There are about as many versions of cheesy potatoes as there are cooks, but most recipes combine grated cheese, sour cream, condensed soup or other dairy products with potatoes for a rich, stick-to-your ribs side dish. The problem with freezing cheesy potatoes lies in the ingredients. Neither potatoes nor cheesy sauces freeze well. Try freezing a small container of cheesy potatoes first to see if you're happy with the results.
You can safely freeze almost any prepared food, including cheesy potatoes, by following a few simple guidelines. Freeze the casserole within two hours of preparing it, which reduces the risk of bacterial growth and foodborne illness. Store the casserole in a baking dish or an aluminum foil pan. Wrap it tightly with aluminum foil or plastic wrap and write the date on the package. Store the cheesy potatoes in a freezer set to 0 degrees Fahrenheit for up to four months.
Quality for Keeps
Although you can safely freeze cheesy potatoes before baking them, you might not be happy with the results. Potatoes tend to get soggy when they're frozen and may even darken slightly. Many dairy products, including cheese sauces, sour cream, cottage cheese and cream cheese, separate and become watery when frozen and thawed. Cooking may improve the taste and texture of a frozen cheesy potato casserole, but it won't be as good as if you made it fresh.
Heat Things Up
If you opt to freeze cheesy potatoes, thaw them in the refrigerator overnight or bake them frozen. Don't set the casserole on the kitchen countertop to thaw, which can encourage bacterial growth. Cover the casserole with aluminum foil and bake it at 375 F. or according to the recipe directions until the potatoes are tender and the cheese is bubbly and golden -- 40 minutes to one hour. Double that time if the potatoes were frozen. An instant thermometer inserted in the middle of the casserole should read 165 F.
For Best Results...
If you freeze cheesy potatoes, consider using frozen hash brown potatoes, rather than cut, fresh potatoes. The changes that occur in potatoes when frozen are less pronounced in small, grated pieces. Another option is to bake the cheesy potatoes up to three days ahead of time, cover them and store them in the refrigerator at 40 F. Baking the casserole ensures that the potatoes won't darken, but the fresh flavor remains. Heat the potatoes at 375 F for 40 minutes to one hour.
Julie Christensen is a food writer, caterer, and mom-chef. She's the creator of MarmaladeMom.org, dedicated to family fun and delicious food, and released a book titled "More Than Pot Roast: Fast, Fresh Slow Cooker Recipes."