7 clever uses for an ice cube tray

An ice cube tray on a chopping board
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Most people have an ice cube tray or two hanging around the kitchen, but rarely do we give a second thought to how we use them. Nevertheless, the humble ice cube tray is robust enough to withstand the cold temperatures of your freezer, and easy to clean in one of the best dishwashers, meaning these simple trays are actually pretty sturdy and well suited to a variety of uses.

The range of different ice cube trays is quite impressive, even simple square ice cube trays come in a wide variety of sizes. Plus there’s a staggering amount of fun and novelty shaped ice cube trays to choose from. 

Many ice cube trays are now made of silicone and this flexible material makes it easy to pop out anything that you decide to put into the tray. So if you no longer use your ice cube trays for ice, or if you’ve got some spares cluttering up your kitchen, here are some great ways you can use them…

1. Freeze ingredients

Ice cube tray frozen ingredients

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Freezing ingredients for later use works both in an effort to curb food waste, but also makes life easier when you’re cooking. Having small easy-to-use portions of flavorful butters, pastes and herbs ready to use straight from the freezer, makes weeknight cooking a breeze and means fewer last-minute trips to the grocery store.

Most herbs freeze well, simply chop, add to your ice cube tray and top up with oil. No need to defrost before using, just add it straight to your hot skillet or pot. Similarly you could make herb or garlic butters and freeze into cubes. 

Leftover red wine won’t last long in the bottle, so before it goes bad, freeze in an ice cube tray and then next time you need a splash of red wine for a recipe, you don’t need to open a whole bottle.

Making cooking pastes like curry paste or pesto can be quite time consuming, so make a double batch and freeze in ice cube trays for a quick and easy flavor punch to add to a meal. Stocks, broths, and pasta sauce freeze well and are handy to have portioned up in your freezer. 

2. Make tiny desserts

Ice cube tray chocolate dessert

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Bite-size desserts are great for both adults and childrens parties, they look cute on platters, especially when you use fun shaped ice cube trays. It’s best to use silicone ice cube trays for this, as the desserts will be easier to remove. And depending on what you’re making, you may also need to lightly oil the tray too.

There are loads of desserts and sweet treats you can make in these tiny bite-size portions - basically anything that doesn’t need oven baking. We’re thinking peanut butter cups, mini no-bake cheesecake bites, mini chocolate bark or rocky road portions, homemade candy treats or chocolates. 

But avoid anything soft and spoonable like chocolate mousse or lemon parfait as you won’t be able to get them out of the ice cube tray without them turning into a pile of mush - they’re best served in shot glasses instead.

3. Make homemade baby food

Ice cube tray baby food

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If you’ve got a good blender, making homemade baby food is quick and easy, plus it means you can avoid all the preservatives and additives in store bought baby foods. Most people combine various fruits and vegetables into blends and freeze in single-serve portions. But if you cook and liquidize fruits and vegetables separately, then freeze in ice cube trays it’s easy to create a different flavor meal every time.

Simply fill an ice cube tray with a cooked and blended fruit or vegetable of your choice and then transfer to a freezer bag once frozen. Do this with a variety of fruits and vegetables. Then, when it’s time for dinner you can combine a few different ice cubes into a meal and reheat. For example you might add a cube of blended apple to a sweet potato cube and a broccoli cube. Then, for the next meal, maybe you pull out a cube of carrot and add that to a cube of spinach and another cube of pumpkin.  It’s quick, simple and gives your baby lots of variety.

Check out these 11 things you should never put in a blender. 

4. Organize jewelry or craft supplies 

Jewellery on a table

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Ice cube trays are simply sectioned plastic trays, which means they make great mini organizers that you can slot into drawers. 

Crafters can use ice cube trays to organize and store small craft supplies like buttons, beads, and sequins. Or if DIY is more your style, then use an ice cube tray to separate small items of hardware such as nails, screws, and hooks.

If you haven't gone paper-free and you still have office stationery supplies like pins, paperclips and staples cluttering your desk. An ice cube tray is the perfect stationary organizer.

Or, to keep rings, earrings, chains separated and easy to see, an ice cube tray can make a good substitute for a jewelry box. You can read more tips on storing jewelry here.

5. Make flavored or fancy ice cubes 

Fancy ice cubes containing fruit

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Move over standard ice cubes, it’s time to elevate the ice you put in your drink, plus it’s a great way to use things up. If you’ve got lemons and limes that are past their best, juice them and freeze into zingy citrus ice cubes that you can add to anything from plain water to a gin and tonic.

Similarly, freezing leftover coffee means that next time you make an iced coffee, it won’t get watered down as the ice melts. You can also freeze leftover fruit juice, it works great in a cocktail or mocktail.

If you want to get really fancy, adding pieces of fruit or even edible flowers to ice cubes makes for a pretty addition to any drink, and it’s sure to impress your friends.

6. Use for paint 

Ice cube tray paints

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Instead of letting your children loose with a big bottle of paint, that could potentially result in a messy accident, fill an ice cube tray with a variety of colors. Not only will this limit the potential destruction, but if you leave a couple of slots free they can use these to mix new colors. 

But painting isn’t just for children, adult artists can use an ice cube tray as a makeshift paint palette too. What’s more, if it’s an ice cube tray with a good lid, you can make use of the lid to stop the paint drying out when it’s time to break for a coffee.

Just in case you do have a paint spill to deal with, here are our tips on how to get paint out of your carpet.

7. Use as a mold

Ice cube tray used for creative painting

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Plenty of crafts require a mold and silicone ice cube trays now come in an array of fun shapes from hearts to roses and even unexpected shapes like astronauts and skulls.

So whether you’re making homemade bath bombs, seed bombs, or fat balls to hang out for the birds, an ice cube tray will work as a good mold. And because the silicone is soft and pliable, it’ll be easy to remove your creation.

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Helen McCue

Helen started reviewing home and kitchen appliances in 2007 at the Good Housekeeping Institute and has never looked back. She’s now freelance and reviews all sorts of appliances from her home in a pretty village in the UK. Despite having reviewed hundreds of coffee machines in her time, she’s only recently developed a love for coffee and a daily coffee habit, which makes tasting all those coffees much more enjoyable!