Yogurt is a fermented dairy product touted for its gut-boosting properties, high protein content, and natural tang (1).

Whether you’re looking to extend its shelf life or simply craving a nutritious summer treat, you may wonder whether you can freeze yogurt without compromising its quality.

This article explains whether you can freeze yogurt.

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You can store yogurt safely in the refrigerator in a closed container at 40°F (4°C) for 1–2 weeks (2, 3).

However, if you decide to store it in the freezer, you can extend its shelf life to 1–2 months (2).

You should take a few considerations into account when freezing yogurt, including yogurt’s active bacteria content and texture.

Do live and active bacteria survive freezing?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires that any yogurt includes milk and at least two specific strains of bacteria — Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus (4).

Some yogurt manufacturers boost these live and active cultures with additional strains, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacteria (5).

You may know these live and active cultures as probiotics. Regularly consuming probiotic-rich foods like yogurt may confer a host of health benefits, including enhanced immunity, improved digestive health, and lower cholesterol levels (1, 5, 6, 7).

Yogurt’s health-promoting live bacteria are thermophilic, which means that they thrive under optimal temperatures.

For yogurt’s probiotics, this range tends to hover above 98°F (37°C) and below 130°F (54°C). While they are killed at higher temperatures, they survive in your freezer for at least a few weeks (8, 9, 10).

One test-tube study looked at frozen yogurt made with two traditional bacteria strains — L. bulgaricus and S. thermophilus). After a 35-day freezing period, researchers found no significant decline in the amount of bacteria present in the yogurt (9).

Researchers suspect that the live bacteria simply lay dormant until the yogurt is thawed (9).

You also should take into account that certain added ingredients, such as fruit and grains, may be detrimental to the survival of bacterial strains (10).

Textural changes

The most notable difference between yogurt that has and hasn’t been frozen is its texture (8, 10).

Some yogurts may look noticeably thinner or grainer texture after freezing.

It isn’t unusual to see tiered layers as you thaw your yogurt. This is because freezing collapses the protein networks in yogurt. The process releases water that, when frozen, separates from the milk solids.

Thawed yogurt doesn’t make the smoothest sauces — so if you’re at all concerned about texture, save your thawed yogurt for a baking project or a smoothie.

summary

The health-boosting live and active bacteria found in yogurt survive freezing. The most discernible change is its texture, which is grainier or thinner after freezing.

Consider how you plan to use the yogurt after you freeze it.

Whether you plan to eat it on its own or use it as an ingredient in a recipe will determine the sort of yogurt that’s most suitable to your need.

Check for added stabilizers

If you’re planning to eat yogurt straight out of the container after freezing it, keep in mind that yogurts with added stabilizers will freeze best.

Look for ingredients like pectin (a fruit fiber), xanthan gum (a sugar), and gelatin (a protein), which prevent yogurt from separating in the freezing process. They do so by gelling, or lending a consistent structure to the proteins found in yogurt (11).

If your yogurt doesn’t have these stabilizers, be sure to stir your yogurt well with a clean spoon. This prevents the milk solids and water from separating as much as they would without doing so.

Then, label your yogurt and simply stick it in the freezer. If you’re using a container other than what you purchased it in, be sure it’s sanitized before storing it.

How to thaw yogurt

While it may make some sense to thaw your yogurt out on a countertop after freezing, it’s safer to thaw it in the refrigerator.

This helps ensure that the yogurt stays within a safe temperature range that inhibits unsafe bacteria from thriving (11, 12).

Ideally, you should place your frozen yogurt in the fridge the night before you plan to consume it. If you’re pressed for time, you can keep it on the counter for up to 2 hours. While this won’t fully thaw it, it can soften the yogurt.

If the yogurt was made from raw milk, don’t thaw it on the counter for any period of time. This is because yogurt made from raw milk may contain E. coli, which may cause disease or even death (13, 14).

Be sure to check the expiration date. Yogurt that has been frozen before its expiration date can still be eaten as long as you eat it immediately after thawing it.

Finally, always use your common sense. Discard any yogurt that smells off or has noticeable signs of microbial growth, such as black mold or a slimy film, regardless of whether it has passed its expiration date.

summary

Consider how you plan to use yogurt after you freeze it. If you’ll eat it straight from the container, look for products that incorporate a stabilizer, which will prevent separation. Thaw it in the fridge overnight, but toss anything that smells or looks off.

Yogurt is a popular, tasty, and versatile fermented dairy product. Its health-promoting properties are plentiful.

Yogurt’s live and active cultures survive the freezing process. Still, you should thaw it in the refrigerator overnight to ensure that it remains safe to eat.

Be sure to check for added stabilizers if you plan to eat it straight from its container, as yogurts without these tend to take on a grainy texture after freezing.

Most thawed yogurts are suitable for cooking or baking, regardless of whether they contain stabilizers.