When To Use Canned Vs Frozen Vs Fresh Strawberries

Strawberries are a sweet and tasty fruit that works well in everything from salad to dessert. You can find fresh strawberries in most mainstream grocery stores in the United States year-round, but there are also times when canned or frozen options work just as well — or better. While the texture, taste, and convenience of each kind vary, many people agree that strawberries are delicious in just about any form (count us in!).


Of course, there are times when the sweetness of frozen strawberries works for a particular recipe or the convenience of canned strawberries is needed. Both can be substituted for fresh berries, although they also have their own particular uses in certain applications. Fresh strawberries are typically believed to have the brightest flavor and best texture, although they can be hit or miss depending on your location, the time of year, and even their growing conditions. But when should you actually use each type of strawberry, from canned to frozen to fresh, and what makes them better for certain recipes?

When to use canned strawberries

Canned strawberries easily win for convenience. They're shelf-stable and can be stored for up to one year when made using at-home canning methods, but make sure to follow the use-by date when purchasing canned strawberries. If you have access to fresh strawberries during the summer, stock up and put some aside for the colder months by canning. This is a fantastic way to take advantage of a large crop of strawberries that you might not be able to eat before they go bad. (You can also freeze your fresh strawberry surplus, but we'll get there.) 


When making pie or cheesecake, canned strawberries are the perfect choice. They have a softer texture than fresh strawberries and often have a sweeter taste that works well with desserts. However, a quick warning: Canned strawberries, strawberry preserves, and strawberry pie filling are similar and typically found in the same section at the grocery store — just make sure to pay close attention to the cans' labels so you pick up exactly what you need.

When to use frozen strawberries

Frozen strawberries are also convenient, and once they're defrosted, they often have a texture that's similar to fresh strawberries. Frozen strawberries vs. canned strawberries is a toss-up because both allow you to eat strawberries, even when they aren't in season or local. Frozen tend to have a firmer texture, while canned are a bit sweeter, but both taste delicious and summery, even when you're enjoying them in the winter months. The best option might come down to how much space you have for storage in your pantry vs. your freezer, especially since you can freeze your own summer berries to enjoy later. Depending on the time of year, this can even be more economical. Off-season berries are often more expensive and don't taste as good, while frozen strawberries are more consistent. 


But what should you make with this frozen fruit? For one, frozen strawberries work wonders in smoothies because they add a lot of flavor, nutrients, and an part silky, part icy texture, and once you begin using them, you'll realize they're a perfect strawberry hack you wish you knew sooner. Compared to fresh and canned strawberries, frozen are the clear winner for blended drinks and treats. You can add ice cream and blend them up to create the perfect strawberry milkshake or throw them in the blender with your frozen margarita mix — whatever drink your night calls for.

When to use fresh strawberries

Fresh strawberries have the firmest texture and the best flavor when they're ripe and juicy. They're easy to eat because they don't require any preparation beyond a quick cleanse. When they're in season, fresh strawberries are some of the most convenient, best-tasting, and firmest of the strawberry options. However, they're also the least consistent since texture and flavor both vary depending on the time of year and the weather. Plus, if you live in an area where strawberries don't grow naturally, any fresh berries you enjoy have to be shipped to you from an area with plenty of strawberries. Not only does this mean they have to be picked earlier and might not taste quite as sweet, but they can also be quite expensive and in short supply.


Despite their inconsistent availability, fresh strawberries are the perfect topping when you want a burst of sweet and tart flavor with a firm texture, and they pair well with nearly anything. They can be mixed into summery arugula salads, stewed in sauces, and put over ice cream or fro-yo as a beautifully balanced topping. Or, you can mix strawberries into parfaits or add them to casseroles for brunch. You can even eat strawberries on their own, directly from the plant. They're the ultimate choose-your-own-adventure type of strawberry.