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Can you freeze food in glass jars?

I get this question so often, I wanted to put the answer in its own post.

In short:

Yes! You can freeze food in glass jars!

I have done it somewhere around 8935 times, and it’s been just fine unless I’ve dropped the glass jar. Which is a me problem, not a freezing-food-in-glass-jars problem.

glass mason jar of tomato sauce.

 

I know we are all rather terrified of causing glass breakage…that’s a messy problem, and it also results in food waste because WHO is going to try to eat food that might have glass shards in it?

(Not me! I might hate food waste, but I hate chewing on glass even more.)

But you really do not need to be terrified. It is not as if glass magically explodes once it hits the cold air.

What makes jars break in the freezer? A lack of headspace

Freezer breakage typically happens when you do not leave sufficient space for the food to expand.

If you’re freezing something like nuts, seeds, or flour, then of course this is not a problem; those things don’t expand much at all when they’re frozen.

fruit frozen in glass mason jar.

But if your jar contents are water-based, then they’re definitely going to expand.

And if you have a tight lid on a full jar, when the contents expand too far, they will indeed push right through the glass.

chia seeds in a mason jar.

Even a very full jar of chia seeds wouldn’t need headspace in the freezer

If the water-based contents can’t go up, they will go out.

Isn’t that kind of crazy to think about? That these tiny water molecules become so strong when they freeze, that they can actually break glass?

It kind of reminds me of how weeds can push through asphalt or concrete.

Anyway!

To fix this….

Leave sufficient headspace!

(Headspace = the amount of room between the food and the lid of the jar.)

Jam frozen in glass jars

I err on the side of caution when it comes to this, and if you are new to freezing food, you probably should too! It’s always better to leave a little extra room while you’re learning how much food expands during the freezer process.

Four Mason jars of blueberry jam.

This would be WAY too little headspace for freezing!

If you are really nervous, you can always freeze the jars without the lids and then screw the lids on later. That will ensure the food has plenty of room to expand upward.

Do you need to use wide-mouth jars?

Ball does make wide-mouth jars that are labeled specifically for freezing. I think the shape of them is a little better because there’s no neck and the food can seamlessly expand upward and slightly outward.

ball plastic lids for yogurt jars

that front yogurt jar is a wide-mouth Mason jar

BUT.

I have frozen food plenty of times in standard Ball jars, and it’s been fine.

Do you need specific lids for freezing in glass jars?

Nope! You can use (and reuse) the usual metal lids and metal bands.

Since those are prone to rust, I’ve also used Ball’s plastic screw-on lids (mine are the older white style, but this is their current style.)

A lot of off-brand lids are available as well, but since I haven’t tried them, I can’t vouch for how long-lasting they are. I can tell you my plastic Ball lids have lasted for years.

Also, you know how the grated Parmesan lids work on standard-mouth jars? I’ve frozen those plenty of times too and they’ve been fine.

Parmesan lids on two glass Mason jars.

Can you freeze glass tomato sauce jars from the store?

This is probably the most common food-freezing question I get and my answer is yes.

These jars are not quite as heavy-duty as actual canning jars, so you might want to be slightly more careful with them.

But I’ve frozen food in them plenty of times and it’s been fine as long as I leave sufficient headspace.

This is super duper handy if you have only used half a jar of tomato sauce and you know you won’t use the rest in time. Just throw the whole thing in the freezer!

As an added benefit, you will never wonder, “Hmm, what is this mysterious container of red frozen stuff?” because the jar’s original label will tell you!

empty sun dried tomato jar.

Remember how I froze roasted red peppers in this jar, and I totally thought they were sun-dried tomatoes? Whoops.

Once you’ve used the tomato sauce, you can save the jar and the lid for future use; I use mine to freeze food and I also sometimes use them when I make yogurt.

Also, some tomato sauce jar lids screw right onto standard Mason jars so those are super handy to keep around!

How do you thaw food in glass jars?

I just take the jars out of the freezer and let them thaw on my countertop or in the fridge.

I do know that glass does not like sudden temperature changes, so you wouldn’t want to put a frozen jar into a hot oven or something!

And I wouldn’t be brave enough to run a frozen jar under hot water.

But going from the freezer to room temperature has never posed a problem for me.

What kind of foods do you freeze in glass jars?

I typically freeze:

  • homemade broth
  • homemade applesauce
  • homemade freezer jam
  • soups
  • extra spaghetti sauce

Relatedly, my “try it and see how it goes” philosophy is helpful for freezing foods. If you wonder whether a food item can be frozen, or how it will be when it thaws, try it with a small test sample!

Then you’ll know for the future.

________________

If you have any other freezing-in-glass questions (or cautionary tales), do share.

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Ginger

Wednesday 15th of November 2023

yes, I know I'm commenting 2 months in the future, but I just found your blog and am reading backlogs! silly question when freezing apple sauce do you have to "can" it first? or can you just slap it in there and freeze?

Kristen

Friday 24th of November 2023

I just freeze it! As long as you leave enough headspace, you can even use glass jars.

Louise Torres

Tuesday 19th of September 2023

I have found that standard plastic mayonnaise jar lids fit my standard jars well. Free lids!

Meeghan

Thursday 14th of September 2023

I have had no problems freezing pint/half pint mason jars that have been purchased in the last 20 years.

I have had loads of problems freezing Ball/Kerr quart mason jars passed down to me by my MIL, who got them from her mother. I have no idea how old those jars are (they are clear glass, not the blue vintage ones). I suspect those older jars were not made of tempered glass. Because despite respecting head space and cooling in the fridge first, they have consistently cracked down the sides.

Hilde

Thursday 14th of September 2023

I have been freezing food in glass jars for ages. One way to thaw it more quickly is to put it in a bowl with cold water. I know it sounds funny, but it works. Hilde in Germany

Regina

Thursday 14th of September 2023

I've been freezing in glass & plastic for decades but have gotten away from plastic in last 5 years because of concern of so much micro plastics in food because most food in some kind of plastic. I do use mostly wide mouth glass jars because it is easier to put food in without mess because of wider opening. I also use various sized jars. & never stack more than 2 jars high---no need to temp anything. I have broken plastic jars/containers & glass jars both. I have been at fault which I try very hard not to do, but it happens. I got to the point of putting leftovers in freezer for future meals in glass jars. In my experience I let the found that you need to let jars cool for a while before attempting to put into freezer. I do leave frozen jars on counter/stove top for few hours to defrost or at least 1 hour before partially defrosting in microwave.

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