Having a lasagna in the freezer makes you feel great, because you know you have a special occasion meal at the ready. And in most cases, you can’t even taste the difference between a previously frozen casserole and one that was made on the spot!
So why not work it to your advantage? Everything we say here goes for lasagna and most any other casserole. This whole process is very adaptable. Think of it as a choose-your-own-adventure in meal prep!
Can You Freeze Cooked Lasagna?
Yes! In fact, you can freeze most casseroles unbaked, or bake them first, then freeze.
Why choose one over the other? Convenience, mainly. You might have time to put a casserole together, but not time to bake and cool it. In that case, freeze it unbaked.
The advantage of baking and cooling lasagna or other casseroles before freezing is how it cuts down on oven time the day or serving. You’re essentially reheating the frozen casserole, which shaves valuable minutes off the baking you need to do to serve it.
Two very important notes: Don’t freeze raw meat in uncooked casseroles. For food safety, you want it to be cooked first. And always cool baked casseroles completely before freezing them.
Do You Need to Thaw Frozen Lasagna Before Baking?
It’s not necessary to thaw a frozen lasagna or casserole before heating it. A benefit of thawing first is that it cuts down on the time the casserole takes to bake. As a rule of thumb, a frozen casserole baked at 350°F will take twice as much time as a thawed one.
If you choose to thaw your casserole to save time on baking, do it overnight in the fridge, and not on the counter at room temperature.
What Kind of Bakeware is Safe for Freezing Casseroles?
Metal and ceramic are the best materials for freezing. You can use sturdy pans or disposable foil ones. If using foil pans, keep a tray under the casserole for support until it’s frozen solid. This will prevent the pan from buckling under the weight of heavier lasagnas or casseroles.
Avoid freezing glass dishes. The temperature shock from a chilly freezer to a blazing-hot oven can shock glass dishes (such as Pyrex) and cause them to shatter or crack. “Oh, but I’ve done it a hundred times and not had an issue,” you may be thinking. I thought the same thing, too, until it happened to me. Not only is it startling; you lose a dish and your dinner. Best to play it safe and stick to ceramic or metal.
One 9 x 13-inch pan equals two 8 x 8-inch pans. If you don’t have a ton of mouths to feed, consider spitting recipes for one 9 x 13 pan into two 8 x 8 pans. This route is especially good for households with eaters who don’t adore leftovers. An 8 x 8 pan also takes less time to heat for serving.
How to Wrap Casseroles for Freezing
In short: foil, foil, and more foil. Don’t skimp on the foil. A thorough job wrapping the casserole ensures it doesn’t get freezer burned. As a bonus, you can re-use the foil to protect the casserole from browning too much as it bakes.
I’m not a fan of wrapping lasagna and casseroles in plastic wrap, as it tends to stick to frozen sauces and isn’t oven-safe.
Be sure to label and date the dish.
Casseroles That Freeze Well
Most casseroles freeze beautifully. The exceptions are casseroles with sliced or cubed potatoes, which tend not to freeze well, and casseroles with cream unless that cream has been cooked in a flour-thickened sauce or mixed with eggs.
Mashed potatoes freeze quite because of the fat added, though, so Shepherd’s Pie is good to go!
Here are some of my favorite casseroles to freeze.
- Easy Shepherd’s Pie
- Chicken and Rice Casserole
- Turkey Black Bean Quinoa Bake
- Baked Ziti
- Classic Tuna Noodle Casserole
And some of the best lasagnas to freeze:
- Loaf Pan Lasagna
- Buffalo Chicken Lasagna
- Classic Lasagna
- Vegetarian Mushroom and Spinach Lasagna
- Three-Cheese Pesto Lasagna
For the least freezer-y results, try not to keep casseroles in the freezer for more than three months. I’ve pulled off six months, at the most, but even that was pushing my luck.
How to Bake Frozen Lasagna and Casseroles
Use a moderate oven temperature for frozen casseroles. This heats them up gradually so the corners don’t get overdone while the center is still cold.
1. Set the oven to 350°F.
2. Loosely cover the pan with foil (you can use some of the foil you wrapped the pan with) and place in the oven. It’s okay to put a fully frozen casserole in the cold oven as it heats.
3. Bake as long as the recipe directs, then add at least 15 minutes of additional baking time. A thawed frozen dish will take less time than one straight from the freezer.
4. Check on the casserole halfway through baking time. To get the top nice and brown, you may want to remove the foil.
5. The lasagna or casserole is ready when an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center of the casserole reads 160°F. What about it you don’t have a thermometer? Look for cheese or sauce that’s bubbling (a pre-baked one might not bubble, though). When in doubt, take a peek into the center of the casserole to check that it’s good and hot.
There's no magic formula for how long it’ll take to bake a frozen casserole. It’s simply ready when it’s ready.
To put this to the test, I made our massively crave-worthy baked ziti recipe (I call it the lazy woman’s lasagna) and froze it without baking first. I stuck it in a 350°F oven before it preheated. The 9 x 13 pan was still quite cold in the very center after more than an hour of baking, so I kept baking for another 20 minutes or so. I also needed to broil the top for a minute or so, because the cheese wasn’t melting as nicely as a freshly assembled casserole.
That didn’t deter anyone from having third helpings, but for the prettiest-looking casseroles, bake first, cool, and then freeze.
BONUS! My Favorite Tip for Freezing Casseroles
This one’s a game-changer, because it frees up your pans. Before assembling the casserole, line the pan well with heavy-duty foil, leaving a generous overhang on every side, then put your casserole together like normal. Freeze until set, then use the foil handles to lift the block of frozen casserole out of the dish. Wrap well and make a note on the foil of the pan size.
Then, when it’s time to bake, simply unwrap the casserole and pop it back in the pan.