Successfully Freezing Homemade Soup

slow-cooker-pork-chili_0There’s nothing like homemade soups and stews to enjoy during the fall and winter months. Soups and stews are also great ‘prepare ahead’ foods to freeze and enjoy at a later time when a quick meal is needed, relieve stress during the holidays, or share with elderly parents, neighbors, or college students.  While freezing is a great convenience, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Recipe.  Freezing will not improve the texture, flavor, or quality of food. It simply preserves food quality by stopping microbial growth.  Which brings us to the question, “will all soups freeze satisfactorily to assure a good product later?”  Most soup recipes can be used for freezing but one should check the listing at the National Center for Home Food Preservation for ingredients that do not freeze successfully.  Vegetable and meat based soups generally freeze very well; however, potatoes and pasta may need special consideration.    Joy of Cooking advises to add freshly cooked potatoes or pasta just before serving if a soup or chowder calls for such OR to undercook the potatoes/pasta if they will be part of the frozen soup.   Dairy-based soups and chowders can be frozen, too, but the outcome is not always as predictable as they tend to separate slightly when thawed and reheated.   This can typically be fixed by whisking in a little additional milk or cream or by stabilizing the cream with a slurry of arrowroot or potato power and water.  An immersion blender can be used to mix together a dairy-based soup that has separated. Using a modified starch suitable for low temperatures such as ThermFlow® or tapioca flour will help prevent separation of a thickened soup; Joy of Cooking suggests substituting 1 tablespoon tapioca flour for 2 ½ tablespoons all-purpose flour for 1 cup liquid.
  • Cooling.  After preparing your soup, it must be cooled quickly to prevent a foodborne illness. Soup should cool from 140 degrees to 70 degrees in two hours or less and from 70 degrees to 40 degrees in four hours or less.  The University of Minnesota (Cooling Soup Safely) offers some great tips to cool soup safely such as placing the kettle in an ice bath, using shallow pans, dividing into smaller batches, and stirring to hasten cooling.   Regardless of method used, it’s most important to get the soup cooled by whatever method works best for you to get the temperature down as quickly as possible.
  • Packaging.  Once the soup is cooled, packaging appropriately becomes the next step.  How you intend to use the soup later, will dictate how you will package it.  If you want to freeze a large quantity, freezer bags with a zipper lock work very well and save space in your freezer because they are stackable after they have been laid flat and had time to freeze solid.  For individual servings, smaller freezer bags can be used.  Some of the plastic containers made by Ziplock® or Rubbermaid® work very well, too.  These kind of containers come in all shapes and sizes, each with a unique ability to seal, lock, stack, nest and are sturdy enough to travel with ease which is especially good if the soup is to be transported to and used by an older adult or college student. ½ – 1 cup is considered a snack size portion and 2 cups is a meal portion.
  • Freezing.  Always remove as much air as possible as you close the bag or container and leave ½ inch of headspace for pint-size- and 1 inch for quart-size-containers.  Clearly label each package with the name of the food, ingredients, packaging date, and any special instructions.  This information can quickly be typed and printed on mailing labels and attached to the individual packages.   Prepared packages or containers should be placed in the coldest part of the freezer allowing for good air circulation around each container.  After the product is fully frozen, stack to save space.  Soups containing starches or starchy vegetables should be placed in the back of the freezer where the temperature remains more constant to prevent slight thawing allowing starchy ingredients to absorb moisture and get mushy.
  • Defrosting and Reheating. To retain the best flavor, dairy-based soups should be consumed within two months of freezing and broth-based within three months.  Soups kept longer than these suggested times are still safe to eat but the flavor begins to fade along with some freezer burn.  Soups should be thawed in the refrigerator overnight; or if it is defrosted in the microwave oven, it should be heated and eaten immediately.  Pour the defrosted soup into a saucepan to reheat on the stove top; heat to boiling on low heat gently stirring until it heats through. Or pour soup into a microwave-safe dish to reheat in the microwave, again stirring occasionally to heat more evenly.  If your recipe calls for the addition of cheese just before serving, omit that prior to freezing and add during reheating.  Even though you can freeze cheese on its own, it reheats at a different rate than the soup contents.

I hope you’ll enjoy having homemade soup on hand for a quick meal or to share as much as I do.

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Too many berries? Freeze a pie!

imageMy family loves pie! My son, who lives on the east coast, firmly believes you can’t find a pie there that equals what you can find in the Midwest. With berry season here, you may want to consider making some extra pies now to freeze for later use.

If freezing an UNBAKED filled pie, add an extra 1-2 Tablespoons flour or ½ Tablespoon cornstarch to compensate for the extra moisture that will exude while baking. Do not cut vents in the top of double crust pies before freezing. Wrap, label, and freeze for up to three months. Bake unthawed pies at 425 degrees 15 minutes, reduce heat to 375 degrees, and bake an additional 25-35 minutes. For easier clean-up, bake the pie on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

BAKED and filled double-crust pies may be frozen up to 6 months. Be sure to wrap them well and label them before freezing. When ready to eat the pie, loosen the wrapping, and thaw in the refrigerator. Warm thawed pies in a 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes. Cover the edges of the crust with foil to prevent burning if necessary.

I plan to freeze some pies for my son for the next time he comes home!image

Marcia Steed

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Home Economics Education. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and traveling.

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Help with Party Planning

Are you planning a graduation party, baby shower, or family reunion? At AnswerLine, we get many calls from people working on menus or other party ideas.  We are always glad to help you

Smorgasbord with a variety of choices
Smorgasbord with a variety of choices

with your planning

If you have someone graduating, It isn’t too early to start thinking about your celebration. At Iowa State University, graduation is scheduled for May 6 and 7.  High school graduation parties start in May and continue through early June.  If you are planning some sort of gathering of family or a party for friends and family, we are happy to help answer any questions.  We have lots of experience and resources that can help people know how much food will be needed for the celebration.  We also have almost any color punch recipe you could want to serve.

Some of the questions we answer often for party planners:

  • How much fruit do I need to buy to make fruit salad?
  • How many potatoes will I need for potato salad?
  • What size serving should I use for ______ food?
  • Do I have enough food on my menu for my party of ____ people?
  • How many servings do I need to feed _____ people?
  • What food can I make ahead?
  • How can I be sure not to run out of food?
  • How do I keep my food safe for 2-3 hours?


Please call us. We love to help!



Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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Graduation Party Planning

graduation cap

Spring is here and with spring come graduation parties.  One of the hardest parts of planning a party is trying to decide how much food you need to have.  You will want to have enough so you don’t run out of food, but not too much, especially if it is something that doesn’t keep well (like potato salad).  A rule of thumb that I tried to follow with my three kids was to have foods that could be easily frozen if we ended up having a lot of leftovers.

Planning a party starts with picking a date that works for you and your family.  If it is a popular date then there will probably be several other parties on that date as well.  That will impact the amount of food that you will need.  If your party is late in the day and there are several earlier parties the guests may not be as hungry when they get to your house.

Here are a few examples of foods and the approximate serving amounts needed per person and per 100 guests.

  • Sloppy joes or pulled pork – 1/3 cup meat will fill a hamburger bun (16-17 pounds for 100 people)
  • Coleslaw – 1/3 cup serving per person (9 quarts for 100 people)
  • Fresh fruit – 1/3 to ½ cup per person (9 to 10 quarts for 100 people)
  • Relish tray – 3-4 pieces per person (25 pieces per head of broccoli, 32 – 4” strips of celery from a      medium bunch, 36 – 4” strips of carrots in a pound, 30 pieces in small head of cauliflower)
  • Potato salad – ½ cup per serving (14 quarts for 100 people)
  • Punch – you can get 21 6 ounce glasses from a gallon (5 gallons for 100 people)
  • Sheet cake – you can get 96-64 slices per sheet cake depending on how you cut it

If you have a food and you would like to know how much that you might need, give us a call at AnswerLine.  We would be glad to help you with your party planning.

Beth Marrs

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Adult Home Economics Education. I love to cook and entertain and spend time with my family.

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