventory and use the oldest fruit first. Consume frozen fruits within one year. Citrus fruit and juices should be used within six months.


Follow an acceptable method for defrosting fruit in its original package:

  •  under cold running water  (below 70 F) for less than two hours. An alternative is to submerge the package in cold tap water and change the water every thirty minutes as the fruit thaws.
  • in a microwave oven (only if fruit is to be used right away)
  • in the refrigerator

A 1-pound package of fruit packed in syrup should be thawed for six to eight hours in the refrigerator. Thaw unsweetened fruit slightly longer. Allow 1/230 minutes to an hour for fruit thawing in running, cool water. Serve fruit with a few ice crystals remaining. Completely thawed fruits will be limp or mushy and may discolor.

Directions for Freezing FruitAn overhead view of a variety of sugared, unpackaged, frozen fruits sorted into rows.

  1. Wash and sort fruit, discarding poor-quality pieces. Work with small quantities. Pare and remove pits, seeds, and blemishes. Leave fruit whole, slice, or purée the fruit. (See Table 2 or directions for individual fruits.)
  2. Treat washed and sorted fruit with ascorbic acid, which is available in crystalline or powdered form (1 teaspoon = 3 grams). Add ascorbic acid to chilled syrup just before using or follow the manufacturer's directions if using other anti-darkening products. Refer to Table 2, How to Prepare Fruits for Freezing, for specific directions.
  3. Pack fruit with sugar or syrup or leave it unsweetened (dry). Unsweetened fruits lose quality faster than sweetened fruits. Sugar helps fruit retain its flavor, color, and texture, but it is not necessary to preserve fruit safely.

Types of Pack

The type of pack used depends on the intended use of the fruit. Fruits packed in syrup are generally best for uncooked dessert use. Those packed in dry sugar or left unsweetened are best for most cooking purposes because less liquid is in the product.

Sugar Pack
Sprinkle sugar over the fruit and mix gently. Allow to stand for 10–15 minutes to draw out juice—which will dissolve the sugar—or freeze immediately.

Syrup Pack
Dissolve sugar in lukewarm water until the solution is clear. Cool and then add ascorbic acid and just enough syrup to cover the fruit (about ½–â…” cup per pint). To keep fruit under syrup, place a small, crumpled piece of plastic or freezer wrap on top and press the fruit down into the syrup before sealing the container. One-fourth of the sugar may be replaced by light corn syrup or mild-flavored honey.

Dry Pack
Pack fruit in a container and then seal and freeze. Good for small, whole fruits that taste good without sugar.

Tray Pack
Spread a single layer of fruit on shallow trays and freeze. When frozen, package the fruit promptly and return it to the freezer. This pack allows portions to be used when needed.

Other Unsweetened Packs
Unsweetened fruit may also be packed in water, unsweetened juice, or pectin syrup. Pectin syrup is often used for fruits such as strawberries or peaches. It retains their texture better than freezing them in water or juice. To keep the fruit under liquid, follow the syrup pack directions.

To make pectin syrup, dissolve one package of powdered pectin in 1 cup water, heat to boiling, and boil for 1 minute. Add 1¾ cup water and cool.

Artificial Sweeteners

Sugar substitutes can be used in any of the unsweetened or dry packs, or they can be added to the fruits before serving. However, sugar substitutes do not offer the beneficial effects of sugar.

Table 1 (click to download PDF). Syrups for Use in Freezing.
Table showing syrups used in freezing fruits.
Table 2 (click to download PDF). How To Prepare Fruits for Freezing.
Table 2 (click to download PDF). How To Prepare Fruits for Freezing.


More information about freezing foods is available through Ohio State University Extension and University of Georgia Extension:

Previously revised in 2015 by Bridgette Kidd, MPH, RD, former Healthy People Program Specialist, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension.

Originally posted Mar 11, 2024.