I like make different curries and we also sometimes have a takeaway from our local curry house. The portions are very generous, so we quite often have some leftovers. Whilst I don’t mind having the same food two days running, it’s sometimes nice to freeze the rest of the curry and have it later in the month, when you really fancy having curry.
Over the years, I’ve frozen many types of curries – homemade curries, takeaways and even ready meals from supermarket.
Because there are many varieties of curry, it’s not always possible to give a definite answer, but I’ll do my best to guide you through how best to freeze your leftover curry.
Can you freeze curry? The quick answer
Yes, you can freeze most types of curry dishes for up to 1-3 months, but it very much depends on the ingredients you’ve used to make it. The frozen curry will keep for longer than 3 months in the freezer, but I try to use any frozen meat product within 3 months of freezing if possible.
You can safely freeze any type of curry including curry with meat, potatoes or mixed with rice, but you might get a slightly different consistency when you defrost them.
Since there are some variations on which type of curry is more suitable for freezing and which one is not, I’ve decided to share with you my favourite tips on how to freeze and safely defrost most types of curry dishes.
You can also safely freeze homemade curry sauces (or leftover curry sauce from a shop bought jar), marinated fresh meat prepared for making curries and cooked rice separately and then finish making your curry dish when you are ready to.
Why freeze curry?
Knowing that you can freeze curry is great because you can plan ahead and make a large batch of curry and then divide it into individual portions (or into 2 or 4 portions depending on your family), freeze it and then have your curry ready in next to no time!
You can also easily freeze any leftovers and make it into another dinner by adding more meat, rice or vegetables or serving the curry with more side dishes and more naan bread.
Types of curry not suitable for freezing
Curry with previously frozen ingredients (in large quantities)
If you’ve used any ingredient for your curry that was previously frozen (especially any meat), you shouldn’t re-freeze it again. Doing this increase the chances of any bacteria developing or the ingredient going off.
It also depends on what proportion of the total soup amount is made up of the frozen ingredient.
For example, if you use previously frozen potatoes, meat, seafood or vegetables, I really wouldn’t recommend freezing the curry afterwards again.
But if you’ve used a tablespoon of previously frozen herbs to add to your curry, it should be pretty safe to re-freeze it.
If you are having a curry takeaway and you are planning to freeze leftovers afterwards, do check with the restaurant whether their curry is suitable for freezing. I know that our curry house makes everything from fresh ingredients, but they do use previously frozen goat meat for goat curry.
If you are thinking of freezing shop bought ready made curry, then again check that it’s suitable for freezing (you should be able to see this information clearly on the package).
I sometimes buy extra curry meals, when they are reduced or on special offer, freeze them and then have them later. It’s a good way to stock up your freezer and save some money at the same time.
Curry with rice, that has been left out in the room temperature or even in the fridge for 1-3 or more days
Whilst it’s absolutely fine to freeze curry with rice on the same day as when you make it or buy it as a takeaway, it’s not a great idea to keep the curry in the room temperature during the day, then put it in the fridge and after few days decide to freeze it.
During that time, bacteria can start developing in the meat and especially rice and freezing the dish won’t help to preserve it. If you freeze already spoiled curry, then defrost it and eat it you can easily give yourself a mild case of food poisoning.
You can still probably eat such curry, but always taste it and check for any sights of spoiled meat or rice (colour changing, mould or bacteria growth).
Always make sure that you freeze any curry (with or without rice) on the same day as when you buy it or make it and freeze it straightaway after it has a chance to cool down.
Type of curry you need to be careful with when freezing
Curry with seafood or fish
Whilst you can freeze curry with seafood (such as shrimps), you need to make sure that the seafood wasn’t previously frozen.
Sometimes you might get shrimps or prawns in the fresh seafood counter, only to find out that they were previously frozen and then defrosted to be displayed or pre-packed. So, make sure you always check.
Make sure you label any seafood curry with a date label and eat it within the next 1-3 months. Seafood can get spoiled much quicker than other meats, so it’s best not to keep it for too long.
Curry mixed with rice, such as Biryani
I normally try to keep the curry from the side dishes, such as rice, because it’s easier to freeze separately. Whilst you can freeze curry with rice, the rice might become quite mushy when defrosted again.
Since most curries are made with various sauces (which will make the rice soft anyway), this is probably not going to be a problem, but I thought I’d mention it in case you want to freeze curries, such as Biryani, which is usually all mixed in with rice.
Any rice based curry should be also frozen on the same day as it’s made as rice can start developing harmful bacteria if not kept in the fridge (or frozen) once the dish cools down.
Curry with softer vegetables or potatoes such as Bombay aloo
Whilst it’s not a problem to freeze curry with softer vegetables or potatoes, you do need to bear in mind that when you defrost such dish, the vegetables might become even softer or disintegrate and turn slightly mushy.
I don’t see that as a particular problem but you do need to know that your dish will look slightly differently than when it’s freshly made.
One way to counteract that, is to make a fresh vegetables and add them to the heated up (previously frozen) curry dish, when you want to serve it. It’s still more convenient that making the whole dish from scratch.
What to expect when you freeze & defrost your curry
Depending on what type of curry you have, you might end up with a softer version when you defrost it. Softer vegetables can turn quite mushy when they are defrosted, especially if they are cut into small pieces.
Other than that, curries usually defrost really well and I’ve never had problems with re-heating them and eating them after they have been frozen.
You might also get some curries that seems to dry out when you defrost them, but I simply add a little bit of water, coconut milk or yoghurt (or whatever goes well with the curry flavour I have) when I’m re-heating the curry.
Some cream or yoghurt based curries (such as korma, pasanda, butter chicken or sagorana) can sometimes look split when you start heating them up. I simply add more cream, coconut milk or yoghurt and gently stir it in when I’m re-heating the curry.
How long does curry last in the freezer
Providing that you’ve carefully frozen your curry in a freezer suitable container (and your freezer is in a good condition and the temperature doesn’t fluctuate), your curry should be fine in the freezer for 3-6 months.
Whilst I do like to freeze my curry, I usually try to eat them within 3 months especially if they have any dairy in them (or meat). I don’t like to keep them in the freezer indefinitely.
If you are super organised, you should label our freezer containers with the date, so that you know when to take the curry out and rotate your frozen food stock a little.
It’s easy to forget how long the containers are in the freezer especially if you can’t see exactly what they are and when they were frozen.
How to freeze curry safely
Plan ahead by choosing your ingredients carefully
If you are planning to freeze your curry in advance make your curry using only fresh ingredients (ie. not ingredients that were previously frozen).
If you are buying your curry from a takeaway place or in the supermarket, check that the curry is suitable for freezing in the first place.
If possible try to keep the rice side dishes separately from the main curry dish, so that you can freeze them and defrost them safely.
You won’t be able to do this with dishes such as Biryani, but make sure that you cool down the rice based curries as quickly as possible, freeze them straightaway and then defrost them and re-heat as quickly as you can (e.i. I wouldn’t advise defrosting Biryani in the room temperature over a course of a day).
Cool down the curry properly
When you are ready to freeze the curry, first leave the curry to cool down at room temperature properly.
You can speed up this process by spreading the curry dish in a shallow dish and moving it around the kitchen to cool down quicker. Placing the curry dish on a cold surface also helps (such as cold marble chopping board).
Divide your curry into portions
Plan ahead and divide the curry into portions based on your family size or how many people you want to serve it too later on.
Make sure that you leave a bit of space on the top of your curry (ie. don’t fill the whole container to the top) as the curry can expand slightly when it is frozen.
Secure the container lid
Always use a lid for your container to prevent your curry from drying out and keeping all the flavours in. Curries are usually very strong flavour wise and you don’t want everything in your freezer to smell like your curry!
Label the container
Attach a label and write the curry flavour name and today’s date to make sure you don’t forget what’s inside the container. Once frozen, it’s really difficult to tell what type of curry it’s inside!
This is especially useful if you freeze very hot curries, such as vindaaloo along with mild curries such as korma, chicken tikka masala or butter chicken. You really want to know which one is which, when it comes to de-frosting them!
Freeze your curry
Place the container at the bottom of your freezer for a faster freezing time. The quicker the curry freezes the more safer it will be frozen for longer period of time.
To make sure that the curry freezes well, move avay some of the other frozen food items from the freezer container to another part (I usually use the bottom shelf of my freezer for fast freezing and move the food container to the top shelf once frozen).
Making space around the new – unfrozen food – container ensures that the cold air can circulate around the container and that previously frozen food doesn’t get warm from the unfrozen container. All of this helps to cool down and freeze the curry faster and safer.
What containers are best for freezing curry?
- Strong plastic beaker container or soup containers with a lid for individual portions
- Large thick plastic container suitable for the freezer (and microwave if you wish)
You can also use strong freeze bags if you don’t have anything else, but make sure that you either double or triple up the bags or place them in some other plastic container.
All curries have a very strong flavours (even the mild types of curries), which seems to intensify as you freeze them. This means that the flavours and smells do get through any softer and thinner types of packaging or containers.
I always use the strongest, thickest plastic containers I have and keep the curries away from any pastry, bread or cakes that I might have the freezer, that could easily pick up the curry flavour.
I usually have one box/compartment for meat meals and that’s where I keep my frozen curry.
If you are freezing curries often, I’d also suggest to keep a few strong plastic containers just for curries.
This is because, no matter how carefully you wash the containers, they get tainted with colour and flavour from the curries (especially anything with yellow curry spices), and it’s nearly impossible to keep them completely oudor-free.
How to defrost & heat up your curry
Defrosting curry in the fridge
The easiest thing is to take out the frozen curry from the freezer the night before you need it and leave it to defrost in the fridge overnight (still in the closed container to prevent any strong flavours infusing the rest of your food in the fridge). Depending on how big your container is the defrosting can take anything from 4-8 hrs.
Once the curry is fully defrosted in the fridge, transfer it to a suitable saucepan and heat it on a hob or heat it up in the microwave.
Defrosting curry in the room temperature
You need to be a little bit careful with this method, because the longer you leave the curry in the room temperature and it goes beyond defrosted, the higher the chances are that the curry will start to develop harmful bacteria growth. This is especially important if you have curry with seafood or meat.
Defrosting curry in microwave
This method is quick and easy and you don’t need to think about defrosting the curry the night before.
Most modern microwaves have a ‘defrost’ setting, so I’d suggest to use that first and defrost the curry fully.
Stir the container to make sure it’s fully defrosted before switching to the heating setting and heat up your curry on a full power for 3-6 minutes depending on the size. Stir every couple of minutes to make sure that the curry is heating up evenly.
If you don’t have a defrost setting on your microwave, you can – very carefully – use the regular setting. In this case, I’d recommend to place the curry to the microwave for only 20-30 seconds at a time (depending on the size of your container and the curry portion) and stir it in the container to distribute the heat before putting it back to the microwave.
Quick way of defrosting and heating curry on a cooker
If you don’t have a microwave or don’t want to use one, you can also re-heat your curry on a hob or a cooker in a suitable saucepan.
If you are in a hurry you can loosen out the frozen curry from the freezer container and place it frozen in the saucepan with a little bit of water.
Leave the saucepan or stock pot on a very low and use lid to keep the heat inside the pan. This will defrost the curry. Once the curry has thawed, increase the heat and carry on heating for 10 minutes or until the curry is heated through and hot.
Add more water or coconut milk (or whatever liquid is suitable for your flavour of your curry) if you see that the curry is too thick.
Can you re-freeze curry?
If you’ve made a mistake and took out the wrong container and didn’t mean to take out the curry, you can put it back to the freezer as along as it it’s not completely defrosted.
Other than this, you really shouldn’t re-freeze curry if you’ve already left it to defrost or even heated it up.
This is because every time you change the temperature from cold to hot the food and back again, you might encourage harmful bacteria developing and potentially causing you an upset stomach.