Fresh Strawberries Vs Frozen: Which Are Better For Baking Cookies?

Sugary sweet with a touch of tartness, strawberries are a favorite of pastry chefs for use as a topping, filling, or even reduced down to a syrup for drizzling over their fresh-out-of-the-oven baking projects. But when you head to the grocery store in search of berries to bring home to pair with your own baked confections, you'll typically be presented with two options: fresh or frozen. 

Lots of people are stumped about which one to get. The quick answer is that you can use both fresh and frozen strawberries for baking cookies (and any other baked goods). Understandably, though, most people will naturally gravitate toward fresh strawberries. After all, "fresh is best," right? You're not wrong! It's true that fresh strawberries will give your cookies far superior flavor and texture.

However, it's important to know that fresh strawberries aren't the only choice when you want to whip up a batch of cookies. There are times when opting for frozen strawberries can actually be a better match for your baked goods. Here's how each kind of strawberry will fit into your homemade cookie recipes.

The case for using fresh strawberries in cookies

If you're lucky enough to select the perfect strawberries (ripe but not overly so and firm but not too hard), you'll not only enjoy their brighter flavor and natural juiciness but also their excellent texture — just firm enough to give a satisfying snap when you take a bite. Pair that with a good cookie recipe and you've got yourself quite a snack. However, as great as the idea of having fresh strawberries around all the time is, Martha Stewart noted on her website that, while fresh strawberries are available year-round, they only truly shine when they're in season. 

This is usually around June or February, depending on your climate and location. Off-season strawberries tend to be less sweet and more tart, with less-than-ideal textures. Plus, they don't last very long, and keeping strawberries fresh can be a challenge. They're only good for about a week in the fridge, which means you'll be constantly rushing to finish them all up before they spoil. These reasons make frozen strawberries a compelling alternative for many people, especially when fresh strawberries are out of season.

Where frozen strawberries come in

Let's talk about frozen strawberries. First, they offer incredible convenience. A bag of frozen strawberries, when stored properly in the freezer, can last for a year or even more without losing a hint of their fruity flavor. And since these frozen berries are picked at the peak of their ripeness and then immediately frozen, they should deliver nearly the same flavor as fresh ones. (Note that the flavor and texture of frozen strawberries can wane over time, so check the production date on the bag before you buy it.)

However, there are reasons why frozen strawberries aren't preferred over fresh. For one, their texture isn't great. According to a 2018 study published in the International Journal of Refrigeration, the freezing process wreaks havoc on the fruit's cellular structure. This is why every time you thaw them, they instantly turn mushy. Bad texture aside, frozen strawberries also taste sweeter because the cells damaged by the freezing process release all their sugar and juice – which can be problematic when baking.

You probably already know how crucial controlling moisture is when making cookies. Too much of it and the dough can turn damp and gluey. The surplus juice that frozen strawberries release can cause exactly this to happen to your strawberry dessert. Fortunately, you can mitigate it by rinsing off any ice flecks on the fruits' surface, which can add extra water. Then, give your cookies an extra five minutes in the oven to allow all that juice to cook off. While fixable, it's still inconvenient when compared to the simplicity of using fresh strawberries.