Ricotta cheese is a delicious and versatile ingredient that works beautifully in any number of savoury or sweet dishes.
But what do you do if you have a lot of ricotta cheese in your fridge and you know that you couldn’t possibly use it all up within the week?
Luckily, there are some options for storing ricotta cheese in the longer term.
Can You Freeze Ricotta Cheese?
In short, yes, you can store ricotta cheese in the freezer.
However, you should be aware that there will be changes to the ricotta cheese’s texture and sometimes, if not stored properly or left in the freezer for too long, its flavor.
For this reason, it is generally recommended that you use frozen ricotta cheese in cooked dishes and baked goods, and avoid using it in dishes that call for fresh, uncooked ricotta cheese.
Ricotta cheese has a high moisture content; in the freezer, the water molecules expand as they freeze and separate from the cheese solids.
The result is a permanent change in the texture of the ricotta cheese; with the water separated out, the cheese solids become drier and crumblier.
Some people aren’t overly bothered by the changes to texture, while others find it disagreeable.
The degree to which the ricotta cheese’s texture alters in the freezer will also depend on the brand and the quality of the cheese.
How to Freeze Ricotta Cheese
To prepare the fresh ricotta cheese for the freezer, first allow any excess liquid to drain onto a paper towel. The less moisture, the better the ricotta cheese will freeze.
If there is a large amount of ricotta cheese, then divide it into smaller portions. There’s no point freezing a 2 lb block of ricotta cheese when you know that you only need a half a pound for your recipe!
Once it’s divided up, seal each portion of ricotta cheese in an appropriately-sized air-tight container.
Always label and date your food items so that you can practice FIFO (first in first out) protocol.
How Long Does Ricotta Cheese Last in the Freezer?
Ricotta cheese will usually keep in the freezer for 3 months, although some people will store it for up to half a year.
The decision of if and for how long to freeze ricotta is a largely personal choice dependent on both the quality of the ricotta and the individual’s tolerance for any changes to texture and flavor.
If you intend to keep the ricotta cheese in the freezer for longer than a few weeks, you should consider double wrapping it by placing the air-tight container in a larger freezer bag.
This will help avoid freezer burn and reduce the possibility of the ricotta cheese taking on any unpleasant flavors from the freezer.
Can You Freeze Unopened Ricotta Cheese?
Unopened ricotta cheese is even easier to freeze than ricotta cheese that has already been opened. Simply place the entire unopened package in the freezer.
As with the opened ricotta cheese, you should double wrap it in a larger freezer bag if you intend to keep it in the freezer for longer than a few weeks.
Can You Freeze Ricotta Cheese with Egg in It?
If you’re concerned about changes in texture, then you probably want to know if it’s okay to freeze ricotta that has egg in it. Freezing will change the texture of eggs as well, so that is something you need to keep in mind.
There are a few different ways to freeze eggs, both raw and cooked.
One of the methods that results in the least amount of textural change between the fresh and frozen final products requires that you lightly whisk the raw whites and yolks together (without incorporating air) before adding 1 tsp salt or sugar for every 1 cup of liquid egg.
By this logic, you can easily freeze ricotta cheese mixed with raw egg if you intend to use it in a lasagna or in baked goods.
Depending on your schedule and what recipes you’re making, this could be a great way to plan ahead and save time during meal prep.
Many home cooks report success with preparing ricotta cheese mixtures ahead of time this way.
How Long Does Ricotta Cheese Last in the Fridge?
Ricotta cheese will last for 1-2 weeks in the fridge. After the package has been opened or defrosted, it is best to use it up within the week.
Because ricotta is a fresh cheese, it doesn’t have a particularly long shelf life.
How to Defrost Ricotta Cheese
The best and safest way to defrost ricotta cheese is in the refrigerator. This will take 6-8 hours and can be done the night before you intend to use it. Keep in mind that the larger the portion, the longer the defrost time. All the more reason to plan ahead when portioning for the freezer!
If you find yourself strapped for time, you can speed defrost ricotta cheese in the microwave as long as you cook with it immediately. This method is not recommended if the ricotta cheese is part of a mixture that contains egg.
As with all frozen food, it is advised that you do not leave ricotta cheese on the counter to defrost at room temperature.
Although it will defrost on the counter faster than in the fridge, it will also be at a temperature that encourages bacterial growth. The result is that your ricotta cheese could quickly spoil before you even have a chance to use it.
Once the ricotta cheese is safely thawed, you will notice some separation of the water from the solids.
You can either drain off this water or stir the ricotta to evenly distribute it — it depends on personal choice and what recipe you intend to use the ricotta cheese in.
Never refreeze any ricotta cheese that you have allowed to defrost. Thawing and refreezing can cause further changes to the product’s texture and could lead to it spoiling.
How Can I Tell if Ricotta Cheese Has Gone Bad?
Older ricotta cheese will change in colour from white to pale yellow and will start to develop an unpleasant odour.
If the cheese begins to smell ‘off’ or if spots of mold are visible anywhere on the cheese, then you should discard the entire package.
Unlike other cheeses, ricotta cheese is supposed to be relatively odorless and completely free of mold.
Some cheeses are supposed to have mold (like blue cheeses), and many harder, drier cheeses can still be eaten if mold spots appear, as long as the mold spots are removed first.
Unfortunately, if a mold spot appears on ricotta cheese, it’s a sign that the cheese has spoiled and the entire package needs to be discarded.
To Sum Up
Ricotta cheese is a versatile ingredient that holds up fairly well to freezing. If properly portioned and sealed in air-tight containers, it can keep in the freezer for 3 months or longer.
Any time in the freezer will alter the texture of ricotta cheese and the longer it stays in the freezer the greater the possibility that it could take on unpleasant freezer flavours. The textural issue is easily dealt with by only using frozen ricotta in dishes that will be cooked.
It is also possible to freeze ricotta cheese mixtures that contain egg, which make it easy to prep ahead for certain recipes.
In the fridge ricotta cheese will last 1-2 weeks, so once you’ve defrosted the ricotta cheese it is best to use it up quickly.
Always defrost ricotta cheese in the fridge; this may take a long time depending on the size of the portion, but it is the most food safe method for defrosting any product.
If you notice that your ricotta cheese has started to smell ‘off’ or if you can see any mold spots developing on it, it’s time to toss the cheese and get fresh.