10 uses for an ice cube tray that don’t involve water

Keep frozen carmelized onions, chocolate bites and more on hand in the freezer
Use your ice cube trays to reduce food waste and keep delicious ingredients like caramelized onions on hand. Shown are trays from Progressive International. (Chris Hunt/AJC staff)

Credit: Chris Hunt

Credit: Chris Hunt

Use your ice cube trays to reduce food waste and keep delicious ingredients like caramelized onions on hand. Shown are trays from Progressive International. (Chris Hunt/AJC staff)

Your ice cube tray can hold so much more than water! Ice cube trays provide uniform portions of ingredients that make your day — and your cooking — run smoother. And the small cubes quickly defrost when needed or are easily crushed in a blender.

Simply fill the tray with ingredients and freeze until solid. Pop the cubes out of the tray and store them in freezer-recommended plastic bags or containers. The contents will remain fresh for up to three months. Pro tip: Blue painter’s tape makes great freezer-tolerant labels.

To prevent staining or lingering odors, use dedicated ice cube trays for these recipes, or simply remove the cubes to plastic bags as soon as the cubes are frozen solid and clean the tray. There’s no need to oil or line the tray before filling.

In a perfect world, ice cube trays would all be the same size. The four in my freezer are each a different size but each slot generally holds about 1 ounce, which is equivalent to 2 tablespoons per cube. Four cubes equals roughly 1/2 cup. To determine the exact volume of your ice cube tray, fill it with water, then pour the water into a measuring cup. You can then adjust the recipes below to the size of your specific tray.

Here are 10 ways to put your ice cube trays to good use.

Caramelized onions

After investing 45 minutes at the stove for a skillet of golden goodness, keep that long-cooked flavor on hand to add to any quick weeknight dish with no trouble at all. A single cube of frozen caramelized onions makes a flavorful addition to sauteed vegetables while three or four cubes add substance to a soup or stew.

Ginger shots

For a money-saving and easy homemade shot, blend three (1-inch) pieces of ginger root and the juice of one lemon and one orange until smooth, about 60 seconds. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl, pressing the ginger with the back of a spoon to release all the juice possible. (Stir in enough water to make 12 ounces total in liquid volume.) Pour into an ice cube tray and freeze. Thaw individual cubes in a glass in the refrigerator, or add to a mug and pour in boiling water for a comforting beverage to treat a summer cold. Add a pinch of cayenne, mint leaves or a piece of turmeric root for variety.

Leftover broth

Once opened, broth stays fresh in the refrigerator for just a few days. Before it expires, pour into an ice cube tray and freeze. Use in stir-fries, add to a pot of rice while cooking, or toss one to the dog for a refreshing treat.

Smoothie bombs

Stir together yogurt and your fruit of choice, spoon into the ice cube tray and freeze. Pop a few into the blender in the morning along with your favorite add-ins. Blend until smooth.

Iced coffee and tea

Pour coffee or tea into an ice cube tray and freeze. Add cubes to a cup of cold tea or coffee for an iced beverage with maximum caffeine input.

Chocolate bites

Melt 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips and 2 tablespoons coconut oil in short spurts in a microwave oven, or over low heat on the stove, stirring until smooth. Add 1/3 cup chopped nuts, broken pretzel sticks, and/or dried fruit to an ice cube tray. Pour chocolate over fillings and stir with a toothpick to be sure chocolate reaches the bottom of the cube. Freeze until solid. Thaw briefly before serving.


Divide chopped herbs between sections of an ice cube tray and top with olive oil. Freeze until solid. Add to a warm skillet when sauteing vegetables, sauces, soups and stews. Got basil? Blend Parmesan cheese, olive oil and pine nuts together for pesto, then pour into an ice cube tray and freeze.

Diced canned tomatoes

Never waste the leftovers in the can again. Divide them into an ice cube tray and freeze. Use liberally in pots of soup, stews, vegetables, and so much more. This also works with chopped fresh tomatoes and tomato paste.

Coconut milk

Have a recipe that calls for just a portion of a can of coconut milk? Pour any remaining milk into an ice cube tray and freeze. Add to soups and smoothies.

Summer spritzer

Divide about 1 cup of mixed chopped fresh fruit among the slots of an ice cube tray. Top with white wine and freeze. When frozen, add to a glass and top with cold seltzer for a refreshing wine spritzer.

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