Fresh fruit is a nutritional all-star (when consumed in moderation): It’s packed with vitamins and nutrients, including fiber and anti-inflammatory polyphenols. And the good news is, frozen fruit boasts the same benefits. But knowing that that bag of blueberries buried at the bottom of your freezer is good for you and knowing what to do with the frozen fruit are two different things.
Here, nutrition experts share their favorite things to do with frozen fruit—spoiler alert: There’s nary a smoothie in sight.
First things first: To buy or DIY your frozen fruit?
The frozen foods section of your grocery store often gets a bad rap—the TV dinners and ice cream bars that reside there aren’t exactly known for their nutritional value. But frozen veggies and fruits are just as good for you as their fresh counterparts. “Packaged frozen fruit is usually picked at the height of its ripeness and then flash-frozen, which helps it maintain flavor and nutrient-density,” says Serena Poon, a certified nutritionist and chef. So go ahead and take a stroll down the freezer aisle (IRL or digitally) and toss a couple bags of frozen berries and bananas into your cart.
If you can swing it, though, Poon recommends buying the fruit fresh from the farmer’s market and then popping it into the freezer. This way you can support your local farmers and cut down on packaging and plastic.
If you’re planning on buying fresh fruit and freezing it yourself, there are some general guidelines Poon recommends keeping in mind.
- Buy ripe fruit for maximum flavor.
- Wash and dry berries, then put them in an airtight container and freeze.
- Store your fruit near the front of the freezer to prevent freezer burn, which will impact the fruit’s flavor and texture.
- Peel and cut fruits like bananas, peaches, and mangos before freezing.
- You can freeze citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, and limes in slices for things like garnish and infusions or as juice for use in smoothies and recipes.
- Avocado can be frozen whole seed and all.
What to do with frozen fruit, according to two nutrition experts
1. Make fruit compote
If you need a sweet topping for things like yogurt and pancakes, use frozen mixed berries to make fruit compote. “Berries are loved for their cardio-protective properties as they are a good source of fiber as well as anthocyanins,” says Maya Feller, MS, RD, CDN, of Brooklyn-based Maya Feller Nutrition.
Just add the frozen berries and a splash of orange juice (for extra sweetness) to a sauce pan and cook over medium heat (stirring occasionally) until it comes to a boil.
2. Have them as a snack
You might not think of snacking on frozen fruits the way you would an apple or clementine, but you totally can. The cool thing is you can have access to fruits that aren’t in season all year round. Feller is a fan of having frozen mangos on hand for snacking. “Mangos are incredibly nutrient-dense and supply over 20 different vitamins and minerals,” she says.
3. Add flavor to your water
If plain water makes you yawn, frozen fruit can help make it more enticing (and also make you feel like you’re at a spa). “Adding frozen fruit infuses the water and takes the flavor to the next level,” Feller says. The flavor possibilities are endless—think lemons, strawberries, cucumbers, kiwi, or mangos.
Poon adds that you can toss the frozen fruit into your water to keep it cool—no ice cubes needed.
4. Make ice cream
Yes, you can totally make healthy ice cream with frozen fruit. Poon recommends using banana or avocado (you can find a recipe for avo ice cream here). “These two options make a great dessert because it only contains the natural sugar from the fruit and will still satisfy a sweet tooth,” Poon says. “The texture is so similar to real ice cream; you might not even notice the difference.”
5. Mix up a vinaigrette
Next time you whip up a homemade salad dressing, consider adding frozen lemons or raspberries. “Mixing just a small amount of frozen fruit into your dressings adds freshness, a bit of sweetness, a ton of flavor, as well as some viscosity,” Poon says. “Pro tip: You can also freeze herb batches for easy use in your dressings.”
6. Make berry pancakes
“I add frozen berries to my pancake batter along with some crushed nuts,” Feller says. “The texture is fantastic with the contrast of crunchy nut and warm cooked berries.”
7. Make freezer fudge
Are you craving a healthy dessert? Poon recommends making some strawberry coconut freezer fudge. Start by throwing in 2 cups of frozen strawberries, 1/2 cup of almond butter, 1/3 cup of melted coconut oil, and 2 tablespoons of maple syrup into a blender or food processor until it’s smooth. Spread the mixture into a 9-inch pan and sprinkle some shredded coconut on top. Pop it in the freezer overnight and voila!