Have you ever thought about freezing gumbo? This versatile dish from South of America is the ultimate comfort food and so easy to make.
If you, like me, get often carried away with making way too much and don’t want to waste any leftovers, you might like to know if it’s possible to freeze gumbo.
Because of the way gumbo is made – starting with flour, oil, seasoning and then adding various ingredients such as rice, sausages, vegetables, potatoes, seafood – 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 gumbo.
Can you freeze gumbo? The quick answer
Yes, you can freeze most types of gumbo for up to 3-6 months, but it very much depends on the ingredients you’ve used to make it.
Since it’s not that straightforward to know when it’s safe to freeze gumbo and when it’s not, I’ve decided to share with you my favourite tips on how to freeze and safely defrost most types of gumbo.
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Why freeze gumbo?
Knowing that you can freeze gumbo is great because you can plan ahead and make a large batch of gumbo and then divide it into individual portions (or into 2 or 4 portions depending on your family), freeze it and then have your gumbo ready in next to no time!
You can also easily freeze any leftovers and make it into another dinner by adding more meat, sausages, rice or vegetables.
Types of gumbo not suitable for freezing
Gumbo with previously frozen ingredients (in large quantities)
If you’ve used any ingredient for your gumbo that was previously frozen, 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 gumbo afterwards again.
But if you’ve used a tablespoon of previously frozen herbs to add to your gumbo, it should be pretty safe to re-freeze it.
Type of gumbo you need to be careful with when freezing
Gumbo with seafood
Whilst you can freeze gumbo 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 gumbo with 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.
Gumbo with eggs
If practical, take out the eggs from gumbo and freeze the rest.
Eggs can sometimes go rubbery when frozen and then defrosted, so depending on how many you added in, you might like to make some fresh ones when you defrost the gumbo again.
Gumbo with rice
Whilst you can freeze gumbo with rice, the rice can become quite mushy when defrosted again. As long as you are OK with this, it’s not a problem to freeze rice gumbo.
If you can separate the rice from the rest of the gumbo, you can also freeze and re-heat them separately to make the mixture less mushy.
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What to expect when you freeze & defrost your gumbo
Depending on what type of gumbo you have, you might have a slightly softer version when you defrost it. Softer vegetables, such as potatoes, leeks can turn quite mushy when they are defrosted, especially if they are cut into small pieces.
The flour in gumbo might also be slightly thicker when defrosted, so you might need to add more liquid to your gumbo as you are re-heating it. You can use water, various soup stocks or cream if you wish.
You can easily add more vegetables in to bulk up the dish, including previously frozen courgettes or potatoes.
How long does gumbo last in the freezer
Providing that you’ve carefully frozen your gumbo in a freezer suitable container (and your freezer is in a good condition and the temperature doesn’t fluctuate), your gumbo should be fine in the freezer for 3-6 months.
Whilst I do like to freeze my gumbo, I usually try to eat it 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 gumbo 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.
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How to freeze gumbo safely
Plan ahead by choosing your ingredients carefully
If you are planning to freeze your gumbo in advance make your gumbo using only fresh ingredients (ie. not ingredients that were previously frozen) and stay clear of seafood or eggs.
You can add them to the gumbo when you defrost it and it will be much better (and tastier) than freezing them together.
Cool down the gumbo properly
Leave the gumbo to cool down at room temperature.
Divide gumbo into portions
Plan ahead and divide the gumbo into portions based on your family size.
Make sure that you leave a bit of space on the top of your gumbo (ie. don’t fill the whole container to the top) as the gumbo can expand slightly when it is frozen.
Secure the container lid
Always use a lid for your container to prevent your gumbo from drying out or absorbing any flavour from the rest of the freezer.
Label the container
Attach a label and write the gumbo 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 food it’s inside!
Freeze the gumbo
Place the container at the bottom of your freezer for a faster freezing time. The quicker the gumbo freezes the more safer it will be frozen for longer period of time.
To make sure that the gumbo 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 gumbo faster and safer.
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What containers are best for freezing gumbo?
- Plastic beaker container or soup containers with a lid for individual portions
- Large plastic container suitable for the freezer (and microwave if you wish)
- Strong plastic freezer bag with zip lock (for individual portions)
How to defrost & heat up your gumbo
Defrosting gumbo in the fridge
The easiest thing is to take out the frozen gumbo from the freezer the night before you need it and leave it to defrost in the fridge overnight (still in the closed container).
Depending on how big container you are trying to defrost, this can take anything from 4-8 hrs.
Once the gumbo 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 gumbo in the room temperature
You need to be a little bit careful with this method, because the longer you leave the gumbo in the room temperature and it goes beyond defrosted, the higher the chances are that the gumbo will start to develop harmful bacteria growth. This is especially important if you have gumbo with seafood or meat.
If you forget to take the gumbo out from the freezer the night before, you can also leave the gumbo out at room temperature to defrost. If you do that, make sure that you heat it up and eat it straight away when it’s defrosted, as it can go off if you don’t do that.
Defrosting gumbo in microwave
This method might leave your gumbo a bit mushy, especially if you have rice, seafood or soft vegetables as one of your ingredients.
If you are in a hurry, it’s still a good option as it’s fast and convenient. You can always add fresh ingredients to your gumbo for the extra colour and crunch.
If you have a microwave, you can also just take out the frozen gumbo and providing it’s already in a microwave suitable container, you can use the microwave’s ‘defrost setting’ to slowly warm up the gumbo.
When the gumbo is defrosted completely, increase the setting to high and heat up the gumbo for 5-6 minutes, depending on quantity and the type of ingredients (for example any gumbo with sausages or meat will take longer than vegetable style gumbo).
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 gumbo to the microwave for only 5-10 seconds at a time and stir it in the container to distribute the heat before putting it back to the microwave.
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Quick way of defrosting and heating gumbo on a cooker
If you don’t have a microwave or don’t want to use one, you can also re-heat your gumbo on a hob or a cooker in a suitable saucepan. If you are in a hurry you can loosen out the frozen gumbo from the freezer container and place it frozen in the saucepan with a little bit of water (depending on what type of thickener you’ve used to make your gumbo).
Leave the saucepan or stock pot on a very low and use lid to keep the heat inside the pan. This will defrost the gumbo. Once the gumbo has thawed, increase the heat and carry on heating for 10 minutes or until the gumbo is heated through and hot.
Can you re-freeze gumbo?
If you’ve made a mistake and took out the wrong container and didn’t mean to take out the gumbo, you can put it back to the freezer as along as it it’s not completely defrosted.
Other that this, you really shouldn’t re-freeze gumbo 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.