Whether you’re looking for dinner, sides or dessert, I’ve compiled a list of my very favorite delicious freezer meals and make ahead recipes. I’m also including some recipes that have great shelf life or using pantry staple ingredients that keep well. All these recipes are comforting meals that are easy to make and easy to freeze, but some also double as healthy. By being well prepared, we can actually limit our use of canned goods!
Considering the awful pandemic happening right now, we are all looking for comforting meals that are easy to make and easy to freeze. We are all so distracted, so I thought I'd share the recipes I would prepare for the difficult times ahead. I still want you to enjoy your time, so I'm including my fave freezer desserts as well.
I'm honestly not a fan of canned food or easy solutions that compromise flavor (if it doesn't then I'm definitely for it - like store bought puff pastry in these caramelized onion and apple puffs!). I do understand that these are the times to stock up on canned food, but before we do that, I'm just showing you your options. Keep reading to find my favorite freezer meals and make ahead recipes!
Perfect Make Ahead Freezer Meals: Dinners:
We need to start with the most important freezer meals, the main course, or dinner. There's the obvious soups, all soups are great for freezing. I like to freeze noodle soups without their noodles though, but that's ok since noodles have excellent shelf life!
1. All the Soups
If you're so lucky to have gotten your hands on some delicious, fresh tomatoes - this Roasted Herb Tomato Soup is THE thing to make! Roasting the tomatoes deepens the flavor and freezing the soup gives you opportunity to get the feel of fresh tomatoes any time. Pour into freezer friendly containers, leaving an inch up to the lid.
To reheat, you can do it in the microwave or on the stove.
Microwave: Expecting your freezer friendly container to also be microwave friendly, take the lid off and partially cover the container. Microwave on low in 2 minute blasts until the soup is mushy. Between each blast, take a wooden spoon and break up the soup, eventually stirring it. Once it's broken up, you can switch to high heat and continue with 2 minute blasts until it's piping hot.
Stove: Thaw the soup in the refrigerator overnight, then add to a casserole on medium low heat. Gently reheat until it's hot, about 10 minutes. You can reheat directly from frozen too, as long as you can get it out of the container. This takes much longer than in the microwave though!
Serve with dinner rolls.
I cannot stand heating chicken in the microwave, so I do NOT recommend using the microwave method for Thai Chicken Noodle Soup. The chicken will get rubbery. I would thaw this soup in the fridge, and then gently re-heat on the stovetop. Do not freeze with noodles, but cook fresh ones before eating.
2. Vegan Ginger Coconut Lentil Curry
Curries are also great for freezing and make ahead. Ginger Coconut Lentil Curry has less than 10 minutes work, warming Indian spices and fresh lemon and ginger - a favorite healthy vegan Meatless Monday dish.
Keeps well in the freezer for 3 months. Thaw, covered, in the fridge overnight. To re-heat, simply heat on the stove or in the microwave. You may need to add a little water or stock to thin it out. My preferred method is always on the stovetop, about 10 minutes on medium heat. Make sure it's piping hot.
Serve with garlic cilantro naan.
3. Moroccan Turkey Stew with Spinach and Lentils
One of my favorite freezer meals right here, this Moroccan Turkey Stew with Spinach and Lentils has all the warming spices and comforting textures you want in a stew. This recipe is part of a collection of Thanksgiving leftovers, so you have to scroll a little to find it.
You don't have to use turkey either, it can be chicken, or just more spinach and lentils. This recipe can also use the same method for freezing and re-heating as the ginger lentil coconut curry. I discourage any use of the microwave whenever meat is involved, so I highly recommend thawing in the fridge overnight and gently reheat on the stove. Also likely that you need to thin it out a little with some water or chicken stock.
This too is delicious with some warm garlic cilantro naan! We usually sprinkle pomegranate arils on top too, and considering a pomegranate keeps really well, I'm sure you can do so too.
4. Extra Veggie and Tomato Bolognese
I think this is my all time favorite make ahead recipe. This extra veggie and tomato bolognese is chock full of flavor and it will taste even more if you make now and eat later. How amazing is that! If you let the bolognese sit in the fridge overnight, my oh my how the flavors have developed.
You can freeze this and it keeps great for 3 months. Thaw in the fridge and gently reheat on the stove. Cook your favorite kind of pasta next to it and top with freshly grated parmesan. Absolutely my favorite comfort food.
5. Pizza Rolls (or any rolls)
Pizza Rolls may take a little while to make, considering all the rising and correct temperatures. The beauty of them, however, is that they keep awesomely in the freezer. Freeze in a freezer friendly bag for up to 3-4 months. My preferred way of re-heating is taking the frozen rolls into a pre-heated oven of about 300F (150C) and warm up for about 10-15 minutes, or until completely warmed through.
They are best served with a fresh salad, but considering the times we can just eat more pizza rolls.
6. Healthy Baked Lemon Chicken
This easy and healthy baked lemon chicken is originally served with a lot of fresh Spring greens and brussels sprouts. If you happen to have fresh ingredients on hand, I highly recommend it. If you don't, there's no problem. The brussels sprouts in the recipe can actually be made as is and then frozen! Of course, I would definitely double the brussels sprouts. More on brussels sprouts in the sides section below.
Check this article out on ways to re-heat frozen chicken (but let's be real here, keep the microwave game out). Pre-heat oven to 325F (160C), line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place the chicken in the middle and cover with the foil. Cooking time may vary depending on the chicken size. Remember that chicken needs to be at a core temperature of 165F (74C) before eating.
7. Pita Pizza and Middle Eastern Flatbread
Pita Pizza uses store bought pitas, and they are often in a vacuum sealed pack. The sauce could be frozen separately, and thawed in the fridge overnight. You could then have completely fresh pita pizzas the same day of eating them, and it wouldn't take much longer at all.
They can also be frozen finished, just pre-heat the oven to 450F (230C) and place frozen pita pizzas on the middle rack (no sheet pan). Cook for 15 minutes. Same goes for the delicious Middle Eastern Flatbread with beef and mint!
8. Rice and Beans Stuffed Peppers
Stuffed peppers keep for a long time in the freezer, making them one of the best freezer meals! Cook them according to the recipe, let them cool and then freeze. Place all the stuffed peppers in a freezer friendly dish, cover with aluminum foil and then cover the entire dish with plastic wrap. You can also wrap them individually in plastic wrap and freezer friendly bags.
To re-heat: Preheat oven to 350F (175C) and, directly from frozen, cook the stuffed peppers for about 20-30 minutes. You can also freeze uncooked stuffed peppers (but with completely done filling), they need to be cooked for about 35 minutes.
9. Cheesy Beans and Beans Enchiladas
Cheesy beans and beef enchiladas: comfort food filled with melting cheese, soft tortillas, bold flavors of chili, cumin and garlic, and topped with fresh sour cream and cilantro or spring onion. It doesn’t get much better than that! I love to serve it with guacamole too, which also freezes well (read below)!
To make ahead: prepare the filling and assemble the tortillas in a freezer friendly pan, but do not top with the shredded cheese. Make sure everything is cold before preparing to freeze! Cover enchiladas tightly with plastic wrap, then aluminum foil. Freezes well up to 4 months. To bake, remove plastic wrap, top with shredded cheese. Cover loosely with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes on 400F (200C). Uncover; continue to bake for an additional 5-10 minutes, or until completely cooked through.
The Best Freezer Friendly or Pantry Staple Side Dishes
We've got the mains covered, but sometimes it is the side dish that is the star. So don't forget about those either!
1. All the Fried Rice
Fried Rice, either it being my Chinese style or Mexican style, is delicious, convenient and EASY. You can customize it either way, using ingredients you have on hand. It keeps covered in the fridge for 5 days. If you want to freeze fried rice, place it in a freezer friendly container or flatten it out in a ziplock freezer bag. Keeps well for 6 months!
To re-heat: you can thaw it in the fridge and cook gently on the stove, or you can re-heat in the microwave. Place the lid on the container, but do not seal it. Microwave at one minute intervals, and fluff the rice in between each interval. If it seems dry, you can add 1 tablespoon of water. Add more water as needed. Let the defrosted rice rest in the container for 10 minutes.
Although this is not exactly fried rice, you can also use this method for my delicious Indian Jeera Rice!
2. Mashed Sweet Potatoes
This goes for all kinds of mashed potatoes, but to spice it up I recommend trying my Savory Cheddar Mashed Sweet Potatoes. Potatoes in general don't freeze well, but mixing them with fat (aka yummy butter and cheese), and they will, so I would use this excuse to add an extra dollop of butter and a little milk in my mash. Add about 1 tablespoon butter and ⅓ cup milk or better yet - heavy cream.
The best way to freeze mashed potatoes is by scooping 1 cup portions on a parchment lined baking sheet. Freeze the whole sheet for a few hours, until the portions are solid. Then add them to a freezer friendly ziplock bag. You can also just keep the whole thing in a large container.
You can thaw in the fridge and then gently reheat, or you can go directly from frozen. If directly from frozen, add them to a large pot, on medium heat and stirring occasionally, until warmed through. You can also re-heat in the oven, on 350F (175C) for 30 minutes.
3. Cheese and Bacon Dinner Rolls
These cheese and bacon dinner rolls are so soft and mega delish. You can use the same technique as with the pizza rolls listed under dinners. Enjoy!
4. Fresh and Spicy Guacamole
If you want to freshen up your enchiladas or tacos, this fresh and spicy guacamole is your friend. Make as in the recipe, add to a freezer friendly bag and flatten the bag out and make sure any air is left out. Keep in the fridge for 3 months. Thaw in the fridge!
5. Brussels Sprouts (or any roasted sturdy veggie)
So I was talking about brussels sprouts under lemon chicken. You can use the brussels sprouts recipe that is in the lemon chicken recipe (but double it to sub for the salad), or you can use this honey balsamic baked brussels sprouts or lemon blackberry brussels sprouts and broccoli. All will be a fantastic side dish with some sought after GREEN!
Cook as according to the recipes, and once they're cold, add to a parchment lined baking sheet, making sure they're not sticking together. Place in the freezer for a few hours before placing them in a ziplock bag to continue freezing. Keeps well for 12 months in the freezer (less if you have bacon in it!). You can roast them directly from frozen in 400F (200C) for about 20 minutes, or until warmed through.
Naan is life when it comes to Indian and Middle Eastern food. You can make naan from scratch, such as these garlic cilantro naan. But you can also use store bought vacuum sealed naan like in my za'atar date and goat cheese naan. For the from scratch naan, you can freeze them, once cooked and cooled, in freezer friendly bags. If you don't have fresh cilantro (or don't want to use it), omit it, use any fresh herbs you like or sub with a sprinkle of dried!
Keeps well in the freezer for 3 months. Pre-heat oven to 400F (200C) and re-heat for 10 minutes or until warmed through.
For the store bought naan, make them when you need them! The za'atar spice blend keeps forever, dates keep forever, goat cheese can last a long time (if you don't have it you can use greek yoghurt or even nothing), and even pomegranates keep for a fair amount of time. So this is an easy thing to whip up in no time!
7. Orange Cranberry Sauce
Any sugary sauce like the orange cranberry sauce will keep for a long time in the fridge. Make sure you use sterilized jars, and you can keep them at least 1 month in the fridge. Here's 3 trusted ways to sterilize jars. My favorite way is in the oven. Heat the oven to 275F (130C). Place a towel on the middle rack. Clean the jars and then place them on the rack, making sure they're not touching each other. Close the door and let them sterilize for 20 minutes.
Once the cranberry sauce is done, immediately pour it into the sterilized jar (hot on hot).
You can make breakfast ahead as well:
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and to have things stocked in the freezer is always a good idea.
1. Chives and Cheese Scrambled Eggs
This is only the best scrambled eggs recipe everrrrr, and it makes me so happy that scrambled eggs are great for freezing! Cook them slightly runny, and once cool add to a ziplock bag. Thaw in the microwave or in the fridge for a quick and easy breakfast. Serve with whole wheat bread rolls below.
2. Whole Wheat Bread Rolls
Again with the bread rolls. These are perfect for breakfast, they are filling, delicious and easy! Make them as in the recipe, and once cool, add in bags and freeze. They keep well for 3-4 months. To re-heat, simply do the same as with all the other bread roll recipes above here - 300F (150C) for 10-15 minutes for that freshly baked bread vibe.
3. Chocolate Coconut Overnight Oats
Have you ever thought about freezing your overnight oats? Me neither, but they are actually great for freezing. You need to let them still be overnight oats, letting the oats absorb the delicious coconutty liquid overnight, before freezing. Thaw in the fridge, you could reheat them too, making delicious and warming oats for a cold Spring morning.
4. Fluffy Healthy Banana Pancakes
Did someone just say pancakes everyday? Yes, I did! Make a huge batch of healthy banana pancakes, and you can seriously indulge in these every day of the week. I like to freeze them separately on a parchment lined baking sheet before adding them in a large ziplock bag. Now you can just pick one (or two, three...) out of the bag once you need them - and pop them in the toaster!
Let's Not Forget About the Most Important Freezer Meals: Desserts!
You heard me. Sweets and desserts make me happy. And we need happy now.
1. All the Cookies
The beauty (and the beast) of cookies, is that they need chilling. You can chill the dough for several days in the fridge. You can freeze balls of cookie dough, or you can freeze baked cookies. I love doing a little bit of both.
Freeze cookie dough: Add 1 tablespoon sized cookie dough balls on a parchment lined baking sheet. Freeze the entire sheet for a couple of hours, before transferring the balls to a ziplock bag. Considering you will be making all of my cookie recipes in the near future, I recommend writing the name of the cookies and temp and time on the bag. Once ready to bake, add to a parchment lined baking sheet and let it come to room temp-ish while you pre-heat the oven. Add 1-2 minutes extra to the original bake time, but same temperature as in the recipe.
Freeze baked cookies: Now you can just defrost the cookie on the counter, or you can give it that freshly baked cookie feeling by heating it in the oven. In an oven of about 300F (150C), re-heat for a couple of minutes, until thawed and warmed through.
My bestest cookie recipes:
- Fudgy Chocolate Crinkle Cookies
- Easy Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Soft and Chewy Eggnog Cookies
- Soft and Chewy Pumpkin Snickerdoodle Cookies (let's make good use of that freezer stash of homemade pumpkin puree!)
- Chocolate Rice Puffs (these can be eaten straight from the freezer, perfect no-bake goodie!)
2. White Chocolate Mousse with Rose and Pistachio
White Chocolate Mousse with Rose and Pistachio is a sweet and floral dessert that you really can’t go wrong with. It's delicate and mild, perfect for Mother's Day, Valentine's Day or any other day! It's just slightly floral, and very creamy. It's actually really easy to freeze, and it keeps well for 2-3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator. The rose syrup keeps really well in the fridge too.
3. Chocolate Lava Cake and Créme Brûlèe
Chocolate Lava Cake is perfect for freezing! Before cooking, after you've poured into ramekins - freeze. Freeze for up to 3 months. Whenever you're ready to bake them, add 5 extra minutes to the bake time. The red currant raspberry sauce is also easy to make ahead, if using sterilized jars such as for the orange cranberry sauce. Freezer meals can definitely be desserts as well.
The same goes for Créme Brûlèe. Freeze before adding the sugary top. Thaw in the fridge and add granulated sugar once thawed. Then broil or use a kitchen torch to get that delicious crackly top.
4. All kinds of buns
I feel like a broken record now, but this is what happens when you want to separate the freezer meals into dinner, sides and desserts. You can use the same method for these buns as with the dinner rolls and pizza rolls. 300F (150C) for 15-ish minutes.
There is one exception - the vanilla custard and coconut buns should be frozen before you add the powdered sugar glaze and shredded coconut. If you add this, you will have to thaw the buns on the counter and you won't get that fresh-from-the-oven feel. Thaw them before, and you can warm them in the oven as well. Cool slightly before adding the glaze and coconut. SO WORTH IT.
All the delish buns:
- The Queen of them all, the basic bun recipe
- Cinnamon Rolls
- Vanilla Custard and Coconut Buns
- Saffron Buns
Pavlova is great for make ahead as they keep well. Internet says 2 days, but I call this bs. They keep for much longer than that - if they're unfilled. But it's very important to keep them on a dry place or else they will lose their crisp. These cute little pavlova nests are filled with lemon curd, which also keeps really well in the fridge, and blackberry sauce, which keeps well in the freezer or in the fridge.
6. Lemon Ricotta Cake
This cake is so goooood, I don't have words to describe it. It's a cousin of my family's top secret best ever cake recipe, so BE SURE TO MAKE IT. Of course, I would rather eat it, than freeze it, but you could definitely freeze it. For the ultimate cake experience, I would make the cake, cool and cover with aluminum foil, without filling it. And once ready to eat it, thaw (well thaw before ready to eat obviously!) and then fill with the creamy vanilla pastry cream.
However, you can still layer the cake and freeze as completed. Be aware that the custard can lose its shape a little, but it's mostly cosmetic and I wouldn't worry too much about it!
7. Peppermint Cream Cheese Truffles
Wouldn't these be perfect for St. Patrick's Day as well?! I like to place them in the freezer once they're coated with melted chocolate, to let them set completely anyway. And you can actually just keep them there and eat directly from the freezer. I once had them in the freezer for 4 or 5 months and they were still delicious. Best to come to room temperature, but you know, I can't wait.
Old Fashioned Donuts and Apple Cider Donuts are both perfect for freezing. Let them cool completely before putting in a freezer friendly bag. I would omit the sugar coating when freezing as it would just melt. I love to pop them in the oven for a little while to reheat when the craving hits (and it does!). On 275 or 300 for 10 minutes.
9. Dark Chocolate Cake with Buttercream Frosting
Orange and chocolate are definitely best friends. They work amazing together, and this moist chocolate cake is proof of that. You can do the same with this as with the lemon ricotta cake, and just cover the unfilled cake with foil and then freeze. Or you can fill it with buttercream, cover and freeze. Let the cake thaw on the counter before eating.
10. Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
For these delicious carrot cake cupcakes, I would freeze the room temperature muffins on their own, in a container or freezer bag. And the cream cheese frosting in another container. They both keep well in the freezer, but best separately. Thaw the muffins on the counter and the cream cheese frosting in the fridge.
Actually, the same goes for these Chocolate Coffee Cupcakes with Irish Baileys Frosting. Freeze separately, but both are great after freezing!
11. Double Chocolate Banana Muffins
Didn't your mouth just water right now? Double chocolate banana muffins are also fantastic to make ahead. First off, you want old and ripe bananas, so in general there's no fresh ingredients either. Once the banana muffins are cool, place them in a freezer friendly bag. Great for 3-4 months.
To thaw, you can either let them thaw on the counter, or do as with the donuts and just quickly pop them in a pre-heated oven of about 300F (150C) for 10 minutes or until warmed through. Fresh double chocolate banana muffins anyone??
12. Salted Caramel Sauce
Again, if using sterilized jars, a salted caramel sauce keeps really well in the fridge. Actually, it keeps for months! If you want something a little different, why don't you try my Guinness Coffee Salted Caramel Sauce? So delicious!
And just a quick note on some worthy drinks
We can't just forget about the drinks! You will most likely not make these long before consumption, but I've shared a few recipes that don't require any fresh ingredients, some are in fact freezer friendly and some keep for long in the fridge.
1. The Penicillin Cocktail
This sounds like something we need right about now. The Penicillin Cocktail consists of ginger syrup, honey syrup, lemon juice and whiskey. The ginger and honey syrups can be made well in advance (in sterilized jars in the fridge). The lemon juice is kind of fresh, but you could use from concentrate if you don't have fresh lemons!
2. Sore Throat Tea
Just wanted to let you know that this exists and tastes amazing. 🙂 Ginger keeps well in the fridge, and if you don't have fresh ginger, I'm sure you have the ginger syrup from the Penicillin Cocktail, am I right? There's also lemon in this one, so go for concentrate if you need to.
3. Hot Chocolate
I live for a giant cup of hot chocolate. Whether it's a decadent rich with real chocolate hot chocolate, or a quick and easy but mega delicious orange cinnamon hot chocolate. There is a chance that the hot chocolate will curdle in the freezer, because of the milk, but as these don't only consist of milk, I say, give it a shot. Worst thing that can happen is that they taste just good, as opposed to absolutely amazing.
4. Hot Mulled Apple Cider
Hot Mulled Apple Cider is such a cozy treat. You can use apple juice instead of the fresh apples if you don't have any. Apple cider keeps for 7-10 days in the fridge, but you can also freeze it. Just remember to keep 1 inch space to the top as the apple cider expands once frozen. You can try it with whatever fruit you have on hand as well, I'm thinking pear and ginger would be faaab.
Freezer meals do not have to be boring at all!
Being well prepared, we can indulge in almost anything. Take care of each other, stock up your freezer with my favorite delicious freezer meals and stock the pantry with pantry staples and you will always have something delicious on the table. Plus chocolate, gotta have some chocolate.
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