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20 Make-Ahead Meals to Freeze Now for Whenever You Need Them

Stock up your freezer with these homemade meals.

March 17, 2020
Photo by Julia Gartland

Now more than ever, home is where many of us are seeking refuge and solace in light of the novel coronavirus. This is a tough time, but we’re here for you—whether it’s a new pantry recipe or a useful tip for your kitchen, here are some ideas to make things run a little more smoothly for you and your loved ones.


I remember when my parents decided to buy a stand-alone freezer. They rolled the enormous ice box into our garage, and my sister and I promptly began listing all of the ice cream flavors we wanted to stuff inside. My parents had other ideas. The new freezer was to be a savory-food-only zone—a place to stash my mom’s big batches of crawfish étouffée and gumbo, my dad’s steaks and stews. No more cramming containers into our fridge’s little drawer. It marked a new era, an Ice Age of freezer-friendly meals to pull out and thaw on busy weeknights.

Now, I don’t have space for an extra freezer in my tiny New York apartment (heck, I’m thankful my kitchen is big enough for a dishwasher), but that hasn’t stopped me from following in my parents’ footsteps. I like to make soups and sauces and trays of baked pastas whenever I have time—it sets me up for a delicious dinner whenever I need it, no cooking required. This has proved to be especially useful these last few weeks as I've found myself stuffing my freezer just in case I can't make it to the grocery store later.

Below, I’ve gathered 20 recipes that freeze super well and make any-night dinners (whether you're feeding a whole family or just yourself) a cinch.


Homemade Freezer-Friendly Meals

1. Beef Bourguignon

This warming beef stew tastes even better as the flavors meld. Bonus, you can easily make it in a pressure cooker, slow cooker, or multi-function cooker.

2. Grandma DiLaura's Italian Ricotta Gnocchi

This recipe is easy enough to whip up just about any night of the week, but make a few batches at once and you won't need to.

3. Mom's New Orleans Red Beans & Rice

This comforting, creamy red bean recipe gets an added zip from pickle juice and holds up in the freezer for up to 4 months.

4. Celeriest Celery-Potato Soup

The tastiest, most satisfying way to use up any fresh celery still hanging out in your crisper drawer (especially if it's on the brink of spoiling).

5. Ethel Sellis' Stuffed Cabbage

A burbling, tomatoey stew from Food Writer & Recipe Developer Ella Quittner’s family recipe box.

6. Baked Pasta With Chicken Sausage

Bake this hearty sausage pasta straight from the freezer. Warm it up at 350°F (covered in foil) for 30 minutes or so, then turn up the heat, uncover it, and bake for another 5 to 10 minutes to brown the top.

7. Red Lentil Soup With Beet Greens

This warm and hearty lentil soup is perfect for any night when you're cozy at home. Make an extra big batch because it probably won't last long.

8. Aunt Alice's Stromboli

Like a pizza pocket but better, this meaty, cheesy stromboli is great for dinner or a snack. If you want to save them for later, wrap and freeze them before the dough rises, then bake straight from the freezer (just add about 10 to 15 minutes of cooking time).

9. Chicken Fingers

Nothing beats crispy, homemade chicken fingers. After breading the chicken (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.

10. New Zealand-Style Beef & Cheddar Pies

These hand pies hail from New Zealand and freeze beautifully both baked or unbaked.

11. Boiled Pork Dumplings With Dad's Awesome Hot Sauce

According to resident Genius Kristen Miglore, “dumplings have a nasty reputation of being time-consuming, but Tashie’s simplified version of her dad’s recipe is quick to put together and incredibly flavorful—from the well-seasoned filling to the kicky but balanced dipping sauce.”

12. Spicy Turkey Meatloaf

A classic freezer-friendly dish gets a spicy Sriracha kick. Serve with your favorite veggies (here's how to cook them from frozen) on the side and you're good to go.

13. Grandma Clari's Empanadas

For warm little pockets of love meat anytime, simply freeze extra unbaked empanadas on a parchment-lined baking sheet—they go straight from the freezer to the oven.

14. Jennie's Homemade Manicotti

For a freezer-friendly pasta dish the whole family will love, turn to manicotti. Freeze them unbaked, then thaw in the refrigerator the night before you want to eat.

15. Busy Weeknight Bean Chili

A few pantry staples (think: canned kidney beans, canned tomatoes, and chili powder) make up the bulk of this super-satisfying bean chili that would comfortably hang out in the freezer until it's ready to be reheated.

16. Turkey & Mushroom Burgers

Prep a big batch of these half-veggie, half-turkey burgers that call for no more than seven ingredients (including salt). Wrap and freeze the uncooked patties, and thaw them out in the fridge the night before you want to grill 'em up on the stovetop.

17. Our Best Baked Ziti

This cheesy baked ziti is the ultimate comfort food and just so happens to freeze super well (just save a bit of cheese to sprinkle on when you reheat it). Oh, and if you don't have time to make the tomato sauce from scratch, a jar of store-bought marinara makes a seamless swap.

18. Sheet-Pan Broccoli Cheese Rice Casserole

A sheet-pan dinner that's cheesy, can easily hang out in the freezer for weeks, and has a bit of green (frozen broccoli!) for good measure? Sign us up.

19. Instant Pot Vegetable Beef Soup

You might know it as hamburger soup, but no matter what you call it, it's impossible to deny that this speedy-as-heck soup is darn delicious (not to mention, just the right amount of nostalgic).

20. Jim Lahey's No-Knead Pizza Dough + Margherita Pie

Prep a couple of margherita pies now (don't bake 'em yet though), and have pizza night at your fingertips anytime. You can also make the dough and freeze it for garlic knots, calzones, and the like.

What are your favorite freezer-friendly dinners? Share 'em all in the comments!
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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).

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Katie is a food writer and editor who loves cheesy puns and cheesy cheese.

4 Comments

Michael C. March 29, 2020
Turkey meatloaf is the best!!! If you are hungry and have two or three pieces you do not feel like you have just consumed a chunk of granite! Defrost enough for sandwiches the next day....Delicious!
 
Linda Z. March 22, 2020
Everything looks good. How about some heart healthy recipe.
 
Audrey January 22, 2019
What’s the best way to freeze meatloaf? After it’s cooked, and then just defrost overnight? Thanks!
 
Syl January 31, 2019
I find one inch slices of turkey meatloaf, frozen in Saran Wrap handy for sandwiches or entree or I cut in one inch squares and twist each so I can cut several for spaghetti and meatballs and still leave the rest in the freezer... the (square) meatballs quickly defrost when I heat the tomato sauce !