33 Healthy Freezer-Friendly Meals to Win Weeknights
Healthy Freezer Meals
You can freeze pretty much any food, but the devil is in the thaw. Some dishes become mushy; while others take so long that you might as well cook them from scratch. We developed recipes that use freezer-friendly ingredients and properly portioned dishes, so you only have to thaw for an hour.
Bonus: Each recipe is a twofer; it makes enough for a meal the day you cook, plus a second full serving to freeze for another day. Some dishes require microwave thawing, while others can be popped directly into the oven.
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5 Tips For Better Freezing
Freezing foods is a great idea when making a big batch of your favorite recipe, but not following the proper freezing and thawing methods can leave you with an unwanted disaster. Take our advice and follow these five steps to ensure your meal tastes just as good as the day you made it.
1. Know What Freezes Well: The most freezer-friendly foods are saucy dishes, soups and stews (like this Chicken, Kale, and Quinoa Soup), and individual food items like our dumplings and pizzas. Pasta and rice can be trickier because they have a tendency to mush out.
2. Consider the Container
Make sure the container fits in both the freezer and what you'll be using for reheating. We sought out casserole dishes without handles so they wouldn't hog space in the freezer or microwave; we loved Ziploc VersaGlass square containers. (We also avoided disposable aluminum foil pans because we did a lot of microwave thawing.) If you freeze soup flat in a zip-top plastic bag—as you should so it stacks nicely—it may be too large to fit in a Dutch oven for thawing and reheating. For that reason, we thaw these in the microwave until they're pliable, then proceed to the pot.
3. Label Clearly, and Use Fairly Soon
Unlabeled food is remarkably hard to recognize in its icy state. We recommend freezing our recipes for no more than 2 months; longer than that risks freezer burn.
4. Thaw Safely
The USDA recognizes three methods of safe thawing: refrigeration, cold-water submersion, and microwave defrosting/immediate reheating, the latter of which we used in our recipes to save time. Common practices like setting frozen foods on the counter or immersing them in hot water are not safe because they allow bacteria that were present before freezing to multiply.
5. Finish with a Flourish
Liven up reheated dishes with fresh herbs, spices, a splash of fresh lemon or lime juice, or a brief stint under the broiler for a kiss of yummy browning.
Silky Tomato-Basil Soup with Fresh Corn
Put your farmers market haul to delicious use in this satisfying vegetarian main. Silken tofu stands in for traditional heavy cream, lending rich body and a hit of quality protein.
To Freeze: Combine pureed tomato mixtures. Freeze in a large zip-top plastic freezer bag up to 2 months.
To Thaw: Microwave soup in a freezer bag on MEDIUM (50% power) 8 minutes or until thawed.
To Reheat: Place half lf soup in a blender. Add tofu; process until smooth. Combine with remaining soup in a saucepan; simmer until heated through. Proceed with step 4.
Spanish Chorizo Corn Cakes
Is there any time of day when a pancake isn't welcome at the table? These sweet and savory cakes are a scrumptious choice for breakfast, dinner, or a quick snack on the go. Keep warm and toasty by placing them in a single layer on a baking sheet in a 200°F oven for up to 30 minutes. Reheating is as easy as popping frozen cakes in the toaster, making them ideal for quick weekday meals.
To Freeze: Cool cooked corn cakes completely. Wrap corn cakes tightly in plastic wrap in stacks of 4 with parchment paper or plastic wrap between each cake. Place in a large zip-top plastic freezer bag; seal and freeze up to 2 months.
To Reheat: Toast frozen corn cakes in a toaster or in a toaster oven on medium until heated through, 4 to 5 minutes.
Quinoa-Crusted Fish Nuggets with Tartar Sauce
Our freezer-friendly nuggets give store bought ones a run for their money. Any firm white fish will work, such as grouper, halibut, flounder, or cod. Use rice flour to make gluten-free nuggets.
To Freeze: Prepare recipe as directed through Step 4, omitting cooking spray. Freeze until solid. Place nuggets in a zip-top plastic bag; return to freezer.
To Thaw: Bake from frozen!
To Bake: Place frozen nuggets in s single layer on a baking sheet lined with greased parchment paper; lightly coat nuggets with cooking spray. Bake at 425°F for 15 minutes, turning once halfway through.
Chicken-and-Vegetable Hand Pies
Enjoy portable potpie with extra veggies and hearty whole grains. Both family- and freezer-friendly, these hand pies deliver a hearty meal to go.
To Freeze: Freeze on a baking sheet for 12 hours or until solid. Transfer to a zip-top plastic freezer bag; freeze up to 6 months.
To Thaw: Not necessary! Bake straight from frozen.
To Bake: Place frozen pies on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Brush with egg wash; score. Bake at 450°F for 32 minutes.
Creamy Chicken-and-Wild Rice Casserole
For 3 cups cooked wild rice, simmer 1 1/2 cups rice in 6 cups water for 45 minutes; drain. Or try a frozen cooked wild rice blend, such as Engine 2 from Whole Foods.
To Freeze: Cool mixture completely. Cover with heavy-duty foil or airtight lids. Freeze up to 2 months.
To Thaw: Uncover and microwave at MEDIUM (50% power) 15 minutes or until thawed.
To Reheat: Cover and bake at 450°F for 25 to 30 minutes or until thoroughly heated.
Hearty Tortellini Soup
This satisfying main is a great way to reset after a few weeks of meat-centered holiday eating. If freezing, be sure to cool the soup completely before adding the tortellini or they will absorb too much liquid and lose their shape.
To Freeze: Cool soup completely. Once cool, add tortellini. Freeze flat in a large zip-top freezer bag for up to 2 months.
To Thaw: Microwave soup in bag at MEDIUM (50% power) for 8 minutes or until pliable.
To Reheat: Pour soup into a large Dutch oven; brin to a simmer over medium heat. Cook 25 minutes or until tortellini are done. Stir in red wine vinegar. Top with parsley.
There's no need to spend Christmas morning with your mixer; these orange-scented pinwheels freeze beautifully, reheat in just 25 minutes, and make your kitchen smell fantastic. Recruit little ones to help make the icing and spread over the rolls just before serving. To round out the morning meal, serve the rolls with a simple fruit salad and a frittata or soft-scrambled eggs.
To Freeze: Cool unfrosted rolls completely. Remove from baking dish; wrap together in foil. Wrap in plastic wrap. Freeze up to one month.
To Reheat: Remove plastic wrap. Bake in foil at 350°F for 25 minutes. Remove foil. Prepare icing as directed in step 7, halving the amount if icing just one pan.
Roasted Chili Verde Chicken Enchiladas
Skip red enchilada sauce in favor of home-made chili verde in this Mexican classic. The heat level of poblanos can range from mild to spicy. Removing the sees lessens the kick.
To Freeze: Cover dish with heavy-duty aluminum foil or an airtight lid. Freeze up to 2 months.
To Thaw: Remove foil; reserve. Place dish in microwave. Microwave on MEDIUM for 20 minutes, until thawed.
To Reheat: Cover dish with reserved foil. Bake at 350°F for 30 minutes, until cheese is melted and a thermometer inserted in center registers 160°F. Remove foil during last 5 minutes.
Turkey, Broccoli, and Phyllo Pie
Skip the potpie and try a fragrant, flaky casserole for your turkey leftovers. We ditch the pastry dough for a flaky, golden phyllo crust—a nice alternative to the pies and potpies you may be wary of by now. Don’t fret about getting the phyllo topper to fit snugly in the baking dish; any overhang will become delightfully crisp in the oven. Thawed phyllo can be finicky: Unroll very carefully, and keep remaining sheets under a slightly damp kitchen towel while you work. If you don't have turkey, use shredded rotisserie chicken.
To Freeze: Cool untopped dish completely. Cover with plastic wrap and heavy-duty foil. Freeze up to one month.
To Thaw: Discard foil; pierce plastic wrap. Microwave at 30% power for 15 minutes or until thawed.
To Reheat: Prepare one phyllo topper, and arrange over casserole. Bake as directed in recipe.
Meat Loaf with Mushroom Gravy
The beef may look a touch pink after slicing, but if a thermometer registers 160°F, it's done.
To Freeze: Cool meat loaf and gravy completely; freeze separately in large zip-top plastic freezer bags.
To Thaw: Microwave meat loaf, covered, in a microwave-safe dish at MEDIUM (50%) 10 minutes or until thawed.
To Reheat: Microwave meat loaf at HIGH 3 minutes or until heated. Place gravy in a microwave-safe bowl; microwave at HIGH 3 minutes or until heated.
Cheesy Sausage, Broccoli, and Quinoa Casserole
We traded white rice for whole-grain quinoa and kicked out any processed ingredients for a new take on this comfort classic. To add more flavor to quinoa, try toasting it. Freeze an extra pan of this whole-grain main for kid-friendly comfort. Serve with a simple green salad.
To Freeze: Cool unbaked casseroles completely; cover tightly with aluminum foil. Freeze up to 2 months.
To Thaw: Remove foil. Microwave at HIGH 20 minutes or until thawed.
To Reheat: Cover with foil and bake at 375° for 25 minutes ; then broil 5 minutes or until golden brown.
Chicken Wonton Soup
Stash a batch in the freezer for a faster, fresher, veggie-packed alternative to takeout. For an easier dumpling shape, fold wrapper in half over filling to form a half-moon; press well to seal edges.
To Freeze: Add vegetables to stock mixture; cool completely. Freeze stock mixture and dumplings separately in large zip-top plastic freezer bags.
To Thaw: Microwave stock mixture at MEDIUM (50% power) 3 to 4 minutes or until bag is pliable.
To Reheat: Pour stock mixture into a large Dutch oven; simmer 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Add frozen wontons; cook 3 minutes.
Shrimp, Cabbage, and Carrot Potstickers
Be a last-minute appetizer hero, or serve a better-than-takeout main on the fly. No need for fancy folds: Just moisten wrapper edges and seal.
To Freeze: Sprinkle uncooked potstickers with cornstarch; freeze on a baking sheet until firm. Place in a zip-top plastic freezer bag; freeze up to 2 months.
To Reheat: Follow step 4 using frozen pot stickers, steaming for 7 minutes.
Zucchini and Bean Burritos
The bean mixture acts as a barrier between the tortilla and the zucchini, so the burritos stay crisp.
To Freeze: Wrap cooled burritos individually in plastic wrap; seal in a large zip-top plastic freezer bag. Freeze up to 3 months.
To Reheat: Remove plastic wrap; loosely wrap in paper towels. Microwave at HIGH 3 to 4 minutes, turning after 2 minutes.
Turkey and Vegetable Stew with Whole-Grain Biscuits
With stew and biscuits in the freezer, an easy, comforting dinner is in the bag.
To Freeze: Cool stew and biscuits completely. Freeze separately in zip-top plastic freezer bags.
To Thaw: Microwave stew in bag at MEDIUM (50% power) for 4 minutes or until pliable.
To Reheat: Pour stew into a Dutch oven; simmer 20 minutes. Bake biscuits at 350 for 25 minutes.
Chicken, Spinach, and Mushroom Lasagna
Layer up and bake in two pans tonight, then freeze one for last-minute company.
To Freeze: Cool pan completely. Cover with foil; freeze up to 2 months.
To Thaw: In metal pan: Thaw overnight in refrigerator. In glass or ceramic: Uncover and microwave at HIGH 15 minutes or until thawed.
To Reheat: Cover; bake at 375° for 25 minutes. Uncover and bake 5 minutes.
Pork and Beef Bolognese
Forget the jar. Freeze this rich, meaty pasta sauce for instant comfort on cold nights.
To Freeze: Cool sauce completely. Freeze flat in a large zip-top plastic freezer bag for up to 2 months.
To Thaw: Microwave bag at MEDIUM (50% power) for 4 minutes or until bag is pliable.
To Reheat: Pour sauce into a large Dutch oven over medium heat; cook 10 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Stir in parsley and basil.
Turkey and Andouille Sausage Gumbo
Use up leftover holiday turkey in a Cajun stew for your crew tonight, or freeze some for later.
To Freeze: Cool gumbo completely; freeze flat in a large zip-top plastic freezer bag. Freeze rice in a zip-top-plastic freezer bag.
To Thaw: Microwave gumbo in bag at MEDIUM (50% power) for 4 minutes or until pliable.
To Reheat: Pour gumbo into a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Cook 20 minutes or until heated. Place rice in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at HIGH 1 minute at a time, stirring after each minute, until heated.
White Bean, Sage, and Sausage Soup
The perfect simple dinner on a busy night, this soup gets a double hit of fennel essence from chopped fennel bulb and the fennel seeds that flavor the sausage.
To Freeze: Cool soup to room temperature; seal in a large zip-top plastic freezer bag. Lay bag flat in freezer; freeze up to 2 months.
To Thaw: Microwave soup in bag at MEDIUM (50% power) for 4 minutes or until pliable.
To Reheat: Pour soup into a Dutch oven. Cover and cook over medium heat until thoroughly heated (about 20 minutes).
Enjoy one baked pasta dish tonight, and freeze one for a comforting supper later. This turkey-and veggie-loaded pasta bake is a one-dish meal worth sharing and is an easy solution for "nothing in the fridge" nights.
To Freeze: Cover baking dish with heavy-duty foil or an airtight lid. Freeze up to two months.
To Thaw: Remove foil; place dish in microwave. Microwave at 30% power for 30 minutes or until thawed.
To Reheat: Preheat oven to 400° for 20 minutes or until a thermometer inserted in center registers 160°.
Roasted Asparagus, Mushroom, and Onion Pizza
Freeze an extra pie tonight for a convenient dinner later that's way better than boxed. Partially baking the pizza before freezing helps draw moisture out of the vegetables and set the crust so it stays nice and crisp. Use any hearty vegetables you like, but skip more delicate items like fresh tomatoes, as they won't hold up as well in the freezer.
To Freeze: Cool partially baked pizza completely; wrap lightly in heavy-duty foil. Freeze up to 2 months.
To Reheat: Unwrap pizza; bake directly on oven rack at 450° for 20 minutes or until crust is browned and crisp. Top with oil mixture, basil, and salt.
Pork and Shiitake Pot Stickers
It's never a bad idea to have a good supply of dumplings on hand. Ours taste better and are much lower in sodium than what you'll find at the store.
To Freeze: Freeze dumplings flat on a baking sheet sprinkled with cornstarch 10 minutes or until firm. Place in a large zip-top plastic freezer bag with 1 teaspoon cornstarch; toss. Freeze sauce in a small zip-top plastic freezer bag. Freeze up to 2 months.
To Thaw: Thaw sauce in the microwave at HIGH in 30-second increments. No need to thaw pot stickers.
To Reheat: Follow recipe instructions for cooking, placing frozen dumplings in pan and increasing steaming time by 2 minutes.
Chicken Tikka Masala
This big-batch recipe is an unusual but brilliant choice for freezing. Moist chicken thighs hold up well, especially in the spicy tomato sauce.
To Freeze: Cool chicken mixture and rice to room temperature; seal in separate large zip-top plastic freezer bags. Lay bags flat in freezer; freeze up to 2 months.
To Thaw: Microwave chicken mixture in bag at MEDIUM (50% power) for 4 minutes or until pliable. No need to thaw rice.
To Reheat: Place sealed bag of chicken mixture in a large pot of boiling water; cook 10 minutes or until heated. Pour rice into a microwave-safe bowl; microwave at HIGH 3 minutes.
Stuffed Poblano Peppers
Poblano peppers range in heat level from quite spicy to rather mild. If your peppers are too hot, cool off with a dollop of sour cream.
To Freeze: These do best in a shallow vessel, so follow the recipe instructions to use a standard 8-inch square dish. Cover tightly with heavy-duty foil; freeze up to 2 months.
To Reheat: No thawing step is necessary. Remove foil, and cover dish tightly with plastic wrap. Pierce plastic wrap 4 or 5 times. Microwave at HIGH for 14 to 15 minutes or until thoroughly heated. (We tried oven reheating and don't recommend it.)
Individual White Chicken Pizzas
Cook up as many pizzas as you want tonight, and freeze the rest. The key to the deliciousness (and believe us, these cheesy pizzas are amazing) is to make fresh ricotta cheese, which is more moist and creamy than store-bought.
To Freeze: Bake pizzas on preheated stone for only 5 minutes. Cool; wrap individually in heavy-duty foil, stack, and freeze up to 2 months.
To Reheat: No thawing: Place frozen pizzas on a baking sheet that's not preheated; bake at 450° for 13 minutes or until cheese browns.
Talk about old-school comfort: This is a hearty, filling, family-friendly classic. Reduce the amount of ground red pepper for sensitive palates, or crank it up for hotheads.
To Freeze: Spoon half of unbaked mixture into a 2-quart glass baking dish (such as a Ziploc VersaGlass large square container). Cover with lid; freeze up to 2 months.
To Thaw: Remove lid; place casserole in microwave. Microwave at 30% power 30 to 40 minutes (or on defrost setting for 3.75 pounds).
To Reheat: Cover casserole with foil; bake at 400° for 20 minutes or until a thermometer inserted in center registers 160°.
Spaghetti and Meatballs in Tomato-Basil Sauce
Feed a crowd of 8 tonight, or cook 6 ounces pasta to serve 4 and freeze half the meatball mixture for later. Spoon into whole-wheat hoagie rolls instead of over pasta.
To Freeze: Cool meatball mixture completely. Place in a large zip-top freezer bag, and freeze.
To Thaw: Hold bag under running water for 1 minute. Remove meatball mixture from bag; place in a microwave-safe dish, and cover with plastic wrap. Microwave at MEDIUM (50% power) for 12 minutes, stirring every 3 minutes.
To Reheat: Microwave at HIGH for 3 minutes or until thoroughly heated.
Slow Cooker French Onion Soup
The slow cooker completely eliminates the stirring part of caramelizing onions; it all goes happily unattended. Freeze the bag of soup in a bowl rather than laying it flat, so it will fit in the saucepan when it's time to thaw.
To Freeze: Cool soup completely. Ladle into a large zip-top plastic freezer bag. Place bag in a medium bowl; freeze.
To Thaw: Place zip-top bag in a large saucepan filled with water; heat 30 minutes over medium heat until thawed.
To Reheat: Pour soup into saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat; simmer 10 minutes. Ladle into ramekins, top with bread and cheese, and broil.
Green Curry Stew with Potatoes and Cauliflower
Layer the vegetables in the pan rather than stirring them in so they steam to the right doneness. Add red pepper for extra kick.
To Freeze: Cool potato mixture to room temperature; seal in a large zip-top plastic freezer bag and lay flat in freezer. Freeze up to 2 months.
To Thaw: Microwave in bag at MEDIUM (50% power) for 4 minutes or until pliable.
To Reheat: Pour stew into a large saucepan. Cover and cook over medium heat until thoroughly heated (about 15 minutes). Stir in basil. Top with yogurt, and serve with lime wedges.