I don’t always want to cook—cue shock, horror, and “but you work in food media, that’s your thing"—but I don’t. Just like, I’m sure, you don’t either. When this mood strikes, sometimes egg tacos or avocado toast will suffice. Other times, you don’t want to cook but you do want a real, home-cooked dinner. I'm here to tell you that, in fact, you can have it both ways. You just need a little help from your freezer.
These 10 meals can be made-ahead, frozen, thawed, and reheated for when you just can’t in the kitchen. Below, I’ve also suggested fresh plus ones to make along side your frozen food. However, you can totally just make the main dish and leave the sides aside (ha!).
And, if you’re new to freezer-friendly foods or just skeptical about what should and shouldn’t be frozen, check out this guide.
1. Soup & Biscuits
Need help with defrosting your soup (or help finding the best soup recipe)? We've got you covered in this step-by-step guide. For how to freeze and cook biscuits, see here. To really make a meal of it, add a fresh dollop of yogurt for on top of the soup.
2. Dumplings & XO Sauce
If you need help freezing your dumplings, we've got a guide for that. For how to cook said frozen dumplings see here. For freezing the XO Sauce, let it cool and portion it into ice cube trays, so you don’t end up with a big ol’ frozen block of un-portionable, un-scoopable sauce. After the cubes are frozen, transfer to a freezer bag. When you’re ready to cook, you can thaw the sauce in the fridge or just throw it right into some stir-fried vegetables to thaw and cook.
3. Meatballs & Sauce
Cook the sauce as the recipe states and let cool completely before portioning into freezer bags and placing in the freezer. To thaw, place the bags of sauce on a plate or bowl (no spillage!) and leave in the refrigerator for 4 to 5 hours. The sauce probably won’t be completely cooled by then, but that’s okay! Just put it into a pot, turn the heat on, and that’ll do the trick.
For the meatballs, cook as the recipe states. Let cool, then place, separated, on a parchment-covered sheet pan and into the freezer to freeze. Once frozen, put them in a freezer bag. To reheat the meatballs, place into your pot of thawed tomato sauce and simmer until warmed through.
Looking to level-up your frozen meal? It’s meatball sub time. Grab a baguette (or, if you’re feeling ambitious make one and freeze that, too), fresh mozzarella, and pepperoncini—and the meatballs and tomato sauce, of course!—and get to layering your subs.
4. Enchilada Casserole & Black Beans
Assemble the casserole and cover very well with aluminum foil and secure the foil’s edges with tape. To cook, you have two options: Thaw in the fridge overnight and bake as described in the recipe or place directly into the oven, without thawing, knowing you’ll need about 15 minutes or more of extra cooking time (if you see yourself doing the former, use an aluminum pan to avoid any glass shattering). To freeze and thaw beans, cook and follow the same instructions for the tomato sauce. For a fresh element, add sliced avocado and chopped cilantro to the casserole when it's time to serve.
5. Chicken Fingers & Sweet Potato Fries
After breading the chicken fingers (but before baking), place onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and into the freezer. Freeze until frozen, then place into a freezer bag. When ready to cook, arrange on a baking rack set on a baking sheet, drizzle with oil, and bake at 425°F for about 25 minutes, or until cooked through.
For the sweet potato fries, cook the fries as directed and let cool completely. Place on a parchment-lined sheet pan and into the freezer. Once frozen, you can transfer them to a freezer bag. To cook, place onto a parchment-lined sheen pan and pop them into the oven (at 425°F, so the same as the chicken fingers) for about 10 minutes, or until they’re warmed through.
6. Samosas & Dal
After filling and forming your samosas, place onto a parchment-lined sheet pan and pop into the freezer. Once frozen, transfer to a freezer bag. When ready to bake, place once again on a parchment-lined sheet pan and cook as directed in the recipe, adding on a few more minutes to account for the samosas being frozen.
For the dal, cook as the recipe states, let cool, and follow the same freezing and thawing instructions as the tomato sauce. When it's time to eat, make a pot of rice for the dal, and some sort of vegetable (perhaps Steam-Roasted Carrots with Cumin?).
7. Chili & Cornbread
Cook the chili as the recipe says to, let cool, and follow the same freezing and thawing instructions as the tomato sauce. For the cornbread, cook as directed and follow the freezing and thawing instructions here.
For serving, prep whatever fixin’s you like adding to your chili—diced red onions, sour cream, grated cheese, chopped cilantro, and pickled jalapeños are my faves.
Meal 8: Chicken Stock & Leftover Roast Chicken
Make the chicken stock, let cool completely, portion into freezer bags, and freeze. Put the chicken stock in a pot and turn the heat on low, stirring occasionally to break up the stock. Heat until thawed and at a simmer.
For the chicken, once cool, shred some of that roasted bird and place into freezer bags and freeze. If you had the foresight to thaw your chicken in the fridge the night before, great! If not, add it right to the pot (that’s why you shredded it).
Stock + chicken = chicken noodle soup. Grab some noodles, frozen peas, chopped celery, and peeled, thinly sliced carrots (on the bias, if you like). If you’re unsure of how to make chicken noodle soup, here’s a good guide. Right before serving, throw in some minced parsley and a smattering of freshly ground black pepper.
9. Chicken Tamale Pie & Salsa
Follow the casserole freezing, thawing, and cooking (following the time and temperature directions in the pie's recipes) instructions as described for the Vegan Enchilada Casserole. For the salsa, cook and let cool. Then, portion it into freezer bags and freeze. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator or, in a pinch, in a bowl of cold water, refreshing the water several times until thawed.
10. Mac & Cheese
Cook as stated, let cool, and cover with aluminum foil, sealing the edges with tape. Place into the freezer. When ready to cook, thaw overnight in the refrigerator and reheat at 375°F until warmed through.
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).Order now